As the Seahawks gear up for their second preseason game (at the Chargers on Saturday), the roster already seems to be firming up — with only a handful of spots appearing open at this point.
The position with perhaps the most questions is cornerback. With Byron Maxwell and Neiko Thorpe missing over a week now, it has given others a chance to show what they have. Rookie Tre Flowers has grown daily, coaches say, Trovon Reed was a pick machine until he got nicked up, and Akeem King played very well against the Colts last week. Jeremy Boykins impressed enough that he got reps with the first defense this week, and Dontae Johnson is finally healthy enough to get into the starting mix a bit in practice.
It’s hard to see Maxwell not starting opposite Shaquill Griffin, but there’s enough talent that he or Thorpe could be in peril — especially if their injuries linger late in the month and other guys excel.
Other spots that seem up for grabs are RB4 (can C.J. Prosise get healthy?), WR5/6 (is Amara Darboh in danger?) and the back end of the offensive line.
Here are roster projections based on what we know at this point:
Keep: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
Why: Pete Carroll praised almost every rookie for their play in the preseason opener — except Alex McGough. Davis obviously is the better backup option, based on his experience. McGough won’t be better than Davis by the end of camp. The Seahawks might be looking around for other options — they reportedly worked out Josh Johnson. But Colin Kaepernick fans shouldn’t get excited; he’s surely off their list at this point.
Brian Schottenheimer said: “(Alex) was overthinking some stuff, which (rookie QBs) all tend to do. Made some really good throws. … I’ve been around Austin for a couple years now and he hasn’t changed. Of course, the room is really cool with Russ and Austin and having Alex in there taking all of the notes when the other guys are kind of a little bit more relaxed.”
Keep: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis, J.D. McKissic, Tre Madden
Why: Prosise can’t even get on the field, and he’s not better than any of the other guys even when he’s healthy. The only way he should make it is if they keep five tailbacks. But why would they? Jalston Fowler was let go, so Madden is the de facto fullback for now — but the Seahawks seem very likely to address this spot after cuts.
Schottenheimer on Carson and Penny: “Rashaad made a couple really good cuts where guys kind of got to the edge and there was some free color but some really good stuff. Chris just finished really well a couple of times. … I thought they both did really, really well. Both did a good job in pass protection and we just kind of keep growing with those guys.”
Keep: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall, David Moore, Amara Darboh
Why: Darboh still has the inside track on a roster spot due to his draft position (third-rounder in 2017), but he needs to get on the field if he is going to push Marshall or Moore for spot No. 4. If these six are healthy as the season approaches, it will be hard for other receivers to bump them. And, if Seattle keeps just five, Darboh could be out.
Carroll on Marshall: “He continues to be closer to full go, cut it loose. He can play, but we really haven’t let him run downfield top speed and all that stuff yet. We restricted him some and he’s been told to be restricted a little bit when he plays just to make sure that we don’t have any setbacks. Today was his most active day and we’re going to continue to extend it from there. So, we’re looking very good.”
Keep: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly
Why: Tyrone Swoopes could make a push, especially if Dickson remains out into the season. Carroll said Dickson won’t be back for a while. That leaves Vannett as the starter and Dissly as No. 2 — both looked good vs. the Colts.
Carroll on Dissly: “Diss did a really nice job. He did exactly what we hoped he would have looked like in his first time out. He’s going to get better and understand things more and be more aggressive. But, he already showed the big body, and he showed the ability to hold the line of scrimmage. Go to the big play pass that Russ hits to (Tyler) Lockett, he does a great job blocking the defensive end on the other side and just locks him out. That’s a real positive; that’s a real plus for us.”
Keep: Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, George Fant, J.R. Sweezy, Isaiah Battle, Rees Odhiambo, Jamarco Jones (IR)
Why: The starters are set, unless Fluker gets hurt again and Sweezy is healthy enough to replace him. The first five just need to keep working together and create some running lanes. Jones suffered a serious ankle sprain vs. the Colts, and it sounds like he probably will end up on IR. That ruins the thought some had about Jones possibly pushing Ifedi at right tackle. Battle, who suffered a lesser injury against the Colts, remains the No. 2 right tackle and seems likely to make it unless Fant is moved to right tackle. If Sweezy can’t get healthy, it will open a spot for Joey Hunt or Jordan Roos as the swing guard. Odhiambo’s flexibility (and a new coach) probably gives him a second chance after a poor 2017 at left tackle.
Carroll on the line vs. Indy: “They felt strong. They gave Russ a lot of nice spacing. Pocket was very solid. He moved because he didn’t find the receivers where he needed to find them open, so he moved to make them open and he did it. It just felt better.”
Keep: Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, Rasheem Green, Tim Johnson, Marcus Smith, Branden Jackson, Shamar Stephen, Quinton Jefferson, Dion Jordan (PUP)
Why: Jordan probably will remain on PUP into the season, meaning this group seems pretty set unless UDFA Poona Ford can oust the versatile Jefferson or Stephen, both of whom have been discussed as near locks by Carroll.
Carroll on Jefferson: “He’s very much settled in right now, very comfortable with what’s going on. He’s working really consistently. He’s got flexibility to play a few different spots for us, too. He’d certainly be in the rotations right now if were playing in an in-season game.”
Keep: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Barkevious Mingo, Shaquem Griffin, Jake Martin, D.J. Alexander
Why: Due to the dearth of pass rushers, Martin looks like a lock. Assuming Alexander can get healthy, the special-teams standout is probably the preferred last guy here. If Griffin shows he’s capable of playing the weak side, Wright could be the emergency middle ‘backer. This is a position where it is easy to see the team adding a completely new guy at the end of preseason.
Carroll on Griffin: “You see the speed that he has and his nature to be aggressive and run through to be an attacking player really showed up for his first time out. And, he’s got a million things to learn, so he’s just getting started. But, the fundamental part of it — run and hit — showed (vs. the Colts). It was exciting and I was really glad that he contributed on special teams in such a big way.”
Keep: Shaquill Griffin, Bradley McDougald, Justin Coleman, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, Maurice Alexander, Tre Flowers, Byron Maxwell, Neiko Thorpe, Akeem King
Why: Flowers looks like he might be the 2019 starter opposite Griffin. For now, assuming Maxwell is healthy, he remains the favorite to start in 2018. King has looked good and might be ready to join this crew as the sixth corner — although Johnson, Reed, et al., will have something to say about that. Thompson looks like the starting free safety. Alexander’s presence depends largely on his health, which has not been good so far. Safety could be a position John Schneider trades for late in the preseason.
Ken Norton on Flowers: “If you watched, you see he’s very talented. He’s got some really good length. He’s really fast. He’s really smart, extremely humble, and he’s getting better every day. So, we’re very excited with his improvement play after play. I think every play he learns more, and he takes that learning that he has, and he applies it to his play every day. So, we’re all very happy with the progress he’s made so far.”
Keep: Sebastian Janikowski, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott
Why: Dickson was drafted because he is a unique weapon, and he took a good lead on Jon Ryan after the first game. Janikowski will win any tie with Jason Myers, although there’s a good chance the team will need to bring in an injury replacement at some point this season.
Carroll said: “Jon needs to compete at this thing and he’s going for it. There’s no telling which way this is going to go right now. They’ve got to show the consistency and the big kicks, too. Jonny’s got way more experience. He knows how to place the football. He’s great at backing people up. He’s been phenomenal with that for years. He’s always been a big part of our defense because either way he’s putting back inside the 15-, 10-yard line. That’s not something that we overlook, you know? It’s a big deal.”