With no end to star defender Earl Thomas's holdout in sight, the Seattle Seahawks have adjusted accordingly, using the combination of Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald as the starting first-team safeties throughout camp.
Assuming Thomas doesn't report, all signs point to McDougald and Thompson sticking as the starters in Week 1 at Denver. But behind them on the depth chart, an unexpected contender has quietly positioned himself to potentially steal a roster spot.
Though he's only been a member of the Seahawks since July 30, second-year safety Lorenzo Jerome has made the most of his limited chances, as the 5-foot-11, 205-pound safety has "made a bunch of good plays" and caught the eye of coach Pete Carroll and his coaching staff.
“He’s been a really bright player out here. He’s been physical, he’s understood the system, he’s got a really cool attitude about toughness and positioned himself to make a lot of plays."
A two-time All-American and four-time All-NEC selection at Saint Francis, Jerome finished his career with 18 interceptions, the second most in conference history. He became the first player in school history as well as NEC history to earn an NFL Scouting Combine invite and also participated in both the NFLPA Bowl and Reese's Senior Bowl.
Going undrafted, Jerome broke into the league as a priority free agent with the 49ers last season and used a strong camp and preseason to make the team's initial 53-man roster. He appeared in four games for San Francisco, recording three tackles while primarily playing special teams. He also played 20 snaps as a defensive replacement for injured starters Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward in a Week 5 loss to Indianapolis.
Following that defeat, the 49ers waived Jerome and surprisingly, he didn't latch on with another active roster or practice squad for the remainder of the season.
Now hoping to find a home in Seattle, Jerome has capitalized on the prolonged absence of teammate Maurice Alexander, who has missed most of camp dealing with shoulder and hip injuries. In his Seahawks debut last Thursday night, he played most of the second half at free safety, finishing with five combined tackles.
Heading into the team's second preseason game in Los Angeles, Carroll plans to throw him into the fire and see what he can do with extended action on defense as well special teams, an area he's seen as a strength for Jerome since joining the Seahawks.
"I didn’t know much about him until he showed up and Johnny [Schneider] thought he had something in him and, shoot, he’s done a nice job for us." Carroll said following Wednesday's practice. "We’re learning as we go here but he’s going to play a lot and we’re going to see how he fits in."
Carroll may not have known much about Jerome before the Seahawks signed him, but he's caught his attention now. His special teams value and instincts at the safety position give him a fighting chance to survive roster cuts, especially with Alexander struggling to stay healthy.
Much like other players on the roster bubble, a standout performance against the Chargers on Saturday would go a long way toward solidifying a role with the team this season.