Hoo boy. Anyone who was looking for definitive answers to come out of preseason Week 2 regarding the state of the Seahawks offense or the cornerback pecking order... I got some non-news for you, right here in this story. At least I brought pretty pictures?
Left Cornerback Competition
Personally, I’m likely coming out of this preseason with zero concerns whatsoever about Ahkello Witherspoon, and all the confidence that he can be a league average cornerback. Which is all the Seahawks need out of their outside corners, considering the heaps of talent they feature on the edge, at linebacker, and at the back end of the defense.
His best play was a physical bit of coverage in the first quarter and then he hung around long enough on the fringes of the game to make a key special teams tackle. His worst play was getting beat once for 35 yards. Which happens to cornerbacks, I’ve heard.
look at Ahkello Witherspoon trying to get on Pete Carroll's good list with an open field special teams tackle pic.twitter.com/VCVpaSCjaw— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 22, 2021
Two positives and one negative is a ledger that shouldn’t be cause for concern, in a preseason game no less. Someone else can spend precious mental energy worrying about Witherspoon.
Tre Brown replaced Witherspoon on the second defensive series. My theory on that: the coaching staff has a good idea of the veteran’s level of play, being extra familiar with him from his 49ers days, and not much of a handle on the rookie’s game. How could they?
I had mild concerns about Brown getting pushed around last week, since he checks in at 5-10 and 185 pounds — and then his outing against the Broncos did nothing to quell those misgivings. (Remember, they’re mild. And all cornerbacks not named Brandon Browner get pushed around at times.)
Couple clips for you, with commentary. Brown’s at the top of the screen, number 22 in case you haven’t yet grown accustomed to seeing him out there.
It's not that I have serious size concerns about Tre Brown at outside corner, but it's not like I don't have them at all, either pic.twitter.com/xVu7tYDP2r— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 22, 2021
As the third quarter begins, here he is again looking like the littlest and newest guy on the field. In between the two clips below, Tre Flowers comes up with a strong tackle where he enters the fray fearlessly, like a vet who isn’t in his first preseason ever. Then, one snap later, Brown is erased again.
Three snaps later, he's erased in run support. These are not big problems, it happens to smaller CBs all the time, but they do illustrate what one of Brown's biggest challenges is gonna be this year: fighting out of blocks pic.twitter.com/6NYVUhzgi4— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 22, 2021
Remember Richard Sherman? Long arms, big mouth, identifier of bros who might be mad, generous tipper? He was so dominant — in run support. He would get mad props from announcers for that part of his game, but for whatever reason I felt it was an overlooked part of his arsenal. Anyway, Pete Carroll loves a physical DB who can lurk on the edge and use his size to clean up any running back who has the temerity to turn the corner. Flowers and Gavin Heslop (who plays bigger than his 6-0, 197-pound frame) are capable of being That Guy. Brown isn’t, not yet. He could be. No reason to write him off or question his desire! But he’s starting from a disadvantage.
Updated depth chart: Witherspoon / Brown / Randall / everyone else
Right Cornerback Competition
So who’ll start alongside Witherspoon, if by alongside we mean “on the completely other side of the field”? There had been chatter this week of the perceived ascendancy of Brown, and there’s always chatter of the perceived inadequacy of Flowers, whether or not the latter has a decent game. Every Seahawks team needs a lightning rod, and without Jimmy Graham, Germain Ifedi, Jermaine Kearse, Brian Russell or gosh, Jerramy Stevens to pick up the slack, the mantle has fallen to Flowers, a very nice backup corner who, when pressed into starting duty, can be counted on for 45 perfectly good snaps a game and 15 others where you kinda wonder what he’s up to.
Flowers didn’t do anything to hurt his case against Denver. No penalties, no obvious missed assignments, and he was out there well into the second half. CB1 on the right side is his job to lose and he hasn’t lost it yet. Week 3 is his last chance to give it away. Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock are a substantial step up from Nathan Peterman, so, good? Sure. Good. Maybe not good good, but good enough good. (That’s the level of analysis you get for free.)
Last week’s darling of this space and others, Gavin Heslop, didn’t see his playing time increase, nor did he turn in a couple plays in the opposing backfield like he did in Week 1. He did continue to impress with his physicality. Week 3 is something of a make-or-break for him, and I think he’ll make.
D.J. Reed didn’t play. So the RCB race is coming down to the wire in Week 3 and subsequent practices. I don’t think Pete Carroll will know, or publicly name, his starter until the Wednesday before the season opener.
Updated depth chart: Flowers / Reed / Heslop / everyone else
Nickel cornerback competition
Ugo Amadi got his regular nickel snaps and looks to have solidly retained the job. Not seeing Marquise Blair out there again means there’s a pretty open competition for the backup nickel job. But it’s very hard to imagine Blair not making the final 53-man.
Updated depth chart: Amadi / Blair (?) / everyone else
Week 3 storylines, in the form of questions
Does the early Witherspoon exit in Week 2 mean Brown starts against the Chargers? Or was it just that coaches had seen enough Ahkello to confirm their priors? (yes to the latter)
How serious is the Ryan Neal injury, and how will that affect the defensive backs who make the final 53? (who the hell knows with injuries)
Do we see Reed next week for the first time this preseason? (probably)
Will Heslop make the team? (yes)
Bonus: Will Ben Burr-Kirven’s injury cause the Seahawks to take another look at bringing back K.J. Wright? (shake that magic 8-ball until the answer you want appears)