Preseason Week 4 (2014): Projecting the Final Roster

Now that the dress rehearsal for the first stringers is out of the way (preseason or no, 34-6 is ample reason for optimism), it’s time for the most important game of the preseason – for everyone else on the roster, at any rate.  Tonight, hundreds of jobs across the NFL will be won and lost for depth chart denizens across the NFL, and the Seahawks’ roster is no exception.

With that in mind, I’ve taken a stab at projecting the final roster with an emphasis on identifying the players on the fringe who will be battling to keep their careers alive.  Granted, being cut by the reigning Super Bowl champs will mean that plenty of these guys will be snapped up as soon as they hit the waiver wire, but there’s going to be more than a few names here who will never set foot on an NFL field again.  In short, yes, it’s still just the preseason, but that doesn’t mean that these games don’t count.

Quarterbacks

Locks:
Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson

On the Bubble:
B.J. Daniels

Probable Cuts:
Terrell Pryor

With the demise of the game day emergency quarterback exemption, the Seahawks have followed the prevailing trend of keeping just two QBs on their roster and stashing a third on their practice squad.  That said, there’s no chance they’ll be able to sneak Daniels through the waiver wire and onto their practice squad this year, so if they want to keep him at all it’ll have to be on the final roster.   Terrell Pryor is the better known candidate, but unfortunately for him he’s performed like the same Terrell Pryor he was in Oakland: occasional flashes of brilliance punctuated by bonehead throws into the open arms of defenders.  Daniels has outplayed him in every way, and in a meritocracy like the one Carroll’s built that counts for a hell of a lot more than name recognition.

Running Backs

Locks:
Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin
Christine Michael
Derrick Coleman

Probable Cuts:
Spencer Ware
Kiero Small
Demitrius Bronson

Last year the coaches elected to keep two fullbacks on the roster, but back then there was still some doubt as to whether Coleman or Ware was the better option to replace Michael Robinson as Lynch’s lead blocker.  Now that Coleman has proven to be the far superior (and more durable) choice, Ware’s services are no longer required, plus he simply hasn’t done enough yet to force the coaches to keep him on the roster.  Small is a likely practice squad candidate, and Bronson has an outside shot at the practice squad as well.

The x-factor here is the recent news that Michael is nursing a groin injury (god damn is that ever a terrible turn of phrase).  If he’s expected to miss time, then Ware or Bronson could end up sticking for a few weeks as an injury replacement.

Tight Ends

Locks:
Zach Miller
Luke Willson

On the Bubble:
Cooper Helfet

Probable Cuts:
RaShaun Allen

Much like the quarterback position, the only question here is whether the team decides to keep two or three tight ends on the roster.  It’s likely they’ll go with three, in which case Helfet is the favorite to stay, but the only reason I could see them going with just two would be if they needed to make room for some extra injury replacements at a couple of other positions.  Even then, I would expect them to go back up to three at tight end once the injured players were healthy enough to return.  Allen has shown enough to make himself a viable practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers

Locks:
Percy Harvin
Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Paul Richardson

On the Bubble:
Bryan Walters
Phil Bates
Kevin Norwood
Ricardo Lockette

Probable Cuts:
Arceto Clark
Morrell Presley
Chris Matthews

The top four spots are already spoken for, so that leaves everyone else to duke it out for the final two spots (assuming they keep six wideouts, which I expect them to do if for no other reason than as insurance in light of Harvin’s spotty medical history).  To this point, Bates, Walters, and Lockette are in a virtual tie, with Walters possibly leading by a nose because he’s also a serviceable punt returner.  Norwood is probably a better receiver than all three of them, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and I don’t expect his fourth round status to grant him any immunity – just ask Chris Harper or Kris Durham if the team is willing to move on from a promising mid-rounder after a disappointing offseason.

I like Clark, probably more than I should, but he still has yet to show he’s a better option than the other guys he’s competing against (plus he’s still eligible for the practice squad), and CFL stud Matthews has shown even less than Clark.  Presley is listed as a wide receiver, but the team seems to project him more as a tight end, and he could very well join the practice squad as a prospect at that position instead.

