Seattle Seahawks: 5 Fringe Players Who Must Make the Roster
Training camps, set to begin July 23, and preseason games give starters and key contributors an opportunity to prepare and build chemistry before the regular season kicks off. For the hundreds of fringe players clinging to jobs—and dreams—it's a platform, a final audition for some, to showcase their value.
After finishing last season on a high note—winners of five of eight—the Seahawks have plans for a playoff run in 2012, and think they have the roster to do so.
I'm inclined to agree, though the next few weeks (and next few decisions) will prove vital to those chances.
As roster battles heat up under the summer sun and what to do—or who to pick—becomes more and more hazy, coach Pete Carroll and his staff are sure to do some serious thinking.
Let me offer my advice: five fringe players that must make the final 53-man roster.
QB Josh Portis
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Portis' path to the NFL was a meandering, detour-filled journey that few would finish. Portis, though, has arrived and is looking to stay.
A heralded recruit and dual-threat quarterback out of high school, Portis bounced around two colleges—Florida and Maryland—before landing at D-II California University. There he felt at home, broke passing records and shined enough to earn an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine after his senior year (2010).
He would later go undrafted and sign with the Seahawks, where he spent much of last season digesting the playbook as a third-stringer. He's big—6'3", 215 pounds—accurate and has the athleticism to make plays both inside and out the pocket. The potential is undeniable. But is there room for him to grow in Seattle's overcrowded backfield?
Now more familiar and comfortable in the offense, Portis finds himself amidst a heated four-way quarterback battle with Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson. Yet only three can stay on the final 53-man roster, and Portis appears to be the odd man out.
Then again, he has had the odds stacked against him before and come out on top.
RB Robert Turbin
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It's a stretch to imagine Turbin—a fourth-round selection in April's draft—on the fringe or anywhere near, but stranger things have happened. Whether a seasoned veteran or green rookie, no job is safe in the NFL.
And Turbin is ready to fight and earn his spot on the roster.
Marshawn Lynch, the clear starter at running back, rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns—with countless broken tackles and bruised egos along the way—in 2011. But Turbin is in the mix, as is Leon Washington and Kregg Lumpkin, to be the primary backup and heir apparent to Beast Mode's throne.
One look at Turbin, his highlights, and you quickly see why the Seahawks swooped him up.
He runs with inside power, keeps his legs churning, breaks tackles and has the speed and burst to bounce it outside for big gains. Oh, he's also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, able to run the entire route tree.
Just go ahead and call him Beast Mode 2.0.
G J.R. Sweezy
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A work-in-progress offensive line meets a work-in-progress lineman.
Sweezy needs time to develop, no doubt about it. He's learning a new position—making the switch from defensive end/tackle to guard—on a new team, in a new league where speed and physicality meet at high levels.
His experience on the defensive side of the ball, however, should help in the long run. He'll quickly read formations, pick up on tendencies and exploit weaknesses.
After allowing 50 sacks in 2011, the Seahawks have made it a priority to upgrade the line. Sweezy—with a little polishing—can be that upgrade in pass-protection, and still plow lanes for the run game.
Plus, it's hard not to root for a guy with the last name "Sweezy."
CB Phillip Adams
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Adams has ping-ponged since his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. Released by both the 49ers and New England Patriots—despite solid play in limited time—Adams has returned to the NFC West for another shot at sticking to an NFL roster.
Expect the third time to be a charm.
He has the ability to line up at corner and nickel and contribute on special teams. He's physical enough to jam, quick and fluid in the hips and is a reliable return man with breakaway speed. It's the type of versatility coaches covet.
Adams will likely compete with Jeremy Lane—a talented yet raw small-school prospect better suited for the practice squad—for the last cornerback spot. Adams' experience, albeit marginal, and resilience will earn him the nod.
TE Kellen Winslow Jr.
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How many second, third and fourth chances can a player get to finally reach—and maintain—their potential?
In Winslow's case: a lot.
For good reason, he's a matchup nightmare when healthy and on the field.
Three teams (Browns, Bucs, and now Seahawks), a Pro Bowl visit, injuries and one infamous bike wreck—only rivaled by Bobby Petrino's joy ride turned disaster—later, Winslow has been given yet another chance to live up to the expectations of a sixth overall pick.
This time in Seattle. And Seattle needs Winslow just as much as he needs them. Winslow brings a big target and big-play potential to an otherwise tame aerial attack. The tight end has accumulated 437 receptions for 4,836 yards—an 11.1 average—and 23 touchdowns during his seven-season career.
He's fast, runs smooth routes and wreaks havoc in the red zone. Whoever emerges as the starting quarterback will find comfort in having Winslow to throw to.