Preseason Week Three: Raiders at Seahawks (8/13)

I love the preseason – there, I’ve said it.  Granted, I love the regular season even more, but the preseason is pretty much the only time we get to watch the young talent on the roster try to prove that they have the potential to become more than just another guy buried at the bottom of the depth chart.  That goes double for the fourth preseason game – hundreds of players around the league are going to make or break their NFL careers with their performances tonight.  So, here’s a look at the Seahawks roster to see who needs to step up against Oakland to be one of the 53 left standing after the final cutdown:

 

Quarterback

Lock: Russell Wilson

Likely Secure: Tarvaris Jackson

Probable Cut: Brady Quinn

Aside from the Special Teams specialists, this is by far the easiest position on the whole roster to predict.  Wilson has had the starting job for 2013 locked up since midway through the 2012 season, and Jackson’s strong play and command of the offense – he’s spent nearly his entire pro career playing in OC Darrell Bevell’s system – make him the logical choice to play the savvy veteran backup.

Brady Quinn, on the other hand, insists on playing like Brady Quinn.  He’s 28 (i.e. one year younger than Jackson), so he doesn’t have a shot at being kept on in a third string developmental role, and he’s spent most of his snaps this preseason staring down his receivers and making cringe-inducing panic throws.  Whatever potential he once had seems to have been beaten out of him during his time in Cleveland.

 

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Offensive Line

Locks: Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre

Likely Secure: James Carpenter, Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie

On the Bubble: Rishaw Johnson

Probable Cut: Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith, Mike Person

Aside from the five starters, Jeanpierre is the only guy I listed as a definite because he’s currently the only guy on the roster competent enough as a center to be Unger’s backup.  Bailey and Bowie have both impressed enough this preseason to make now-departed guard John Moffitt expendable, and one injury-free performance tonight by Carpenter is all he’ll need to make the cut.

Johnson is a strong enough player that I’d like to see him stick around, but if he does it’ll probably be on the practice squad.  Of the remaining three guys, I’ve liked Smith’s play the most, plus he is Tom Cable’s new d-line-to-o-line project player and could end up making the roster on that basis alone.  Person and Seymour have both played well enough to have a shot at a spot on the practice squad.

 

Wide Receiver

Locks: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Stephen Williams

On the Bubble: Chris Harper, Arceto Clark

Probable Cut: Phil Bates, Bryan Walters

PUP List: Percy Harvin

Harvin’s inclusion on the Physically Unable to Play list opens up a spot at wide receiver, albeit probably just until the midpoint of the season.  Rice, Tate, and Baldwin were virtual locks from the get-go, and Kearse and Williams have already played their way into roster spots through the first three preseason games.

Assuming the Seahawks keep six receivers, Harper is the likely choice to get the nod.  Personally, I think Clark has outplayed him, but it’s also possible that I’ve just subconsciously slotted him in to the “wideout I really like more than I should” role that Charlie Martin vacated when he was cut back in July.  Bates and Walters have been lukewarm at best, which is particularly disappointing for Bates as he was the talk of training camp last season.  Any of these guys have a shot at making the practice squad if they pass through waivers.

 

Tight End

Locks: Zach Miller

Likely Secure: Luke Willson, Sean McGrath

On the Bubble: Cooper Helfet

Probable Cut: Darren Fells

Behind Miller, who has been a lock to start all along, but the depth chart behind him is wide open.  With Anthony McCoy on injured reserve, the top two players vying for the number two are Willson and McGrath.  Willson’s play has been decent, albeit unspectacular, and that plus his fifth-round draft status means he’s almost guaranteed a roster spot.  That said, I like McGrath more; he’s to be a stronger receiver, and his blocking ability appears to be at least equal to that of Willson.

I listed Helfet as being on the bubble, but that’s solely due to numbers (teams rarely keep more than three tight ends on their roster).  I think McGrath and Willson are better players than Helfet, but only by the slimmest of margins.  He could still very well play his way into a roster spot tonight.  Fells is impressively big (6’7”, 281 lbs), but so far his physical size hasn’t really translated into impact on the field.  At best he’s an outside candidate for the practice squad.

 

Running Back

Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael

Likely Secure: Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson

Probable Cut: Derrick Coleman, Spencer Ware

If Lynch is still king of the Seahawks’ stable of running backs, then Michael is the crown prince.  Watching him run over, around, and through defenders on carry after carry has been a major highlight this preseason.  That leaves Turbin as the probable third back on the depth chart, but his speed and exceptional pass-catching ability should still earn him a lot of snaps on third downs.

A few writers have been pointing to Robinson as a probable cut with either Coleman or Ware (or both) staying on as his replacement, but I don’t see it.  Yes, Coleman and Ware can both play fullback, but from what I’ve seen Robinson outclasses both as a lead blocker by such a wide margin it isn’t even funny.  Robinson also doubles as a special teams ace (roughly half his snaps last year came on special teams), and I’ve seen little from either Ware or Coleman that would suggest that either player has his instincts for reading return blocking schemes on the fly.  The only way I see him getting dropped is if the coaching staff decides his injury concerns are serious enough to warrant losing everything he brings to the table.  Either way, both Ware and Coleman have done at least enough to justify a spot on the practice squad.

