As the Seahawks prepare for their nationally televised dress rehearsal in what figures to be a completely hostile environment in Green Bay on Friday, competition is hot for the last few unclaimed roster spots.
NFL teams must cut down to 75 players next Tuesday and be down to 53 by Aug. 31, and the Seahawks will have some tough choices to make -- and potentially some more trades.
The Seahawks are likely to split their roster 25/25/3 again. The offense seems fairly set, with the only remaining competition being waged for the No. 5 running back and the last couple of offensive line spots.
The defense has the bigger battles, though.
The Hawks are likely to keep 25 defenders -- 10 in the secondary (Pete Carroll loves his DBs). That leaves 15 spots in the front seven.
The locks are/appear to be Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hill, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, O'Brien Schofield, Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan. Chris Clemons takes another spot whenever he is healthy.
Bruce Irvin will miss the first four games on suspension, which leaves four spots being contended for by 13 players: Clinton McDonald, Jaye Howard, Benson Mayowa, Tony McDaniel, Jesse Williams, Allen Bradford, Heath Farwell, John Lotulelei, Ty Powell, Kyle Knox, Craig Wilkins, Korey Toomer, Sealver Siliga.
The key to making the team lies in versatility. The coaches have made sure nearly every front-seven defender can play at least two positions, and special teams will be a major factor as well.
For two of the final four spots, Bradford and Williams seem to be favorites. And for the final two spots, the last two games seemingly will decide it among McDonald, Howard, Mayowa, Farwell, Lotulelei and Powell.
Let's look at the entire roster heading into the Green Bay game:
Locks: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson
Not likely: Brady Quinn
Game 2: Wilson got the offense going against Denver, leading the Hawks to scores on four of five drives in the first half. He hit 8 of 12 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. After a slow start in the first game, this was more like the offense that finished the 2012 season. Jackson came in ahead of Quinn and hit another deep touchdown to Stephen Williams as he continues to lock up the backup job. He and Wilson both hit 141 in passer rating (158.3 is perfect).
Projection: Jackson is No. 2 the rest of the way and Quinn is playing out the string.
Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Chris Michael, Michael Robinson
Likely: Spencer Ware
Not likely: Derrick Coleman
Game 2: Turbin looked good in his first action (35 yards on nine rushes) as Michael sat out. While Turbin holds off Michael for the No. 2 job, Coleman and Ware are locked in a battle for a roster spot. They alternated series as tailback and fullback in the same backfield in the second half and Ware seemed to take the lead in the competition, running for 54 yards on nine carries. Coleman had seven yards on five attempts and also dropped a pass, a definite setback for him.
Projection: Turbin ran well enough to keep Michael at bay, and Michael will have to really outplay him to advance on the depth chart. If Michael is the No. 3 back, it will make that use of a second-round pick on him seem even more frivolous -- this year anyway. The Hawks seem likely to keep five, which means Coleman and Ware will battle to the end.
Locks: Zach Miller, Sean McGrath, Luke Willson
Not likely: Cooper Helfet, Darren Fells
Game 2: McGrath was not thrown to in the first game, but he came up big in this one, catching two passes for 26 yards, including a juggling touchdown grab off a tipped ball (and no, we're not talking about the tip of his scraggly beard). Willson did not factor -- on his only target, he was overthrown by Wilson on a deep sideline pattern in the first quarter. Helfet caught two balls as well.
Projection: McGrath and Willson will be Miller's backups.
Locks: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse
Likely: Stephen Williams
Not likely: Chris Harper, Brett Swain, Bryan Walters, Phil Bates, Arceto Clark, Perez Ashford, Donavon Kemp
PUP: Percy Harvin
Game 2: Kearse and Williams did it again. Kearse joined Brandon Browner as the stars of the game, first catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from Wilson and then taking back his first kick return 107 yards for a score. Williams caught another long TD pass from Jackson, a 38-yarder in the third quarter. Kearse and Williams have combined for five scores in two games.
Projection: Kearse and Williams will stick and Harper will end up on the practice squad if no other team claims him. Bates, also being worked at fullback, figures to be a practice-squadder. With so much uncertainty after this season at this position, the Hawks probably would love to see Kearse and Williams develop into keepers. Kearse certainly looks like one.
Locks: LT Russell Okung, LG Paul McQuistan, C Max Unger, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Breno Giacomini, LG James Carpenter
Likely: C/G Lemuel Jeanpierre, OL Alvin Bailey, OT Michael Bowie
Not likely: OG Rishaw Johnson, OT Mike Person, OG Ryan Seymour, C Jared Smith
Game 2: Carroll likes Tom Cable's unit, telling reporters: “I thought that the first line did a nice job. They’re going to be a good, solid group. They really know what they’re doing, and I think we can really count on those guys, protection-wise, adjustment-wise and all of that. And we got to where we were moving the ball on the ground, too, which was nice.” Bailey and Bowie got work at guard, a precursor to the trade that sent John Moffitt to Denver (after Cleveland failed him on a physical).
