Seahawks Pete Carroll has made no secret of the fact that he is a huge fan of one change the NFL made for the 2017 season. Unlike in past years when teams were required to trim their rosters from 90 to 75 players ahead of the fourth preseason game, teams this year can maintain a 90-man roster through Thursday's preseason finales, then cut down to 53 players on Saturday.
"This is so good," Carroll said of that change. "This is the way it should have been done a long time, and I'll criticize openly on that one."
One reason Carroll and plenty of other coaches and executives like the change is that a 90-man roster means more veterans can be rested for most, or in some cases, all of the final preseason game, keeping them healthy for the regular-season opener. But the other side of that equation is that 15 more roster hopefuls per team get one more chance to show what they can do; one last audition, if you will, be it for their own team or for another one that might put in a waiver claim on Sunday. A 90-man roster through the fourth preseason game should be a positive for teams and players every year, but that's especially true for the Seahawks this year as they try to sort out what they feel is one of the deepest rosters they've had under Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
"This is a really exciting game," Carroll said of Thursday's game in Oakland. "I can't wait to get out there and see these guys go and see what they show us and all that. The decisions are really difficult, and I anticipate that. This has been one of the deepest groups we've had. There's a lot of good football players here, so we'll just try to figure it out and do the best we can and do that."
Saying this is "one of the deepest groups we've had" is not a statement Carroll makes lightly. The Seahawks have been very good in recent years, making the playoffs while winning 10 or more games for five straight seasons and reaching the Super Bowl twice, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. But based on what the Seahawks have shown in training camp and in their three preseason games, it's hard to argue that this version of the team is exceptionally deep, even compared to recent playoff teams.
"John and I have been looking at it for a long time as we're coming into camp thinking we have a chance to have one of the best (rosters) we've had, indicated by the competition of the spots," Carroll said earlier this month. "You can see it. There's a number of guys that have playability that we're going to have to sort out. There's competitive opportunities for guys to make space for themselves too, and all that adds to making us better and so we're really fired up about that."
The results of preseason games don't matter when it comes to the standings at the end of the year. Good teams have had poor results in the preseason, and bad teams have done well in the preseason, but these games can give a pretty good indication of a team's depth. Take, for example the 2013 Seahawks who won the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. That team was not just talented in terms of star power; it was also incredibly deep. So deep, in fact, that 23 players who were in training camp that year ended up on other NFL teams' 53-man rosters during that season. And what did those 2013 Seahawks do in the preseason? They went 4-0, outscoring their opponents 110-36. This year's Seahawks, meanwhile, are 3-0 this preseason, outscoring opponents 94-43 so far.
Seattle's depth really got to show in the first preseason game in Los Angeles when starters came out of the game early, and on Thursday, those second and third-stringers battling for jobs should again get a long look.
"I think it showed that we were able to do a lot of stuff, really in all phases, with the 2s and 3s," Carroll said following his team's 48-17 win in Los Angeles. "We kind of expected we could be pretty good with those guys, so that was a good first game to give us an indication that we're on it with the depth and the things we've been talking about as far as the roster competition and all of that."
August depth doesn't guarantee anything for the Seahawks or any other team, but based on what Seattle has shown so far, and based on how things turned out for another very deep 2013 training camp roster, the early returns have been encouraging for this year's team.
"It feels like the first year I was here," said defensive end Cliff Avril, who signed with the Seahawks in 2013. "As far as for how much depth we have, some of these younger players are coming in and they're making plays right off the bat. It's pretty cool to see the environment, see what these guys are doing right now, and I think that the sky's the limit for this team as long as we can stay healthy."
The best photos from the Seahawks' Tuesday practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Thursday night's preseason game against the Raiders.