The Seattle Seahawks wrapped up their 2018 preseason campaign on Thursday night, finishing August winless after dropping the finale 30-19.
More than wins, losses or gawking at a rookie punter, the preseason is about evaluating players. For the Seahawks, those evaluations are complete, and news of roster cuts will arrive over the course of the next 24 hours, ahead of the 1 pm deadline on Saturday afternoon.
Looking past the roster decisions looming over Seattle, there was plenty to learn about the 2018 Seahawks over the course of the preseason.
Mike Davis won the third down back competition
At the beginning of training camp, Mike Davis was viewed as a relative long-shot. C.J. Prosise was almost certainly assured a roster spot, given his talent, cost and draft position, while J.D. McKissic provided excellent insurance if Prosise were to suffer another injury.
Instead, it was McKissic who went down. And following his injury, it was Davis, not Prosise, who stepped up. As early as the second preseason game -- Prosise’s first -- Davis saw the majority of passing down snaps with the starters. Seattle used him in a variety of ways, splitting him out wide, keeping him in to block, sending him into the flats or simply handing the ball off. Davis’s run with the starters came as Prosise was covering kickoffs in the fourth quarter.
By the end of the preseason, Davis had established himself as the Seahawks’ passing down back. He out-snapped Prosise, 78-62, and outproduced him on the ground and through the air. Despite starting camp as the fifth or even sixth back on the depth chart, Davis should play a key role in Seattle’s offense to start the season.
The 3 deep returners will be skill position players
One of the more curious story lines before any football was played was how teams were going to handle the new kickoff rule. The new rule limits the receiving team on kickoffs to just three players deeper than mid-field — the remaining eight must be within 15 yards of the ball.
Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider wondered how teams would handle the new rule, saying:
“You’re kind of anticipating how guys are going to line up. We have to follow certain rules, but with three guys back, you don’t know exactly how guys are going to do it. So it’s really interesting. Preseason is going to tell you a lot, not only about the kickoff stuff but more where people are aligned and what schemes they’re running. We have our own ideas, we try to study it a lot, but preseason is going to be big. Not only for what we’re doing but for studying other people and seeing what everyone is doing.”
As Schneider said, preseason told us everything we needed to know. The Seahawks stuck with three skill position players as the deep returners throughout the preseason. Most recently, David Moore was given reps on punts and kickoffs, in an effort to get him comfortable fielding them. Against the Denver Broncos, expect Tyler Lockett to line up as the deepest returner, with two of Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson or Moore ahead of him.
Shaquem Griffin is going to push K.J. Wright
A knee injury to Wright has Griffin in line to start the opener against the Broncos, and it may give the front office an early chance to begin considering Wright’s future. A free agent after this season, Wright would likely command an annual salary in the $7-9M range on a third contract. As terrific as Wright has been throughout his career, Seattle has to save money where they can.
Griffin has been terrific on defense throughout the preseason, flying sideline-to-sideline looking every bit the instinctive, fast linebacker he was at UCF. Set to count less than $650k towards the cap in 2019, if Griffin appears ready to start in an NFL defense during his short run with the starters to begin the 2018 season, he could be a full-time starter come 2019.
It’s Germain Ifedi’s job in 2018
Just prior to the third preseason game, Pete Carroll allowed for some excitement to build, as he declared “The competition is on,” regarding George Fant’s switch to right tackle. Since then, the competition has all but turned off.
Jamarco Jones’ injury in the first week of the preseason hurt the Seahawks’ depth significantly, and it will hurt their flexibility throughout the year. By the preseason finale, Fant was back on the left for the majority of the game, after Isaiah Battle struggled mightily.
Between injuries and a lack of depth, Seattle’s tackle situation looks to have sorted itself out. Duane Brown will start on the left and Ifedi on the right, while Fant will be restricted to a reserve role. Just 10 days ago, the right tackle competition was beginning and now, there doesn’t appear to be any competition at all.
Rasheem Green is ready to contribute
When Green was selected in the third round of this year’s draft, he was viewed as a natural replacement for Michael Bennett. However, Green’s lack of technical ability and functional strength made him more of a developmental prospect than a day one contributor.
As early as the first week of preseason, Green displayed promising growth in his game. During a productive preseason, Green won with hand usage, power and even held up against the run. There were snaps were he looked closer to the player he was at ‘SC, but overall, Green appeared to have grown his game considerably over the course of a couple months.
Injuries will force Green into the rotation earlier than anticipated, but his preseason indicates he is more than ready to do so. Lining up both on the edge and inside, Green will get a chance to carry his production and performance into the regular season.
The Seahawks are going to lean on their SAM linebackers
Barkevious Mingo’s signing in March signaled the return of a skill set that has been missing since Bruce Irvin’s departure. A SAM ‘backer in base, Mingo, like Irvin, is a natural pass rusher capable of coming off the edge on passing downs. With a depleted group of edge rushers to begin the 2018 season, Mingo will be rushing the passer regularly.
Both Mingo and rookie Jacob Martin played a considerable amount of snaps on the line of scrimmage in August, especially on obvious passing downs. When Mingo was first signed, he was the sixth or seventh player down the depth chart for pass rushers; now, he should be one of the first in the rotation.
Seattle has lacked versatility at the SAM linebacker position in recent years, but in 2018, they’ll be leaning on that versatility more than ever.
David Moore will feature in the Seahawks’ offense
Almost immediately, Moore began drawing praise out of training camp. Russell Wilson, Brian Schottenheimer and Carroll all commented on Moore’s ability to win in one-on-ones, and the trust of quarterbacks that comes with that trait. Schottenheimer stressed how important that is during his first media session of camp:
“When he’s one-on-one, they’re taking the shot and he’s making those plays, which in their mind even more, subconsciously they think ‘Wow, this is a guy I can go to when he’s one-on-one.”
Moore was excellent throughout the preseason, totaling six catches for 147 yards and a touchdown. There were several instances of quarterbacks, whether it was Wilson, Austin Davis or Alex McGough, targeting Moore despite blanket coverage. In a limited sample size, Moore has proven to be the team’s best contested catch receiver.
Even when Moore didn’t complete the catch, his size and ability above the rim caused problems. Against the Oakland Raiders, Davis targeted a covered Moore in the end zone, who drew a pass interference flag after fighting back to the ball.
Not only has Moore done enough to stick on Seattle’s 53-man roster after his second preseason, he has displayed the physical traits and ability to continue to see snaps as an outside receiver in the Seahawks’ offense. Brandon Marshall may have been brought in to provide the big-bodied presence vacated by Jimmy Graham’s departure, but it should be Moore who is given the chance to shine in that role.