I don’t know if there’s any way to evaluate the Seahawks offense with even a soupcon of accuracy when Russell Wilson plays zero snaps, the starting offensive line looks like a Tom Cable blue-light special, and the biggest name playing is Freddie Swain. Yes, Freddie Swain.
So let’s try something a little different: parsing the cornerback stack.
It’s no secret the Seahawks are loaded on the defensive line, appear set at linebacker between Bobby Wagner and
K.J. Jordyn Brooks, and pending the imminent(ish) signing of one Jamal Adams, have the safety net in place for another run at greatness.
Oh, but at cornerback, with the departure of Shaquill Griffin to Jacksonville’s Brinks truck of a contract (3/40, 29 million guaranteed), the Seattle cornerback situation is as fluid as 2010, before the Legion swaggered into town. To make sense of it, after every preseason game I’ll publish a depth chart that you can mock, ignore, or agree with, but since is the internet, I’ll be expecting the first two. Do not disappoint me now, Field Gulls.
POST-WEEK 1 DEPTH CHART
Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed, Gavin Heslop, Damarious Randall, Jordan Miller, Bryan Mills
Ahkello Witherspoon, Tre Brown, Pierre Desir, Will Sunderland
Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair, maybe Aashari Crosswell?
The first two notes on this CB battle royale should be that Reed and Blair did not play, and Seattle spent precious little time in nickel coverage — no more than once on the first drive, and not frequently in the second half as the Raiders went to the ground game. So I’ll put Amadi in at nickel over Blair, for now, and why not? When he was in at free safety on the first drive, Amadi got moved around, not unlike the team may do with Adams. Until Blair gets back onto the field there’s little reason to give him the depth chart nod and there’s not much to say beyond “Ugo Amadi is a playmaker and must be allowed to make plays, somewhere.”
More Ugo, please.
(Crosswell played most of the second half, 38 snaps, and is listed as a safety. I’m only inserting his name in at nickel because of how fungible the defensive backs have looked between nickel and safety in 2020 and the earliest bits of 2021.)
Now, about the outside corners. Our main course. Since my resume doesn’t include “NFL scout,” all the usual disclaimers apply, but the main criteria at play are: order of appearance; did he dominate an inferior receiver; did he struggle keeping pace with some other team’s WR5?
LCB Battle: No news is good news
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way on the left side of the defense. We saw Witherspoon start, then plenty of Brown in the second and third quarters, and neither distinguished himself enough to upset the status quo. Hey, they can’t all be ballhawks like Ryan Neal, right?
There’s not much competition there until Brown furnishes a series that catches everyone’s eye. Maybe Week 2?
Witherspoon gave too much of a cushion only a couple times and found himself out of position only once, and it came when the WR was (probably) guilty of a little foul play.
I do think Ahkello Witherspoon gets this OPI call in the regular season with a different crew. Or if it's Jermaine Kearse pic.twitter.com/g9tmfBb200— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 15, 2021
Brown had a bad missed tackle in the red zone as the half ended — could’ve cost the Seahawks four points but didn’t, since he redeemed himself partially with good position on the ensuing incompletion. We’ll cut him some slack since it was his VERY FIRST QUARTER OF NFL ACTION.
Saw him continue into the second half without fanfare. Made an open-field tackle on Peterman, though it’s hard to gauge exactly how much credit one earns for that. Switched off his man to make another clean tackle immediately thereafter, so there were moments of awareness. Was only targeted a handful of times. If opposing offenses could throw at him a little more, that would be helpful. Thanks guys.
RCB Battle: Now we’re talking
People will point to Flowers allowing a crucial sideline conversion, on third down, that (obviously) allowed the Raiders to score on their opening drive. I don’t think this was a bad play at all by the Seahawks fourth-year corner. Watch Flowers match the receiver stride for stride; you can fault him for not getting his arm up earlier, that’s entirely fair, but he is hand fighting all the way like a vet and leaves almost no space for the ball to arrive complete.
The throw Tre Flowers got beat on early for 27 yards. Not much to get worked up about unless you're a Raiders fan and like pretty catches in traffic pic.twitter.com/4RuiFIyIUi— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 15, 2021
Essentially Flowers forces Nathan Peterman to make a perfect throw here, and I’m comfortable with that process, if not the result, clearly.
Being more aggressive later in the drive, on second down at the goal line, would have helped Flowers’ case. Alas:
I thought he was acceptable. No big plays, no big mistakes. This was probably his worst play, very tentative at the top of the screen in run support, where every yard counts so much: pic.twitter.com/DpUUAxUfyv— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 15, 2021
Without seeing Reed in action, there’s nothing big Flowers did to separate himself negatively or positively from his nearest competitor/teammate. Week 2 will illuminate.
Jordan Miller had a tough game overall, with a key missed tackle and nothing special in coverage, but looks like he knows what he’s doing on this run play. And we know how Pete Carroll LOOOOOVES his corners to provide quality run support.
Jordan Miller (47), in run support from the LCB position, diagnosing the play at the line and joining the fray. Another thing coaches will like pic.twitter.com/rzZJoT2lvD— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 15, 2021
So that’s something. I don’t think Miller makes the team at this point, but I do think little things like the above keep coaches intrigued enough to give him snaps. And maybe he sticks on the practice squad!
I promoted Heslop to third on the RCB chart because of two gorgeous plays and generally solid contributions. This is an NFL deflection by a player that belongs on a roster somewhere. Watch Heslop go around the body and extend.
Saw him make a tackle for loss, too. Watch this guy, because although his name is unfamiliar, he belongs on a roster somewhere. (Hopefully here.)
In fact, upon a second rewatch of the game, I’m going to deposit the hottest preseason take I can manage: if Reed doesn’t return to form, Heslop will beat out Flowers for the starting job at some point in 2021. Take it or leave it.
Ah. Long sigh. I’m just as excited as you are on the other side of this screen to get football back, even practice pretend imitation football. Week 2 will feel more real, especially because that’s when the rookies and new acquisitions start to run out of time to impress.