Hawks general manager Tim Ruskell mentioned in our conversation with him last week that Brian Russell would have some competition from Jordan Babineaux during training camp, but that hasn’t seemed to trickle down to the field.
“I don’t know if that’s the case,” Lewis said. “Brian’s the starting safety, and Babs works with the second group.”
Lewis noted that head coach Jim Mora ultimately will decide who the starts at free safety. But for right now, Russell has been getting all of the reps with the first unit, while Babs has been working with the second unit.
I won't come out and say the competition at free safety is a dog and pony show, but I didn't think Babineaux would win the position from Russell. Which isn't to say it's decided, just to say the team is comfortable with Russell at free safety. The importance of Ruskell's statement was that the team isn't satisfied with Russell at free safety, it knows it must upgrade and it knows how it must upgrade: by starting a player with better range. That's a good start.
I wouldn't say Babineaux is dead in the water. He's not an elite talent or a player that's played his way into more snaps. He was tapped because the team sees a problem and a position it can upgrade. He was picked because for all his flightiness in coverage, Ruskell knows Babineaux is a better athlete than Russell. The coaching staff might be content with Russell for another season and if so, well, there's not a hotshot talent beating down the door for free safety anyway. But the personnel department sees a position it can upgrade and that means for the first time since he was signed, I believe Brian Russell's days as a Seahawk are numbered.