 

Defensive Line

Locks: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Red Bryant, Tony McDaniels, Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill

Likely Secure: Jaye Howard, O’Brien Schofield

On the Bubble: Benson Mayowa, Clinton McDonald, Sealver Siliga,

Probable Cut: Michael Brooks, Dewayne Cherrington

Suspended: Bruce Irvin

PUP List: Greg Scruggs, Chris Clemons (?)

Okay, this is where things get really messy.  Irvin won’t count against the roster limit while he serves out a four game suspension to begin the season, and the team still hasn’t decided whether or not Clemons will begin the season on the Physically Unable to Play list – if he does, that will clear up yet another roster spot through at least week six.  Losing Greg Scruggs for the first six weeks hurts as well, as he was coming on strong last year as a situational pass rusher, but as with Irvin and Clemons his loss means an opportunity for all the other DEs on the roster.

Avril and Bryant are locks at defensive end, McDaniels, Mebane, and Hill are locks at defensive tackle, and Bennett works as a 3-tech DT/pass-rushing DE.  Schofield and Howard are also likely to make the team as rotation guys/situational pass rushers, which brings us to a grand total of eight defensive linemen: three DEs, four DTs, and one swing player.  McDonald and Siliga are likely fighting for one roster spot (I’d give the edge to Siliga), and whether or not Mayowa makes the cut will likely depend on whether Clemons starts the year on the PUP list. 

That said, I hope there’s some way to massage the numbers here so that Mayowa can stick around.  Young outside rushers with his rare speed and body lean don’t exactly grow on trees, Clemons isn’t getting any younger, and Bruce Irvin is (presumably) moving to linebacker once he finishes serving his four game suspension.  Mainly, I want to avoid that sick feeling I’ll have in a few years if Mayowa is eating quarterbacks on some other team’s behalf while the Hawks desperately flail around in search of a new starting Leo end.

Brooks and Cherrington haven’t done anything particularly wrong, per se, but they haven’t done anything to distinguish themselves, either.  That might have been good enough to make the cut back in ’09 when the Hawks were talent-starved and desperate, but not anymore.

 

Linebacker

Locks: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith

Likely Secure: Allen Bradford, John Lotulelei

On the Bubble: Heath Farwell, Mike Morgan

Probable Cut: Ty Powell

Wagner and Wright are locked in as starters at middle and outside linebacker, and Smith is the likely choice to round out the trio as Leroy Hill’s replacement.  Both Bradford and Lotulelei have played far too well this preseason not to make the team, although I don’t know that middle linebacker is necessarily the best fit for Bradford.

That puts Farwell and Morgan on the bubble, and as a big fan of Farwell’s it really hurts me to say that.  Morgan can supposedly play all three linebacker spots (I can’t recall seeing him play many snaps at Mike, though), so he has that going for him, while Farwell is a reasonably solid middle linebacker and quite possibly the top special teams ace in the NFL. 

Granted, I love special teams more than pretty much any other football fan in existence and Farwell is scheduled to make a hefty $1.3 million this year, but I can’t remember ever seeing anyone who can sniff out blocking schemes and take down returners as quickly and effectively as Farwell does.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but if he gets cut, you can expect the Seahawks’ coverage team to perform significantly worse this year – that means consistently giving opposing offenses shorter fields as well as greatly increasing the chances of allowing return TDs.  I believe Farwell is well worth his asking price, I just hope the Hawks’ coaches agree with me.

Ty Powell hasn’t done anything that made me sit up and take notice of him, but with the team’s question marks on the defensive line his ability to double as a defensive end could earn him a spot on the practice squad.

 

Cornerback

Locks: Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman

Likely Secure: Walter Thurmond, Antoine Winfield

On the Bubble: Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell, Ron Parker

PUP List: Tharold Simon

Browner and Sherman have death grips on the starting corner jobs, so the main question here is who will end up winning the nickel back job between Thurmond and Winfield.  Thurmond has been largely spectacular this offseason, and if he ends up unseating Winfield I have a feeling that the ex-Viking may end up getting cut entirely.  Personally, I’d like to see the team keep both.

Lane, Maxwell, and Parker have all been pretty consistent and solid with their coverage this preseason, but they’re competing for one or two remaining roster spots and from what I’ve seen all three are playing equally well, although I’d say Maxwell is currently ahead by a nose.

Simon has been hurt all offseason, and at this point all we know is that 1) he's a Pete Carroll-size corner (6'2", 208 lbs), and 2) the Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round back in April.

 

Safety

Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor

Likely Secure: Jeron Johnson

On the Bubble: Chris Maragos, DeShawn Shead, Winston Guy

As with the tight end position, things are pretty wide open once you get past the two starters Thomas and Chancellor.  I think Johnson has already done enough to secure himself a roster spot this preseason, which leaves Maragos, Shead, and Guy to fight over one roster spot (the team could conceivably keep five safeties, but between the talent-rich logjam at cornerback and the injury-riddled mess at defensive line I highly doubt they will).

Of the three, I would say Maragos and Shead are neck-and-neck, and the loser will likely get snapped up by another team the second they hit the waiver wire.  Guy is more of an old school strong safety in that he’s a strong tackler but always seems to look a bit lost when he’s asked to drop back in coverage.  The team also likes his ability as an extra blitzer in certain pass rush packages, but I don’t think that’s enough to warrant keeping him around.

 

Specialists

Locks: Steven Hauschka, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham

No surprises here, as last year’s starters easily outperformed camp bodies like Carson Wiggs and Kyle Nelson to retain their jobs.

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