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Seahawks Roster Decisions: 5 thoughts following preseason game vs Steelers
Seaside Joe 1257, 8/14/22: How Vi Jones, Dareke Young, Bo Melton, and Aaron Donkor can make the Seahawks, plus updates on QB competition
If you will be excited by the Seattle Seahawks starting 1-0 in the regular season, then maybe by the power of opposites you should be just as excited that the Seattle Seahawks have started 0-1 in the preseason. Right? It can work that way, I think!
Take every victory you can, even when it’s a loss.
The best news about the Seahawks’ opening preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night is that fans now have four quarters of football to watch after a seven-month break. (For a FULL breakdown, don’t miss my Stock Up/Stock Down report that came out last night.) The bad news is that watching football in a vacuum of a one-game sample is a terrible method of judging how the next five months will go.
You haven’t seen the Seahawks play football since January. You’re desperate for some intel. The starting QB played a whole half (we just don’t know who he is yet) and you’re beginning to think that you’ve got a grip on some of these young talents. But you’re also watching maybe 10-20 snaps of a player in an exhibition display against non-NFL starters and convincing yourself that “This is REAL!”
Unfortunately, this is lying season and that includes your eyes lying to you about football while you’re watching it.
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That doesn’t mean we got NO intel on Saturday night. We got a LOT of new information! Valuable information! We just need to support that information with context. Here are five things that I think I learned a little bit more of after Saturday night’s 32-25 “loss” (WIN!) against the Steelers.
Don’t be confused into thinking that either Drew Lock or Geno Smith is an adequate starting option at quarterback just because the Seahawks have to choose one of them
Sometimes I have to be cautious to not be baited into an argument based on content when what is really important is context. The content of the Seahawks QB competition is “Do you like Lock or Smith better?” but the context of the QB competition is “The Seahawks are punting the position until 2023.”
I wouldn’t look at these games as an opportunity to get hyped up over Smith or Lock. These are the same two quarterbacks who back in March, back in April, back in May, back in June, and back in July were considered “placeholders for an actual starting QB” and the only difference now is that we’ve confirmed Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t moving those pieces until next year.
As difficult and painful as this is, I suggest putting yourself in the shoes of a 49ers fan who peeks over at the Seahawks: If that was you and you saw that your rival team was either going to start Geno Smith or Drew Lock, what words and emotions would you conjure up as a reaction to that?
As a Seahawks fan, if the 49ers were going to start Smith or Lock in Week 2, would you be MORE EXCITED for that matchup than knowing they’ll start Trey Lance?
Words coming out of camp and preseason will sound like “Good” and “Sharp” and “I think he’s coming along really well” but that’s all relative to the fact that Seattle is holding a competition between two players who would be backups on most, if not all other teams. This is the same type of sentiment that coaches have shared in the past on other underwhelming QB competitions involving Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Daniel Jones, Jacoby Brissett, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles in recent years.
Look at the depth chart at QB for all 32 teams and tell me which probable starters you would rank behind Smith or Lock. Marcus Mariota? Davis Mills? Mitch Trubisky? Jared Goff? It ain’t gonna be a long list.
I think Lock opens the offense up a lot more than Smith. That’s not surprising given that none of the other 31 teams viewed Smith as a starting quarterback option. Seattle is dealing with a quarterback competition this year, but a more accurate way to put it than “competition” would be: The Seahawks are dealing with a quarterback deficiency this year. That’s okay.
Let’s just not confuse Lock for Derek Carr simply because he’s there and puts on a good show with his arm now and again. If that narrative changes based on a half-season of regular season football, awesome, but thus far we’ve only further confirmed through training camp, a mock game, and a preseason contest that the Seahawks are lacking a true starting QB.
Should the Seahawks have drafted a QB in 2022?
The answer is still a resounding NO.
When the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson, I was immediately excited for the 2023 draft class because those of you who have been following Seaside Joe since last year know that we’ve been tracking college QBs for a while now. The 2022 class: BAD. The 2023 class: GREAT. This is what every analyst had agreed upon at the conclusion of the college season.
Then “Twitter’s Draft Analysts” chimed in starting in February and mucked up reality for many fans. This remains my favorite tweet of all-time:
Put that tweet on the back of Ken Walker’s jersey like “He Hate Me.”
Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were decidedly not first round prospects based on all of the evidence of long college careers for both. Once you let voices chime in based on combine times and pro day throws, logic and reason and the effort of so many hours of study becomes wasted if that voice has 100,000-800,000 followers and decides to throw some QB draft opinions in there because “Why not?”
I wrote back in April that the 2022 class reminded me of the awful 2013 class, but well before that The Draft Network wrote the same thing last October. Nothing changed between those two dates! Willis, Ridder, Sam Howell, no quarterback “stepped up” other than Kenny Pickett and the consensus was he was okay-not-great.
And again, nothing has changed from April to August. The class remains a questionable bunch who may or may not produce one or two long-term starters. The 2013 class didn’t though and not every year does.
