By Danny O’Neil
Last chance for first impressions.
Seattle’s preseason game against Oakland on Thursday is the final piece of evidence the coaches and front office will get before making a decision on which 53 players will be kept. It’s not an audition so much as one last opportunity to claim a role before the games starting counting in the standings.
1. RB Robert Turbin, second year. Rookie Christine Michael leads all NFL players with 186 yards rushing this preseason, which gives you at least a hint of the competition for carries in the Seahawks’ backfield behind starter Marshawn Lynch. Turbin doesn’t appear to be accelerating as quickly as he did a year ago, perhaps a residual effect of the sore foot that kept him out the first two weeks of training camp. Also worth watching: pass protection. Turbin is considered more attuned to a role in the passing game than Michael, but Turbin has had a blitzer get past him in each of the two games he has played this month.
Injuries have opened the door to a bigger role for O’Brien Schofield, who could start the regular-season opener. (AP)
2. LB/DE O’Brien Schofield, fourth year. First, Seattle spent almost $20 million to sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, two of the top pass rushers available in free agency. Then, Seattle drafted Jordan Hill in the third round with the expectation he could provide an interior pass rush in passing situations. Now, it’s a linebacker the Seahawks claimed off waivers from division-rival Arizona that might be the best hope to spur the pass rush in Week 1. Avril has an injured hamstring while Hill is week-to-week with an injured biceps. Schofield has started the past two preseason games, and he’s a candidate to start the season as Seattle’s pass-rushing defensive end. Can he cement that role in place?
3. FB Derrick Coleman, second year. Coleman is one of the more remarkable stories in this training camp. A second-year back from UCLA, he is hearing impaired and while he’s able to pick up sounds and tones, he often needs to read lips to understand what is being said. You’d never know, though, by the way Coleman has played himself into consideration for Seattle’s 53-man roster. Michael Robinson’s illness has turned these past two weeks into an open audition at fullback, and while Spencer Ware was drafted with that position in mind, it’s Coleman who has actually gotten more practice time in that role. The Seahawks flirted with the idea of trying Phil Bates there, but Coleman is expected to start against the Raiders.
Something to prove
1. WR Chris Harper, rookie (fourth round). Coach Pete Carroll provided what might turn out to be a telling hint with regard to Harper when he said the team was looking at fellow wide receiver Stephen Williams as a rookie because while this is Williams’ fourth year in the league, it’s his first year with the team. If Williams is being compared to Harper, it’s tough to see how the fourth-round pick out of Kansas State wins that argument for a roster spot. Williams has three times as many receiving yards as any other Seahawk this preseason and has scored a touchdown of more than 35 yards in all three games while Harper has caught three passes, none for more than 8 yards. It’s not necessarily an either-or question at receiver, but Harper needs to give Seattle a reason to keep him beyond the promise and potential that led the team to choose him in the fourth round.
2. TE Sean McGrath, second year. McGrath has had a perfectly adequate August. He has caught three passes, scored a touchdown and earned a little attention for both the length of his beard and the fact he plays without wearing gloves. But after three games being paired with rookie Luke Willson as the top two tight ends in the game plan, McGrath is now in a fight for his job against every other tight end who’s going to be cut this week as NFL teams trim their rosters down to 53 players. That’s a position Seattle is sure to be scrutinizing, and McGrath needs to make a compelling argument why the Seahawks don’t need to add an experienced veteran to serve as the third tight end behind starter Zach Miller and Willson.
3. DL Jaye Howard, second season. A fourth-round pick last year, Howard’s rookie season was pretty much a wash as he played in just two games. He is bigger and stronger this season, and while he has played better, he still hasn’t cut it loose and made a move up Seattle’s depth chart. The opportunity is right there given the injuries to rookie Jesse Williams, who will miss the year, as well as Tony McDaniel (groin) and Jordan Hill (biceps), who will miss this game. Howard has yet to take advantage of that opportunity to claim playing time that is right there for the taking.