It started in 2014 after the Super Bowl with guys like Walter Thurmond and Clinton McDonald getting new deals elsewhere. It continued with the loss of Byron Maxwell and Tony McDaniel a year later. Sure, Thomas Rawls came in last season, but for all intents and purposes, it seemed like the Seattle Seahawks were on the bad end of the replacement scale. Drafted or signed as a free agent, there just didn't seem to be that set of guys boosting things up from the background.
It's safe to say that this year that isn't the case.
Be it the head-scratching success of Justin Britt at center, the flash of Germain Ifedi at right guard, or the continued growth of Christine Michael, it's hard to look at this Seahawks team as anything but really deep.
Instead of the massively over-saturated market of "Final 53-roster projection," I decided to take a look at about five key battles and how i think they've come down going into the final cut-down day.
Tony McDaniel vs Jordan Hiil vs Quinton Jefferson
For me, Jordan Hill was always going to be on the team regardless of his availability simply because depth demanded that it was necessary. McDaniel somehow being football ready, not just available, makes Hill the odd man out. This also gives Seattle the most depth it's had on the defensive line since 2013. I was a huge fan of McDaniel and sad to see him go. He is by far my favorite story of this preseason.
RDE: Frank Clark
NT: Ahtyba Rubin
3tech: Jarran Reed / Tony McDaniel
LDE Cliff Avril
Pass Rush (Fun down)
RDE: Frank Clark
NT: Tony McDaniel / Quinton Jefferson
3tech: Michael Bennett
LDE: Cliff Avril
*Reed is in the mix for starting snaps but I think with Bennett's ability to play inside and outside it's harder for just a run stuffer to get big snaps right now especially with Rubin being such a force as he is. We'll see though. I like Reed a ton. Quinton Jefferson is one of those guys that surprised me with how much he flashed in these three games. I didn't think much of his ability coming in because it all looked like the same moves to me over and over. He looked raw, but I'm not too proud to say I was wrong.
Kasen Williams Falls Off The Radar
Whatever the injury bug that struck Williams is, it's been a disaster for him as both Antwan Goodley and Tanner McEvoy have not just flashed but kept up a three week stretch of impressive tape. McEvoy's successes hurts Kasen the most as Pete Carroll's man crush on any receiver over 6'2 is well documented. The nail in the coffin though might be Goodley though. His ability to be aware of the football and adjust for spectacular catches isn't something you just add as a bonus to his sheet. It's pretty rare to see a guy that's able to do that consistently.
I'm a huge believer in both these guys and this is the first time since Doug Baldwin broke through in 2011 where I said to myself "Hey wait, that's different." I think Seattle carries both guys to the 53. If there's only one, it's probably McEvoy simply because of what Pete has been after since Mike Williams left.
Side Note: This isn't really a battle, but Brandon Williams flashing with the ones probably means he's got a slot because of Jimmy Graham's injury. No matter how they talk Jimmy G. up, I think he starts on the PUP and Luke Willson needs a real backup this year. I'm a fan of this kid's blocking.
The Turnstile Is Jammed At Running Back
Seattle has never had a batch of runners like this in its history. The departure of Marshawn Lynch made Rawls the heir to the throne by virtue of no depth at the position and huge questions about Christine Michael's ability to continue his upward growth and focus. Now with guys like C.J. Prosise, George Farmer and Alex Collins on the roster. the talent level of the position is really amazing. You know someone has to get cut but whoever it is, will probably catch on somewhere else.
Still No Strong Linebackers
The struggle continues for Carroll and Kris Richard to fill that strong-side linebacker role. Seattle hasn't really had a big play guy there since Jullian Petersen. It's been filled by LeRoy Hill, even Will Herring. Malcolm Smith held it down for a while, but wasn't really a guy you wanted to see taking 50-60 snaps. Well, despite giving at least three different dudes shots this preseason including Mike Morgan and Kevin Pierre-Louis, Pete and Kris still look to be in a "Mix and Match" situation heading into 2016 which is not what anyone really wants.
The battle in the secondary has been pretty quiet despite guys like Stanley Jean-Baptiste getting signed, DeShawn Shead and Brandon Browner both playing safety roles (at times) and Jeremy Lane playing nickel. Tharold Simon is the Jordan Hill of the secondary, but his downfall wasn't in preseason, it was last year when Shead proved he had the grit to play outside on an island. Once they had a guy who was serviceable Simon's chance of getting on the field was going to require staying healthy and flashing something that made coaches sit up and take notice. Neither one happened.
Though I think he hangs on as depth, Simon's chances of cracking the starting lineup have diminished to the point where I wouldn't be surprised to see him being asked for his playbook on the final cut-down to 53.
The Last Tease
Here we are, headed into the final preseason game and really there's a lot to be excited about at least for me. Last year it was the game that put Rawls on the final 53 and prepped Frank Clark for his impactful rookie season. I know what I wanna see, but since I've already blabbed on and on about what I've seen, I wanna know what you guys and gals want to see in the final teaser game. Who are your picks, who do you think is close but needs another game of tape? Are there any battles I missed that you are onto?