With cut week upon the Seahawks and nine more moves due on Tuesday alone, here’s how I see the initial, 53-man roster settling for the next week’s start of the regular season.
Injuries late in camp have changed some positions and left a couple short. I think the team will keep four tight ends, including Brandon Williams as insurance for Jimmy Graham perhaps missing the first couple games in his return from a ruptured patellar tendon in November and rookie third-round pick Nick Vannett’s high-ankle sprain.
I sense watching Graham run lately with the first team in practices he is closer to coming back than missing the first six weeks of the regular season, so the team won’t use its one move of injured-reserve with the designation to return on him.
TIGHT ENDS: Graham, Luke Willson, Vannett, Williams.
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Tanner McEvoy was on his way to making the team as a wide receiver who can also play tight end. But reading between coach Pete Carroll’s lines about the undrafted rookie’s groin injury from the most recent preseason game last week makes me believe McEvoy is heading for injured reserve so Seattle can keep him.
Douglas McNeil wins the No.-5 wide receiver spot and special-teams role almost by default. It would have been Kasen Williams’ again, but he’s not ready to play because of a hamstring strain that hasn’t gotten better.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, McNeill.
Patrick Lewis is going to be cut so the team can save his $1,671,000 salary-cap charge for this year. Will Pericak is for now going to be the “swing” man for the line’s interior. He is getting increasing work as a backup center and has been a guard. Pericak’s cap charge is $450,000. The two words to remember for the Seahawks’ offensive line: younger and cheaper.
This week I asked line coach Tom Cable what’s happened to Lewis in the months since Cable and Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson praised Lewis replacing long-gone Drew Nowak as the starting center in the middle of last season as the primary reason for the line solidifying and Wilson getting time to throw for 4,000 yards. Cable said, cryptically, that Lewis got better — and that the entire line got better this spring and summer.
Justin Britt has clearly won Lewis’ job. Britt is proving dependable and durable as the new center, after being the right tackle as a rookie and left guard last season.
And Bradley Sowell unexpectedly wins the left-tackle job that Garry Gilliam had from May until J’Marcus Webb sprained his knee this month.
I see Webb not making the team. He can barely move on a heavily braced and wrapped right knee, the sprain that knocked him out of being the starting right tackle this month.
Yes, I know Seattle would eat the $2.75 million guaranteed it gave Webb on a two-year contract when he arrived in March from Oakland as a free agent. But that signing right now looks like a mistake. Webb is still alternating with Gilliam at right tackle, but Gilliam remains ahead of him. Terry Poole, the fourth-round pick in 2015 who has improved greatly this preseason after spending last year on the practice squad, can be the backup right tackle. He is, you guessed it, four years younger and (Webb’s guaranteed notwithstanding) cheaper.
So the starting line will be what it’s been for the first three preseason games: Sowell and Gilliam the tackles, Mark Glowinski at left guard, rookie Germain Ifedi at right guard and Britt the center.
Jahri Evans surprised me last week when the 10-year veteran and four-time All-Pro guard told me he’d accept a backup role if the Seahawks ask him to be that mentor for this young line this season. “I’m not going to quit football if I’m not starting,” the former New Orleans Saint said. Besides, he can earn a $1 million being that locker-room and meeting-room presence this line needs.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Sowell, Glowinski, Britt, Ifedi, Gilliam, Poole, Evans, Rees Odhiambo, Pericak.
Christine Michael’s previously endangered status is long gone. The Seahawks trust him as Thomas Rawls’ primary backup. Rawls is back from his broken ankle and torn ligaments from December to start the regular season. As good as Troymaine Pope has been running the ball late in preseason games, the Seahawks can get the undrafted rookie from Jacksonville State through waivers and onto their practice squad. But they could do the same with seventh-round pick Zac Brooks; I still can’t figure out why the team drafted Brooks. Pope makes the initial 53-man roster over Brooks. Rookie fifth-round pick Alex Collins has struggled in what NFL backs must do: pick up blitzes and pass block, in general. But he makes the initial roster out of Seattle’s fear it would lose the former three-time 1,000-yard back at Arkansas to another team on waivers.
Good thing the Seahawks signed back Will Tukuafu last week. Who knows what they would have done at fullback?
RUNNING BACKS: Rawls, Michael, C.J. Prosise, Collins, Pope, Tukuafu.
Quarterback is the spot general manager John Schneider will be scrutinizing the league’s waiver wire this week. The Seahawks are still looking for a veteran backup to Russell Wilson. But if none emerge as an ideal fit, they’ll go with undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin as the No. 2. Boykin’s Wilson-esque style of scrambling and throwing improvisationally appeals to Carroll, but he’s hand trouble with the fundamentals of calling plays and getting the ball to the right receiver against certain defensive looks. Then again, does all this really matter? (Seahawks knock on wood) Wilson has yet to miss a practice let alone a game in four NFL seasons.
QUARTERBACKS: Wilson, Boykin.
Tony McDaniel’s excellence coming off kayaking down the Wenatchee River this month straight into a lead role on the defensive front will have a domino effect. Undrafted rookies Brandin Bryant and 2015 free agent Justin Hamilton don’t make the team, though Hamilton is getting a long look and could steal a spot. McDaniel has been getting starting time at tackle, which no one could have predicted three weeks ago.
I have the Seahawks with 10 defensive linemen. Considering they often rotate through eight in the first quarter of games, 10 may be too light. I’m less sure about that call. Ryan Robinson has looked good bouncing back from last year’s torn Achilles tendon.
I’ll keep Cassius Marsh a defensive end because he has been getting a lot of time as a rush end in nickel defenses. He is still likely to rotate with Mike Morgan on early downs as the new strongside linebackers.
Lucky for Jordan Hill he got back from his groin injury when he did. If he hadn’t — and if rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed hadn’t hurt his toe two weeks ago and stayed out — Hill was in danger of not making the team in the fourth and final year of his contract. Reed could begin the season
DEFENSIVE LINE: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Ahtyba Rubin, Jordan Hill, McDaniel, Frank Clark, Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Robinson, Marsh.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, the fourth-round pick from 2014, has become almost invisible on this defense. Yes, he’s on special teams. But I sense the team may keep only one outside linebacker as a reserve to begin the season: Eric Pinkins, with Marsh swinging between linebacker and end.
LINEBACKERS: Morgan, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Brock Coyle, Pinkins.
Tyvis Powell burst into the Seahawks’ plans after an impressive first preseason game at Kansas City. Now he is getting what Carroll has termed the DeShawn Shead treatment, playing safety and cornerback often on the same drives. That versatility and Powell’s hustle on special teams — plus the time Powell told me Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas have been taking with him to learn the step-kick coverage technique and reading offensive formations, respectively — tell me the undrafted rookie is going to make the team. Powell is one reason Brandon Browner got cut Monday. I think he also costs Steven Terrell a roster spot, though Terrell has been all over the special-teams units this preseason and may stick for that reason alone.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Sherman, Shead, Jeremy Lane, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Kelcie McCray, Powell, Tharold Simon, Marcus Burley
SPECIALISTS: Steven Hauschka, Jon Ryan, a new long snapper not named Nolan Frese.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle