As a follow-up to yesterday's second offensive bubble analysis, we take a look again at those "fringe" players on the defensive side of the football, after two preseason games. Like we did yesterday with the offense, we'll rank the defensive bubble guys as well, starting with the defensive ends:
1. Pierre Allen - Nothing really changed for Allen in PS week 2. He stays active and continues to fight to the whistle, but his technique is still inconsistent to the point that he's being stood up too easily and still struggles to disengaged. He doesn't display raw natural power in his upper body, so he's going to have to use leverage and hand activity in order to progress. He's out at this point, and probably doesn't get a Practice Squad nod, after spending a year there already, and considering the depth of young talent, the ‘Hawks may need those 8 spots open.
2. Cordarro Law - Law was nicked up after week 1, but has come back and is getting reps at middle linebacker. He didn't play in Denver, and as I had projected, doesn't look like a fit as a pure edge rusher. I've written before about his hip stiffness and lack of an explosive first step, however he does flash some closing speed and early recognition against the run, and may be better suited playing in a bit of a "box" from the middle.
In space, he's not very fluid, so the middle should definitely suit him better than anything on the outside. The SAM also might be an option, as long as he's spending most of his time up on the line. He's still a huge long-shot to make the roster, but like a lot of the current "developmental" guys on the team, could find a home on the Practice Squad.
He's still technically a DE which leaves him here from an evaluation standpoint. Once we see him in action at MLB, if at all, we'll include him in that evaluation.
Waived/Injured - Dexter Davis - Davis suffered a hip injury against Denver that prompted the ‘Hawks to release him. Here's more on that. He cleared waivers and was added to IR, so he's a non-factor again this season.
1. Greg Scruggs - (here's my excerpt from the "Seahawks Rookie Report" article I posted on Tuesday) - "Scruggs picked right up where he left off last week, showing explosive get-off, violent hands, good use of arm length and lower body leverage, closing burst and a relentless motor. He had another sack and got penetration repeatedly from the inside. One thing that became more evident this week as well, is his ability to break down and change direction in space to prohibit QB escape-ability. As predicted last week, Scruggs did get some late first-half reps with the first team D-line on passing downs, both at the 5-technique DE position, as well as the 3-technique. One thing that I didn't note last week in my review, but noticed again this week, is that Scruggs displays a pretty good spin move from the inside. There's all kinds of potential with this guy, but he's far more polished than he looked in the limited footage I saw at Louisville, and than I expected him to be coming into preseason. Between he and Sweezy, Seattle might have had the best 7th round of any team in this year's draft."
At this point, he's going to have to completely flop in the last two games, to not make this roster. And I think he'll compete with Jaye Howard for the regular nickel/pass-rush 3-tech spot once the regular season starts. He's also a better fit as the backup 5-tech, than Howard is at this point, so he could be a rotational guy there as well, to spell Red Bryant or allow him to move to the inside.
By the way, I've moved him to DT here, since that's primarily where he's playing, despite him being listed on the official roster as a DE. He's playing a bit of both, but more so from the inside.
2. Jaye Howard - (here's my excerpt from the "Seahawks Rookie Report" article I posted on Tuesday) - "Howard really made some strides this week. I saw a lot more use of hands, and some other technique (swim, rip) that suggest he's not going to try and rely solely on the bull-rush as I noted in last week's analysis. He made a key tackle for loss on a play where he was able to twist his upper body to knife through a gap right off the snap, and close on the ‘back. What was most impressive this week though, was his get-off. He was jumping a lot quicker, and firing off with good pad level, much more aggressively this week. He looks a lot more explosive than he did initially.
"Get-off is one of those things that typically transitions to higher level of competition, because it's not affected by an opponent. Some of the vanilla scheming of the preseason could make snap counts a bit predictable I suppose, but I'm not reading too much into that. Overall, I just thought Howard was much better this week, and looked more like the interior rusher that he was drafted to be. He wasn't content with simply holding the point of attack this week. He was getting upfield. At this point, I'd say he and Scruggs are pretty close in depth chart competition, with Scruggs having a bit of an edge from a pure performance standpoint. Both guys in on passing downs could make for a really quick tandem of DTs to go with Irvin and Clemons on the edge. You can see how some of these packages could develop and give Seattle a huge pass-rush upgrade over last year's unit."
The tandem of Scruggs-Howard should see some earlier playing time this week, as both took huge strides forward in PS week 2, and together, the present a lot of inside quickness on passing downs. Don't be surprised if you see this tandem during the regular season, in sub-packages. I think both guys, especially Scruggs, could be immediate, regular contributors. And again, that's not based on preseason stats. It's based on get-off, improvement and overall technique.
