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The position battles that will be decided against the Chargers

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On Wednesday, we went over the players currently on the Seahawks’ 90-man roster who can be counted out of contention for the 53, while identifying how many players on the roster are still vying for a spot. For some of these spots, there are two players competing for the same, single spot. As the 10th Camp ComPete nears an end, the position battles across the roster are wrapping up. After Saturday night, once Seattle has taken on the Chargers, we should have our answers as to who won which battles.

(Note: This is just competitions between two players vying for one spot, which is why, say, Jazz Ferguson, John Ursua, Gary Jennings and Keenan Reynolds for the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots isn’t included.)

Geno Smith vs. Paxton Lynch

The backup quarterback competition got thrown a major curveball in the first preseason game, when Lynch looked... competent, for the first time in his career. After the game, as we learned Smith was set to miss some time to get a cyst removed in his knee, it seemed to be all set for Lynch to win the job. Instead, against the Vikings, Lynch struggled before a terrible hit forced his exit, and will now make him miss the Seahawks’ game against Los Angeles.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Pete Carroll told reporters Smith will play a lot against his former team. With Seattle being far more conservative with starters this preseason, it’s safe to assume Russell Wilson will play his final game of the preseason this week. Smith and Lynch will likely split the fourth and final game, and the backup spot could be decided then; for now, it remains Smith’s spot to lose.

Jamar Taylor vs. Akeem King

The three man competition became two, following Kalan Reed’s brief appearance in Minnesota; now, the battle to replace Justin Coleman has come down to Taylor and King. After spending the majority of training camp as the second team nickelback behind King, Taylor was bumped up to the starters this week, and will play there on Saturday. This comes after a game against the Vikings which saw him have a dreadful sequence, including a penalty and then beaten for a touchdown.

King and Taylor have played almost the same amount of snaps in preseason, and both have played special teams, as well. King would provide the Seahawks with more versatility from the nickel spot, with his size enabling him to cover tight ends. However, with Ugo Amadi (and, likely DeShawn Shead), they’ll have matchup dependent defenders in place beyond King. Seattle can keep the slot corner they feel most comfortable with against three wide receiver sets, and they’ll likely know who that is after this week. (It’s worth noting it’s entirely possible both players make the 53, even if there is a clear winner of the nickel competition.)

Barkevious Mingo vs. Cassius Marsh

This competition, in theory, is for the sixth and final EDGE spot, with the five players ahead being Ezekiel Ansah, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin, L.J. Collier and Quinton Jefferson. Carroll gave Mingo a sign of optimism during his Wednesday press conference, but it’s still hard to imagine the Seahawks swallowing his cap hit for someone whose main contribution would come on special teams. Marsh, meanwhile, has gotten after the passer well both in practice and in preseason games—and he comes at a cost of around $3M less than Mingo.

Marsh has seen a fair amount of snaps with the starters in August, while Mingo has often struggled to win against second- and third-string tackles. Mingo has out-snapped Marsh 54-39 over two games, but 72 percent of Mingo’s came in the first game. Aiding Mingo’s cause is indeed his special teams impact, where he plays a lot more often than Marsh. Despite the evidence in Mingo’s favor, barring a surprisingly impactful game from him on Saturday, this competition may already be decided—with Marsh landing on the 53.

Austin Calitro vs. Shaquem Griffin

This is an odd one, because it’s hard to call it a direct competition, even if they are vying for the sixth and final linebacker spot. (That’s with the assumption it’s Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven behind the three starters. Perhaps Burr-Kirven is less of a lock than thought, though.) Griffin is the backup SAM linebacker, behind Mychal Kendricks. It was a move made by the coaching staff in order to A. Give him more opportunities and B. Get him more comfortable. The early returns were positive, until a knee bruise halted his preseason. As of Wednesday, Griffin still hadn’t returned, per Carroll. Griffin’s roster spot is becoming increasingly less guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Calitro has largely been improved from last year to now. Against Denver, he impressed against the run and the pass. Despite a handful of snaps that saw him get exposed in space versus Minnesota, Calitro has the best coverage grade on Seattle in the preseason. That’s where he had to improve from last year, and he has. Now, he’s going to force the Seahawks to make a decision. They don’t need Griffin on the roster to backup Kendricks; Barton and Wright give Seattle enough flexibility to get by just fine should Kendricks miss time. The most logical move could be to try and find a trade partner for either Griffin or Calitro. With another strong performance from Calitro on Saturday, the waters are going to get more muddy and the Seahawks will need to seek out a solution to the crowded linebacker group.

Lano Hill vs. DeShawn Shead

In our latest 53-man roster projection, I wrote I believed Hill was making his return too late in the preseason to push for a roster spot, particularly with Shead making such a positive impact. However, with Hill entering the picture at the most crucial juncture of the preseason, he may yet push for a spot. When Shead first returned to Seattle, it was fair to assume he was a candidate to be this year’s Byron Maxwell; a familiar name, but a training camp long-shot nonetheless.

Hill, meanwhile, proved to be valuable down the stretch last season, playing regularly as a third safety in specific matchups. That role will presumably be replicated this season, by either he or Shead, plus Amadi (and maybe King). While the battle between Hill and Shead for the final safety spot could come down to the final week, we could very well get our answer on Saturday; if Hill plays very little, it’s safe to assume he’ll just help to fill out the numbers until rosters are cut to 53. But if he is right back into the fold, then it’ll be a fascinating group to track as we head towards cut down day. (It’s also fair to think both could be on the outs, with Bradley McDougald, Marquise Blair, Tedric Thompson and Amadi ahead of them in a crowded secondary.)

There are positions of high importance to be decided; and players with a high reputation or name recognition have roster spots at stake. Decisions will be close to finalized after Saturday night, as roster cut down day draws closer.