With only two preseason games remaining, the Seattle Seahawks have already jump-started the process of finalizing their 53-man roster for the regular season.
During a busy week, Seattle released punter Jon Ryan and kicker Jason Myers, ending heated special teams competitions only halfway through the exhibition schedule. The Seahawks also surprisingly waived defensive end Marcus Smith and signed veteran Erik Walden, continuing to shuffle the deck looking for pass rushing reinforcements.
Injuries also hit Seattle hard, as the Seahawks lost running back J.D. McKissic and Jamarco Jones. Both players could wind up on the season-ending injured reserve list, which actually could make the decision making process for coach Pete Carroll and his staff a bit simpler heading towards the final cutdown day.
Here's a look at my latest stab at picking the Seahawks opening day roster, with new additions relative to my last projection in italics.
Keep: Russell Wilson, Alex McGough
Cut: Austin Davis
Verdict: Neither quarterback performed well in the preseason opener, but as the game has started to slow down a bit for McGough and the coaching staff has figured out how to maximize his skill set through play calling, he's quickly grabbed command of this competition. The seventh-round pick out of FIU threw a 39-yard dart on a go route to speedy receiver Cyril Grayson and then turned around two plays later to unload a perfectly thrown fade to the back right pylon for his first career touchdown pass during Saturday's loss to the Chargers. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer knows what Davis can do after coaching him with the Rams a few years ago, but it seems telling that he only left him in to throw three passes before switching to McGough for the remainder of the game. The rookie capitalized on extended snaps and with two more strong outings, he's going to be Russell Wilson's backup.
Keep: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis, C.J. Prosise
Cut: Gerald Holmes, Justin Stockton
Injured Reserve: J.D. McKissic
Verdict: Injuries have once again snake-bitten Seattle's backfield, as McKissic suffered a Jones' fracture on Saturday night that will keep him out at least four to six weeks. The good news? Penny already has returned to practice on a limited basis one week after undergoing finger surgery and will be ready for the season opener. And although the versatile McKissic proved to be invaluable when Prosise missed 11 games a year ago, Schottenheimer expects "great things" from the former Notre Dame standout and he will have a shot to return the favor in 2018 if he can stay healthy. Davis could also pick up some of the third down load if necessary, as he caught 15 passes for 131 yards in just six games a year ago. Expect McKissic to open the season on injured reserve and potentially return during the second half of the season.
Keep: Tre Madden
Verdict: Unable to get healthy, the Seahawks cut Jalston Fowler last week, giving the starting fullback gig to Madden for a second straight season. At least during preseason play, the former USC running back has shown improved blocking skills and made a few nice plays with the football in his hands, though he did have a horrid drop in the preseason opener against the Colts. It's not out of the question Seattle will bring in another fullback, especially after other teams trim to 53 players. But for now, the job appears to be Madden's to lose.
Keep: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall, David Moore
Cut: Amara Darboh, Marcus Johnson, Tanner McEvoy, Cyril Grayson, Keenan Reynolds, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Caleb Scott, Malik Turner
Verdict: Darboh will miss his third straight preseason game and as a former third-round pick who desperately needed a strong camp, he's going to need to return for the finale against Oakland and light it up to have any chance of remaining on the team. Why? Fellow 2017 draftee David Moore looks like a near-lock after catching two passes from Wilson for 71 yards, including a gorgeous 52-reception that he pulled away from the grips of Chargers safety Jahleel Addae. As Schottenheimer eluded to on Tuesday, Wilson showed growing confidence in the young target by immediately going back to Moore on the next play, hitting him for a 19-yard pickup that nearly resulted in a touchdown. Unfortunately for Darboh, Johnson and Stringfellow may also still be in the mix for a sixth receiver spot and will be able to potentially improve their standing on Friday night. Additionally, the light switch has come on for Grayson in recent weeks and the former track star could be in play for such a role down the line if he continues to progress.
Keep: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly, Tyrone Swoopes
Cut: Clayton Wilson, Kyle Carter
Verdict: Dickson remains on the Non-Football Injury list, and while Carroll still hopes he'll be back for Week 1, the Seahawks need to have an insurance policy available in case he can't go or can only play limited snaps. Vannett has been one of the shining stars of the preseason and will be the starter, while Dissly has earned himself snaps due to his nasty presence as an in-line blocker. Swoopes hasn't had many chances to make plays as a receiver during the first two exhibition games, as he's only caught one pass for six yards. But the former Texas quarterback has been far more comfortable as a blocker than he was during his rookie season and offers better overall athleticism than Dissly and Vannett. Rather than add a sixth receiver, retaining a player like Swoopes who could be tough to slip onto the practice squad seems like the right move at a position that should be a greater priority depth-wise at this juncture.