3. Pep Levingston - Levingston continues to sit in a similar position to that of Pierre Allen. He's not wowing me, but he has better natural strength and flashes some anchor against the run. The lack of extension on contact hurts him though, and he's not really showing improvement there. His versatility is appealing in that he can move to the outside (5-technique) against the run, or inside on passing downs, and while he's not killing the defense, the depth here has simply become too good for a fringe contributor like Levingston to make it. He's essentially competing directly with Scruggs and Howard, and they're winning as of now.
1. Mike Morgan - Morgan didn't play in Denver (injury), and badly needs more big plays like the couple he made in PS week 1, if he wants to make the final roster. I think Korey Toomer is very close to emerging as the top "bubble" ‘backer at this point, and that can't be reversed unless Morgan gets onto the field and plays. The "competition" will go all the way to the end of the 4th preseason game, so there can't be any let-up. Morgan did some good things in week 1, and his straight-line speed is appealing for special teams reasons, so he's by no means out of the running here. He just can't afford to be out of action.
2. Korey Toomer (here's my excerpt from the "Seahawks Rookie Report" article I posted on Tuesday) - "Toomer hasn't been in a ton of "big-play" situations, but one thing comes through on the tape that I'm encouraged by - discipline. Like Wagner, Toomer doesn't show a lot of the overreaction or over-compensation that you typically see with rookie ‘backers coming into the league. He's attentive and although he appears to be calculating and analyzing a bit too much, he's constantly conscious of where he needs to be. Sure, he's a bit late in getting there sometimes, but this is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you'd expect from a 5th round linebacker. The guy has some really appealing tangibles - length, speed, and strong closing burst.
"He's not as laterally fluid as a guy like Wagner, but drops well and can certainly cover enough grass to maintain one side of the field. He's physical at the line and isn't afraid to bump a tight end off the snap and crowd him down field, and when blitzing, he uses his length and active hands well to keep off the blocker's frame. He's been quite, but he has minded his assignments well I think, and has a good shot of making the team. The blocked punt recovery was a display of good awareness and composure, and certainly scored him some points from a roster/depth chart perspective. I'd like to see him get in on more ST tackles, and not turn his back to the QB in zone coverage."
3. Heath Farwell - Farwell didn't really do anything special in Denver, and will need to stay in his wheelhouse with making big special teams plays if he's to make the squad. With McCoy injured, the backup MLB/ST role could be his for the taking, but if one of Korey Toomer or Allen Bradford really turn it up in the next couple of weeks, and show up on special teams in particular, Farwell could quickly become expendable.
4. Allen Bradford - Bradford appeared to be pretty comfortable in his first game at outside (weak side) linebacker. On his first play from scrimmage, he shot through the A-gap and converged with Jaye Howard for a run stuff. He showed early recognition and fluid drop on pass plays, and was decisive to close on plays in front of him, with a nice first step. He played through contact well, and kept his footing/balance through cut-block attempts. He looks like a good athlete with some quick twitch and natural explosiveness, who isn't out of the race for a roster spot. With both Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan fighting injuries, there could be an opportunity for a guy like Bradford to sneak in, if he continues to make positive strides.
Others To Consider: Kyle Knox
Traded: Barrett Ruud to New Orleans for an undisclosed draft pick
1. Chris Maragos - Maragos was again sharp in PS week 2, in terms of his position and awareness down field. I didn't get a deep center look at every play that he was in on, but he continues to rotate in with high-depth chart DBs. He laid a huge hit on Andre Caldwell to break up a pass in the 2nd half, displaying great anticipation and timing, to go with the big-time toughness and guts required to engage at full speed over the middle. I feel like he has really tightened up his game from what I saw last year, and continues to impress in coverage, as well as in his explosiveness to close on space in front of him. Jeron Johnson leaves the "bubble" list this week, after a performance in Denver (1 FF, 1 INT) that probably earned him a roster spot, barring a complete meltdown between now and the regular season. Thus, Maragos needs to remain sharp to beat out Winston Guy and DeShawn Shead for a spot (assuming the ‘hawks go with 4 safeties).
2. Phillip Adams - Adams again got some valuable time both in the slot and outside against Denver. The thing that continues to jump out at me with Adams is the way he flies to the football. He's extremely active in pursuit of a ball-carrier, displays solid tackling technique, an doesn't make any big mistakes out there in coverage. He's not a natural bump-and-run guy which is why guys like Jeremy Lane or Marcus Trufant could be favored, in that they can play the outside, but Adams may be better than both of them on the inside. This competition will be fun to watch play out, but Adams will survive the first cut for sure (next Monday - down to 75), and is our top-rated bubble corner after 2 weeks of preseason ball.
