It wasn’t supposed to be like this. After the Seattle Seahawks lost Paul Richardson in free agency, their receiving depth seemed to take a tremendous hit, especially if second-year pro Amara Darboh wouldn’t prove capable to step into a significant role. Despite the fact that Darboh remains even more inconspicuous today than he did as a rookie, the Seahawks have way more riches at the position than anyone expected a month ago.
As of March 1, Seattle’s receiver depth looked something like this:
Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Amara Darboh, David Moore, Tanner McEvoy, and Cyril Grayson.
As of April 1, they added Marcus Johnson from the Philadelphia Eagles and Jaron Brown from the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks then opted not to draft a receiver and added no significant prospect in the UDFA category. By June, the team rounded out the depth with Brandon Marshall, Damore’ea Stringfellow, and Keenan Reynolds.
The hope seemed to be that out of this group you could carve out one player who would uplift the offense next to Baldwin and Lockett. With the regular season just two weeks away, it really feels like Seattle’s coaches could have some internal arguments as to which one will start and how often at least two others should get in on the action, because there’s reason for a whole lot more optimism at the position than there was when training camp opened.
A month ago, Brown seemed the best bet to take the lead because he’s 6’3, 200 lbs, with five years of experience and a host of excuses after playing much of his time with the likes of Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert when Carson Palmer was unable to go. Brown seemed to have the potential for so much more than what he did in Arizona, and so far that’s what he’s shown. He’s drawn praise in both training camp and preseason play and Russell Wilson has shown some favoritism towards him thus far.
Brown, the former Arizona Cardinals receiver Seattle signed this spring, had 74 of Wilson’s 79 yards passing through the first two drives by the starting offense. That was two down-field catches. “It felt good out there,” Brown said. “I try to make plays like that every day in practice. “Obviously, with the run emphasis this year, it can open up things down field. ... And having 3 back there throwing it to you makes it a lot easier. “I still want to get a chance to play a full game. But it’s been positive so far.”
As how about the athletic, tough-minded Moore? “Baller,” Brown said. “He’s a baller.”
That “baller” is David Moore, the 2017 seventh round selection who has clearly taken several steps ahead of Darboh at this point. Moore has caught five passes for 142 yards in the preseason, which does not mean much (I won’t start putting stock into preseason results now), but it does seem to be an echo of what he’s shown in camp and practices.
Moore had two tremendous leaps and grabs in traffic on Seattle’s third offensive drive. The first was for 52 yards in double coverage, when the 2017 seventh-round draft choice from lower-division East Central State in Oklahoma just wanted the ball Wilson chucked up like a punt more than the Chargers’ two defensive backs at the L.A. 20-yard line. The Seahawks hurried to line and Wilson threw again to Moore, on a slant. Moore again out-jumped his defender for the catch to the 1.
That’s the freaky athleticism and strength Wilson, Carroll and the Seahawks have been raving about from Moore. He’s emerged during top receiver Doug Baldwin’s left-knee injury and indefinite absense to move up in Seattle’s plans on offense.
“They had faith in me by drafting me,” Moore said. “I just had to believe in them believing in me.”
The team released Moore a year ago, but probably because they knew that with his seventh round draft status and the depth of the receiver position league-wide, there was a very good chance that he’d make it to their practice squad. He did and he stuck around for the season, now getting his opportunity to make that leap in year two that many young players find after a rookie term of obscurity.
The reality is that with Baldwin, Lockett, Brown, and Moore, Wilson should have enough to be able to run Brian Schottenheimer’s offense and spread the ball around (I actually wonder if Lockett starts to fade behind some of the other guys based on a career of inconsistency, or if this pushes him to become something greater as he enters year four, like Richardson did), but the “must-keep” breakouts at receiver didn’t stop there. Because Brandon Marshall seems almost certain to start at this point.
Marshall became Wilson’s dependent go-to on Friday, which is what Pete Carroll said he needed to see.
Pete Carroll's comments today make it seem like Brandon Marshall is going to have to prove it on the field vs the Vikings to make the team.— Parker Lewis (@ParkerLewisJR) August 23, 2018
"...Get some good play time this week. See how it fits together with Russ & the offense. Give himself a chance to be a part of the club." pic.twitter.com/cwy5BfAxAm
After his signing was brushed off by most as a “veteran camp body” in the likes of Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards (though Edwards did make the final roster), Marshall has seemed to be as effective now as you would have expected him to be a couple years ago with the New York Jets. He’s the biggest receiver and potentially the best run blocker in the group, so Marshall’s value is twofold in that regard, threefold if you count his 12 years of experience, and fourfold if you think he’ll work that much harder to end a career-long playoff drought.
Baldwin. Lockett. Marshall. Brown. Moore.
It’s hard to not feel better about those five than I’ve felt about any Seahawks receiver group going into the season since perhaps Carroll took over. Last year’s group had Baldwin, Lockett, and Richardson, but Richardson had done nearly nothing in his career up to that point (another reason for a Brown comp perhaps), and was rounded out by Darboh and Tanner McEvoy. If you consider Marshall/Richardson a bit of a wash for much different reasons than just a 1:1 comp, then Brown and Moore still feels like a significant upgrade to Darboh and McEvoy, even though Darboh was an unknown third round rookie.
Moore feels like a legitimate starting NFL wideout in a way that McEvoy never did.
Depth guys in the past have also included Ricardo Lockette, B.J. Daniels, Chris Matthews (2015), Lockette, Bryan Walters, Kevin Norwood (2014), and Edwards, Charly Martin, Ben Obomanu (2012).
David Moore and Jaron Brown don’t seem to belong in the same category as guys like B.J. Daniels, Bryan Walters, and Charly Martin. These new additions feel like NFL receivers you can count on throwing to, not just depth players added for special teams value — which does have value, but surely does not bring the same amount of excitement.
And we haven’t even discussed what Seattle has outside of the supposed top five.
Darboh is not someone I’d be quick to get rid of after one season and the injuries that have held out him for so much of August feel like a Devil’s trick to get him off of the Seahawks and onto a team that’ll mine production out of him like the Kansas City Chiefs once did with defensive tackle Jaye Howard. Or he’ll fade off just like Norwood, Kris Durham, and Chris Harper.
Keenan Reynolds is now in his third season out of Navy, still working on his transition from QB, and seemingly ready for a legitimate shot at the pros. It doesn’t feel like another year on a practice squad would really benefit him that much and if Seattle does cut him I almost wish him the opportunity to go to another team; you just won’t find out what he is until he gets out there in a real game and he’s already got two years on practice squads.
Johnson is a player who stood out early on in training camp and seemed destined to earn a roster spot for his special teams ability alone, but as mentioned earlier, it seems a shame now to keep a receiver for special teams reasons when offensive benefits have such a bigger payoff in the long run; the Seahawks could end up parting ways with Lockett in 2019 (just as they did with Golden Tate and Richardson), while Marshall would surely be looking at retirement if he even does stick with Seattle for the whole year. Looking at it in those terms, how many offensive players do you want to risk losing — like Moore, Darboh, even Reynolds — to have an extra gunner on coverage?
Besides, Michael Dickson doesn’t even need you to down punts, dude’s sticking it on the one-yard line and poppin’ it o.o.b.
Finally, Stringfellow has more than zero potential offensively and Grayson could be an above-adequate returner, but the Seahawks may not have the “luxury” to keep guys like that because they have the luxury of at least five, maybe six actual receivers at the position ready to receiver. It makes you wonder if Seattle is going to be working the trade lines again during final cuts and getting some value out of the position few thought they had much value in to begin with.
If you had to choose ONE to start
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