Sports Out West

Seattle Seahawks: Key roster battles to watch

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The Seattle Seahawks have a few months before they must decide on a final 53-man roster. With OTAs starting Tuesday, some intriguing roster battles are already beginning to take shape.

With a deep roster, the Seahawks will have to leave some talented players off the roster, particularly on the defensive side. But Seattle uses a heavy rotation, meaning even the last few players to make the team will take a meaningful number of snaps over the course of the season.

There’s a long way to go before the preseason starts and unforeseen circumstances such as injuries could change the dynamic of the roster before the beginning of the year. The Seahawks have already had to release sixth-round pick Garrett Scott after team physicians found a previously undiscovered heart condition, opening up another roster slot.

Barring any further setbacks, several spots will likely come down to direct battles between two or three players.

Safety: DeShawn Shead vs. Dion Bailey

The Seahawks will likely carry four safeties with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas being obvious locks. Jeron Johnson is also in good shape to make the roster, meaning the last safety spot will come down to a battle between Bailey and Shead.

Bailey was brought in as an undrafted free agent this year after an outstanding career playing both safety and linebacker at USC. He has the skills to be a box hybrid-type of player and also had a knack for making impact plays in college, finishing with five interceptions last year.

Shead signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and has mostly been a special teams contributor since.  However, Shead has a significant size and speed advantage over Bailey and fits in with what Seattle typically looks for in safeties.

Sixth-round pick Eric Pinkins played safety in college and could also be in the mix should the Seahawks abandon their plans of converting him into a cornerback.

Fullback: Kiero Small vs. Derrick Coleman vs. Spencer Ware

Two out of these three fullbacks will likely make the roster and any one of them has the potential to win the starting role following the departure of Michael Robinson.

Small might be the most interesting of the three. The seventh round pick is built like a bowling ball at 5-foot-8 and 244 pounds, loves to block and will be a major factor on special teams. The Seahawks may be looking at Small as their version of Mike Tolbert.

Coleman received some playing time last season and looked capable in the role. Ware was a sixth round pick in 2013 after a nice career at LSU, but remains an unknown at the NFL level after only appearing in two games last season.     

LEO: Jackson Jeffcoat vs. Benson Mayowa vs. O’Brien Schofield

The Seahawks lost some depth on the defensive line during the offseason and need someone to step up into the LEO role. One or two of these players will join Seattle’s deep defensive line rotation, depending on where the team decides to line up Cliff Avril.

Mayowa looks like the favorite heading into camp, as he has bulked up to 267 pounds, giving him an impressive combination of athleticism and speed. Jeffcoat was snubbed in the draft due to injuries and an in-between size, but is the type of talent the Seahawks might be reluctant to let go. At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, the LEO role would be perfect to maximize Jeffcoat’s ability.

While Schofield has edge rushing potential himself, he will have to handily outplay the other two, as he is 27-years-old and a free agent in 2015.

Defensive Tackle : Greg Scruggs vs. Jesse Williams

This might be the toughest battle to project on the team. Both Scruggs and Williams missed all of 2013 due to injury, but they have tremendous physical skills. Either one could be a major contributor in 2014.

Scruggs is the more versatile of the two and has bulked up from 284 to 310 pounds, meaning he could line up in a couple of different spots in the interior. But the 325 pound Williams showed his ability to physically overwhelm opponents at Alabama and could be the ideal replacement for Red Bryant.  

Offensive Line: Caylin Hauptmann vs. Garry Gilliam

With Scott’s condition, another spot at the thin tackle position has opened up. Hauptmann is the more experienced lineman after spending most of last season on Seattle’s practice squad.

But Gilliam, who converted to tackle after spending most of his time at Penn State as a tight end, has plenty of upside. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and 306 pounds in combination with the footwork and mobility of a tight end, making Gilliam an interesting prospect moving forward

Wide Receiver: Sidney Rice vs. Ricardo Lockette vs. Chris Matthews    

Five wide receivers are virtual locks, leaving the sixth and final spot up for grabs between several players. On paper, Rice appears to be the runaway favorite to win out, but he may receive a tougher challenge than most believe.

Matthews won the CFL Most Outstanding Rookie Award in 2012 after piling up nearly 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, he could push Rice and become a big, physical downfield target for Russell Wilson.

Lockette has been a special teams monster for the Seahawks but will need to show more on the offensive side to make the roster. 

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.