I gave a soft endorsement to Howell being maybe the QB that Seattle could target in the middle of the draft, and he’s the QB who might have raised his value the most so far, but we’re a long ways away from worrying about “What might’ve been” with anyone in the class.
Pickett played a good second half game against a defense that not only featured no NFL starters, but run by a defensive coordinator getting his feet wet on the job and pulling punches because it’s the preseason.
The Seahawks are so well setup for the 2023 draft and there’s no level of “Bad” that Geno or Lock can achieve that would make me second guess that.
How Vi Jones, Aaron Donkor, Dareke Young can make the roster
John Gilbert noted the seven players who had the most special teams snaps over at Field Gulls:
Vi Jones, Mike Jackson, Boye Mafe, Tanner Muse, Aaron Donkor, Joey Blount, Dareke Young
How do these names line up with the decisions that Pete Carroll has to make for his position groups?
Vi Jones is in line to make this team. Roughly a 90th percentile athlete, Jones is a 6’2, 225 lb linebacker who went undrafted out of NC State. He ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.57 in the 10-yard split, had a 36” vertical and a 126” broad jump, all of which are really good measurements.
Jones has worked his way up a depth chart to maybe move ahead of Tanner Muse, Nick Bellore, and Jon Rhattigan, who has been injured. He’s been noted as a standout in some practices, the mock game, the preseason game, and now we know he also plays special teams.
An NC State fan wrote a glowing reddit post about Jones in March, saying that he was a “phenomenal special teams player”, a versatile defender, and a good pass rusher, which we saw on display on Saturday. After the first preseason game, I moved Vi Jones onto my final 53-man roster.
As to Donkor, the Seahawks can either roster him or put him on the practice squad as an exception (won’t count against the number of players) or they could keep him on the practice squad without the exception, as teams sometimes do. If he plays special teams consistently, Donkor could make the final 53.
It seems like Young is getting his opportunity to be Seattle’s sixth receiver by being a special teams number too. Given that Young has such an intriguing blend of skills as a wide receiver, he may be getting closer to locking himself onto the final 53 too.
Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen are projects still
Who gets kept and who gets cut at CB will be the story of the final roster. The good news is that the Seahawks drafted corners this year who are locks to make it based on what we’ve seen so far: Bryant and Woolen have the upside to be Seattle’s starting duo in the future.
The bad news is that the Seahawks need cornerbacks who can help now and Bryant, Woolen don’t appear to be ready for that.
Seattle usually keeps five cornerbacks. In 2019, Pete did keep six, including Parry Nickerson, Akeem King, and Neiko Thorpe. (It’s also important to remember that even if the Seahawks kept EIGHT corners, most of them will never be good enough to actually get significant reps on defense.)
Let’s work through the numbers and pretend the Seahawks can manage to keep six cornerbacks: Sidney Jones IV, Artie Burns, Ugo Amadi, Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen, Justin Coleman. Tre Brown starts the year on PUP, keeping him off the 53, but eligible to return after Week 4.
Left on the cutting room floor: Mike Jackson, John Reid, Elijah Jones, Josh Valentine-Turner, Jameson Houston.
We might see JVT and Houston cut as early as Tuesday. In Brown’s case, it means that when he returns from PUP, the Seahawks have to make a corresponding release and that might be an injury or poor play by a veteran. The issue may not be those who are released, but the numbers: Seattle tends to keep five, so will Coleman, Burns, or Amadi be left out?
Are there only two spots for Marquise Goodwin, Dareke Young, Bo Melton to fight over? Is there only one?
If the Seahawks have Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Dee Eskridge, and Freddie Swain locked into the final roster (and maybe Swain’s grip is tenuous, but he’s still first in line for punt return duties) then how many more receivers will Pete Carroll keep?
Seattle tends to keep five, but they kept six in 2018 and 2019.
So if Carroll is concerned about adequate depth and special teams ability, maybe he stretches it out to six. In that case, only two of Goodwin, Young, and Melton can make the final roster. Both Young and Melton made arguments for (and against) making it onto the 53. Goodwin didn’t play and may not see any preseason action.
Bo Melton vs Justin Coleman via Bob Condotta:
If Eskridge isn’t ready for Week 1, even more likely that Goodwin’s spot is secure and then it comes down to one of the seventh round picks.
This is often the position that Seahawks fans (and generally NFL fans) get most up-in-arms over at the time of final cuts but let’s be realistic: Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh, Keenan Reynolds, Gary Jennings, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Penny Hart.
All of these players made a final roster since 2017. Do you miss any of them on Sundays? Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown have also been on 53-man rosters with Seattle recently and that fits more into the Marquise Goodwin role.
Like the corners, we must keep low expectations and I still say that the Seahawks must address receiver early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
As for Aaron Fuller, Cody Thompson, Cade Johnson, Penny Hart, Deontez Alexander, and Kevin Kassis, I’ve got no reason to think they’re going to push out a veteran or a draft pick for one of the coveted 53. For that to change, something dramatically unexpected would have to happen in the next two weeks.
Right now, I would favor Young and Melton over Goodwin, holding out optimism that Eskridge will be able to contribute soon.
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