Offensive Linemen

Locks:
Russell Okung
James Carpenter
Max Unger
J.R. Sweezy
Justin Britt
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Alvin Bailey

On the Bubble:
Eric Winston
Caylin Hauptmann
Stephen Schilling

Probable Cuts:
Nate Isles
Patrick Lewis
Garry Gilliam

Jeanpierre (C/G) and Bailey (G/T) are established swing backups – good backup centers are hard to find, and Bailey saw plenty of use last season as a blocking tight end in jumbo sets.  Of the players on the bubble, Schilling is the likeliest to fill one of the remaining two berths on the depth chart (assuming they keep nine o-linemen).  Schilling is a solid guard who can also play center in a pinch, which gives the team greater leeway to use Jeanpierre as a fill-in at guard. Winston is a decent tackle, but plays just that one position and is a veteran with eight accrued seasons and a higher price tag to match ($855k plus a $100k roster bonus), while Hauptmann is somewhat less competent but can play both guard and tackle (he seems a more natural fit at tackle) and comes at a lower price.  All things being equal between those two, I can see the team opting for Hauptmann over Winston.

Isles and Gilliam are both better practice squad candidates than viable contenders for roster spots, while Lewis is a recent injury replacement (so new he doesn’t even have a jersey number listed on Seahawks.com) and will almost assuredly be on the cut list unless he does something truly spectacular tonight.

Defensive Linemen

Locks:
Michael Bennett
Tony McDaniel
Brandon Mebane
Cliff Avril
Greg Scruggs
Cassius Marsh
Kevin Williams

On the Bubble:
Jordan Hill
O’Brien Schofield

Probable Cuts:
Benson Mayowa
Andru Pulu
D’Anthony Smith
Jimmy Staten

The Seahawks will keep at least nine d-linemen, so for this group “on the bubble” is pretty meaningless as there are only two names there and seven locks listed.  That said, the drop-off in talent after McDaniel, Mebane, and Williams is damned steep.  Hill has not shown much and is only listed this highly because he’s been with the team longer and none of the other DTs have shown much either.  The player who ends up taking the last spot here may very well be someone who gets cut by another team.  Hell, I’m not even sure they’ve shown enough to land on the practice squad – I’m all for them proving me wrong on that account tonight, but I’m not holding my breath.

With 2014 draft pick Marsh having shown enough to make the roster, Mayowa and Schofield are effectively battling for the last defensive end spot.  Schofield has shown up time and again throughout the preseason, while Mayowa has been largely ineffective.  Unless the situation changes drastically, Schofield is going to get the nod here.

Linebackers

Locks:
Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Malcolm Smith
Mike Morgan
Brock Coyle
Kevin Pierre-Louis

Probable Cuts:
Korey Toomer

PUP List:
Bruce Irvin

After the transactions of the last few days, I don’t think there’s much left to debate here.  The team already got rid of most of the camp bodies in the cutdown to 75, and Toomer has been sidelined by injuries for most of camp.  The major question mark here was whether the team would choose to keep Heath Farwell or Coyle or go with seven LBs and keep them both, but Farwell’s recent groin surgery just landed him on IR so that debate is now moot.  Irvin will likely begin the year on PUP, so they don’t have to decide between Morgan or Pierre-Louis, either (for now, anyway).

Defensive Backs

Locks:
Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell
Kam Chancellor
Earl Thomas
Jeron Johnson
Tharold Simon

On the Bubble:
Jeremy Lane
Phillip Adams
Akeem Auguste
DeShawn Shead

Probable Cuts:
Terrance Parks
Steven Terrell

Defensive back and wide receiver are probably the two most highly competitive position groupings on the roster, and A.J. Jefferson landing on IR has opened up another roster spot for these guys to fight over.  I’m writing this assuming the team will take just nine DBs, but the names on the bubble list are strong enough that they could well force the team to keep ten.  Lane has all but sewn up the nickel back spot and is a superb special teamer – with Farwell on IR that becomes an even more important consideration – but he’s also out with a groin injury, and it’s unclear when he might be able to return.  In his place, Adams is the next best option at nickelback, and Lane’s health could end up deciding his fate.  Shead is a Roy Lewis type who can handle both corner and safety duties serviceably enough, and Auguste has shown up well throughout camp.

That leaves Parks and Terrell the odd men out.  I don’t believe either one is eligible for the practice squad, and Terrell has been burned in coverage on multiple plays.

Special Teams

Locks:
Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

And now we end with an easy one.  All three of these guys are top five in the NFL at their respective positions, and they’ve done nothing in camp or the preseason to jeopardize their roster spots.

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