The NFL preseason can sometimes feel like it’s played just to decide a handful of roster spots for every team. For all the fan and media discussion and position-battle debates, most teams usually already know at least 45 to 48 of the players who will make up their initial 53-man regular-season roster at the time camp begins.
But for the Seahawks, some of those bottom-of-the-roster battles appeared to only get more interesting during Thursday’s 22-14 win over Denver, in which backup quarterback Paxton Lynch and undrafted free-agent receiver Jazz Ferguson stole the show.
Here’s my latest guess at the Seahawks’ 53-man roster.
Keep: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith.
Cut: Paxton Lynch.
Comment: Lynch indeed had the better game statistically and may have closed the gap some on Smith. But it’ll take more than one game to alter the reasons why Smith is the presumed favorite for the backup job — notably, that he has significantly more experience in the NFL (31 starts to Lynch’s four). But Smith is now also having a cyst removed from his knee, and that could give Lynch some additional work in practices, and maybe even the next preseason game Aug. 18 at Minnesota, to make the race even tighter.
Keep: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Bo Scarbrough, Nick Bellore.
Cut: C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic, Travis Homer, Xavier Turner.
Comment: Outside of Carson, Penny and Bellore — the assumption is Seattle will keep a fullback, and he’s all there is — little seems set at the tailback spot with Prosise, Homer and McKissic all sitting out the Denver game due to injury. Scarbrough had a few nice moments before he suffered a hand injury that isn’t serious, and for now, I’m moving him onto the 53, especially because it’s becoming clear the Seahawks could use Carson and Penny more in receiving roles this season. That might mean they don’t need to keep a specific third-down/two-minute back. But I reserve the right to change my mind on that.
Keep: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Gary Jennings, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Jazz Ferguson.
Cut: Amara Darboh, John Ursua, Terry Wright, Malik Turner, Keenan Reynolds.
Comment: OK, I’ll go along for the ride this week and add Ferguson, who statistically has been the best Seattle receiver in the mock game and first preseason game. But the competition figures to stiffen a bit the next two weeks as Seattle opponents play some of their regulars (or at least, the Vikings in Week 2 — it’s unclear if the Chargers will in Week 3). And how Ferguson does over the next 15 days or so in practices and preseason games will tell the real tale. Still, he’s becoming the most intriguing story in camp. Jennings may need to start producing a bit more to assure a spot.
Keep: Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, Jacob Hollister.
Cut: Ed Dickson, Jackson Harris, Wes Saxton.
Comment: George Fant’s sprained ankle might compel the Seahawks to keep another tight end around. But Dickson also is coming off knee surgery and is out another five weeks or so, and has a hefty contract — the team could save roughly $3.5 million releasing him. His injury complicates that decision, though — injured players can’t just be cut. For now, without knowing much more on Fant, I’ll stick with three tight ends and assume a move of some sort is made with Dickson.
Keep: Duane Brown, D.J. Fluker, Justin Britt, Mike Iupati, Germain Ifedi, George Fant, Ethan Pocic, Jamarco Jones, Joey Hunt.
Cut: Marcus Martin, Demetrius Knox, Jordan Roos, Elijah Nkansah, Jordan Simmons.
Comment: Fant’s injury also compels me to want to keep nine OLs for now. Pocic makes it as a backup at basically every spot, while the team appears to remain high on the potential of Jones — he played every snap Thursday against Denver, the only player to do so. The ninth spot is a coin flip — and as noted, the main reason I’m keeping nine is because of Fant’s injury — but for now I’ll go with Hunt, who has been a solid center and also has seen just enough time at the other spots to make the team think he could help out there in an emergency.
Keep: Ezekiel Ansah, L.J. Collier, Poona Ford, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Rasheem Green, Cassius Marsh, Earl Mitchell, Branden Jackson, Jacob Martin, Barkevious Mingo.
Cut: Jamie Meder, Nazair Jones, Jay-Tee Tiuli, Bryan Mone.
Comment: Mingo and Martin are both sort of hybrid guys who can also play linebacker — particularly Mingo, who started at the strongside spot last year. Injury situations for Ansah and Collier also complicate things. Who knows if either will be available Week 1 or how much they would be able to play, and also complicating things is Reed’s suspension — Seattle may want to keep four true DTs for the first six weeks while he is out, then dumping one once he returns. That had my last few decisions coming down to Jackson, Mitchell and Meder, the latter a true run-stuffing specialist who might be needed while Reed is out.
Keep: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Mychal Kendricks, Austin Calitro, Cody Barton, Shaquem Griffin.
Cut: Ben Burr-Kirven, Justin Currie, Chris Worley, Juwuan Johnson.
Comment: Wagner, Wright and Kendricks are set as the starting three. But the news that Kendricks will be sentenced on Sept. 25 adds yet another complication to the roster construction, and may assure Mingo — who, as noted, started last year at the same SLB spot that Kendricks has been handling this season — will make it (if you assume he’s in any trouble). Calitro had a quietly solid game against Denver and has been quietly solid all of camp while Barton was an early training-camp star who got some action Thursday and whose roster spot is secure. A final LB spot may well come down to Shaquem Griffin or Burr-Kirven. Seattle’s investment in the two is almost exactly the same — Griffin was pick 141 in 2018 and Burr-Kirven was pick 142 in 2019. Griffin also for now has a specific special-teams role that could give him an edge as the up back on the punt team (he handled it most of Thursday before DeShawn Shead took over at the end).
Keep: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe.
Cut: Jeremy Boykins, Jamar Taylor, Simeon Thomas, Kalan Reed.
Comment: One quick note is that Ugo Amadi, who I have making the team as a safety, can also play nickel. So that’s sort of like 4½ corners on the roster. King has been used increasingly as a backup on the outside as well as a nickel, where he appears to be the starter. Thorpe remains one of the team’s best special-teams players — he had a really nice tackle in punt coverage early Thursday. All the other corners seem like players Seattle might be able to call on later in the year, if needed.
Keep: Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi.
Cut: Shalom Luani, Marwin Evans, Jalen Harvey, DeShawn Shead
Comment: For now, I’m sticking with Hill as one of the five to make it even though he has yet to do anything in camp. But he will be one of the most interesting players to watch over the next two weeks, especially after Seattle got a good, early look at both Blair and Amadi on Thursday. If the team thinks Blair is ready for everything now than maybe Seattle only needs to keep four safeties. Blair is obviously a keeper (he already was, but Thursday just reinforced what a key role he figures to play for the franchise going forward) and Amadi appears to be, as well. And given that he’s basically been the only safety healthy and available the entire offseason, Thompson seems a keeper, too, along with the obvious lock of McDougald. So that could make a final call between Hill and Shead. Shead proved he still has a lot to offer with his play Thursday, and that he can handle some significant special-teams roles only increases his potential value.