Projection: McQuistan will start at left guard over Carpenter, who seems well on his way to "bust" status, and Bailey and Bowie will earn backup jobs. With so many teams around the league in need of line help, Seattle could try to trade a player or two (perhaps Johnson and/or Person) for late picks.
Locks: Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill
Possible: Clinton McDonald, Jesse Williams
Not likely: Tony McDaniel, Michael Brooks, Martin Parker, Sealver Siliga
Game 2: Red Bryant played inside, and Michael Bennett played a ton of tackle, too, as the Hawks got looks at a lot of guys in different spots up front. They gave up just 76 rushing yards (2.7 per carry). Hill led all linemen with three tackles. Brooks and Parker played well in the second half as they put up tape for other teams and/or challenge for spots on the practice squad.
Projection: With Bennett and Bryant also able to play inside, the team could keep just three or four of these guys. Right now, McDaniel is the odd man out.
5-TECH DEFENSIVE END
Locks: Red Bryant, Michael Bennett
Possible: Jaye Howard
PUP: Greg Scruggs
Game 2: The Hawks opened with a three-man line in the nickel, and Bennett played inside a lot in the second half. After a good Game 1, Howard didn't do much to stand out in this game. He needs to finish strong to have a chance.
Projection: Bennett will work behind Bryant and also as an inside rusher. Howard needs to keep up the effort in order to be in the "big linemen" mix, which figures to include six or seven guys.
Locks: Chris Clemons (PUP), Cliff Avril, Mike Morgan
Possible: Benson Mayowa
Game 2: Mayowa started and had a tough time mounting any pressure on Peyton Manning against Denver's No. 1 line. However, he again looked good against the second team. He notched a sack and tackle for loss among his four takedowns. His play against Green Bay could be pivotal to his chances.
Projection: Irvin's four-game suspension opens the door for Morgan and/or Mayowa, and if Clemons remains on PUP once the season begins Mayowa seems like a shoo-in.
Locks: K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, O'Brien Schofield, Malcolm Smith
Likely: Allen Bradford
Possible: Heath Farwell, John Lotulelei, Ty Powell
Not likely: Kyle Knox, Craig Wilkins
Injured: Korey Toomer
Game 2: Schofield started on the strong side and did not get much pressure on Manning. But he ended up with a strip sack and fumble recovery against Brock Osweiler. Wagner returned and looked good, finishing second on the team with seven tackles. He buried Manning on one pass play. Bradford had two tackles for loss after he stepped in for Wagner. Farwell helped his cause by knocking the ball out of Ronnie Hillman's hands on the goal line, leading to Browner's 106-yard touchdown return.
Projection: With Irvin out for the first four games, Schofield seems likely to be the starter at strong-side rush linebacker. Bradford seems likely to make the team as Wagner's backup, meaning Smith, Farwell, Powell and Lotulelei probably are fighting for two spots.
Locks: Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, Antoine Winfield
Likely: Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane
Not likely: Will Blackmon, Ron Parker
PUP: Tharold Simon
Game 2: Browner played like a guy trying to make everyone forget about his dumb suspension last season. He forced a fumble early and then ran end zone to end zone on a fumble recovery. He also was solid on coverage throughout the first half. Winfield was not able to stop Wes Welker from scoring on a short pass out of the slot, a seeming opening for Thurmond to challenge.
Projection: Carroll loves to keep defensive backs. If Maxwell keeps playing well, the Hawks should capitalize and trade him by the end of the preseason. If they don't, Blackmon is probably the odd man out. Simon has not practiced and, if he does not get into the action by Game 3, he figures to either remain on PUP or end up a taxi squad candidate.
Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
Likely: Jeron Johnson, Chris Maragos
Not likely: Winston Guy, DeShawn Shead
Game 2: Chancellor was a monster in the first half, finishing with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. He was all over the place and looked poised to put a disappointing 2012 behind him. Johnson finished with four tackles.
Projection: With better depth talent elsewhere on defense, they are likely to keep only four here. Unless Guy makes a major move, Johnson and Maragos will be the backups again. And it would not be a surprise if they kept just three true safeties and relied on cornerbacks if/when necessary so they could keep another front-seven player.
Starters: P Jon Ryan, LS Clint Gresham, K Steven Hauschka
Contenders: LS Kyle Nelson
Game 2: The kicking job appears to belong to Hauschka (yawn) after Carson Wiggs missed from 43 yards and was released this week. Kearse made himself a top contender for kick returns, and Tate came up with a 33-yard punt return.
Projection: Status quo at the three specialist spots and lots of options in the return game.