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On The Bubble: Five Seahawks to watch in preseason finale vs. Raiders

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL preseason concludes for all 32 teams on Thursday night, with the Seattle Seahawks closing their August out with a home game against the Oakland Raiders. As is standard, the fourth preseason game does not involve first-team players beyond maybe the opening series. This is all about the backups, fringe talents, and guys on the bubble who are looking to avoid the chopping block when roster cuts are finalized on Saturday.

If we’re being perfectly honest, most NFL teams know who they’re going cut even before the preseason finale, so even an unexpected impressive performance in game action is not going to be enough. That won’t stop us from focusing on a few Seahawks worth watching against the Raiders, as they look to not have their bubbles burst.

Poona Ford, DT

The Seahawks are in need of some defensive line depth, and one of the preseason standouts has been the awesomely named Poona Ford. He’s been a monster in run defense, and was one of the main reasons for the Seahawks’ second-unit holding the Vikings to negative yards in the 3rd quarter. The performances may not necessarily show up in the stat sheet, but he’s a defensive tackle, so that’s pretty much never the case unless you’re Fletcher Cox or Aaron Donald. Pro Football Focus grades Ford as having the best run stuffing percentage among all DTs this preseason.

Being undersized has been the main knock on Ford, but if he’s going to forklift offensive linemen into the backfield as often as he’s done in August, he might be able to beat the odds and join Seattle’s interior line rotation.

Mike Davis, RB

J.D. McKissic’s injury has paved the way for Davis to make his case to be one of Seattle’s third-down backs. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise (who seems more of a lock to make the team than a few weeks ago) are the top-three on the depth chart. I doubt the Seahawks keep five RBs, and Davis was very impressive against the first-team Vikings defense, so perhaps the Seahawks might keep Davis at McKissic’s expense. If not, McKissic’s value as a receiver and occasional kick/punt returner may be one of the reasons that Davis is not retained.

Amara Darboh, WR

I really wish we weren’t here discussing a 2017 third-round pick as being “on the bubble” in his second season, but Darboh didn’t offer up much in his rookie campaign, and has struggled to stay healthy for a second straight preseason. With David Moore shining in practice and in actual games, and Brandon Marshall making a concerted effort to keep his NFL career alive, Darboh is in serious jeopardy of being off the team. He’s returning from his hip problem and will finally play for the first time this preseason, and this is quite conceivably the Michigan man’s last opportunity to remain a Seahawk.

Keenan Reynolds, WR

Darboh’s roster status is in question primarily because of Moore, but if there’s another receiver who’s raised eyebrows and further threatened Amara, it’s Navy’s Keenan Reynolds. With Tyler Lockett injured last week, Reynolds had the chance to play with the first-team offense, with 3 catches for 25 yards and a couple of first-downs. Reynolds has drawn some comparisons to Doug Baldwin since minicamp, and certainly looked the part when assuming the slot role against Minnesota. I wouldn’t completely rule out Reynolds getting in as a 6th wide receiver, but he’s definitely prime practice squad material.

Dontae Johnson, CB

The defensive back situation is a bit tricky. Shaquill Griffin is going to assume Richard Sherman’s duties (for the most part), Justin Coleman is the slot corner, but then the picture becomes more muddled from there. Byron Maxwell was thought to be the favorite to once again be the RCB, only for injury to rob him of any playing time. Tre Flowers is a rookie who’s a work-in-progress as a safety-to-cornerback convert. Early results suggest that this is a better fit than their same attempts with Mike Tyson. The others in contention are Akeem King, Trevon Reed, and Dontae Johnson (who’s fully recovered from a broken foot). Reed... has not been good and he’s bounced around the league for quite some time. King has the height (6’3”) that Pete Carroll likes in a corner, but his performance in preseason has been inconsistent at best. Neiko Thorpe is essentially a special teams gunner.

This is where Johnson, a former San Francisco 49er, can swoop in and potentially usurp Maxwell or at least serve as depth at a position where Seattle is largely inexperienced and at a weak point we’ve not seen since 2010. Johnson is experienced, except he was terrible in San Francisco. That said, Maxwell’s absence has provided the defensive coaching staff a long look at both Flowers and Johnson at RCB. Admittedly going up against scrubs, keep an eye on #39 to see if he gives you any inkling that he can be a positive contributor in the Seahawks secondary. I’m decidedly skeptical, but the state of the cornerback position leaves Seattle with a paucity of viable options.