Saturday, September 3, 2011

Forecasting the Seahawks 53

My foolish stab at a 53-man roster that will no doubt be written in pencil anyway, considering Carroll's proclivity toward roster-tinkering.

Quarterback (3)

Locks: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis

Pete Carroll is adamant that Tarvaris Jackson is the starter, and I agree. This isn't Carroll going back on his "competition" philosophy, it's Carroll adjusting to the reality of the NFL. I always thought Carroll was naive to think that he could spend precious practice reps just to decide on a QB, rather than giving a QB the extra work, support, and emphasis he needs. A good front office will eventually just need to make a good guess as to who is deserving. I'm glad to see Pete can be flexible. Besides, naming T-Jack the starter doesn't really kill competition at all; Whitehurst will always be breathing down Jackson's neck.

Josh Portis has shown enough promise to where he might not stick on the practice squad.

Running Back (4)

Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett, Michael Robinson
Waived: Thomas Clayton
Practice Squad: Tai Vaua
Cut: Dorson Boyce

This will be one of the tougher spots for front office and fans alike to swallow. Thomas Clayton and Tai Vaua were flashy in the preseason, but were most likely just cannon fodder to spare Seattle's prize backs from injury. I'm not clear on whether Clayton is eligible for the practice squad, but even if he is, some other team will try to snatch him.

Lynch remains the workhorse back, Washington will increase his value with more snaps this year, and Forsett's performance last night (similar to Clayton's, but against better competition) reminded us what we love about the guy. Robinson is an improving blocker (had a nice goal-line block for Clayton last night) and special-teams ace.

Wide Receiver (5)

Locks: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Kris Durham
PUP: Deon Butler
Waived: Doug Baldwin
Practice Squad: Ricardo Lockette, Pat Williams
Cut: Chris Carter, Owen Spencer, Isaiah Stanback

Golden Tate waited until the day before final cuts to show signs of pro competence. That's a heck of a timing, but Seattle entrained its game plan around him and he rose to the challenge. So did Kris Durham, who used his height and aggressiveness to good effect last night. We can only hope that Rice, Williams, and Obomanu return from their nagging injuries soon.

Doug Baldwin may well find a solid NFL career with some team, but that team doesn't need to be the Seahawks. This unit already features a great mix of talent, accomplishment, and potential, and there are greater needs elsewhere. Baldwin honestly hasn't shown all that much against first-stringers, and his special-teams prowess is also replaceable. In my first of two against-the-grain-just-because-I-can predictions, Seattle will probably try to stash Baldwin on the practice squad and lose him to another, needier team.

Tight End (3)

Locks: Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy, Dominique Byrd
PUP: Cameron Morrah
IR: John Carlson (doesn't count vs 53)

Carlson's labrum tear makes this position much clearer (unfortunately). With Miller the entrenched starter, McCoy has emerged this preseason as a reliable receiving option and should get plenty of looks in the offense's 2-TE packages. Keep in mind that his talent level was seen by some as borderline first-round before he plunged in the 2010 draft because of character issues. Byrd provides a solid deep option, having apparently been shaken out of a self-admitted laziness by Carroll in a story similar to Mike Williams'.

Offensive Line (10)

Locks: Russell Okung, Robert Gallery, Max Unger, John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Tyler Polumbus, Paul McQuistan, Mike Gibson, Paul Fanaika, Breno Giacomini
Cut: Lemuel Jeanpierre, Will Robinson

No way this O-line goes without a backup for each and every position. Not in this town. You know what the injury bug is like here. Gallery's unwelcome knee sprain against Oakland only makes this likelier.

Carpenter looked better last night against a relatively quiet Oakland pass defense. OL coach Tom Cable kept him in for almost the whole game, which could both bolster his confidence and test his conditioning. His backup, Breno Giacomini, was awful in Green Bay. He showed some of that Tom Cable nasty in one particularly vicious block, but that same vitroil could well have gotten him a penalty. He needs to be careful.

I was hoping that Andre Gurode would come in and supplant Max Unger, but no such luck apparently. I just don't think Unger has the strength to play offensive line in the NFL.

Moffitt is quietly improving, Okung will be a breath of fresh air if he ever stays healthy, and the other backups have shown enough to keep the starters on their toes. Give them time to develop.

Defensive Line (10)

Locks: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, Red Bryant, Raheem Brock, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, Pep Levingston, Jimmy Wilkerson
Bubble: Pierre Allen, Clinton McDonald 
PUP: Colin Cole
Practice Squad: Maurice Fountain
Cut: Jameson Konz, A.J. Schable, David Howard

Seattle's defensive line seems to be pretty set with their roles, and DC Gus Bradley likes to rotate, so expect a nice deep corps here.

Levingston has had a good preseason and could rush the passer from the inside. Pierre Allen and Clinton McDonald (recently acquired from the Bengals in exchange for CB Kelly Jennings) could be fighting for the final spot on the roster. Either one could play inside, but that seems to be McDonald's forte, so I'd lean towards him if he'd had more time to play and hadn't been so invisible against Oakland. It's hard to say as it is. Both of them, or one of them and Davis, could find a spot if Jimmy Wilkerson's knee sprain turns out to be severe.

Linebackers (6)

Locks: Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith
Bubble: Matt McCoy, David Vobora
Practice Squad: Mike Morgan
Cut: Michael Johnson

Seattle carried six linebackers last year, so it's not unreasonable to expect that in 2011. Curry quietly had a solid game against the Raiders, Hill is going to be a welcome presence in pursuit and awareness, and Wright and Smith had impressive preseasons, Wright as a starter twice.

The final spot, backup MLB, comes down to two decent special-teams guys, McCoy and Vobora. Toss-up  to me. Although I will say that Vobora's body of work in St. Louis stands out more.

Cornerback (5)

Locks: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell
Cut: Kennard Cox
PUP: Roy Lewis

Sherman and Maxwell made their cases late in the preseason. Both are looking like great role-players, with Maxwell contributing on special teams. The team has gone to great lengths to preserve a starting spot for Thurmond, but although his PI penalty against Oakland was smart given the circumstances (didn't buy the play fake, took a penalty rather than give up the long TD), he has looked mostly lost on the field. With Lewis on his way back and Browner/Sherman hanging around, Thurmond needs to develop.

Safety (4)

Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Atari Bigby, Jeron Johnson
Practice Squad: Mark Legree, Josh Pinkard

My second off-the-wall prediction: Johnson hasn't played too much against starting defenses, but his instincts and tackling secure him ahead of Legree and Pinkard, who haven't gotten enough done in August. Bigby has looked kinda sluggish for a veteran, and if not for Carroll announcing him as a starter, I'd dismiss him. But he'll probably make it.

Specialists (3)

Locks: Jeff Reed, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham

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