The Seahawks settled on their initial 53-man roster last night and though I'm sure it's subject to change, probably today even, I wanted to take a minute to do a position by position breakdown of what shook out.
QB (2): Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn
First off, the decision to keep two quarterbacks was an option I had raised on twitter a few weeks back and though I didn't really think it was all that probable then, it does make sense to me to go this route. The Seahawks have their starter in Russell Wilson and a very quality backup in Matt Flynn, and can, and I'm sure will, develop a third, emergency quarterback on the practice squad, assuming they don't bring in a waiver wire addition to the roster. Because we've talked ad nauseam about Wilson and Flynn already, let's talk about the theoretical emergency option.
My guess is that the Seahawks will try to sign Josh Portis to their practice squad, but they may also look around the league for another player that they like more - perhaps someone more refined and 'game-ready'. Regardless, it's rare for your first two quarterbacks to get injured, and let's be honest, you're sort of screwed anyway if it comes to playing your third QB. The Texans are arguably one of the most talented teams in the league, and when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart went down late last season, they had to go with rookie T.J. Yates. They limped into playoffs on a three-game losing streak before beating Cincy and eventually losing to the Ravens, but I'm guessing for now, the Seahawks are just really hoping it won't come to that type of situation.
I'm fine with two QBs. Fortunately, the Seahawks' offense is set up to function with a less talented quarterback that can lean on the run game heavily and utilize tight ends and short passing patterns. Any third QB they place on the practice squad though, is going to have to be mobile, with a strong arm to occasionally utilize play-action passing downfield, because you know that if it comes to this, opposing defenses will stack the box with 8 or 9 defenders.
RB (5): Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington, Kregg Lumpkin
The decision to keep two quarterbacks facilitated the ability to to keep five running backs. Kregg Lumpkin was the beneficiary of this choice, and beat out Vai Taua for that final roster spot (though, I tend to think that Taua had him beat until he suffered a sprained PCL on Thursday). This is a running back group that I like a lot though, and with Lynch, Turbin, and Washington carrying the load, then Michael Robinson and Kregg Lumpkin rotating in at fullback, the Seahawks have positioned their roster well to lean on the run game heavily. It will be interesting to see how the carries are divvied out.
WR (6) Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, Charly Martin, Ben Obomanu
The surprise of the group is, of course, Charly Martin, a free agent signee over the offseason. Martin had a great preseason, and proved he can contribute well as a downfield blocker (sprung Russell Wilson for a long touchdown run on a naked bootleg against Tennessee) and a capable special teamer. Martin beat out 2012 fourth-round pick Kris Durham, who disappointed this preseason, and former third-rounder Deon Butler, who I believe lost out because he wasn't as versatile. The other surprise, I guess, is Braylon Edwards, another free agent signee that impressed over the past few weeks. Edwards will fight with Golden Tate for reps at the X-receiver spot and may see a lot of snaps early in the year, depending on the severity of Tate's knee injury.
Ben Obomanu sneaks onto the roster yet again this year, and again, his versatility is probably what earned him that roster spot. Obo can play outside or in the slot, and can contribute on special teams if need be.
TE (3): Zach Miller, Kellen Winslow, Anthony McCoy
I was a bit surprised to see the Seahawks keep only three tight ends but the emergence this preseason of Anthony McCoy allowed the front office that ability. McCoy can back up both Miller and Winslow, and his versatility there is of paramount importance to this team's offense, as both Miller and Winslow have health issues to worry about (Winslow's knee, Miller's concussions). Sean McGrath will likely be on speed dial as a potential replacement if one of these three gets hurt, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him on the practice squad either. McGrath too showed an ability to play in-line or outside, so he could provide value later, if no one picks him up. Cooper Helfet is another option as a joker tight end, down the line.
OL (9): Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, John Moffitt, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Frank Omiyale, J.R. Sweezy, James Carpenter
The Seahawks settle with nine here to start the year, plus Allen Barbre on the suspended list for the first four games. No real big surprises with the chosen group, other than the decision to take James Carpenter off the PUP list and add him to the active roster. This implies that Carpenter is going to be ready sooner than week six, or I would guess the team would have just placed him on the regular season PUP, as he was eligible for that list. Overall though, I'm less leery than some about the depth on the line here, especially on the interior.
