Our latest Seahawks Twitter mailbag addresses Cassius Marsh's position entering his third season with the Seahawks and whether any of the young cornerbacks can make a serious run at a 53-man roster spot.
Time for another round of answering questions lobbed at us via Twitter (and as always, feel free to send more my way at @bcondotta).
Q: @TheCrappyTotals asks: Will Cassius Marsh be used primarily as a linebacker or lineman this year?
A: I’m not sure this is yet an answerable question — or even one that will have any kind of a real answer for months — as I think the Seahawks’ coaches are just beginning the process of seeing what they have in Marsh as a strongside linebacker.
But even that answer is different than it would have been a year ago at this time when Marsh was a defensive lineman only.
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This year, the team is looking at him more as a strongside linebacker with that spot open following the departure of Bruce Irvin. The team was impressed by how Marsh played last year in some situations when he was in the open field (specifically, a late-season win against the Vikings when he had a notable tackle for loss of Adrian Peterson). There’s also a thought in the organization that Marsh is better off playing at his listed 245 pounds instead of trying to bulk up to 270 or so and playing solely on the line, as was the plan when he was drafted in 2014 (recall that there was talk at that time of Marsh eventually evolving into a Michael Bennett-style role).
Still, during the first OTA (Organized Team Activity) last week that was open to the media, Marsh appeared to also get a few snaps as a rush end with his hand on the ground, being used pretty similarly to how Irvin was the last few years, with some SLB duties in run downs and rushing the passer in nickel situations.
But how the Seahawks fill Irvin’s dual duties is far from set at this point. Mike Morgan is also an option as is Eric Pinkins, a sixth-round pick in 2014 who has made the transition from secondary to linebacker and played in six games last season. The Seahawks also seem high on a couple of undrafted free agents who could help at those spots in Montese Overton and David Perkins (Kevin Pierre-Louis appears to be solely a weakside linebacker at the moment and recently-signed Khairi Fortt also appeared to be playing the inside spots during the OTA last week).
How Brandon Browner’s role evolves could also impact the playing time at the SLB spot. What could be Browner’s primary role is as a third safety, essentially playing opposite of Kam Chancellor and basically replacing the SLB.
The Seahawks, though, also appear willing to change things up more each week based on opponent and matchup than they have in the past, meaning some weeks they might want Browner out there more for his coverage ability, and in other weeks maybe more of a true SLB to work against the run.
In other words, still too early to tell.
But specific to Marsh, it’s definitely an intriguing time in his career as he enters his third season with the Seahawks and now being tried in a somewhat different capacity. How he makes that transition could go a long way to determining his future with the Seahawks.
Q: @ryanpharkins: Who among the reserve/practice squad CBs is a dark horse to make the 53-man roster?
A: One thing to clarify is that right now, there is no practice squad or other lists, other than Injured Reserve. The Seahawks simply have 90 players on their active roster and all are technically the same.
But I’ll take your question as meaning the cornerbacks other than those who were on the active roster last season.
One thing is that it will not be easy to crack the 53-man roster this season at cornerback. If you assume the Seahawks keep five cornerbacks, then two are complete locks — Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane. And two others appear to be in good shape as long as they stay healthy — DeShawn Shead and Tharold Simon. Obviously, of those two it’s Simon who has had the injury issues in the past, missing all but one game last season with a toe ailment that required surgery. But Simon appeared 100 percent at last week’s OTA and when the team was in the nickel he worked with the first team defense at right cornerback with Lane moving inside to the slot (though it’s worth noting Shead did not participate in team drills in that OTA, nursing an unknown ailment).
That would leave two players who spent all of last season on the 53-man roster — Tye Smith and Marcus Burley — potentially competing with everyone else for one more spot (and for the purposes of this I am assuming Brandon Browner is considered solely as a safety).
So yeah, the corner spot is going to be pretty competitive.
Aside from those six, the other corners on the roster are: Jamal Marshall, George Farmer, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Trovon Reed and DeAndre Elliott. Of those five, the most intriguing may be Jean-Baptiste, a 6-3, 215-pounder who was a second-round pick of the Saints in 2014. Reed, who began his career at Auburn as a receiver, has also been said to have consistently impressed coaches. Forced to make a pick, I’d go with Jean-Baptiste as the one who’d have the best shot at making a real run at a roster spot, with his size giving him those unique qualities the Seahawks so love to try to make something of.