Sports Out West

Why the NFL preseason matters to the Seattle Seahawks

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After a sluggish opening contest, the intensity is about to hit another level for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL preseason.

As with other teams around the NFL, the Seahawks will use the preseason largely to determine their final 53-man roster. While Seattle won’t need to determine a starter at a key position like quarterback or running back, the preseason still carries plenty of importance for the team.

The Seahawks have been praised over the past few years for accumulating great depth, meaning the battle for those final roster spots are particularly fierce. Many of those left off the team become successful elsewhere, as 23 players who were cut by the Seahawks landed on other team’s active rosters in 2013 alone.

This year, Seattle is noticeably less deep, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Still, the final three preseason games will carry plenty of importance for multiple roster battles.

The preseason will be particularly important for a few of the “redshirt” players in their second seasons. Several members of the Seahawks’ 2013 draft class played sparingly or not at all last season, but are expected to contribute this season.

Those sophomores aren’t guaranteed a roster spot, so the preseason will be critical for them, as well as the team as a hole. Greg Scruggs, Tharold Simon and Benson Mayowa all have potential to be great depth pieces, but must make the team first.

In addition, the preseason will be critical for the Seahawks to find those hidden gems from the undrafted free agent class. Under John Schneider, the Seahawks have found a number of undrafted free agents like Doug Baldwin that have not only made the team, but contributed in a big way.

Linebacker Brock Coyle, an undrafted free agent from Montana, stood out during Seattle’s first preseason game and dramatically increased his chances of making the team.  Former Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat also could wind up an undrafted steal, but didn’t fare as well last Thursday.

The Seahawks depth wasn’t particularly impressive in their opening loss to the Denver Broncos. However, it’s hard to gauge individual performances in the first preseason game, as many teams don’t even fully game plan and treat it more as a basic scrimmage.

Friday’s game against the San Diego Chargers will take on greater importance for those on the second and third string. Rosters will be trimmed down to 75 on Tuesday, so the second preseason game will be critical for some backups to establish their place on the depth chart.

As far as the actual starters go, preseason won’t determine much. Most starters have already been firmly decided and even a standout performance from a backup would be unlikely to shake up the first string much.

The exception is at right tackle, as Pete Carroll has not named a starter as of yet. Even there, rookie Justin Britt appears to have the upper hand, but he needs to improve in pass protection.

Seattle will name official starters on the defensive line, but the Seahawks use a big rotation of players that keeps even the top-line players on during only 50 to 60 percent of snaps. Players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill will use the preseason to prove that they are worthy of entering the rotation.

Jeffcoat, Mayowa and O’Brien Schofield are battling for significant snaps in the LEO rotation behind Cliff Avril. Two of them are likely to make the 53-man roster, with Schofield currently leading the way.

The battle for the backup quarterback position between Tavaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor will also be decided in the preseason. It’s too close to call for now, but Pryor played well against Denver and could possibly contribute to the offense in other ways should he make the roster.

While the Seahawks won’t be deciding too many starters during the preseason, it still carries plenty of importance for the team. Every player on the 53-man counts and Seattle’s depth was a critical factor in its Super Bowl run a year ago.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images 

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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.
  • Trakar

    Most teams (including the Seahawks) do not do any scouting of opponents or game planning in the preseason. Nor do they use anything out of their playbooks other than the base set of plays, the preseason is about evaluating the talent on your team not about executing battle plans to win a particular engagement. Some teams need wins in the preseason to prove something to themselves. Seattle did not even bring 10 of their starters to Denver and another 8 of their starters were in street clothes on the sidelines. Its always great to see football being played again but it is silly to think of preseason exhibition games as anything other than extended, live action, hitting tryouts for the hopefuls trying to earn a spot on the teams whose uniforms they don.