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Seahawks Mailbag: Breakout Candidates, UDFA Roster Hopefuls & More

You had Seahawks question; we have answers.


The Seahawks improved to 2-0 in preseason play with Saturday night's win over the Cowboys, and on Tuesday they'll be back on the field for practice as they prepare for their preseason finale in Green Bay. But before the practice week kicks off, it's time once again to open up the mailbag and answer some questions from you, the fans. A big thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to your question this time around. And remember, there are two ways to submit mailbag questions: hit me up on Twitter/X, or head to and submit a question there.

@TheSeahawksAri asks, "Does anyone on the pass rush looked primed for a breakout?"

A: The player that keeps showing up in preseason games, and who has been mentioned by Pete Carroll repeatedly as one of the team's most improved players from last year, is second-year outside linebacker Boye Mafe.

Mafe saw significant playing time as a rookie, but he seems poised to take on an even bigger role this year, whether as a starter or as someone in that outside linebacker rotation who sees significant playing time—Carroll has made it clear he wants a deep rotation at that spot, so there probably won't be a big difference in playing time between the starting two outside linebackers and the next couple of players in that rotation.

Rookie Derick Hall has had a promising training camp and had a sack on Saturday night, and Tyreke Smith, who missed his rookie season due to injury, had a great game on Saturday, and both figure to be factors in that rotation. But if we're talking about a player who might not be a household name now, but could be in for a big season, I would point to Mafe based on what we've seen so far in camp.

@saket1229 asks, "Update on Devon Witherspoon, and will he play opposite Riq Woolen at left corner?"

A: When Pete Carroll was asked about Witherspoon on Saturday, he said the plan is for the rookie corner to run more this week and potentially go through walkthroughs, but that they are currently looking ahead to the opener as the goal for getting him all the way back, so he won't be rushed into action anytime soon.

As for where he plays, he very well may end up starting at left cornerback at some point—Carroll alluded to that when asked about the competition between Tre Brown and Michael Jackson at that spot, saying they will also need to see Witherspoon there to fully evaluate the competition there. But because Witherspoon was playing a lot of nickel cornerback prior to the injury, as because he has missed the time he has, it seems more likely with each passing week that, even if he is fully healthy for the opener, either Brown or Jackson will open the season on the left side, with Witherspoon still potentially having a big role on the defense in the nickel spot. Of course plenty can change between now and September 10, and if Witherspoon gets back on the practice field soon and looks great, he could still make a push for that job.

The good news for Seattle is that they love their depth at cornerback so no matter what transpires over the next few weeks, they'll feel good about their options for the opener and beyond. And with the Seahawks, like every NFL team, expected to play plenty of nickel and even dime defense on a game-to-game basis, Witherspoon can still be a big part of the defense even if he isn't technically a starter from the jump.

Marian Smith from Everett asks, "Will Kenny McIntosh play in the next preseason game in Green Bay?"

A: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last week that McIntosh, who has been sidelined with a sprained knee suffered in the team's mock game earlier this month, is close to returning to practice. But even if McIntosh is able to practice this week, it might be a tough ask for him to go from missing two full weeks of practice to being ready for game action after three days of practice. Is it possible McIntosh returns to practice, has a great week, and gets some playing time on Saturday? Sure it is, but my guess would be that the Seahawks are more concerned with getting him ready for the regular season than rushing him back for a preseason contest.

Noting the success Jake Bobo is having this preseason, Michal McBride from Dayton, Nevada asks, "Wasn't Doug Baldwin also a UDFA? If Jake does make the team, what does that say about the Seahawks scouting team finding these UDFAs and later rounders like Richard Sherman and others? It seems like John Schneider and Pete Carroll get a lot of credit for signing these guys, but the real work is the scouts, right?"

A: Schneider and Carroll deserve plenty of credit for Seattle's ability to find and develop undrafted free agents and late-round picks who have gone on to help the Seahawks win games, but they also would be the first to point out that, as this question notes, the scouting department does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to unearthing these diamonds in the rough. There's a reason that nearly every time John Schneider holds a press conference—before the draft, at the scouting combine, etc.—he starts off by listing the names of people in his scouting department, giving credit to everyone from assistant general manager Nolan Teasley to VP of player personnel Trent Kirchner to senior director of player personnel Matt Berry to director of college scouting Aaron Hineline to director of pro personnel Willie Schneider, to all the other area scouts and everyone else in that department who put in the long hours to help the Seahawks build a consistent, championship caliber team.

