The Seahawks host the Raiders Thursday night in their final preseason game, and while a lot of the starters don’t figure to play much, at all, the fourth preseason game represents a huge opportunity for young players who are fighting for roster spots and for solving a few still-unresolved position battles.
“This is a game of opportunity for a lot of young guys,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They have really their final shot with us to play their ball, show where they fit and belong here and in other spots around the league. We have a really nice roster of guys and it’s really competitive. There’s a lot of battles waged here again this week and this Thursday night that are going to be important for the future for the Seahawks and for these players. We are going to respect it and honor the heck out of it and give these guys a great chance to be ready to play and then play and get their ops and show where they belong. It’s a big deal.”
With that in mind, here are six players and competitions to watch in Thursday night’s game at CenturyLink Field:
1. Which bubble players can finalize a job on Seattle’s roster, or perhaps win a spot on another team.
While everything players have been doing since Day 1 of camp will be weighed into roster decisions, it can’t hurt to make a good final impression ahead of cut day, and for roster hopefuls, this can feel like a make-or-break game, ratcheting up the pressure a little bit. Who handles that well and performs up to their potential could make all the difference, not just in terms of making Seattle’s roster, but also for impressing other teams that will be scouring the waiver wire on Sunday.
“We just want them to show as much as they can,” Carroll said. “If it’s ‘always compete’ as the philosophy, then I’ve got to do my job to give these guys a chance to show it. If I’m not getting that done, then I’m not competing. That’s going to happen. Again, we played our guys a lot and they’ve shown a lot, but this is that final one. They know. They know it’s the final test before it comes down to making decisions. They’re not just trying out for us. They’re trying out for other clubs too. This time of year is so active for the personnel department. They’re looking at every team and every team is looking at us and all of that. Everybody’s trying to find out when guys become available, will they fit their team. Just because they get released doesn’t mean there aren’t all kinds of stories to write for the future of these guys. As always, any time there’s an opportunity to compete, we are doing it. Our guys are madly after it trying to figure out what may be available on other rosters as well. That’s just what this time is all about. This is such a good group, I would think that a bunch of these guys, if guys can’t make our club, they’ll have a chance to make other clubs. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but I feel like it will.”
2. The last shot to grab ahold of the nickel corner job.
Yes, we keep coming back to this spot because it appears to be one of the most wide-open starting jobs still up for grabs. Kalan Reed went on injured reserve this week with a neck injury, so he’s no longer part of the battle, but Jamar Taylor, Ugo Amadi and Akeem King all still have a chance to win that job.
“It’s a competitive spot,” Carroll said. “J-Taylor has done a nice job, shows experience. He’s played a lot of football and awareness and all that. Ugo has been pretty special at times and he’s really shown a top end to his play. Both the guys are really quick and kind of the same stature and size and style of player. We’re looking for consistency and what we can count on as well as the productivity. Akeem King has been there too. He’s also a guy that can play in there for situational stuff and different matchups and things like that. Really, it’s not completed yet. It’s still going.”
3. Which young receiver steps up?
David Moore isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, and DK Metcalf’s Week 1 status is still up in the air, which means that beyond Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown, it’s a wide-open battle at receiver not just for roster spots, but perhaps also for a significant role early in the season. Rookie John Ursua has come on strong of late, while fourth-round pick Gary Jennings is still looking for a breakout game, and Malik Turner and Keenan Reynolds have experience on their side. Undrafted rookie Jazz Ferguson had a huge first preseason game, and while he hasn’t quite produced at that level in the past two games, he’s still a very intriguing option thanks to his rare size.
“It would be really nice to see Gary and John get a lot of play time, and Malik and those guys,” Carroll said. “Everybody’s got a shot to play in this game, everybody’s in the rotation, so yeah it’s important for John. I know enough about it right now, that it’s going to take those guys a while. They’re not fully up to speed, they both missed time, just John and Gary for instance. They both missed time. It’s a harder position than you think, there are so many intricacies to it. We’ve had young guys where it’s taken them a while. It’s rare when the young guys really play well early. I think DK is different from the other guys we’ve brought in here, it just seems to come to him naturally. Other guys struggle with the detail a little bit more.”
4. What can Shaquem Griffin show in his new role?
The Seahawks moved second-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin into a new role for 2019, having him work primarily as a strongside linebacker after playing him at weakside linebacker last year. That move was made to take advantage of Griffin’s speed and pass-rush skills, and he said he felt more comfortable there, but because of a knee injury that kept him out of the past two preseason games, he hasn’t really had a good chance to show what he can do in that new role. A strong showing Thursday could help him solidify a role in Seattle’s defense.
“He’s really featured as the Sam backer on the outside so we can get him on the edge,” Carroll said. “That’s the position that gets the pressure from the edge, it’s not the kind of blitzing through the line of scrimmage. He’s looked good at that stuff because he’s so darn fast. Been a little disrupted with his knee being banged up a bit, but he’s back and he’s ready to go, this is an important game for him just to show where he finishes off the preseason.”
5. The final chapter of the backup quarterback competition?
Once the Seahawks added Geno Smith to the backup quarterback competition with Paxton Lynch, Carroll made it clear that the Seahawks would use all four preseason games to evaluate those two. Things haven’t gone according to plan with both missing a game due to injury, but both have had good chances to show what they can do, and both should see a lot of playing time Thursday as they try to win the No. 2 job.
“We’re still doing it,” Carroll said of evaluating that spot. “They’ve both had their moments, certainly. They’ve basically taken care of the ball really well. It’s just an important factor. They can both run the offense. I’m really anxious to get another assessment here, especially on Paxton. He’s going to play in this game. Those two guys, he and Geno will split it and see how they do, and maybe get a little work for J.T. (Barrett).”
6. How is the offensive line depth looking?
While the starting offensive line looks to be settled, there are some questions when it comes to depth, particularly with injuries taking their toll. Those injuries, as well as how some young players look on Thursday, will be a factor in some of the roster decisions the Seahawks make on Saturday. Of particular interest could be how veteran Marcus Martin looks at center. While Justin Britt is locked into the starting job, the depth behind him is a bit unsettled thanks to injuries. Ethan Pocic, one of Seattle’s most versatile linemen, has been the starting left guard throughout the preseason thanks to Mike Iupati’s injuries. That left Joey Hunt as the only backup behind Britt, but Hunt left last weekend’s game with a high ankle sprain and won’t play Thursday. If Hunt isn’t ready for Week 1, would the Seahawks keep Martin as their No. 2 center, or would Pocic be the emergency backup despite having a starting role if Iupati isn’t ready?
“Marcus is an interesting case,” Carroll said. “I think he has 29 starts or something like that as a center, so he’s got good background. He’s a real big body in there. I’m real anxious to see him play. I’ve been kind of on his butt all week to make this transition and take advantage of this opportunity with Joey being banged up. He’s going to play a lot in this game.”
The Seahawks and the Raiders will meet this Thursday in Seattle at CenturyLink Field for the final game of 2019 preseason. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.