On Saturday, all NFL teams were required to make enough roster cuts to drop to the league-mandated 53 man rosters. The Seahawks cut 20 players; none of these moves were particularly surprising.
Among the players cut were veterans defensive lineman Colin Cole and offensive lineman Mike Gibson. Cole’s future had been in doubt since the team re-signed Brandon Mebane to an extension with the intention of moving him to nose tackle (where Cole had been playing). Mebane was a standout for the Hawks last year, and the team benefited by slashing Cole’s nearly 4 million dollar contract from their payroll.
The rest of the players cut by the Seahawks were safeties Josh Pinkard and Mark LeGree; running backs Thomas Clayton and Vince Taua; fullback Dorson Boyce; receivers Chris Carter, Ricardo Lockette, Owen Spencer, and Patrick Williams; cornerback Kennard Cox; offensive linemen Paul Fanaika and William Robinson; defensive ends Maurice Fountain, Jameson Konz, and A.J. Schable; tackle David Howard; linebackers Michael Johnson and Mike Morgan. For more information about the Seahawks’ roster moves, take a peek at this article – http://www.metronews.ca/toronto/sports/article/959836–seattle-releases-20-to-reach-roster-limit
The one player I felt especially bad for was running back Thomas Clayton. Clayton had a very good preseason for the club, but never really had a chance of making the team with incumbents Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Justin Forsett all but guaranteed roster spots. However, the team did him a favor by giving him a chance to play on tape against other NFL teams. I have no doubt that other teams’ coaches and scouts took notice of him, and he probably will be given a chance to make an NFL roster somewhere else soon.
Three undrafted rookies survived the cuts after showing good potential in the preseason. Quarterback Josh Portis is a bit of a developmental player, but has the physical skills to play quarterback in the NFL. He will be the team’s 3rd quarterback and won’t (under normal circumstances) get playing time this season. Receiver Doug Baldwin’s explosiveness made him stand out, and his 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown highlighted his speed and open-field ability. The team already has a number of established players at receiver, but clearly Baldwin made enough of an impression on the coaching staff to earn himself a roster spot. The last undrafted rookie to make the team was safety Jeron Johnson from Boise State. Johnson beat out 5th-round draft pick Mark LeGree and other undrafted rookie Josh Pinkard for the last reserve safety spot.
According to this article, the Seahawk roster is over a year younger per player than it has been in any of the past five seasons. The team is clearly looking to the future, and while it managed to win the division last season, it is in the process of being completely rebuilt. Only one projected starter on offense (center Max Unger) played for Seattle before Pete Carroll took over last season.
Here’s a look at the projected starting lineups for the Seahawks this year.
- Tarvaris Jackson – Needs to play consistently for the team to have a chance of winning. If he can keep his poor passing decisions to a minimum and find a way to get first downs, the Seahawks will win games. Some good news is that the Seahawk players elected him one of four team captains.
- Running Backs
- Marshawn Lynch (Tailback) – Besides his legendary run against the Saints, Lynch wasn’t outstanding last season after the Seahawks acquired him. Though the line play in front of him was often shaky, Lynch needs to produce more than he did last season. He needs to play well this season to take pressure off Tarvaris Jackson.
- Michael Robinson (Fullback) – Former Penn State quarterback impressed enough to win the job this preseason.
- Receivers/Tight End
- Sidney Rice (Wide Receiver) – This prized free agent addition is a Pro-Bowl caliber player when healthy. His leaping ability and Velcro-like hands should make him the team’s number 1 option in the red zone.
- Mike Williams (Wide Receiver) – Williams lead the team in catches last season, and provides a reliable set of hands. Though he’s not fast, he’s huge, and uses his body well to shield defenders from the ball.
- Zach Miller (Tight End) – Made the Pro-Bowl last season despite playing on a run-oriented offense. Miller is probably the most talented tight end in team history, though that’s not saying very much. Former Seahawk, Itula Mili is the all-time leader in receiving yards for Seahawk tight ends with just 1,743 yards.
- Offensive Line
- Russell Okung (Left Tackle) – The first draft pick of the Pete Carroll era is probably the team’s best lineman when healthy. Unfortunately, ankle sprains to both of his ankles limited his playing time last year during his rookie campaign in the NFL. He was injured in the preseason, but is expected to start Week 1 against the 49ers.
- Robert Gallery (Left Guard) – Gallery joined the Seahawks along with several other players from the Raiders along with offensive line coach Tom Cable. His experience in the NFL in general and with Cable’s blocking system is thought by the team to be invaluable for helping develop the rest of the offensive line. He may not start for the team on Sunday because of a knee injury. His speedy recovery may be key to the offensive line’s ability to gel and play well as a unit.