@WeaponNext asks, "Heading into the final preseason game, how realistic is it that a job can be 'won' with a good performance? The coaches have already spent hundreds of hours with players in practice, meetings, etc. Fans can only judge from games without knowledge of those other factors.

A: Well you kind of answered your own question there, but this is a good point that can sometimes get overlooked this time of year. While preseason games are definitely important when it comes to making roster decisions, they are hardly the only factor in evaluating players. A player who has had a great camp and done well in the first two games isn't likely to lose his spot on the 53-man roster if he were to have a subpar outing on Saturday, and conversely, a player who hasn't done is well likely can't play his way on to the roster with one big performance in the preseason finale.

That being said, there are always some roster battles that go down to the wire, and if two players are neck and neck for a job, then yes, a final preseason game could break a tie. That's particularly true when it comes to special teams play, which can't be fully replicated in practice, making preseason games even more important in that phase of the game. 

And speaking of roster battles…

@MyBrokenButt16 asks, Does Jake Bobo take a roster spot from Dareke Young?" While @WasEinHamburg asks "Where stands Jake Bobo, is he already WR4?"

A: First off, sorry about your injury, Mr. 16. Secondly, I don't see Bobo or any other roster hopeful at receiver taking a roster spot from Young. That's not to say Bobo can't make the team, but Young showed a lot of promise as a rookie last season, and he was also one of Seattle's top special teams players. And it's important to remember that when we're talking about players trying to make the team, special teams is a huge factor once you get past the starters. DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxson Smith-Njigba all figure to be on the field a ton on offense, so they don't need to contribute on special teams to justify their roster spots. Fourth, fifth or even sixth receivers generally don't play a lot on offense unless something has gone wrong, so to merit a spot on the roster, or even more importantly, on the active gameday roster, those players need to be able to make contributions on special teams, and Young showed he can do that last season in a big way.

@NwosuSzn asks, "What are the odds we keep both Levi Bell and Tyreke Smith?"

A: I can't give you specific odds, but it could be tough to find room for both of those players, assuming you're already keeping Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe and Derick Hall at outside linebacker. That's six outside linebackers if you keep Bell and Smith, and while that's possible, it would require going a little lighter than you might like at another position. That being said, if both players are able to take on big roles on special teams, there's a good argument to make for keeping an extra outside linebacker rather than, say, a sixth receiver or extra player at some other spot.

While we're on the topic of Bell, Bobo and other undrafted free agents, however, I would like to remind folks that. A. Not every star of the preseason can make the 53-man roster, and B. Even if your favorite preseason darling is cut next week, it's probably not as likely as you think that he'll instantly be snatched up by another team. It's very common to see people saying this time of year, "You can't let (insert player here) go, there's no way he'll clear waivers!" Yet the vast majority of the time, he will. Every team in the NFL will be waiving dozens of players at once next week to get down to 53-man rosters, including a lot of players those teams, and yes, their fans, really liked. To claim someone the Seahawks or any other team waive, they'll have to further trim their roster the next day to make room. And as good as an UDFA might look in the preseason, you have to remember that every team in the league passed on those players just a few months ago after years of evaluating this year's draft class. Can opinions on all of that scouting work change over the course of a few preseason games? Sure. But often times it doesn't.

Just remember, even when the Seahawks were at their absolute best in 2013, building one of the deepest rosters the league has seen this century, they had only four players claimed off waivers the day after roster cuts were made: Ron Parker, Winston Guy, Jaye Howard and Sean McGrath.

So keep that in mind if you're fretting after a player you really liked in the preseason gets waived next week. There is a very good chance he will be back on the practice squad a day later.

Steve Grappo from Seattle asks, "Does Dee Eskridge's suspension mean that he will still show up on the 53-man roster to start the season?"

A: No, Eskridge will not be on the 53-man roster when the regular season begins. There is a separate roster designation for suspended players, so while he is serving his six-game suspension, he will not take up a roster spot. For now, Eskridge is eligible to practice and play in the preseason—though a knee injury currently is keeping him out—so he is on the 90-man roster, but when the roster is reduced to 53 players next week, he will not count towards that.

Ultimately, Schneider and Carroll are making the final decisions that shape the team, so they rightly get a lot of credit when things go well, and shoulder the blame in tougher times, but there are indeed a lot of people behind the scenes who have helped unearth a lot of talent over the years.

Check out the best sights from the sidelines following a 22-14 preseason week 2 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Lumen Field on August 19, 2023. Easy To Celebrate photos are presented by Bud Light.

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