Hugh Millen recently said that Paul McQuistan is playing at an 'Pro-Bowl' level this preseason, and while I cannot agree nor refute that, he's the one guy on the line that I still haven't quite figured out. So, I'll take that assessment. I think that Russell Okung, Max Unger, and J.R. Sweezy have looked great during the preseason and it honestly wouldn't surprise me to see Sweezy starting at right guard next Sunday. I've taken to looking at an offensive line unit as that - a unit, and not a group of five starters. There are going to be injuries on the line this year, so really, it's more logical to look at the first seven or eight guys you have available to play at any given time.
At center, the Seahawks have Max Unger, John Moffitt, and Lemuel Jeanpierre. At guard, they have McQuistan, Moffitt, Sweezy, Jeanpierre, and even Omiyale can play inside. At tackle, there is a little bit of depth to be desired, but they have Okung, Giacomini, Omiyale, McQuistan, and even Carpenter in a pinch. This is why Tom Cable has his guys play and practice at several positions, and some of the guys can even play all the offensive line spots. Right now, I'm feeling pretty good about the overall depth. We shall see. I feel like Omiyale is the weakest link though, so I wouldn't be surprised to see scouring of the waiver wire for a better option. Look to Houston and Washington's cuts, as they both run similar zone blocking schemes. I like the idea of adding OT Willie Smith, a guy that started several games for the Redskins last year and did well for himself against some of the top-tier defensive ends in the league.
DL (9): Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Alan Branch, Chris Clemons, Jason Jones, Bruce Irvin, Greg Scruggs, Jaye Howard, Clinton McDonald
No real surprises in this unit, honestly. Greg Scruggs played himself into a roster spot, and Jaye Howard has looked very promising. Clinton McDonald is a solid, if not spectacular option on the interior that can backup both the nose tackle and 3-tech spots. Pierre Allen wasn't a big enough difference maker on the end, and Pep Levingston got hurt. I wouldn't be super surprised to see the Seahawks pick up another edge rusher on the waiver wire.
LB (6): K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, Bobby Wagner, Leroy Hill, Mike Morgan, Heath Farwell
The surprise cut here was Korey Toomer, but he'll likely be first in line for a practice squad spot. Otherwise, Mike Morgan had a surprisingly good preseason and showed the speed and range to have value as a backup Sam linebacker and core special teamer. Heath Farwell has the ability as a nickel linebacker and backup Mike, and led the NFL in special teams tackles last year, which I'm sure Pete Carroll loves.
Bobby Wagner showed enough for the Seahawks to feel comfortable starting him week one, I think, and so they shipped Barrett Ruud to New Orleans. Incidentally, it looks like Ruud made that roster, so the Seahawks should be getting a draft pick in return (making it somewhat of a wash, they'll also be sending a pick over to Tampa Bay, as Winslow makes Seattle's roster).
DB (10) Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Winston Guy, Jeremy Lane, Chris Maragos, Jeron Johnson, Marcus Trufant
The surprise cut here was Phillip Adams, who had played well in the preseason, but Marcus Trufant got the veteranosity and versatility nod over him for a spot. Jeron Johnson played out of his mind the last few weeks and solidified his spot as Kam Chancellor's backup (plus a key dime/bandit contributor), and Chris Maragos is pretty much the only player on the roster that could back up Earl Thomas. It's surprising and encouraging to see Byron Maxwell make the team, as he'd struggled of late, but I still have high hopes for him to develop. Jeremy Lane and Winston Guy both make the team as late-round rookies, and it will be fun to see if and how they're used in this defense. Pete Carroll seems to really like Guy's ability as a joker piece type of safety that can move around in the box and patrol the secondary. He compares Guy to Lawyer Milloy.
Spec (3): Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, Clint Gresham
No surprises here.
PUP: Walter Thurmond
Suspended: Allen Barbre
Injured Reserve: LB Matt McCoy, LB Jameson Konz and TE Cameron Morrah.
Interestingly, the Seahawks, yet again, retain Jameson Konz on the injured reserve, and he'll be joined by Matt McCoy and Cameron Morrah. Walter Thurmond is eligible to come off the PUP list after week six. Allen Barbre hangs on by a thread, as he doesn't count against the 53-man limit until week five.