What to Watch For: Seahawks vs. Broncos
By Danny O’Neil
Preseason success doesn’t count for much in the NFL, but it’s certainly starting to add up in Seattle.
The Seahawks have won six consecutive preseason games, matching the longest such streak in franchise history for what that’s worth, which isn’t all that much.
It can’t be a bad thing, either, can it? But the final result of Saturday’s game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos isn’t the most important outcome. There are jobs on the line, after all, and here’s a look at three players who have the most to gain in Seattle’s home opener, and three who may be in danger of losing a foothold on the roster.
With a spot on Seattle’s roster secured, third-year cornerback Byron Maxwell, left, is competing for playing time in a secondary that has plenty of options. (AP)
1. DT Jesse Williams, rookie (fifth round). The challenge turned out to be twice as tough for Williams in last week’s preseason opener. That’s because he often faced a double team, and if we’re being honest, he got pushed around a little bit. That’s got to change if he’s going to land a starting spot, which remains very much a possibility with Tony McDaniel missing time with a groin injury. Rookies don’t end up starting by default, though, and if Williams is going to claim a starting role it will be because he holds his ground no matter how many blockers are thrown at him.
2. CB Byron Maxwell, third year. Maxwell doesn’t have to worry about landing a spot on the 53-man roster, he’s competing for playing time in this increasingly crowded secondary. He intercepted one pass last week very nearly picked off another before suffering a sprained ankle. That was a significant worry given the trouble he has had staying healthy, but he was back at practice Wednesday. While everyone will watch how Seattle’s secondary fares against Manning and the Broncos’ receivers, Maxwell is a reason to keep paying attention even as the substitutes enter the game.
3. WR Stephen Williams, fourth year. His Seahawks’ debut was certainly memorable as he caught two passes last week in San Diego, the first gaining 41 yards and the second one netting 42 yards and a touchdown. He’s going to have to keep producing to make this team, though, because while the Seahawks may keep as many as six receivers, Williams has less of a clear-cut role on special teams than other candidates like Chris Harper, Phil Bates and Bryan Walters. That means Williams has to prove his worth as a big-play receiver.
Something to prove
1. Bryan Walters, fourth year. A hamstring injury kept him out of last week’s game, but before that he was really making headway as a slot specialist. He’s also a kick returner, and with Christine Michael out this week with back spasms, this could be Walters’ chance to inject himself into the debate to be one of the five, maybe even six receivers the Seahawks keep. A graduate of Juanita High in Kirkland, Walters has played for both the Chargers and the Vikings and two years ago while with San Diego he returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against the Seahawks in the preseason. He does something like that for Seattle against the Broncos, and it could be a golden ticket to a roster spot.
2. DE Benson Mayowa, rookie (undrafted). He was Seattle’s most effective pass rusher in last week’s game, recording 1.5 sacks and very narrowly missing one more. There’s still no clarity on whether starting defensive end Chris Clemons will be ready to join the 53-man roster before the regular season begins, and if he’s not, the Seahawks will be choosing between Mayowa and Mike Morgan to determine the backup to Cliff Avril.
3. RB Spencer Ware, rookie (sixth round). Seattle evaluated him as the most aggressive runner available in the draft, and he rushed 32 yards last week, the second-highest total on the team. But Ware has played mostly running back as opposed to fullback, and the competition with Derrick Coleman has been quite close so far in training camp. All that speculation Ware might replace Michael Robinson at fullback was pretty premature. Ware’s not a lock to make the roster.