The 2020 preseason appeared to be on life support over the past several weeks. A July 1 report suggested that it was to be cut down from four games to two, as the NFL attempted to adjust for a season amid the pandemic. However, an announcement on that shortening never came as players pushed for no games in August, at all.
A few weeks after the initial report of a shortened preseason, the NFL and the NFLPA reportedly agreed to cancel the 2020 preseason schedule. Ultimately, no preseason was what the league and its players deemed the best route forward for them. However, the lack of preseason action will undoubtedly hurt many players, both on the periphery of rosters and on the brink of cracking a starting lineup.
The Seahawks aren’t short on players in either situation, such is their program’s commitment to competition in July and August. Which players will lose the most without any preseason action?
Entering his second season, Blair is primed to push for a starting position alongside free safety Quandre Diggs. Unfortunately for Blair, it will prove more difficult to beat out the perennially solid Bradley McDougald without preseason action. In a normal year, one could easily envision a tightly contested camp battle between Blair and McDougald ended by a trade that sees McDougald leave Seattle at the end of August, opening the path for Blair to start. And maybe that is still a possibility. But as one of the biggest beneficiaries of Diggs’ arrival last year, McDougald is going to prove hard for Blair to dislodge.
There is, of course, a path for both Blair and McDougald to be involved in the defense in 2020. McDougald has previously displayed his versatility, playing at both safety spots and as a slot corner during his time with the Buccaneers. To get Blair on the field, Seattle could utilize McDougald as a big nickel in certain matchups, whether it’s against tight ends or bigger, more physical slot receivers.
Though Blair should see a sizable uptick in snaps as a sophomore, the path was there for the bruiser to earn a starting place. Now, it’s considerably more complicated.
A major part of what was an exciting undrafted free agent class, the former Baylor Bear was set to make a strong roster push and provide some exciting preseason moments as a quick-twitch centerfield-playing safety. Miller’s skillset perfectly aligns with what Seattle asks for out of their free safeties and with almost no competition outside of Lano Hill—who played perhaps the worst season of his career in 2019—he figured to be an obvious backup to Diggs. Such an unusual ramp-up to the regular season makes that more difficult.
While the large majority, if not all, of the Seahawks’ 2020 draft class will be afforded a year of patience, the same won’t be true for undrafted free agents. Should Miller be slow to pick up the intricacies of Seattle’s defense, there simply would not be the reps in camp and preseason to help him get up to speed. If the Seahawks don’t leave August feeling comfortable about Miller should he be pressed into action, he could be cut loose in favor of Hill.
Though he was almost entirely anonymous throughout his 155 snaps as a rookie, L.J. Collier was playing from behind since the start. A high-ankle sprain robbed the Seahawks’ first-round pick of his first training camp and preseason, and just like Rasheem Green before him, it completely altered his rookie season.
While expectations around Collier are understandably muted this time around, there is a huge opportunity in front of him. Gone are Quinton Jefferson’s defensive line-leading 602 snaps. In Collier, Seattle has a player who projects as a stout, disciplined, powerful 5-technique capable of reducing inside—mirroring what Jefferson provided the team with.
However, a shortened training camp and no preseason could hamper Collier’s ability to recapture the form that has eluded him since leaving TCU. The Seahawks are gambling that they can count on Collier as a sophomore, providing him with a pathway to start and play the majority of the defensive snaps. This time, he will need to be able to overcome being dropped into the regular season with little lead up.
Signed from the Steelers this offseason after serving as a versatile backup, Finney is expected to be the team’s starting center following the release of Justin Britt. While Britt was largely average, his ability to communicate protection with the rest of the line was consistently lauded and missed following his mid-season injury last year.
Finney should be a fine starter in 2020 for the Seahawks, but the communication with his linemates and Russell Wilson won’t be as immediate. Without any live game action in the preseason, Finney and the rest of the offensive line will be starting fresh in Week 1 and will be worse off because of it. The impact of a limited training camp and no preseason on Finney and the offensive line may not be obvious to the majority of outside observers, but it will be felt by those on offense without a doubt.
After going undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, the former Washington State signal-caller remained in state and signed with the Seahawks as a UDFA. Not only was it a convenient landing spot, but one that presented a real opportunity. Though Geno Smith, Wilson’s backup in 2019, was re-signed since Gordon arrived, it was difficult not to see a path for Gordon to serve as Wilson’s backup as a rookie and beyond. Without a preseason, that becomes a more difficult task for the Coug.
A year ago, Paxton Lynch lost the backup quarterback competition as much as Smith won it. This year, Smith was set to face a much more legitimate challenger, with Gordon bringing an intriguing upside and serious arm talent to the quarterback room. Unfortunately for Gordon, it would be shocking to see the Seahawks enter the season with a UDFA as the backup at the team’s most important position without seeing him play any preseason games. It remains a possibility that the team could carry all three quarterbacks, or at the very least keep Gordon around as a member of the practice squad. But for Gordon, the preseason’s cancellation is an opportunity lost.