Seattle Seahawks: Shakedown at Wide Receiver Following Preseason Week 2
While all eyes have been on the quarterback competition in Seattle, the Seahawks also have tough decisions to make relative to who will be catching passes in 2012.
Early in the offseason, wide receiver seemed to be one of the more difficult position units to judge. There were a few veterans and a lot of young options with talent but worrisome gaps in their play.
Then Pete Carroll, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and GM John Schneider decided to really shake up the group.
Seattle released Mike Williams and then added Antonio Bryant, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens to the roster. Bryant didn't last long, and the general expectation is one of the other two additions will be gone soon as well.
Based on play thus far in the preseason, there is no reason to expect Seattle to only keep one of their two new additions. Following is a summary of what to expect with the receiving corps in 2012.
There aren't many "locks" to make a Pete Carroll roster. He's shown the willingness to release players who aren't living up to expectations on the field or in the training room.
There are a few players who have done enough in prior seasons or in 2012 to secure their spots, though.
In his short tenure in Seattle, Rice has shown both of the observations that were heavily discussed prior to and after him signing a five-year, $41 million contract: He is an incredibly gifted player and has significant durability concerns.
When he's on the field, Rice is one of the best receivers in the game. He is fast, tall, has great leaping skills and catches the ball whenever it is near. His body control may not be at the level of Larry Fitzgerald, but it isn't far behind.
Once he steps onto the field, he will open up a new dimension of the Seahawks passing game and improve quarterback play. The only question is when will he be available and for how long.
Perhaps, that was two questions, which is fitting considering the duality of Rice.
When an undrafted rookie steps up and leads the team in receptions and yards, it generally secures two things.
First, it garners the adoration of a fanbase. In Baldwin's case, that is particularly true of the 12th Woman.
More importantly, it guarantees the player will be with the team the following year.
Baldwin has been nursing a sore hamstring and hasn't seen any game action in 2012, but he and Matt Flynn have spent time together outside of practice to build chemistry. That has shown up in practices and will likely help Flynn improve his performance when Baldwin is needed and available to suit up against hostile opposition.
Seattle hasn't made much of an effort to get the ball into Tate's hands in the preseason games, but he's shown enough in practice to ensure he will be on the roster. The only decision for the coaches is if he'll be starting opposite Rice, working in as the fourth receiver or running out of the slot.
Seattle was hoping to land a solid No. 2 receiver when they drafted Tate in the second round in 2010. So far in 2012, it looks like he's ready to step up and meet those expectations.
On the Inside of the Bubble
While not guaranteed a roster spot, these are the players whom I believe will make the final roster. With three spots already spoken for, there are at least three more vacancies available.
There is a chance the Seahawks' final 53-man roster contains just two quarterbacks or three running backs and a fullback. If so, Seattle could keep a seventh receiver or a fourth tight end...or both.
For now, these projections are based on keeping six receivers.
Yes, he had a tough game in Denver. He and Flynn weren't on the same page on at least one throw, and Owens dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass that landed right in his hands.
But Owens hasn't played in an NFL game in 20 months. He needs some time to get back in football mode, and the Seahawks will give it to him.
There were two positives I saw in Owens in the game against the Broncos. First, he can bring the slant pass back to the Seahawks. With the right receiver, quick slants can turn into big gains, and they can be effective in the face of a heavy pass rush.
Owens showed he still has the skill set to get open and gain yards after the catch.
Despite the protection issues the Seahawks have had in recent seasons, they didn't have a quarterback or receiver they seemed to trust with quick slants. I thought they would be a staple for Tate, but they haven't been.
The other positive was Owens still moves like a starting NFL wide receiver. He makes quick, smooth cuts and can separate from cornerbacks. He even got free deep.
Owens needs to catch the ball, but those who have watched Owens enough know he's prone to drop some very catchable passes.
Fans should expect more balls being pressed to Owens in Kansas City.
NFL pundits have been quick to write off Butler. I've been guilty of it as well, as the Seahawks have shown an inclination for the bigger targets.
But when given the chance, Butler continues to produce. He was given time with the first-team offense against the Broncos, and he had three receptions for 16 yards on three targets.
There have been a lot of comments that the Seahawks need to choose between Owens and Edwards. I'm not of the mind that both players can't make the final roster, though.
Seattle could use some experience at the receiver positions, but more importantly, they need talent. Players who looked like promising prospects aren't panning out, and Seattle needs security if Sidney Rice misses games for the fifth time in six seasons.
