Projecting the roster before the final game

Logo -- PreseasonAs the preseason winds down and Saturday’s cuts quickly approach, the Seahawks face some tough decisions.

Choices at running back and receiver are going to have a trickle-down effect, possibly affecting the lines or the secondary.

Perhaps the biggest decision will be J.D. McKissic, whose status basically depends on whether Tyler Lockett is going to return kicks. McKissic was the full-time return man this preseason, and he showed his versatility as a third-down back and slot receiver — he had 118 all-purpose yards vs. Kansas City.

If Pete Carroll doesn’t want Lockett returning kicks as he comes off a broken leg, it could be good news for McKissic. And bad news for someone else.

Also keep in mind: John Schneider usually makes a trade right around cutdown day, and the Hawks typically add a couple of guys — other teams’ cuts — who were not even in Seattle’s camp.

The Seahawks are as deep as they were in 2013, so other teams will be interested in their castoffs. Schneider would be smart to try to trade a couple of guys at the deepest positions — maybe Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson or a cornerback — this week.

As the Hawks prepare for their final preseason game, vs. Oakland on Thursday, Carroll said, “The decisions are really difficult, and I anticipate that. We told you this has been one of the deepest groups we’ve had. There’s a lot of good football players here, and so we’ll just try to figure it out and do the best we can.”

Here’s how we see it (and what Carroll says):

QUARTERBACK
Keep: 2
Lock: Russell Wilson
In the hunt: Trevone Boykin, Austin Davis
How we see it: Boykin looked terrible vs. the Chiefs (0 for 6), but Carroll said he would not count that game against the second-year QB. Davis was perfect on five throws, including a 28-yard TD pass to Tanner McEvoy. Boykin seems to have the edge, based on order of appearance in preseason games, but Carroll said nothing has been decided yet.
Carroll said: “It’s a great battle for us and these guys have been going out every day out here, so we will add all of that together and figure it out. But we are going through this (Oakland) game. We don’t know what we are doing yet.”

RUNNING BACK
Keep: 5
Locks: Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise
In the hunt: Marcel Reece, Tre Madden
Long shots: Mike Davis, Alex Collins
How we see it: With Rawls and Prosise out again, Carson and Lacy looked great vs. K.C. Both averaged over five yards per carry, Lacy running with the expected physicality and Carson cutting sharply through creases. Carson also got down field for a 37-yard reception. At this point, these two should be the main backs, with the healthier of Rawls and Prosise the third active back on game days (although, if Prosise gets hurt again, he could end up on IR). Madden caught a TD pass vs. the Chiefs and is pushing Reece for the fullback spot. “He’s making a real bid,” Carroll said, “and he and Marcel are going to battle it out all the way through the end.”
Carroll said: “We have not seen anything that we don’t like from Chris. … He is a runner, he is a blocker, he is a catcher and he has done well in special teams, too. He has been a really positive reveal here for us, and I’m really excited to see what happens again this week when we play him a lot this week and see how he does and let all the competition just take care of itself.”

WIDE RECEIVER
Keep: 6-7
Locks: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, Jermaine Kearse, Kasen Williams, Amara Darboh
In the hunt: Tanner McEvoy, J.D. McKissic
Long shots: Kenny Lawler, David Moore, Cyril Grayson, Darreus Rogers, Rodney Smith
How we see it: We had Kearse “in the hunt” after he seemed to fade to sixth on the depth chart, but he came up with a big game against K.C. (except the key missed tackle on the Chiefs’ kick-return TD), and Carroll made it sound like he is not in danger: “He’s been playing really great. He had a good game last week, too.” Williams has been playing great, too, and seems to have done enough to be locked in (he recovered a blocked punt to maintain Seattle’s possession vs. the Chiefs). Darboh hasn’t seen much game action due to injuries, but Carroll said he has looked great in practice. He’s a third-round pick, so it would be a stunner if they didn’t keep him. McEvoy continues to rise to the occasion when given chances — e.g., the score against K.C. The 6-foot-6 former QB brings so much to the table, he would be a tough cut. McKissic, as mentioned, is the big wild card.
Carroll said: “I can’t call it right now. We are just going to go into this week again — this week of practice and the game — and see what happens. These guys are really battling and there (are) a lot of positives. It’s not all the stuff that has happened in the games. Some of the guys have had better ops than other guys. It is a really good position for us, and it’s going to be some tough stuff to figure out.”