- Max Unger (Center) – Former Oregon Duck star is in his third season in the NFL and with the Hawks. He has played and started for the team mostly at right guard, but will start at center this season. Unger and Okung are the only two holdovers from last season’s starting offensive line.
- John Moffitt (Right Guard) – The Seahawks drafted All-American guard Moffitt in the third round this year out of the University of Wisconsin. At 320 pounds, Moffitt was a road grader in college, and the Hawks hope he can drive defenders off the line to create running space for Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the running backs.
- James Carpenter (Right Tackle) – The Seahawks drafted a tackle in the first round of the draft for the second consecutive season when they drafted Carpenter earlier this year. In college at Alabama, he paved the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and backfield partner Trent Richardson, and was part of the Alabama team that were national champions two years ago. He needs improvement in pass protection and there have been some slight concerns about his conditioning, but he should excel at run blocking.
- Defensive Line
- Red Bryant (Defensive End) – The 323 pound defensive end can also play at defensive tackle, and is the line’s premier run defender. He is often immovable for opposing offensive lines. After he was injured last season, the Seahawk run defense suffered mightily. Bryant will often come out for pass-rush specialist Raheem Brock if more pass rushing is required.
- Alan Branch (Defensive Tackle) – A former first-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan, Branch was largely disappointing in his four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He has impressed since signing with the Seahawks this year though, and at six foot six and 325 pounds, has the potential to be an active, disruptive force in the middle of the line.
- Brandon Mebane (Defensive Tackle) – Retaining Mebane’s services was a top priority for the team over the offseason, and he, like Bryant, is a stellar run defender.
- Chris Clemons (Defensive End) – Last year was a breakout year for Clemons after he joined the Seahawks from Philadelphia. He teamed with Raheem Brock to form the third most prolific sack-duo among defensive ends in the league. Clemons is an undersized pass-rusher, so he struggles to anchor against the run, but his speed off the edge of the line gives opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
- Leroy Hill (Outside Linebacker) – Hill is entering his 7th year in the NFL (all with the Hawks) and is the most experienced of the Seahawks’ starting linebackers. A solid run defender, Hill would be capable of starting for most teams in the league.
- David Hawthorne (Middle Linebacker) – Former Pro-Bowler Lofa Tatupu lead the Seahawk defense from this position for the past six seasons, but was released at the end of July. Coach Pete Carroll prefers larger linebackers than Tatupu for his defensive system, and Hawthorne provides him with just that at 246 pounds. Hawthorne has lead the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons.
- Aaron Curry (Outside Linebacker) – An unbelievable college player at Wake Forest, there was even talk of Curry being drafted first overall in the 2009 draft. Curry hasn’t played quite as well as projected, but has the potential to become an elite linebacker.
- Marcus Trufant (Cornerback) – Trufant has been on the Seahawks for all eight of his previous NFL seasons, and provides a steadying influence on an otherwise juvenile secondary.
- Earl Thomas (Free Safety) – Thomas recorded five interceptions (no other Seahawk had more than two) and 76 tackles as a rookie last year. Thomas should develop into the centerpiece of the Seahawk secondary.
- Kam Chancellor (Strong Safety) – Like fellow safety Earl Thomas, Chancellor is in his second season in the NFL. Chancellor is an ideally-sized strong safety at 6-3, 232 pounds, and his ability to cover the pass and not only support against the run will be crucial for the Seahawk defense this year.
- Walter Thurmond (Cornerback) – A second-year player out of the University of Oregon, Thurmond was placed in the starting lineup this season to replace Kelly Jennings.
- Steven Hauschka (Kicker) – Hauschka is the Seahawks’ starting kicker following the release of former Steeler and 49er Jeff Reed on September 4th. I had expected Reed to be the kicker after he hit several 50-yarders this preseason, but apparently the team liked Hauschka better.
- Jon Ryan (Punter) – This will be Ryan’s 6th NFL season and his 4th with the Seahawks. He’s been a reliable player for the Hawks.
- Leon Washington (Kick Returner) – Washington has been one of the game’s best return men, and even ran back two kickoffs for a touchdown in a game last year against the Chargers. The more times he gets his hands on the ball in the open field, the better. Rookie Doug Baldwin might get a few looks here as well.
- Golden Tate (Punt Returner) – Though Washington and a number of other Seahawks may get some punt returns as well, Tate should get some time here. He is a good open-field runner and had two excellent punt returns in the last preseason game against the Raiders.
The Seahawks are a young team that has an uncertain future. On paper, they have the talent to win the division again this year if they stay healthy and if their passing game looks better than it has during the preseason.
I’ll be back in a couple days to give my predictions for the upcoming season and to preview the Seahawks’ first regular-season game against the 49ers.
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.