Keep: Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, George Fant, J.R. Sweezy, Rees Odhiambo, Isaiah Battle
Cut: Willie Beavers, Jordan Roos, Joey Hunt, Skyler Phillips
Injured Reserve: Jamarco Jones
Verdict: Jones, who suffered a severe high ankle sprain against the Colts a few weeks ago, could potentially miss his entire rookie season after undergoing surgery. The Seahawks haven't placed him on injured reserve yet, as he wouldn't be eligible to return later in the season. By waiting until Week 1, Seattle would at least open up the possibility he could come back in the second half if he recovers quicker than expected. With him sidelined, the Seahawks will need to keep Battle, who just returned to practice this week after missing time with a knee sprain. Interestingly, Seattle has shifted Odhiambo to right guard, while Sweezy came back from an ankle injury and will compete against Pocic at left guard. Meanwhile, Roos struggled mightily in pass protection against the Chargers reserve defensive line and isn't close to a lock. In fact, if Sweezy holds up well on the left side and Odhiambo shows he can play on the right side at both the guard and tackle spot, Roos may easily land on the wrong side of the roster bubble.
Keep: Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, Tom Johnson, Branden Jackson, Frank Clark, Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson, Poona Ford, Dion Jordan* (PUP List)
Cut: Shamar Stephen, Ricky Ali’ifua, Joey Ivie
Verdict: Carroll seems encouraged about Jordan's progress as he works his way back from a shin injury, but there's still no guarantee he will suit up against the Broncos on opening day. Losing Marcus Smith to retirement also hurts depth, as he was expected to at least play a key role as a reserve edge rusher for the Seahawks. Thankfully, Green has done enough in the preseason to warrant an extended look with the starters against Minnesota, and if he plays well against a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Seattle could easily throw him into the starting lineup with Clark right away. In the interior, both Johnson and Stephen had trouble defending the run on Saturday. While Johnson's pass rushing ability showed up several times in the game, Ford's emergence could leave Stephen on dangerous ground. The undrafted rookie out of Texas had a dominant second preseason game, recording four tackles and proving to be a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage.
Keep: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Shaquem Griffin, Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Martin, Erik Walden, Austin Calitro
Cut: D.J. Alexander, Josh Forrest, Jason Hall, Emmanuel Beal, Jake Pugh
Verdict: Little changed at linebacker, as Calitro had another stellar outing against the Chargers with six tackles. Each passing week, the ex-Villanova star has solidified his chances of making the team and he looks to be the clear cut backup behind Wagner. Walden will have to show he still has something left to give at 33 years of age, but Seattle needs pass rushing help anywhere it can find it, and the veteran linebacker could help at the LEO defensive end spot where Mingo and Martin have played so far this preseason. Look for all three players to see plenty of action rushing off the edge versus the Vikings.
Keep: Shaquill Griffin, Byron Maxwell, Justin Coleman, Tre Flowers, Dontae Johnson, Akeem King
Cut: Mike Tyson, Neiko Thorpe, Trovon Reed, Jeremy Boykins
Verdict: Does anyone want to become Seattle's starting corner on the right side across from Griffin? Anyone? The Seahawks hoped to have a heated battle between Maxwell and Johnson, but both have missed significant time this preseason due to injury. Flowers has reaped the benefits, starting both games and earning valuable playing time as he adapts to his new position. From an upside standpoint, the Seahawks love Flowers' overall upside, but he's still trying to master the kick-step technique and probably isn't quite ready to start. Maxwell won't play against the Vikings, so this will be a statement week for Johnson, who started 16 games in San Francisco last year. Coleman has had a dominant preseason and will be highly coveted as a free agent next year with slot corners becoming more and more valuable. King's impact on special teams will allow him to sneak onto the roster, while Thorpe's wrist injury and salary will lead to his release.
Keep: Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, Maurice Alexander, Delano Hill, Earl Thomas* (Did Not Report list)
Cut: Tevon Mutcherson, Lorenzo Jerome
Verdict: Thomas doesn't appear anywhere close to showing up at the VMAC and ending his holdout, leaving McDougald and Thompson set in stone as the starters at strong and free safety respectively. Behind them, Jerome has played well during the first two preseason games, effectively putting pressure on both Hill and Alexander for one of the reserve safety spots. Still, Carroll loves Alexander's size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and the Seahawks aren't ready to give up on Hill yet, especially given his special teams ability. Jerome has a shot, but right now, he's one of the last players getting a pink slip.
Keep: Sebastian Janikowski, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott
Verdict: Nothing to see here, as Janikowski and Dickson used impressive training camps and preseason performances to win starting jobs with less than three weeks remaining until the season opener. Even at 40 years young, Janikowski can boot the football a country mile in rain, wind, or shine, while Dickson has become must-see television with his skying punts that seem to hang for hours before finally returning to the field of play. It's unfortunate Ryan couldn't end his career with the Seahawks, but the fifth-round pick has simply been too good and there's no reason to keep two punters on the roster.