TIGHT END
Keep: 3
Locks: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Nick Vannett
Long shots: Tyrone Swoopes, Steve Donatell
How we see it: Graham and Willson finally got some game action, and Graham looked ready for the season. Vannett has played a lot this preseason and seems ready to contribute much more in his second season.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Keep: 8-9
Locks: Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi, Mark Glowinski, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, Rees Odhiambo
In the hunt: Matt Tobin, Jordan Roos, Joey Hunt
Long shots: Will Pericak, Darrell Brown, Tyrus Thompson
Injured: George Fant
How we see it: Odhiambo played well enough vs. K.C. to assuage any major concerns about him replacing Fant at left tackle. Glowinski apparently has won the right guard spot. “I’m really fired up about Mark,” Carroll said. “You can see the jumps he’s made from last year — his first year starting — to now. It’s really clear and he’s really aggressive and tough and he’s doing things right. We’re really pleased with him so far.” Aboushi will start at left guard Thursday, so he appears set to back up both guard spots. Even though he has been inconsistent, Ifedi seems to have right tackle secured. Pocic, the second-round pick, seems likely to keep working as the backup at center and on the right side. The versatile Tobin, acquired from Philadelphia, figures to make it as the primary reserve left tackle. If the Hawks do keep nine again, Roos seems likely to be No. 9. But they might be limited to eight.
Carroll said: “We are making progress. We have been showing consistency in all that. … (Odhiambo) did a nice job (vs. K.C.) and he was very comfortable with it. I was really proud of him for how he handled it with poise and he was comfortable playing with the guys under the concerns about starting and all. He handled it very well. Matt Tobin did a good job for his first time out, too, just to make it through the game and be able to pick up as much as he did. It told us a lot about his background and his mentality that he brings us.”

DEFENSIVE LINE
Keep: 9
Locks: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Jarran Reed, Ahtyba Rubin, Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, Nazair Jones
In the hunt: David Bass, Marcus Smith, Quinton Jefferson, Garrison Smith, Rodney Coe
Long shots: Christian French, Tylor Harris, Jeremy Liggins, Greg Milhouse
Injured: Malik McDowell, Dion Jordan
How we see it: Bass has made a big play in every game and seems a favorite to make it. Avril said, “He’s been doing great things ever since he got here. He doesn’t say much; he just does the work. Every time he steps on the field, he’s making some sort of play. Whether it’s a turnover or a sack, he’s making some sort of play. Hats off to him and I hope we keep him around.” Marcus Smith got a lot more playing time vs. K.C., and Carroll made it seem like he has made the roster. Jefferson seems not to have made it; Carroll said he has missed a lot of football and is “just trying to get back into shape.”
Carroll said: “(Smith) has got versatility to him. He can play outside ‘backer if we need him to. We like him as a rusher on the edge playing the LEO spot for us. He is athletic and he’s got a good burst. He’s got a good sense for it, too. He is in the mix to be the top four or five rushers in our group. We have a good group. Cassius has done really well to add in as well as Frank. We are getting some flexibility from these guys, and I hope we can keep guys fresh in order to get the tempo really up if it all comes down to that.”

LINEBACKER
Keep: 6
Locks: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin, Dewey McDonald
In the hunt: D.J. Alexander, Mike Morgan
Long shots: Kache Palacio, Rodney Butler, Otha Peters
How we see it: McDonald and Alexander — both special-teams stalwarts — seem like the favorites to join Wright, Wagner, Wilhoite and Garvin as Seattle’s 2017 linebackers. Alexander has missed a lot of time — he didn’t play again vs. his former team — but Carroll might not count that against him. “He is an extraordinary special teams player,” Carroll said, “and to add him into the group we already have could make it a very, very good group.”

SECONDARY
Keep: 9-10
Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bradley McDougald, Jeremy Lane, Shaquill Griffin, Delano Hill
In the hunt: Neiko Thorpe, Tramaine Brock, Tedric Thompson, Pierre Desir, DeAndre Elliott
Long shots: Demetrius McCray, Mike Tyson, Marcus Cromartie
Injured: DeShawn Shead
How we see it: The team might end up keeping just nine of these guys, and Thorpe might not be the lock we thought he was. It looks like he is fighting Brock, Desir and Thompson for perhaps two final spots. The Hawks would be on the hook for $300,000 cap hits this year and next if they cut or traded Thorpe, who received a $600,000 signing bonus in a two-year deal earlier this year. Desir has shown why Carroll and Schneider talked him up in the offseason.
Carroll said: “(Brock) is making progress. He is a really good athlete. He is experienced. He’s got a good feel for it. You saw he blitzed real well and came off the edge a couple of times and made some nice tackles. … He needs this game, too, just to keep showing us and get a lot of reps and all that, just to show us how far he has come.”

SPECIAL TEAMS
Keep: 3
Locks: Jon Ryan, Blair Walsh, Tyler Ott
How we see it: There are no competitions at kicker, punter and snapper. Walsh hit four field goals vs. K.C., thanks to a mulligan on the second one, and he is now 8 for 9 this preseason. He hit from 41, 36, 21 and 47 yards vs. the Chiefs, made two 52-yarders and bounced a 53-yarder off the crossbar against Minnesota, and converted from 42 and 28 against the Chargers.

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