Former University of Washington wideouts Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams will tell you they're approaching Thursday night's preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders the exact same way they've approached the Seahawks' previous three exhibition games of 2015. But deep down, the pair of former Huskies also know they'll likely be battling for a roster spot at the end of the day.
"They're really competing against themselves," said Seattle coach Pete Carroll, dismissing the notion that Smith and Williams are competing against one another. "They'll take it as far as they can and see how it fits in together, we'll look at it that way."
The two players survived this past week's roster reduction to 75 players, when the Seahawks waived wide receivers Deshon Foxx and Deontay Greenberry, traded Kevin Norwood, and placed Paul Richardson on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, putting Richardson out of action for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. The moves lowered the number of wideouts on Seattle's roster from 11 to eight, a total that includes last year's starters Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, rookie return specialist Tyler Lockett, Super Bowl XLIX standout Chris Matthews, Ricardo Lockette, quarterback-convert B.J. Daniels, Smith, and Williams.
By 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, Sept. 5, two days after the fourth preseason game, Seattle will be forced to cut 22 more players to get its roster to the 53-man limit. The Seahawks opened 2014 with seven wide receivers on their active roster, but carried six for most of the year and will likely hold a number close to that again to start 2015.
"I think everything I've done is going to count, but I also know that in order for me to make this team I can't let my foot off the gas," said the 6-foot-1, 219-pound Sammamish, Washington native Williams, whose 22-yard catch of a R.J. Archer pass this past Saturday helped set up Steven Hauschka's 60-yard game-winning field goal against the San Diego Chargers. "I have to just continue to produce. Every day there's more opportunities, so I have to take advantage of every single one, and it looks better when it's in the game.
"So it's just another game to me. I don't see it as one more chance. I just see it as it's another game. I'm just glad I'm playing football right now."
Smith, who measures 6-foot and 218 pounds, made two catches for a team-high 36 yards in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos. He also found success in the return game against the Chargers last week, when he brought back a kickoff 54 yards in the third quarter.
"I'm going to approach it the same way I approached games one, two, and three," said Smith. "Got to approach it the same way to get the same results I feel like so I'm comfortable in that zone."
For the Seahawks coaching staff, though, a lot of stock is placed on how the players produce on gameday. That's what first-year receivers coach Dave Canales said this week when assessing the play of the young players in his position group.
"The game's are so important to us because regardless of what point of the game they're in, whether it's second quarter, fourth quarter, and regardless of who they're playing against, all these guys are in NFL camps for a reason - because they have ability," Canales said. "So whenever a guy makes a play, right off the bat just thinking about Kevin, Kasen making another catch and breaking tackles, B.J. making plays consistently. All these guys have taken advantage of these opportunities to go and attack the ball and just be football players, so this is huge and I weigh really heavily the games because sometimes in practice you can't get enough balls to everybody all the time."
Working in the Seahawks' run-first offense, Smith and Williams know their opportunities on the receiving end may be limited. That's why making the most of every ball that comes their way will be key in determining whether or not the pair makes the final roster.
"I know I'm not going to get a lot of chances," said Williams. "Obviously, it's not a secret - the Seahawks are a running football team. For me, I just want to take advantage of every one, even if it's only two or three passes that come my way, I need to catch all three of them and I need to make somebody miss, or I need to score a touchdown, or I need to do something that's going to get noticed."
Added Smith: "Just try to get the trust out of these guys, and most importantly, try to have fun."