Paxton Lynch outshone Geno Smith against Denver but he struggled against Minnesota. He looked frantic. Part of that was the offensive line play. Yet his overall performance was reminiscent of previous pre-seasons where Seattle fielded an incapable backup QB and didn’t really learn anything about their offensive depth. For example, Lynch has really zoned in on Jazz Ferguson as a safety net. Ferguson received seven targets against Minnesota (making two catches). John Ursua had two and Gary Jennings had one. If Lynch and Ferguson can help each make the roster, fair enough. But in the next game we need to see what Ursua, Jennings and some of the other receivers can do. And that’ll mean Lynch or Smith not just looking for the big guy on most snaps.
Smith’s stock received a boost without even playing. He’s the more conservative option for sure, with more pro-experience. It depends how much Seattle wants to develop a prospect versus having an older head as the backup. The hit on Lynch was so appalling it could cost him a chance to make an impression against LA and Oakland. Fingers crossed he returns quickly.
Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny will be #1 and #2 respectively. Penny needs to be more decisive at the line and get more out of his runs — but the pile-on post-Minnesota seems like the latest example of a Seattle scapegoat. Travis Homer’s special teams value and a nice cameo against the Vikings puts him in a strong position to make the roster. One of C.J. Prosise or J.D. McKissic will probably make it. Prosise’s never-ending injury issues probably give McKissic the upper hand. McKissic is also well liked by the players and staff.
The most intriguing question mark is Nick Bellore. We’ve barely seen any of him as a fullback throughout pre-season. Why? He was signed to a two-year deal worth more than the minimum. We know he’s useful on special teams and it’s possible they’ll keep him for that and target specific games to incorporate him on offense. Yet the sheer amount of running they do out of the gun these days neglects the need for a full back.
Tyler Lockett is all set for a quality season and Jaron Brown was impressive against the Vikings. D.K. Metcalf will have a frequent role on the offense and David Moore’s familiarity with the scheme and quarterback will secure a roster spot (even if he’ll be on a short leash to make plays early in the season). It could be that they only keep five receivers and if that’s the case, at the moment John Ursuah makes the most sense. He just seems to have something about him. He also has a very different skill-set to the big targets.
I previously thought the Seahawks would stash Gary Jennings to avoid losing him. However, Russell Wilson’s frank admission that Jennings ‘needed’ a good day at practise last week was telling. He was also a non-factor against the Vikings. Malik Turner is a wildcard given he received some snaps with the starting unit in Minnesota. Don’t sleep on him. Jazz Ferguson has made an impression but increasingly I think the Seahawks will roll the dice on him making the practise squad. Given his character flags in college and raw skill-set — there’s much more chance of him making it than some of the other names discussed here.
Ed Dickson, Will Dissly and Nick Vannett are almost certain to make it. Jacob Hollister has received several positive reports from camp and could be kept as more of a pass-catcher. Keeping four TE’s for this offense isn’t unrealistic especially if they cut Nick Bellore. George Fant will be utilised as an OL/TE hybrid.
The starting unit impressed in Minnesota and looks big, nasty and the identity of this team. The injury situation, however is a concern. They’re banking on players capable of featuring in multiple positions. Ethan Pocic is a valuable depth player because he can play center, guard or tackle. At the moment, however, he’s having to start at left guard because Mike Iupati’s injured. Thus, they need another backup at left guard and center to cover the fact Pocic is starting. George Fant is another really useful player because he can feature at tight end but also cover spots at tackle and guard. The fact he’s injured at the moment is, again, a problem.
Jordan Simmons showed he can start in the league last year but he has a significant injury record. Jamarco Jones missed last season through injury and has been banged up again. The Seahawks have a good starting five and decent backups but the injuries are thinning things out. The decision on who makes the roster and who doesn’t will be heavily impacted by who’s healthy. Hopefully Phil Haynes can make an appearance before the end of pre-season.
The two big areas of concern right now are pass rush and cornerback. None of the nickel-back contenders are jumping out and Shaquill Griffin getting burned by Adam Thielen was unnerving. However, nothing is more concerning than the pass rush. The Seahawks traded Frank Clark and are without Jarran Reed for the first six games. That’s 23.5 sacks you’re taking out of a team that wasn’t a great pass-rushing unit in 2018. They’re hoping Ziggy Ansah can replace Clark but throughout his career he’s been banged up and currently he’s nursing groin and shoulder issues. Jacob Martin continues to look like a better role player than starter. Rasheem Green was practically anonymous again in Minnesota. L.J. Collier is injured and facing his rookie season. Depending on Ansah’s availability, their top pass rusher might be Cassius Marsh. The unit looks painfully weak and increasingly it feels like they have to do something before the season begins. It doesn’t have to be a blockbuster trade for someone like Jadeveon Clowney but additions are required — either via trade or after perusing the cuts from around the league. Barkevious Mingo has struggled in camp as a pass rusher but it’s worth noting Carroll said today he’s counting on Mingo to be a factor (he’s also seen as a key special teamer).
On the plus side, Poona Ford was exceptional against Minnesota and when Reed returns that could be a forceful pairing at defensive tackle. Al Woods also showed well which is reassuring, considering he’ll fill in for Reed. The Seahawks have consistently succeeded in finding useful defensive tackles without investing major draft stock or finances.
Seattle possesses the strongest group of linebackers in the NFL. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks is a starting trio any 4-3 team would love to have. Cody Barton has received rave reviews in camp. Austin Calitro won a job 12 months ago and appears hellbent on repeating that achievement this year. The big question is whether Ben Burr-Kirven has done enough to warrant a stash. Shaquem Griffin’s injury could turn into an IR job to protect him because at the moment it’s hard to see how he makes it.
Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers will start but there’s increasing pressure on Griffin to finally deliver on his potential. The depth is a worry at cornerback. Neiko Thorpe will almost certainly make it as the special teams captain. DeShawn Shead is mainly being tried at safety but he has the versatility to play corner too. Aside from the starting nickel, is there anyone else you’d keep around? Do they retain Akeem King for his ability to play slot and outside corner? And who even gets the gig in the slot? Jamar Taylor’s experience could be crucial (he will start vs the Chargers) but Carroll talked up Kalan Reed last week. None of the three shone against Minnesota. This is a position we’ll need to track for the next draft.
Tedric Thompson is another one of Seattle’s scapegoats. I feel for him. Imagine having to replace someone like Earl Thomas. The reality is, most teams have a starting free safety like Thompson. There are about 3-4 athletes like Earl Thomas in the entire league. He lacks the quickness and playmaking quality but clearly has earned the trust of the coaches and Seattle’s scheme is predicated on discipline and doing your job. Bend but don’t break. That’s why it’s very likely Thompson or Lano Hill will start next to Bradley McDougald. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair appear locks to make it and Amadi could even win the job at nickel corner. Shead will provide a hybrid DB capable of covering multiple positions.
With two pre-season games remaining a lot can change. However, it seems pretty obvious that there are two glaring weaknesses at corner and pass rush. Seattle’s kick-step scheme is difficult to pick up on the fly and it seems unlikely they’d be able to incorporate a new player into a potential starting role this late in the day. They can still add another pass rusher though. One way or another that feels like a necessity if the Seahawks want to be truly competitive.
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