Three Wild Cards To Make Seahawks Final Roster
By Corbin Smith
The Seattle Seahawks officially closed the books on training camp on Wednesday, and following Friday night's 41-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers, the team has less than three weeks until the season opener at CenturyLink Field. The first two weeks of the preseason are easily the most grueling for players, but the toughest decisions for coaches and front office executives comes after that period as teams begin to trim their respective rosters to eventually have 53 players for opening week.
Head coach Pete Carroll and his staff always seem to make a surprise cut or two each August, with two notable instances taking place the past few seasons. Prior to the start of the 2012 season, wide receiver Mike Williams was cut despite having led the team in receptions only two seasons earlier. Popular fullback Michael Robinson eventually re-signed with the team midway through the 2013 regular season, but the team cut him due to a medical issue and the emergence of UCLA product Derrick Coleman.
Other veterans have gotten their pink slips unexpectedly as well during the Carroll regime, showing Seattle's commitment to a "championship offseason" from its entire roster. If a player shows up to camp out of shape or other players at the same position outperform him, the Seahawks have no problem cutting ties with an established player. Tackle Michael Bowie already was used as an example for the rest of the team earlier this month, as the team tried to sneak him onto injured reserve through waivers before the Cleveland Browns claimed him. Bowie failed to show up to camp in top shape, and while coaches insist they wanted to keep him, choosing to place him on the waiver wire sent a statement to the locker room.
When the team does decide to move on from veteran players, those moves open the door for unexpected youngsters to replace them. It's not a secret that the Seahawks have been highly successful developing undrafted gems since Carroll took over in 2010, and Seattle has several intriguing undrafted rookies on this year's roster who could make the 53 man squad next month. Here's a look at three potential sleepers who could find a way to crack the final roster:
Garry Gilliam, Offensive Tackle
Offensive line coach Tom Cable loves having athletes up front, and Gilliam fits the mold. Prior to moving to tackle as a senior at Penn State, he played tight end three seasons for the Nittany Lions, and that athleticism makes him an intriguing find for the Seahawks. Aside from being an intelligent football player, Gilliam has quick feet for an offensive lineman and can do major damage as a run blocker at the second level. He also has seen some work as a guard earlier in the offseason, showing valuable versatility.
He's far from a finished product, as he needs to get stronger and his fundamentals need refined since he hasn't had much experience at the position. He would most likely struggle if forced into action in a regular season game at this point in his career. But he's made great progress during training camp and saw action with the second-string offensive line against the Chargers on Friday. With Bowie no longer in the picture and veterans like Eric Winston on board to mentor him, there's a strong possibility Gilliam could be the player who replaces him on the final roster.
Demitrius Bronson, Running Back
Heading into Friday's game, Bronson may have topped this list. Injuries and scheme-fit issues prevented him from ever reaching his potential at the college level, but he put up strong workout numbers at his pro day this spring (4.52 40 yard dash, 25 reps on 225 bench press) and his physical skills led to interest from Seattle. After a strong showing at the team's annual rookie camp in May, he eventually agreed to terms with the Seahawks and surprised many during training camp.
He had a great NFL debut against the Denver Broncos only a week ago, rushing five times for 22 yards behind an injury-marred offensive line. I fully expected Seattle to give him an extended look against San Diego, but he ended up only carrying the football once on the night. Without playing time in game action, it's going to be difficult for him to impress the coaches enough to stick as a fourth running back on the opening day roster. However, it was a telling story to me that he saw the field before Spencer Ware on Friday, which indicates he may have passed him on the depth chart. It's unlikely Bronson makes the team barring injury, but if Seattle opts to keep four running backs, he appears to be in the best position to win that spot.
RaShaun Allen, Tight End
Like Bronson, Allen would be a reach when considering his odds at making the final roster. But Seattle needs a third tight end with Anthony McCoy out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and the team might not be sold on the idea of Cooper Helfet taking his place. Allen didn't produce much as a receiver in college, and he's probably not going to project into much of an offensive threat at the professional level either. From that standpoint, Helfet clearly would be a better option.
After watching Friday's contest, however, Allen may have at least gotten his name back into the discussion. He made a nice 24 yard reception late in the game, but I was more impressed by his ability as a blocker. Helfet offers more as a receiver, but his blocking leaves much to be desired. Considering the Seahawks run the football more often than anyone else, it would seem to make sense to at least take a longer look at the superior blocker in this instance. Helfet should be the favorite to replace McCoy, but I wouldn't completely count out this undrafted rookie just yet.