From Claire Farnsworth, Seahawks.com reporter
SEATTLE — The Seahawks are all about Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman,Bobby Wagner and the other veterans – young as they might be – who have helped this team reach unprecedented heights and expectations so quickly.
But during this short week, as the team prepares for its preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on Thursday, the focus turns to Christine Michael,Ron Parker, Benson Mayowa,SealverSiliga, John Lotulelei and the others who are battling to secure roles and/or the right to still be with the team after Saturday’s roster cut to 53 players.
“We have a number of guys that are on the verge of really making decisions hard,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday, after the first of what will be only two practices to prepare for the Raiders and everything that game will mean to so many on the 75-man roster.
“Those guys in particular, if we do it the way we plan to do it, we’re going to give them a really good chance to show it. We need to give guys the opportunity to show so we can make the decisions, and give them a chance to show for themselves. So the young guys will get a lot of playtime this week and they’re going to get a lot of looks.”
Michael, this year’s second-round draft choice, is the NFL’s leading rusher during the preseason. But he’s also currently No. 3 on the Seahawks’ depth chart behind Lynch and incumbent backup Robert Turbin. So Michael needs to continue making every carry count, just as he did in rushing for 97 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Friday night and 89 yards in the opener against the San Diego Chargers.
“Christine has been flashier in preseason, there’s no question,” Carroll said when asked to compare the rookie summers of Michael and Turbin, a fourth-round draft choice last year. “He has made a real flashy first impression. We’re excited about it. He doesn’t have the whole thing yet. He’s got a lot of work to do. He’s not always reading things properly.
“But he certainly shows the suddenness that gives you a chance to feel like he’s going to bust something.”
Mayowa has 2.5 sacks to the lead the Seahawks and tie for No. 8 in the league. But his snaps have increased at the Leo end spot because Chris Clemons is completing his rehab from surgery to repair the ligament and meniscus damage he sustained in his left knee during the wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins in January; free-agent addition Cliff Avril is sidelined with a hamstring injury that has his availability for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener in question; and Bruce Irvin, who led all NFL rookies with eight sacks last season, is learning the strong-side linebacker position and also facing a four-game suspension to open the regular season. So Mayowa must continue to play as well – as relentlessly – as he has in the first three preseason games.
Siliga just joined the team last week, in the trade that sent guard John Moffitt to the Denver Broncos, but the 325-pounder displayed his potential as a run-stuffer against the Packers.
“He’s really solid at the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said. “He’s physical. You can’t move him. He’s a good technician. He understands technique. He stays in the right spots. He’s a physical presence. … He needs to play a lot this week, just to show where he fits in.”
Lotulelei, a rookie free agent, has been a whirling-dervish of a playmaker since the rookie minicamp in May. But he’s one of nine linebackers, with the club expected to carry six or seven.
Then there’s Parker. He has shown he can play, when not sidelined by a hamstring injury. But he also plays a position where the Seahawks are loaded – cornerback. In addition to Sherman and fellow starter Brandon Browner, there are free-agent additions Antoine Winfield and Will Blackmon, as well as incumbent backups Walter Thurmond,Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell.
Just how many corners can the Seahawks’ carry on the 53-man roster? Just how difficult can Parker make it when those decisions reach the push-comes-to-shove stage?
“This week is huge for Ronnie,” Carroll said. “He’s had enough time with us where we know that he’s a good football player and he can do some stuff and he’s really one of our style guys. He’s really fast. And real strong. He’s just had trouble getting back from his injury; the hamstring thing has bothered him.
“But he looked good today. And he’ll have a good week and we’ll play him in this game.”