Let the speculation commence.
Training camp is still weeks away for the Seattle Seahawks, but fans can begin wondering which players are going to impress enough to make the 53-man roster. The Seahawks have 90 players right now who are gunning for a spot, and the position battles will be fierce. And, most unfortunately, the cuts will be hard to make and likely disappointing for many fans.
The most hotly contested positions will undoubtedly be wide receiver, offensive and defensive lines, and linebacker. The Seahawks are stacked with very talented players at these positions, and the competition at these positions intrigues me the most. I’m going to look at three position battles within these parameters that I find compelling, and who I think will come out of the battle victorious.
1. No. 4 wide receiver
For this position battle, I’m going to run on the assumption that receivers Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse have the first three spots and are thus “safe.” I don’t think fellow Seahawks fans should have a problem with this assumption, since all three are extremely talented playmakers who contributed last season. Yes, Harvin was injured for much of the year, but after what Seattle gave up to acquire him as well as his performance in the Super Bowl, he ought to be safe.
With those three out of the way, that leaves draft picks Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, and other receivers Sidney Rice, Phil Bates, Arceto Clark, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews, Taylor Price, Kevin Smith, and Bryan Walters fighting for number four. Out of those, I narrow it down to the draft picks and the veteran Rice.
Russell Wilson in his rookie year found Rice 50 times for 748 yards and seven scores. Though Rice is quite injury prone, he has solid length and great hands. He’s not a downfield threat, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s a guy Wilson can hit on the sideline with some back shoulder fades or mere jump balls. If Rice was to be released, the Seahawks qould incur a cap hit of $1,275,000, so Rice has several things going for him.
Kevin Norwood has been impressing thus far, but Paul Richardson has an edge on him as far as the rookies go. His quickness has beaten even the Legion of Boom in practices, and he managed to have a great college career at Colorado, whose offense was otherwise abysmal. I therefore look at Richardson and Rice to be the last two duking it out.
Now, both receivers have teammates in front of them with similar skills. Richardson is like Harvin, and Rice is like Kearse. So, would you want two Harvins on the field in a four receiver set or two Kearses? On one hand, you have great speed and agility and can stretch the field. On the other, you have taller targets with nice hands and are great for the possession game. Tough choice, right? Ideally you want both, and that’s why whoever loses this number four receiver battle will remain on the team. It’s just a matter of playing time. Number four will see more action than number five.
I’m actually going to go with Rice here, and I’m surprising even myself. Rice cannot shake the injury bug, but I believe Rice has something to prove this season. He used to be a guy with a big contract and at the top of the depth chart; now look at him. So, with the numerous younger receivers behind him just waiting for him to fail, I think Rice will put a good camp together and prove he’s still capable of being a top target.
2. No. 3 linebacker
I have Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as the first two starters, but the third starting spot is up in the air. O’Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Korey Toomer, Mike Morgan, Heath Farwell, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and some undrafted players are in the hunt. The inclination is to give Smith the nod, but many of these linebackers are really looking good. Korey Toomer in particular has been impressive, and Pierre-Louis has made some nice plays this summer. Then you’ve got Schofield and Irvin, who float between defensive end and linebacker. Schofield was a defensive end at Wisconsin, and that’s always where I, a Badger fan, has felt his skills are best used. Irvin is a wild card for me. I don’t think he could do as well as needed in coverage at linebacker. I like him more as a linebacker in a blitz package, or a defensive end substitute to keep the line fresh. I see Farwell and Morgan as special teams assets. So, I put the battle between Smith and Toomer.
Smith is the reigning Super Bowl MVP (though the title rings a little hollow for me, as stated in a previous piece), but Toomer has been the talk of the summer. Coach Pete Carroll has praised him hugely, and for good reason. He’s demonstrated his coverage ability thus far, breaking him passes. He’s also filled running holes before Seattle’s backs have reached them. With the amount of praise Toomer has gotten this summer, I see him grabbing that starting spot and humbling Smith. The only question is whether Toomer can stay healthy.
3. No. 2 defensive tackle
Brandon Mebane has the first tackle spot in my eyes. He’s been clogging holes ever since he came to Seattle, and he won’t falter. That second spot is open, and recently signed Kevin Williams, as well as Tony McDaniel, Jesse Williams, and Jordan Hill could all line up beside him.
Kevin Williams was a stud in Minnesota with Pat Williams. No running back could break them through the middle. He’s a veteran who brings a lot of experience, but I wonder about his explosion and hunger off the line. He’ll clog holes, sure, but is he going to be able to do that every down? Or is he a guy to rotate in?
Jesse Williams and Hill were injured last season, so they are going to be fighting tooth and nail for this spot. They worked side by side in OTAs, and Williams was especially impressive running down plays away from him.
The 6’7″ McDaniel excelled last season, and I really like his height in the middle of the line to bat down passes. He made 53 tackles last year and a couple of sacks, so he can move too. In the end, McDaniel gets the nod from me, but with the way Seattle rotates its d-line, I expect both Jesse Williams and Hill to sub in for McDaniel and Mebane.
What do you think about these battles, and who do you have out on top? Leave a comment below.