Below is a position-by-position look at the Seattle Seahawks as they prepare for their third game of the 2008 preseason.
The numbers in () next to the positions indicate the number of players who were on the Seahawks active roster at the start of the 2007 season.
Locks: Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Charlie Frye
Long shot: Dalton Bell
No change at the top, as Hasselbeck will be the starter and Wallace his primary backup. Frye will get a lot of playing time in the final two preseason games to see if Wallace can be used in other facets of the game.
Running back (4)
Locks: Julius Jones, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver
Looking good: Justin Forsett, Owen Schmitt
On the Bubble: T.J. Duckett
Long shots: David Kirtman
Jones and Morris are the “co-starters” at running back, with Weaver entrenched at the starting fullback position. These three spots are locked.
Forsett is close to locking up a roster spot. His 261 total yard performance against Chicago just added on to what has been a tremendous camp for the rookie seventh rounder from Cal. Forsett’s added value as a kick returner will make it difficult for Seattle to sneak him onto their practice squad. Schmitt is a promising young fullback whom the Seahawks chose in the 5th round. He hasn’t had much of a chance to make plays on offense, but he can be an impact player on special teams. With Weaver playing on a one-year tender, Schmitt also provides depth at the fullback position beyond 2008.
The emergence of Forsett could push Duckett into free agency. Seattle could certainly use Duckett’s size late in games and on short-yardage situations, but can they afford to keep him at the expense of Forsett or Schmitt?
Kirtman has seen quite a bit of playing time during the preseason, but he may fall victim to the numbers game.
Wide Receiver (6)
Locks: Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, Courtney Taylor
Looking good: Ben Obomanu, Jordan Kent
On the Bubble: Logan Payne, Michael Bumpus
Longshots: Joel Filani, Trent Shelton, Bryan Gilmore
Branch and Engram will miss the first month or so, which means Burleson is now the #1 wide receiver. As a result, Seattle is going to limit his snaps in the preseason so that he’s healthy for the regular season. The injuries to Branch and Engram mean Taylor, Obomanu and Kent are safe bets to make the 53-man roster. Taylor is expected to start at flanker, with Obomanu working out of the slot. Kent gives the Seahawks another deep threat at split end.
Payne and Bumpus could be vying for one roster spot, possibly two if the Seahawks place Branch on the PUP list to begin the season. Otherwise, both could land on the practice squad.
Filani and Shelton are first-year players with practice squad eligibility, while Gilmore is a 9-year veteran who is auditioning for the other 31 teams.
Tight End (3)
Locks: Will Heller, John Carlson, Jeb Putzier
Long shots: Joe Newton
Waived/Released/Injured: Zac Alcorn (released - 7/26)
Heller, Carlson and Putzier remain locks at the tight end spot. Newton appears destined for a second season on the practice squad.
Offensive line (9)
Locks: Walter Jones, Mike Wahle, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Sean Locklear, Mansfield Wrotto, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis
Looking good: Floyd Womack
On the Bubble: Kyle Williams, Pat Murray
Long shots: William Robinson, Ben Claxton, Nick Jones, Samuel Gutekunst
Waived/Released/Injured: Chris Gray (placed on IR - 8/4)
Jones, Wahle, Spencer, Sims, Locklear, Willis, Vallos, Wrotto are locks. Willis was in at right tackle with the first-team line after Locklear sprained his knee against Chicago, and will get the start at right tackle if Locklear isn’t ready for the season opener.
Womack has the experience and versatility edge over Williams and Murray, both of whom are prime practice squad candidates.
Robinson has been sidelined with an ankle injury sustained in the preseason opener, while Claxton and Jones were brought in for depth at center. Gutekunst will be with the team all season as an international practice squad player.
Defensive ends (5)
Locks: Patrick Kerney, Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp
Looking good: Baraka Atkins
On the Bubble: Jason Babin
Long shots: Nu’u Tafisi
Kerney and either Jackson or Tapp will be the starters. All three will be on the field in the team’s primary nickel package. Atkins and Babin are battling for the 4th defensive end spot, though the team could keep a 5th defensive end if Tripplett and Cooper remain sidelined with injuries and Babin continues to play well.
Tafisi is a practice squad candidate.
Defensive tackles (5)
Locks: Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant
Looking good: Craig Terrill, Howard Green
On the Bubble: Larry Tripplett, Chris Cooper
Long shots: Kevin Brown
Waived/Released/Injured: Marcus Tubbs (contract terminated 8/11)
Bernard and Mebane are the starters, and Bryant is a fourth-round draft choice who has missed most of training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. They are the locks.
Terrill and Green are quality veteran rotation tackles who are not being pushed for spots on the 53-man roster.
Tripplett and Cooper will remain on the bubble until they are healthy enough to practice. Either one could push Green for a spot, but both face an uphill climb at this point.
Brown is an undrafted free agent who hasn’t looked out of place in his limited playing time and could land on the practice squad.
Locks: Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson, Leroy Hill
Looking good: Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis, David Hawthorne
On the Bubble: Will Herring
Long shots: Dallas Sartz
Waived/Released/Injured: Wesly Mallard (placed on IR 8/5); Matt Castelo (released 8/11); Eric Wicks (contract terminated 8/13)
Tatupu, Peterson and Hill will start. All three have Pro Bowl-ability. Lewis can play all three linebacker positions, and he and Laury will be core players on special teams. With two solid performances this preseason, Hawthorne has seized control of the sixth linebacker spot.
Herring began training camp on the non-football injury list, and while he is reportedly progressing in his rehab, he could still land on injured reserve.
The newly signed Sartz has practice squad eligibility.
Locks: Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Deon Grant, Brian Russell, Jordan Babineaux, Josh Wilson
On the Bubble: Kevin Hobbs, CJ Wallace, Jamar Adams
Long shot: Omare Lowe, Kelin Johnson, Marquis Floyd
Waived/Released/Injured: DeMichael Dizer (placed on IR 8/3); Derrick Johnson (released 8/11)
Trufant, Jennings, Grant and Russell are the starters. Babineaux and Wilson are the 3rd and 4th cornerbacks.
Hobbs, Wallace and Adams are battling for what will likely be two roster spots. Hobbs helped himself last week with a nice read-and-react play to snare an interception that led to a touchdown. Babineaux’s ability to play safety would allow the ‘Hawks to keep a 5th cornerback. The battle between Wallace and Adams will come down to how each performs on special teams.
Johnson, an undrafted free agent, could be a practice squad candidate. Lowe and Floyd do not appear to be in the team’s long-term plans.
On the Bubble: Brandon Coutu (K), Olindo Mare (K), Ryan Plackemeier (P), Reggie Hodges (P), Tyler Schmitt (LS), Tim Lindsey (LS)
Coutu and Mare are neck-and-neck in their competition for the kicking job. This is one battle that may come down to the wire. Plackemeier has returned from his pectoral injury and is expected to do some live-action punting for the first time this preseason on Monday night against San Diego. As long as Schmitt remains sidelined with a back injury, Lindsey has a chance to make the team.
Brian McIntyre writes about the Seahawks and blogs about the NFL. You can reach him here.