MAURA DOOLEY

Which Seahawks stand out after preseason and training camp?

Aug 28, 2023, 11:12 AM | Updated: 12:55 pm

The preseason is over and NFL teams are busy preparing for the unpleasant task of cutting their 90-man rosters down to 53 by 1 p.m. Tuesday. While cutting players is one of the more heartbreaking elements of this part of the NFL calendar, it’s also a time to acknowledge those that excelled and earned their role within the team.

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The Seattle Seahawks had no shortage of standout performances in training camp, but these are some names that continually left an impression. Let’s take a closer look.

Seattle Seahawks preseason and camp standouts

Rookies

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR

It’s no surprise that the No. 20 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft is extremely talented, but it is surprising how quickly he blended seamlessly into the Seahawks’ offense. He just makes things look effortless. Head coach Pete Carroll, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and quarterback Geno Smith all used the adjective “natural” to describe him.

Smith-Njigba dropped only one pass in team drills during training camp, and that’s the kind of skill that will foster confidence and trust from your quarterback.

“He can do it all,” Smith told reporters after the first week of training camp. “He’s a great player. Jaxon is one of those guys that if you put him out there one-on-one, he’s going to win his battles, and we’ve been seeing that so far.”

Unfortunately, Smith-Njigba underwent wrist surgery last week to repair a broken bone sustained in the second preseason game. It’s unclear whether he will be available for Week1 against the Rams, but it is expected to be a relatively quick recover. Carroll gave a 3-4 week estimate before the surgery took place.

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Jake Bobo, WR

The undrafted rookie out of UCLA has become a bit of a preseason legend. He is a fan favorite – and a favorite of his teammates, for that matter, with the players adopting the slogan “More Bobo” to cheer him on.

Bobo’s speed, however is not the stuff of legends. He ran a 4.99 in the 40-yard dash at UCLA’s pro day, but the man knows how to get open. Tyler Lockett has credited Bobo’s precision in his route running as the reason that he finds those opportunities. We could see that on full display this preseason, including Saturday with his 18-yard touchdown against the Packers.

Sure, we’ve gotten invested in Seahawks preseason standouts in the past only to see them released on roster cut-down day, but that seems like an unlikely scenario for Bobo. Not only has Carroll repeatedly raved about how special he is, but the Seahawks are seriously lacking depth at the wide receiver position right now. With Smith-Njigba (wrist), Dareke Young (abductor) and Dee Eskridge (knee) all sidelined, Bobo could start the season on the active roster.

Derick Hall, edge

If there is one player (outside of DK Metcalf) that everyone who attended Seahawks training camp marveled at physically, it’s second-round pick Derick Hall. At 6 foot 3 and 254 pounds – and wearing his signature short-shorts that were also the talk of camp (most teammates were not fans) – Hall looks every bit the part of an intimidating edge rusher. He’s done more than just look the part, though. Hall has consistently pressured quarterbacks in practice, with defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt calling him “physical and violent off the edges.”

While Hall has impressed in practice, he hasn’t stood out quite as much in preseason games. He did record a sack against the Cowboys and came close on a few more, but he will only get better as he refines his skillset.

Former Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk ahead of the first preseason game and gave his thoughts on where Hall is in his development.

“He kind of reminds me of Frank Clark,” Bennett said. “He’s wild and strong and fast. For him, it’s about being able to have some composure, going from music that has no notes to being symphonic.”

Carroll has already said he expects Hall to be in the pass rush rotation along with Boye Mafe, Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor. Now we just have to wait and see when he will be able to make his regular season debut after he exited Sunday’s preseason finale early with a shoulder injury. The Seahawks are waiting on further testing to determine the exact injury.

Second-year leaps

Coby Bryant, DB

Bryant certainly had an impactful rookie season, coming up with four forced fumbles, two sacks and 52 tackles in 2022, and he did all of that while learning how to play the nickel cornerback position for the first time. Then, the Seahawks drafted Devon Witherspoon with the fifth pick of this year’s draft and squeezed another player into an already crowded position group. Bryant has proved that he’s a playmaker who has a nose for the ball, though, so the Seahawks want him on the field.

The solution they came up with to try and maximize his versatility was to give him a look at safety. It can’t be easy to come in as a rookie, learn a new position, and then just at the point where things should start slowing down for you, get thrown into uncharted territory all over again, but Bryant has embraced it. The defense struggled with missed tackles this preseason, and Bryant has come in after the fact to clean up many of those misses.

Carroll has taken notice of Bryant’s physicality.

“Coby’s had a terrific camp,” Carroll told reporters last Thursday. “He’s been physical, tough and smart. He’s showed us that he can handle all this stuff. He’s tackled really well, hit really well, he’s doing great and he’s ready to play wherever we need him.”

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Boye Mafe, edge

Carroll named Mafe as the player who made the biggest leap from last year, but he might also be the player that stood out the most this training camp in general. Mafe has looked quick, powerful and elusive as a pass rusher, but perhaps more important to a Seahawks team that struggled mightily in this area last year, he made some big run stops this preseason.

Mafe is a more well-rounded player, and he explained to reporters in a training camp press conference how he reached that goal.

“I told myself this offseason that I was going to spend a lot of time understanding what my role is, understanding how this defense works for me and understanding the grand scheme of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Mafe said. “I spent a lot of time in the film room with Coach Hurtt (defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt). I spent a lot of time on the field and now, having (pass rush specialist BT Jordan) in there, I’m understanding the concept of my pass rush and what I need to accomplish with my goals in putting it together and making a plan with it.”

Mafe is likely to find himself paired with Nwosu as the starting outside linebacker duo to begin the season because Darrell Taylor hasn’t practiced since the beginning of August due to a shoulder strain.

Position Battle: CB Mike Jackson vs. CB Tre Brown

Tre Brown was drafted by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2021 draft and looked very promising in a handful of games before suffering a patellar tendon injury. He wasn’t activated from the PUP list until late November of last season, and by that point Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson were playing quite well as the starting cornerbacks.

Jackson spent most of 2021 on the practice squad for the Seahawks before impressing in training camp in 2022 and winning the starting job opposite Woolen for the entire season.

Flash forward to 2023, and the Seahawks used their coveted No. 5 overall draft pick on Witherspoon, leaving Brown and Jackson with uncertain futures, but they have had plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. With Witherspoon and Woolen both missing time due to injuries, Brown and Jackson have seen the majority of the first team reps at cornerback throughout the training camp. They have consistently performed, with each player recording numerous standout days since OTAs.

The preseason was a bit more of a mixed bag for the pair, but overall they’ve highlighted the Seahawks’ enviable depth at the position. There has been some speculation that the Seahawks could attempt to trade one of their corners in order to bolster a position like the interior defensive line, but with Witherspoon still sidelined and Woolen just recently returning, the Seahawks may choose to keep that depth intact. If they do look to make a trade, former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright thinks he knows which player it would be.

In the debut of this season’s K.J. Wright Show with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk last Wednesday,Wright explained why it would be Jackson.

“One-hundred percent it’s Mike Jackson, and when you look at Mike Jack, he played well last year,” Wright said. “He’s a guy that surprised a lot of people but he didn’t get drafted here. He’s not one of ‘those guys’ that (Seahawks general manager) John Schneider and Pete Carroll invested in. They invested in Tre Brown, they invested in Witherspoon, they invested in Coby Bryant. Like, ‘These are our guys that we drafted. These are guys that we pay. These are the guys that we are going to put on this football field and take this new era (to the next level).’”

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