The Seattle Seahawks fourth preseason game ended the same way the previous eight did, with a win. Backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson shined behind a suspect offensive line, and undrafted wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams solidified their spots on the 53-man roster.
In addition to his 50-yard receiving performance against the Oakland Raiders, Kearse was almost a sure lock to make the team a couple weeks back when he scored on a 107-yard kickoff return versus the Denver Broncos.
Williams, on the other hand, has had an uphill battle on his hands ever since the Seahawks drafted Chris Harper in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Harper was well-liked coming out of college because he was a physical wideout who utilized his strength to make plays.
Unfortunately for Harper, Williams wasn’t going down without a fight. For the fourth game in a row, the third-year veteran out of Toledo tallied more than 40 yards receiving and caught at least one pass. Moreover, he finished the preseason with the most receiving touchdowns on the team.
This, in turn, ultimately spells bad news for the rookie receiver. One has to think head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were rooting for Harper, but in the end he didn’t make enough plays, and it looked as if his confidence was shot after he dropped two catchable balls on Thursday night.
His biggest drop of the night came on a 40-yard pass from Jackson. Yes, the throw from T-Jax was late, but it was right on the money in the end zone. Harper had no business letting the ball squirt through his hands the way it did. In hindsight, if he made the catch, his chances of making the 53-man roster would go up tenfold.
As you can see in the play breakdown above, Harper did a nice job of separating himself from Oakland’s defenders, and the ball was dropped in beautifully over the top. Instead of trying to catch the ball with his hands, the 234-pound pass-catcher made the colossal mistake of trying to trap the ball against his body.
That attempt right there summed up his preseason in one play. Missed reps and missed opportunities often come back to haunt a player. Without a doubt, Harper wishes he had that one back.
Prior to the draft, Harper was viewed as one of the most sure-handed receivers in college football. During his senior season at Kansas State, he managed to finish the 2012 season with the seventh-best drop rate in the country, according to John Pollard of Stats.com. On 94 targets, he only dropped a pass 3.3 percent of the time.
That, in turn, makes Harper’s two critical drops incredibly surprising.
With Saturday’s final cutdown day looming, where does the rookie receiver go from here? Sure, there’s an outside chance he sticks on the 53-man roster as Seattle’s sixth wide receiver, yet that possibility appears to be a long shot at this point.
The 'Hawks simply have too much talent on the defensive side of the ball to save a roster spot for a guy who has consistently underperformed. Heading into Week 1, Carroll and Schneider will likely roll with five receivers and keep an extra defensive lineman or a linebacker.
Right now, Harper’s best suited for Seattle’s practice squad. Putting him on the practice squad would give him the chance to regain his confidence and hone his craft. However, there’s no guarantee he would pass through waivers unclaimed. Another wide receiver needy team like the Jets may want to add him to their active roster.
Let’s not forget, the Seahawks front office isn’t scared of admitting its own mistakes. In 2010, it released fourth-round pick E.J. Wilson after he posted one measly tackle in two games. Furthermore, Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham only lasted one season in the Pacific Northwest.
Will Harper go down as an immediate failure, or will the organization try and hold out hope by burying him on the depth chart? Either way, it shouldn’t shock anyone if he never turns out to be the player the Seahawks had hoped he would be.