3. Marcus Trufant - Both wear from injury, and age are beginning to show with Trufant who had a good first game of the preseason, but a "blah" second game. The move to the inside may be a forced effort at this point, as Trufant has struggled to mirror breaks underneath from the slot, and just doesn't look comfortable or instinctive when asked to feel routes that get behind him in zone. His experience on the outside could still keep him in this competition if Seattle decides to go with more safeties, and would like to utilize his versatility to account more than one corner spot.
4. Jeremy Lane - (here's my excerpt from the "Seahawks Rookie Report" article I posted on Tuesday) - "Lane continued with aggressive, sound open-field tackling against the run this week, and also showed us more of his closing burst and recognition on plays in front of him. He didn't press a ton in game 2, and I couldn't see a whole lot of what was going on down field, but he didn't surrender anything big, and was around the ball a lot. Coye Francies and Phillip Adams being contributors in the return game could mean that one or both of them have the overall edge at this point, but as far as long-term fit and coverage technique, Lane is still the better scheme fit. The ‘Hawks just have to decide if they want to go "future" or stay a bit safer with a veteran like Francies.
"If I had to choose the two, I keep Lane, simply because this staff has shown us nothing in two and a half years that would lead me to believe they'll toss aside a future fit for a "now" solution. If it's clear there's no future (LeGree), they have no problem sending you on your way, but that's far from the case with Lane. He too needs to really step up on special teams and make some plays. He's often the first one down the field on coverages but needs to thwart blockers better and fight through contact there the same way he fights for position at the line on defense. These young guys need to look just as motivated to make a special teams tackle as they do to make an interception or hard hit."
5. Coye Francies - Francies had a week similar to PS week one, and didn't do anything to gain or lose ground in the competition. Like Adams, Francies is active in pursuit, but he also possesses better ability to mirror receivers down field in man-coverage. This week, no news is good news for the 4th year corner, but like Lane and Adams, Francies could raise his stock immensely with a couple of big plays.
6. Winston Guy - (here's my excerpt from the "Seahawks Rookie Report" article I posted on Tuesday) - "In many ways, PS week 2 was a week that Winston Guy should try to forget. Well, in 2 ways specifically. Guy was responsible for both blocked punts. His man beat him on both of those plays, as he simply wasn't aggressive enough and didn't put enough of an effort forward to wall off his man. As I tweeted at one point yesterday, "punt team protection" is a lot more than just "punt team protection" when you're a 6th round pick. It could mean your job.
As for his play in coverage, I did see a couple of things that indicated he's making progress. First off, he got some first-half time with the defense, spelling Chancellor up in the box in 3-safety situations, and also covered the flexed TE from the slot a couple of times.
In coverage, all I could really see was what he did when he was up near the line, and I was encouraged by his transition from backpedal to turn and run stride-for-stride with the TE. He looked quick and fluid, and didn't appear to be laboring too hard in the process.
As far as what was going on deep, I couldn't see the action clearly enough to really be able to adequately judge his read/react skills, which are what I'm most interested in from a coverage standpoint. Jeron Johnson obviously did a lot to help himself, both in coverage (INT) and up in the box (strip) against the run, so Guy is by no means a shoe-in to make this team. I can tell you this - he can't continue to blow assignments on special teams and simply play adequately on defense against 2nd and 3rd team offenses. At this point, I've got him as the 5th safety in line, behind both Johnson and Maragos."
7. DeShawn Shead - Shead is one of these guys that I'd love to see make the team. He has all the tangibles to fit the system. He's strong, big and fast, and plays with some nasty. The emergence of Jeron Johnson is starting to jam up the competition a bit though, and we're not seeing the early opportunities for guys like Shead. I mentioned in yesterday's analysis that Sean McGrath is my favorite UDFA this year, and I've got Shead as my second-favorite, easy. He's actually more polished than I thought, and shouldn't be tabbed as just a "raw athlete". He flashes some instincts and explosiveness which, combined with his size, make him ideal for the system. He probably doesn't make the roster, but could last beyond Monday's first cut, and could very well have a Practice Squad spot reserved for him.
Others to Consider: Donny Lisowski - Re-signed when Dexter Davis was waived. Here's a quick excerpt from the STS Free Agent Tracker, regarding the re-signing of Lisowski: "(Lisowski) Joins the competition for the nickel spot, in light of Dexter Davis being waived/injured after PS Week 2. Lisowski was cut earlier in camp, but had stood out in OTAs as a guy with impressive speed, short-area quickness, and as a guy who could contribute both in the D-backfield and on Special Teams. Probably has a legit shot at getting some playing time in Kansas City (PSW3)."
Feel free to comment and share any observations of your own. I'll wrap up the week with a quicker, less detailed look at the overall depth chart tomorrow.