NFL

Roster Battles to Watch: Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

There are Several Key Competitions to Watch in Thursday night’s Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings Game

Following the first preseason game the Seahawks played in Kansas City last weekend, some of the tough roster choices the front office will have to make began to sort themselves out. Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

The Thursday night home game against Minnesota will be the next opportunity for fans to see how these competitions are progressing.

Running Back

Many fans came into training camp believing that Thomas Rawls is the heir apparent to the spot Marshawn Lynch

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

left open at running back when he retired this offseason. However, Christine Michael put everyone on notice against the Chiefs that he is not going to simply let Rawls have the spot. Michael looked great against the Chiefs and with Rawls still working his way back to a full workload it will be interesting to see how the position pans out.

Behind Rawls and Michael are the three rookies the team drafted in the spring in C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks. These three are likely fighting for two spots, and with Brooks and Prosise coming back to practice from injury earlier this week we may get to see their first game action.

Collins saw limited action against the Chiefs, gaining five yards on three carries and one catch for four yards. Collins will likely get to see more time this week as the team evaluates how they can make best use of his talents.

Wide Receiver

The first three receiver slots on the team are effectively locked up by Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse, likely leaving only two — possibly three — slots up for grabs. Paul Richardson would seemingly have the inside track for the fourth spot based on his blazing speed, experience in the system and rapport with Russell Wilson, but several players could challenge for the last couple of receiving spots.

The names to watch include Kasen Williams, Kevin Smith, Doug McNeil, and Tanner McEvoy. Williams and Smith both saw some action late in 2015, though neither played against Kansas City due to injuries. McNeil and McEvoy are both big bodied receivers who could represent the large red zone target Pete Carroll has been looking for since his arrival in Seattle in 2010.

McNeil caught two passes for ten yards against the Chiefs, while McEvoy had three receptions for 77 yards and the winning touchdown.

Tight End

As a running team, the Seahawks have traditionally carried three tight ends, and it would seem that if he is healthy and recovered from the ruptured patellar tendon he suffered last season, Jimmy Graham likely has the top spot locked down. Behind Graham, the team has offered high praise for third round draft pick Nick Vannett following minicamp, OTAs and so far in training camp, so it would seem the

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

second spot might be Vannett’s to lose.

That leaves the rest of the tight ends in camp fighting for the third spot. Luke Willson could be the frontrunner for the spot, having been with the team for three seasons, but despite his great athleticism he has never had the breakout season many have expected. His top competition for the spot might be Brandon Williams — who was signed in free agency after the Dolphins declined to tender him as a restricted free agent. Pete Carroll has gushed about Williams’ special teams play in addition to stating that Williams is stronger and a better blocker than they have had at the Tight End position in the past couple of years. For a run-first team, that could make Williams a very attractive option.

In addition, with Willson entering the final year of his contract, both he and Williams are only under contract for this season and Willson’s cap hit is almost a million dollars more than Williams.

Offensive Line

One of the biggest question marks facing the Hawks as they entered training camp was the offensive line, as their two most experienced linemen left in free agency during the offseason. The team had completely reconfigured the line heading into training camp and the shuffling has continued as free agent acquisition J’Marcus Webb has been out due to injury.

This pushed Garry Gilliam back to right tackle where he played last season and brought in Bradley Sowell to left tackle. The line performed well against the Chiefs, but Kansas City was playing without star defensive ends Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

That said, the reconfigured interior line looked solid, with Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt and Germaine Ifedi performing well. In particular, on a fourth and one conversion by Jonathon Amosa, the team ran right behind Germaine Ifedi and at Jaye Howard, a very solid defensive tackle for the Chiefs, and Ifedi was able to get the push necessary for Amosa to gain the first down.

Obviously it is still only the preseason, but the Hawks have to be happy with that kind of performance from their first round draft pick.

Defensive Tackle

Brandon Mebane was a mainstay in the middle of the defensive line for the Seahawks since being drafted in 2007, but with his departure to San Diego there is a big hole to fill. The team brought in former-Patriot Sealver Siliga and drafted Jarran Reed out of Alabama to compete for this spot, but Siliga has been limited by injury so far during camp and the performance by Reed against the Chiefs left something to be desired.

Also competing at defensive tackle are Jordan Hill, Brandin Bryant and Quentin Jefferson, though those three are better suited to generate pass rush from the interior line than as run-stopping behemoths.

To add to the competition, the team signed Tony McDaniel this week, whol played well for the Seahawks the first time he was with them, helping them reach the Super Bowl in both 2013 and 2014. Depending on Reed’s development and Siliga’s return from injury, McDaniel may have a decent shot at making the 53 man roster at the end of camp, especially for someone added a couple of weeks into camp.

Cornerback

At this point in camp there appears to be a three-way competition between Deshawn Shead, Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon for the right to start across from Richard Sherman. Shead started the last several games of 2015 and his performance then and so far in camp seems to have made him the frontrunner. That would likely leave Lane

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings

to slide inside to the nickel corner spot, where he has played well for the Hawks over the past several seasons.

That might make Tharold Simon the odd man out, despite Richard Sherman’s assertions that Simon is more physically talented than Sherman. Simon played well in 2014 prior to suffering a shoulder injury and could provide depth should one of the starters get injured, but he had an ugly pass interference penalty against the Chiefs that did not help his case.

There are obviously several other position battles and bottom of the roster spots that will be up for grabs over the next three preseason games, but for this upcoming game against the Vikings, these are the ones I will be watching most closely.

(Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings)

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