Seahawks' beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta review Seattle's initial 53-man regular season roster.
The Seahawks cut their roster from 75 to the regular season limit of 53 today, as was required by the NFL.
Here are some thoughts from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta on the biggest surprises to make the team and get cut, and more.
BIGGEST SURPRISE CUT
Jenks: DT T.Y. McGill. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about McGill, an undrafted free agent from North Carolina State, when the preseason started. But McGill had a solid preseason, and he kept showing up in games. He moved quickly laterally, which the Seahawks like, and had a knack for disrupting in the backfield. I can’t say that I’m shocked that he didn’t make the roster, but I thought he had done enough to get on the roster.
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Condotta: Cornerback Will Blackmon. Blackmon appeared to be the starting nickelback throughout training camp and the preseason, and especially against San Diego seemed to have a significant role in the defense, called on often to bring pressure. But when the cuts came today he was one among those on their way out with the Seahawks going with Marcus Burley and rookie Tye Smith at nickel. Blackmon is a vested veteran, and would have his contract guaranteed if he were on the roster to start the year, which means that maybe Seattle made something of a financial decision here, as well, and could bring him back later, if needed. But for now, the Seahawks are going with Burley and Smith at nickel with Jeremy Lane on the PUP list, unable to return until mid-season at the earliest.
BIGGEST SURPRISE TO MAKE THE TEAM
Jenks: OL Kristjan Sokoli. The Seahawks made it clear throughout the preseason that they liked Sokoli, that they thought highly of him. That part wasn’t surprising. But it was hard to tell if Sokoli made enough progress to warrant giving him a valuable roster spot. Well, evidently he did. Sokoli is playing guard right now after being a defensive lineman in college, but the long-term hope is to have him player center. Sokoli is really quick and athletic for an offensive lineman, which is huge for offensive line coach Tom Cable and coach Pete Carroll. He might not play much this year, but he’s a guy the Seahawks valued so much they didn’t want to risk losing him.
Condotta: RB Thomas Rawls. Rawls ended up being the only rookie undrafted free agent to make the team. He probably would have been at the top of many people’s lists to be a UDFA to make the roster when camp began. But a week or so into camp the buzz about Rawls appeared to cool some and it seemed like he’d probably be a practice squadder this season, which is why I put him in the surprise category to make the final 53-man roster. The running back position appears to remain in some uncertainty with Fred Jackson likely to join the roster in the next day or. But for now, Rawls is on it, and maybe he stays for good after gaining 158 yards in the preseason, third-most in the NFL, with a per-carry average of 5.3 despite having no run of longer than 17 — indicative of pretty good consistency. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops and if he can have the same sort of success against starters.
PLAYER WE MOST WANT TO SEE MAKE THE PRACTICE SQUAD
Jenks: DT T.Y. McGill. Shocker! But for all the reasons I mentioned above, McGill could be a developmental player for the Seahawks. He’s not the biggest defensive tackle, but he moves well. At the very least, he’s an interesting prospect worth another look.
Condotta: WR Kasen Williams. The former Skyline High standout had a star-crossed career at UW that led to him being an undrafted free agent signee with the Seahawks. His physical talents are immense and obvious and at times he showed them during camp and in preseason games, notably the fade route TD at the end of the game against the Raiders. I didn’t think he’d make the final 53 — guys like Ricardo Lockette and Chris Matthews have too much proven production and established roles with the Seahawks to let go of easily. But Kasen Williams also seems like the kind of guy the practice squad was created for — talented, if raw, and just needing a bit more time to figure out what he really can do at this level.
MOST IMPROVED POSITION GROUP
Jenks: The pass rush unit. OK, so that’s not technically a position group but stick with me here. The Seahawks return Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, two proven and productive players. Both were good last year. They also return linebacker/edge rusher Bruce Irvin, who is bigger than he was a year ago, and pass-rushing defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who broke out last season before an injury ended his season. Defensive end Cassius Marsh is talented and spent this whole offseason working almost exclusively as a defensive end (he moved around between end and tackle last year). And rookie Frank Clark has shown his versatility and huge potential in the preseason. It’s such a loaded group that Carroll is going to have some interesting calls to make on who he rolls out. What four players does he combine out of Hill, Irvin, Avril, Bennett and Clark? That’s a nice luxury to have.
Condotta: Tight end. Jayson took what was maybe the most obviously improved unit during the preseason. But the drama of roster cuts shouldn’t make one forget that the biggest move this team made in the off-season was acquiring Jimmy Graham. Graham didn’t put up huge numbers in the preseason. But here’s guessing we also saw just a smidgen of how the team intends to use Graham once the games count for real. The connection of Russell Wilson and Graham appeared to be a work in progress throughout the preseason. But that’s also to be somewhat expected given the constraints of the preseason and the starters playing as little as they did. Graham was still the second-leading receiver with six catches for 75 yards. Assume that he played maybe a third of available snaps, that would give him 18 catches for 225 yards in four games —or a pace of 72 catches for 900 yards overall. I think the Seahawks would take those numbers.
BIGGEST REMAINING QUESTION MARK
Jenks: The running backs. The Seahawks have agreed to a one-year deal with 34-year-old running back Fred Jackson, according to our own Bob Condotta. Jackson just hasn’t signed his contract yet. But when he does, the Seahawks will have to make a move to create a spot on the roster. Will they keep undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls still? Will they keep Christine Michael, a 2013 second-round pick with vast amounts of talent but not much to show for it in two seasons? Will they keep both fullbacks in Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu? That might be the most likely option, but Coleman is one of Seattle’s most reliable special teams contributors and Tukuafu can also play defensive line, a versatility that paid off late last season. Some interesting decisions to be made soon.
Condotta: The secondary. The trade today to acquire Kelcie McCray from Kansas City for a fifth-round pick in 2016 — a not insubstantial sum — definitely speaks to something. Does it mean the Seahawks are worried that Kam Chancellor’s holdout is likely lasting into the season? Maybe. Does it mean some concern that Earl Thomas can handle all the pounding of the season after having not had an actual football-type hit since the Super Bowl? Maybe. The cost Seattle had to pay to get a safety who has never started an NFL game in two seasons in the league caught the attention of more than a few. But you figure that other teams are playing hardball with the Seahawks right now understanding the oddity of their situation — no one is going to go out of their way to help Seattle right now. The corner spot also seems a little more uncertain than years past with Marcus Burley your likely starting nickel and Cary Williams as the right corner opposite Richard Sherman. Burley played pretty well last year, but there’s a reason the team went with Jeremy Lane when it came time for the Super Bowl. Seattle’s secondary has been among the best in NFL history for the last few years and it should still be good. But it’s fair to say it’s more of a question mark now than it has been since maybe entering the 2011 season.