Seahawks Preview: Jake & Stacy’s players to watch in preseason opener
The Seattle Seahawks have a game this weekend, and while it’s not the team’s season opener, it is the team’s first preseason game of 2021.
After the COVID-19 pandemic caused there to be no preseason contests last year, the preseason is back with three games this year, which is the first NFL season where teams will be playing 17 regular season games.
The Seahawks open preseason play on the road in Las Vegas against the Raiders, and there are plenty of young players who are expected to get a lot of action during the contest.
Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy have a few players in particular they’ll be keeping a close eye on during Saturday’s game. They shared on Tuesday who they’re most excited to watch.
Making the case at corner
The Seahawks lost their two 2020 Week 1 starting cornerbacks in free agency in Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, and now the competition is on to see which two defensive backs will start on the perimeter come Week 1 of this year.
While many top stars and starters likely won’t play much, if at all, on Saturday, Rost hopes that the cornerbacks will all suit up and play a good deal.
Heaps expects that to be the case not just this week but in Seattle’s final two preseason games, as well.
“Those two guys in particular, you’re not going to be exempt from being out there on the field and adding competition,” Heaps said. “This is a legitimate competition, which we have seen all practice long, all training camp long, that they take that very seriously and split up the reps between everybody. I would imagine that is going to be the same thing in these three preseason games.”
Reed and Witherspoon are the favorites to land the two starting jobs, but the Seahawks have some other interesting players who could make a case for playing time with a strong preseason showing.
“Although we have Ahkello Witherspoon and D.J. Reed penciled in as the starters, they have to go earn it before we pen that in because there are other guys (like) Tre Brown, Tre Flowers, Damarious Randall … Pierre Desir,” Heaps said. “Overall, there are a lot of guys that can add to this competition and really make a statement and make this a lot closer than what we might anticipate it being.”
Of the corners not named Witherspoon or Reed, Heaps wants to see one in particular stand out.
“Tre Brown, I would love to see him make a statement,” Heaps said of the Seahawks’ 2021 fourth-round draft pick.
Big chance for a big rookie
The Seahawks had only three 2021 draft picks due to a number of trades, and one of them figures to get a lot of playing time this preseason due to the status of one of the team’s key veterans.
With left tackle Duane Brown not practicing as he looks for a new contract, sixth-round tackle Stone Forsythe, who’s a massive man at 6 foot 7, is expected to play a lot during Seattle’s three preseason games. Heaps said Forsythe’s play could potentially be big for the Seahawks when it comes to Brown’s contract situation.
“Stone Forsythe is going to get a heck of an opportunity here in the first preseason game and get a lot of playing time due to injuries and due to the fact that Duane Brown will not be playing,” he said. “We’re going to see a whole lot of Stone Forsythe and really get to evaluate where he’s at at this stage of his career as a young rookie … And if you’re talking about if Duane Brown is going to miss time, Stone Forsythe has the opportunity to make the Seahawks feel a lot more comfortable in their negotiating stance if he plays well.”
If Forsythe plays well, Heaps said, Seattle might feel good about starting the season without Brown if he does holdout and miss games. But on the flip side, if Forsythe doesn’t perform well, it could put more pressure on the team to get a deal done with Brown.
“If he really struggles, that’s going to put a lot more pressure on the organization to get that Duane Brown signing done,” Heaps said. “And it’s going to make your quarterback, your starting quarterback, think, ‘What are we doing here, guys? We need to get this done.’ Overall, I think that’s going to be a major storyline to keep an eye on, and that’s a lot of pressure for a young rookie who was brought in here more to be a project-type of tackle more so than to be competing and having an opportunity for playing time out of the gate.”
First NFL action for a Year 2 defender
He may not technically be a rookie, but 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor will finally take the field in an NFL game as he didn’t play last year due to a leg injury.
Taylor, who was drafted as a defensive end last year, is now playing strongside (SAM) linebacker and is the favorite to hold that starting job.
With the position change and it being Taylor’s first NFL games, Heaps is looking forward to seeing what the young defender can do.
“Another player I really want to see do well and have a good opening statement – it’s not that they need to dominate or that I have that expectation for them or will be disappointed if they don’t – but I want to see a very good, solid outing from Darrell Taylor in particular,” Heaps said. “With the new responsibilities he has within this defense, the athleticism and all the promise, he’s somebody to me that I will very much be paying close attention to in the first preseason game against the Raiders.”
Taylor’s play is also important because the Seahawks so far have opted not to re-sign their starting SAM linebacker from a year ago.
“He’s a major key to what the Seahawks want to do defensively and the reason why they did not go sign K.J. Wright in this offseason,” Heaps said.
Competition for WR3
The Seahawks have arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver duo in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but it’s unclear who will be behind them on the depth chart.
Seattle used its second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on speedy receiver D’Wayne Eskridge, but a toe injury has limited what he’s done in training camp and it seems unlikely he’ll suit up on Saturday.
With Eskridge out of the picture for the time being, Rost is looking at two young receivers to step up this weekend.
“You look at the receiver group with Freddie Swain and Penny Hart, what happens there?” she said. “Can Penny Hart push his way (up the depth chart) while D’Wayne Eskridge is injured, and (can he) make the case as a third wide receiver?”
Swain, the Seahawks’ sixth-round pick last year, caught 13 passes for 159 yards and two scores in 2020.
Hart was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2019 and has spent parts of the last two seasons on Seattle’s practice squad. He appeared in 13 games last year for the Seahawks, catching one pass for three yards and making one rush for 19 yards.
Listen to the full conversation in the second hour of Tuesday’s edition of Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.