STACY ROST

Rost’s Seattle Seahawks Q&A: Rookies, offense, and the IR

Aug 30, 2023, 10:39 AM

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Jaxon Smith-Njigba of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before the preseason game on Aug. 10, 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks are less than two weeks from the start of the season, and with all that anticipation – and Tuesday’s final roster cutdown – comes some listener questions.

Seattle Seahawks set first 53-man roster of the 2023 season

Their Hawks’ top two picks are injured. Will we see them Week 1?

A few players have been given injury designations. What’s that mean for an eventual return?

There were a few open battles in camp. Who came out on top?

Those questions, plus a few more, are addressed in this week’s Seahawks Q&A featuring questions from followers on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Q: Do players have to make the 53-man roster before they get put on the injured reserve? (@lcollinsrb)

There are two ways teams can use the injured reserve list to start the season. Because players on IR don’t count against the active roster (though they still count against the salary cap), the league has some specific rules to avoid roster manipulation. One rule is that while there’s no limit on the number of players a team can place on injured reserve, there is a cap on the number of players who can be designated to return from the IR.

Another rule that’s important this time of year: any player placed on the injured reserve prior to final roster cutdowns is ineligible to return for the season. This is a move you’d make for, say, a drafted rookie who is looking at a months-long recovery extending into the season and who may not be physically able to participate at all.

So what you’ll see teams do with players they expect to return is to carry them on the final 53, then add them to IR (which now carries a minimum of just four games inactive, assuming a player is added after roster cutdown). They can add another name via free agency, trade, practice squad promotion, promotion from an injury list, or re-sign a recently released player to fill that spot.

Q: Which first-round pick is more likely to start Week 1 – Devon Witherspoon or Jaxon Smith-Njigba? If they don’t start, were the picks a waste? (@swooshdave)

Of course it’s too early to call them a waste! But I’m guessing you knew that and are asking the question out of concern for their injuries.

The good news is neither has an injury that’s serious. Witherspoon, a cornerback, is expected to be back at practice this week after time off to nurse a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, wide receiver Smith-Njigba’s recovery timeline from surgery to repair a small fracture in his wrist puts him on track, in theory, to play Week 1. But there’s no real reason to rush things for either.

The Seahawks would surely love to see their rookie receiver play right away, but might they have the flexibility to rest him one more week against a weak Los Angeles secondary? Witherspoon has two weeks to ramp up to the start of the season and could be thrown out there, but there’s plenty of depth if he can’t go.

Without sounding like a cop-out, I would admittedly be more surprised than not to see both playing, but also know it’s a possibility. If neither play, there’s enough context right now (surgery, ramp-up schedules) to hold off any panic.

Q: Last year, the Seahawks averaged almost 24 points per game. Realistically, how much can they average this year? (@TimTakechi)

It’s a tough thing to predict, but I’ll say that I think the Seahawks will once again be a top-10 scoring offense. If there ever was a year to take another step forward, this is it.

I know much of the league is waiting to see whether or not quarterback Geno Smith can repeat his success from 2022, but there’s no stretch of time from Smith’s performance last season that would lead someone to think it was only an aberration. He made smart decisions and took advantage of his weapons.

There are questions on the interior of the offensive line. Evan Brown started at center for a year in Detroit but is new to Seattle, while Phil Haynes – not new to Seattle – is new to being a full-time starter after splitting those reps with Gabe Jackson last season. But that uncertainty of offset a bit by the additions of two rookie offensive weapons: Smith-Njigba (who looked stellar in camp) and running back Zach Charbonnet.

The Seahawks have some incredibly tough defenses slated, particular from Weeks 12-15 when they face Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco (twice). But even then, I think it’s fair to expect that Seattle bumps up that points per game average — and that an extra win or two follows.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Orlovsky: Where Geno and Seattle Seahawks fit in NFC picture
Huard’s Seahawks Observations: What we learned from preseason
Which Seahawks stand out after preseason and training camp?
Mario Edwards Jr.: Seahawks’ chemistry ‘most well-put-together’ in NFL
Bump: Who is the answer to Seattle Seahawks’ nickel CB dilemma?

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Rost’s Seattle Seahawks Q&A: Rookies, offense, and the IR