Prior to seeing both Edwards and Owens on the field, it seemed plausible that one of them would be cut. But both players are showing the explosiveness that made them threats in the passing game at one point in their careers.
Edwards will also be paid half of what Ben Obomanu is scheduled to earn in 2012, and there isn't a measurable age difference.
Seattle has worked on incorporating Edwards into the game while Obomanu has no catches and just one target in two games.
On the Outside of the Bubble
While the following players aren't likely in the top six after the second preseason game, the three players on the prior slide could fail to launch over the next two weeks. If they do, there are several players ready to take their spots.
Imagine if Seneca Wallace had decided to dedicate himself to becoming the best receiver possible instead of attempting to forge his way as an NFL quarterback. That is the potential trajectory for Bates.
I originally saw Bates as a fun project for the practice squad. He could get his feet wet during August and spend the rest of the season working against starters on the scout team.
But, he is showing promise on special teams and has become a solid route-runner. He's shown the speed needed to get separation, and there is a small chance he wouldn't clear waivers if he doesn't make Seattle's roster.
Seattle gave him some first-half snaps in Denver, indicating he's being considered for the roster.
This is a difficult call. If Seattle hadn't added Edwards and Owens, I could see the Seahawks carrying Tuinei as their sixth receiver, similar to the role Kris Durham played early in 2011 before being asked to go in injured reserve.
But if the two veterans show they can still be standout receivers, there simply won't be room for the undrafted rookie from Oregon.
This will be another difficult player for the Seahawks to handle. Obomanu was given starter duties for much of 2011 and took the field with the first team against the Tennessee Titans.
Obo runs solid routes and can help on special teams, but he lacks the size of several other players. More importantly, the drop issue he developed last season carried over into training camp in 2012.
Obomanu doesn't have the physical presence to keep a roster spot if he drops passes. This will lead to Butler and Edwards bumping Obomanu off the final roster.
Below the Cut Line
The following players are still in training camp, but several could be released with the initial roster cuts. Barring some poor play above them and a marked improvement in their play, none of the players below are likely to be on the final roster.
When minicamps were starting, I listed Durham as the player who would take the No. 2 role from Mike Williams. Seattle released the former first-round draft choice shortly thereafter, clearing the way for Durham to have a standout camp and secure his place with the team.
The only problem is Durham's play hasn't caught much attention. When it has, it usually hasn't been from positive play.
Seattle will expect their wide receivers to catch the ball. Unless you are a future Hall of Fame player who has shown the ability to churn out 1,000-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns, drops won't be tolerated.
It would take an amazing turnaround at this point for Durham to become a factor.
Part of this assessment is based on Durham being a non-factor, thus far, in the preseason passing game. Perhaps, Seattle is so comfortable in what he offers that they are looking at other options to see how they stack up.
Actually, that sounds very close to the path taken at quarterback and why Tarvaris Jackson hasn't been playing.
Sorry, Mr. Durham. You know I appreciate your game, but things aren't looking positive.
Kearse had an impressive end-around against the Broncos and followed that up with a deep reception over the middle of Denver's third-team defense. He looked good in that capacity, but we haven't seen enough of that in practice sessions.
Kearse was a great collegiate receiver, but he hasn't shown enough consistency catching the ball to make him a serious threat to make the roster.
There is a reason the fastest receiver at the 2011 NFL combine wasn't drafted. He's got the ability to get behind a secondary, but he isn't the most sure-handed player on the field.
I don't have a source for this, but rumor has it Red Bryant was seen giving Lockette pointers on the sidelines after his interception against the St. Louis Rams last season.
Lockette is an intriguing player, and his two long receptions at the end of the 2011 campaign have fans salivating. But, Seattle needs a more complete player to round out their receiving corps.
Seattle seemed interested in giving Martin a chance to demonstrate he can hang against a starting secondary. He has been given ample playing time to prove his worth.
The third-year player isn't as crisp as he needs to be, leading to him coming up short in a pair of targets in Denver.
Potential Practice Squad Member
To make this list, players must not only be eligible, they must also be expected to clear waivers.
As pointed out by Warren Moon during the Seahawks' telecast, there were several scouts present for the game in Denver to get a look at a few players who will likely be available after roster cuts.
This is a marked change from two seasons ago when it was the Seahawks scouring waiver wires to find players to fill their roster.