The Seattle Seahawks’ preseason schedule has nearly reached its conclusion, with just one game remaining: A Thursday night contest against the Oakland Raiders. For those on the 90-man roster whose spot is solidified, the preseason is, for all intents and purposes, over. In last year’s finale against the Raiders, Seahawks who sat out included Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, Neiko Thorpe, Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, Frank Clark and Justin Britt. The same can be expected this year.
A handful of roster locks will be forced to play simply to help make up the numbers, but just a few spots on the roster are still to be contested. These are the spots still up for grabs on Seattle’s roster, and who remains in the mix for them:
Roster spots: Fourth and fifth RB*
Candidates: C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic, Nick Bellore
We can safely say, barring something unforeseen, the Seahawks will open the season with a 1-2 punch of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Behind them, rookie Travis Homer seems like a near-lock and projects as a long-term third down option. Though Homer’s upside as a pass catcher is exciting, Seattle will likely want a more proven third down back to partner with him. That will come down to Prosise or McKissic. Some might roll their eyes at the idea of Prosise being a “proven” player but in this scenario, they would be keeping him because he’s healthy. And when he’s healthy, he has proven to be a game-changer on passing downs. As I phrased it on the Field Gulls podcast on Tuesday: McKissic’s ceiling is a healthy Prosise’s floor.
The presence of Homer—plus Penny and Carson’s anticipated involvement in the passing game—could give the Seahawks the wiggle room they need to roster Prosise. It’ll mean he needs to get through Thursday healthy, but if he is able to do so, it seems as though the coaching staff still have some patience left to give him.
*If they do keep a fifth running back, it would likely be a spot for the fullback, Bellore. Last season, Seattle kept hold of Tre Madden all season despite the former Trojan playing just eight percent of the offense’s snaps. Bellore’s path to the 53 would come via special teams, as well. Even if the fullback didn’t make the initial 53, he could still be in the team’s plans in 2019, as outlined here.
Roster spot: Sixth WR
Candidates: Gary Jennings, Jazz Ferguson, Malik Turner
If you polled most fans, it would be the UDFA Ferguson who would likely be the favorite to claim that spot. He’s a legitimate above-the-rim threat and a physical presence on the outside. We saw the former against the Broncos, and the latter to draw a P.I. penalty against the Chargers. Ferguson has continued to see heavy snaps throughout the preseason and, at the very least, would be a prime candidate for the practice squad—should he make it there. While the team, and myself, would be hard pressed to cut ties with a draft pick as high as Jennings, Ferguson is no slouch, and is a UDFA simply due to circumstance, not talent.
Jennings, despite his draft status, has been outplayed in practice and in preseason by Ferguson and Ursua (who is considered a lock for this purpose). Pete Carroll gave reporters a plea to Jennings to show something against Los Angeles:
Pete Carroll said he would like to see #Seahawks rookie WR Gary Jennings play well in the final two preseason games.— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) August 23, 2019
"This is a good chance for him the next couple weeks to make a statement.”
Instead, it was Jennings receiving something from Carroll:
Really dumb play by Gary Jennings. Pete Carroll just looked at him from the sideline after it. He blew up the defender with Wilson already on his way well past for the first down. #Seahawks— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 25, 2019
At this point, it would be completely fair for the Seahawks to feel more confident in Jennings making it through waivers than Ferguson.
The forgotten of the trio, Turner, would be a surprising keep. He’s a known commodity, however, and despite having a lower ceiling than Jennings and Ferguson, could certainly give Seattle snaps out of the gate should both David Moore and D.K. Metcalf be unavailable early in the season. It’s an unlikely result, but Turner is still worth keeping in mind.
Roster Spot: Sixth EDGE
Candidates: Branden Jackson, Quinton Jefferson, Barkevious Mingo
One could make an argument for Cassius Marsh being viewed as less than certain, but for this exercise, he’s considered the fifth EDGE in a group also consisting of Ezekiel Ansah, L.J. Collier, Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green. Who it’ll be rounded out with remains to be seen, with Jackson, Jefferson and Mingo all in play.
Jackson has a sack and a pair of tackles for loss in the preseason, and gives the Seahawks the outside-in versatility they love. They’ve kept him around for nearly two years now, as he’s bounced between the practice squad and active roster in Seattle. Jackson was sixth in snaps last year among defensive linemen on the Seahawks, playing over a quarter of the defense’s snaps, but produced just a single sack and three tackles for loss. He would help to fill out the rotation outside and inside, but with little upside.
After converting full-time to EDGE from linebacker, Mingo had a steep climb to crack the 53. Though he received a vote of confidence from Carroll, it’s difficult to believe that’ll translate to a spot on the 53. He’s played deep into the fourth quarter in each of Seattle’s preseason games, and hasn’t rushed the passer with great effectiveness, even against third string tackles. The Seahawks can, and should, shed a large part of Mingo’s sizable cap hit in 2019 by moving on from the former SAM.
Like Jackson, Jefferson can play both on the edge and along the interior. Playing over half the defense’s snaps last season (third-highest among DL), he posted three sacks and five tackles for loss. Jefferson has shown traits that could have the team believing he has five sack potential as a rotational piece. His upside as a rusher combined with his steady play on the edge against the run leads me to believe not only is he the clubhouse leader for this spot, he’s in line to again be a consistent starter in base for Seattle.
Beyond these spots still in question, there will be movement; the Seahawks are sure to acquire players from the outside, be it on either line or in the secondary. Additionally, they have a difficult decision to make at linebacker, and how to split the numbers between defensive tackle and end will be headache inducing for the decision makers. The majority of the roster is set, but uncertainty still looms over Seattle’s roster.