The story we posted on Wednesday about a pair of former University of Washington wide receivers looking to make the most of their opportunities in the Seahawks' preseason finale essentially came to life on Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders.
Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith, who each entered the NFL as undrafted rookie free agents - Williams this year and Smith in 2014, made Saturday's 1 p.m. PT roster reduction from 75 to 53 players all the more difficult for the Seahawks coaching staff with their most-recent performances at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
Williams finished the night with two grabs for 25 yards and one acrobatic touchdown. With Seattle facing 3rd-and-goal from the 15-yard-line in the third quarter, Williams made a diving snag of a B.J. Daniels throw to the corner of the end zone, an effort that put the Seahawks up 24-14 after a Steven Hauschka extra point.
"He continues to make big catches," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Williams after the game, a 31-21 Seahawks win. "We've seen it in practice as well. There's no doubt that he can make plays."
The 6-foot-1, 219-pound Williams, one of the nation's top recruits out of Sammamish, Washington's Skyline High School, led the Huskies in receiving during his sophomore year but suffered severe foot and leg injuries as a junior and never fully recovered through his senior year.
"To me it's really exciting because this is a kid when he was 16 or 17, you saw stuff happen, and it didn't quite come together like he had hoped in his college career, because he got banged up," Carroll said. "I think that's the only reason. After a serious injury, he's come back and he's done a nice job."
The Seahawks currently have eight wideouts on their 75-man roster - Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews, B.J. Daniels, Williams, and Smith. The team opened the year with seven players at the position a season ago, but carried six on its 53-man roster for most of the season.
With the 2015 preseason in the books, Williams feels as though he put his best self on film this past month to push for a spot on the final roster.
"I think I put my best foot forward," Williams said. "My initial goal was to show people that I was 100 percent healthy again and I did that. My next goal was to show people that I'm better than I was before I even got hurt, and I feel like I accomplished that as well with my practice, play, and the opportunity I got in the game I took advantage of it, special teams, all that.
"I tried really hard this camp and I hope it paid off."
When it comes to this weekend's roster cutdown, first-year receivers coach Dave Canales has said the Seahawks staff puts a lot of emphasis on how players perform in the games. That means plenty of consideration will be given to Smith, who recorded a team-high four receptions against the Raiders for 25 yards, including an impressive grab of a hotly-thrown Daniels ball that Smith snatched high out of the air and started to run with in one fluid motion.
"I think it was a better opportunity this time coming around," said Smith, who spent part of the 2014 preseason in Seattle but was without an NFL job through the regular season until the Seahawks came calling again after Super Bowl XLIX. "Last year I jumped to three teams within a month and a half, so I was here in August this year from the get-go. So I feel like it was just a better opportunity for me this year starting from the bottom here instead of just jumping from team to team trying to catch up to them."
Smith, who also averaged 16.7 yards on a trio of punt returns against Oakland, sees Williams as a close friend rather than competition. It's an attitude the two players share even though they know there's a chance they might not be on the same team after this weekend.
"We don't worry about who we're in competition with," said Smith. "We just want to go out and play our game, focus on what we can control, control what we can control, really. So I feel like we did a good job out there, having fun, and making plays when they came to us."
Added Williams: "I just want to perfect my craft. I'm excited to be playing football. I'm excited to be 100 percent healthy again and I just want to perfect my own craft and do what I can do to make this team."
The Seahawks took to CenturyLink Field for their last 2015 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders and finished victoriously.