The fourth preseason game is usually meaningless in regard to starting lineups, but it's big for the fringe players hoping to win a roster spot, and huge for youngsters trying to get some extra reps.
The fourth and final NFL preseason game is, on the surface, as meaningless as it gets.
Many of the Seahawks starters played large chunks of the first three games, but may sit out Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders entirely, or play only briefly.
But for some players, this game could be one of the most important they’ll suit up for — for a few, it may be the last they ever suit up for, as well — because they get one last shot to show the Seahawks (and via film, every other NFL team) they are worth keeping around.
NFL teams have to cut their rosters from 90 to the NFL regular season max of 53 by Saturday at 1 p.m., and Thursday gives many players one last shot to state their case.
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Even for some veterans, the game provides a final chance to reinforce to the Seahawks their role for the upcoming season.
Here is a look at some players with a lot on the line Thursday:
1. WR Amara Darboh: Darboh, a third-round pick last year, has yet to play in the preseason due to injuries. But he’s practiced this week and is expected to see a lot of action against the Raiders. His status as a third-round pick can’t be ignored — it shows that some in the organization thought pretty highly of him at one point and the Seahawks will want to be sure in their assessment before moving on from him.
But, with the likes of Marcus Johnson and Keenan Reynolds having made strong bids for a final spot on the roster at receiver, Darboh will also have to show the Seahawks something special to make the roster.
“I just want to see him play ball again,’’ Carroll said Wednesday. “We’ve seen a lot of him, we know him well, we like him, he’s been a really aggressive player, been a good special teamer and all that – just would like to see him get back out and show that he’s back, really. We’ll figure it out from there.”
2. OL J.R. Sweezy: Sweezy, re-signed early in camp, also has yet to play due to a high ankle sprain. But he practiced this week and is expected to play against the Raiders. With right guard D.J. Fluker suddenly dealing with a hamstring issue that held him out this week, Sweezy could become an important player for Seattle. Sweezy has played mostly at right guard, but has also taken some practice reps at left guard. His right guard experience could be a good hedge against Fluker but the Seahawks would like to see something from Sweezy to make sure.
On Wednesday, Carroll made it sound like Sweezy is on the roster.
“He’s showing us that flexibility, which is good,’’ Carroll said. “It’s really good to have Sweezy back out there. He’s a great competitor, as he’s always been, and he fits right in. We’re real happy to have him.’’
3. CB Dontae Johnson: With Byron Maxwell again expected not to play, Johnson figures to get another start at right cornerback. Maxwell is battling a groin injury and has yet to play in the preseason. Johnson held up well enough last week against the Vikings, and another good performance might make the Seahawks consider if they even need to keep Maxwell, though he did get a $500,000 signing bonus last spring.
4. and 5. FBs Tre Madden/Daniel Marx: The Seahawks seem to want to keep a fullback this season in their commitment to making the running game more of a factor. After starting the year with four, then dropping down to just one (Madden), Seattle added another this week in Marx, who played at Stanford where he was known almost solely for his blocking. Madden sat out against the Vikings with an undisclosed injury (which initially wasn’t reported) but is back this week and would seem to still be the front-runner for the job.
Carroll said Marx will play, and his skillset could be intriguing.
“(He) looks like he’s got good background at the position and he’s tough and physical. He’s caught the ball well,’’ Carroll said. “He’s a really bright kid and he’s picked up everything so he’ll play in the game. We’ll see what happens there.“
6. DL Poona Ford: The undrafted rookie free agent from Texas has become something of a Seahawks Twitter fan favorite with a string of good performances in the preseason. He may be more of a practice squad candidate as the Seahawks appear to have four veteran defensive tackles ahead of him on the depth chart, and four may be all they will keep. But Ford will try to force the issue with another good game against the Raiders.
7. S Maurice Alexander: Tedric Thompson appears to be out after suffering a stinger and a rib injury against the Vikings. He’s expected back for the regular season opener and will likely to start alongside Bradley McDougald. But Alexander, who has 23 starts with the Rams and can play either side, could be a good insurance policy.