The Seattle Seahawks dropped the 2021 preseason opener to the Las Vegas Raiders Saturday night in a largely forgettable game 20-7 loss. The fact that Hawks lost is not itself huge, as the majority of the projected starters for the team spent the evening on the sideline, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a number of takeaways that could be drawn from the team.
Special Teams Roles
The importance of special teams to head coach Pete Carroll cannot, of course, be understated. That said, taking a look at how certain special teams duties were allocated can help provide some insight into which fringe players could make the roster.
The first thing to look at is who was serving as the personal protector for All Universe punter Michael Dickson. On each of the three first half punts that role was given to DeeJay Dallas, with Cody Thompson seeing the field in that capacity on both of the second half punts for Dicko.
Dallas holding the role to start the game is not all that surprising, as it was Travis Homer holding the role prior to being lost for the season due to injury, at which point Shaquem Griffin took over. Between performing well in this assignment, a pair of decent kickoff returns and flashing a bit at running back, Dallas certainly didn’t appear to hurt his chances at making the team on Saturday.
As for Thompson, he was with the group of receivers who saw action in the first half, though that distinction could be no more than his experience level. That said, Thompson displayed his speed on the pair of punts for which he was on the field, but alligator armed a hospital ball on 2nd & 20 in the first quarter which may not help his case.
The biggest takeaway from special teams, however, may have been a name many Seahawks fans may not even recognize, Nate Evans. Dickson punted five times Saturday night, with those five punts resulting in:
- One fair catch
- One out of bounds
- Three returned punts
On those three returned punts, Evans was credited with two tackles, including one solo and one assisted. For a fringe roster player fighting to stick around after final cuts, making an impression on special teams is certainly not a bad path to securing a spot. He’s obviously not going to unseat Bobby Wagner or Jordyn Brooks on the depth chart, but the team could do worse at the final linebacker spot than a player who can get down the field and make his presence felt on special teams while providing depth.
Depth Chart Tiering
As noted, the majority of starters did not play, providing at least some glimpses into the depth chart for the team. Some off the names that did not see the field were Chris Carson, Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Gerald Everett and Will Dissly, not to mention a host of other projected starters on both sides of the ball.
The fact that many of the starters did not play gives a glimpse into the top portion of the depth chart as it stood heading into Saturday night, while also giving the young players an opportunity to show what they can do. That is in stark contract to the 2020 season, where without a preseason many younger players never received much of a chance to shine.
For Seattle one of the position groups that has significant question marks behind the starters is at wide receiver. Lockett and Metcalf are the unquestioned starters, with D’Wayne Eskridge seemingly likely to have a spot as well as soon as he is activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list. That likely leaves three spots on the 53 man roster up for grabs after cuts, with Freddie Swain holding the inside track on one of those three spots.
Swain’s performance Saturday certainly seemed to strengthen his hold on that spot, while others who played in the first half included Aaron Fuller, Thompson and Ursua. Ursua did not do anything to distinguish himself in a positive manner, and both of the punt returns for which he was on the field came with excitement in terms of fielding the ball. It has been nearly four years since Ursua last returned punts in a live game at Hawaii in September of 2017, and his performance against the Raiders likely showed why.
The remaining receivers, including Connor Wedington, Travis Toivonen, Cade Johnson and Darece Roberson saw snaps in the second half, without any of them making much of an impression. Johnson led the team in targets and receptions, but half of his catches came in the final 20 seconds with the Raiders in prevent in an effort to run out the clock. The debate certainly will be heated between now and final roster cuts on August 31, but none of these four make the roster if their performances in the final two preseason games resemble the performance in the opener.