Analysis: Post-OTAs Seahawks 53-Man Roster Projection

With training camp only one month away, reporter Corbin Smith unveils his latest 53-man roster projection with a few twists at key positions. Who will be on the field when Seattle travels to Indianapolis on September 12?
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With training camp only a month away, the Seahawks will soon be back in action at the VMAC preparing for the 2021 season, meaning Week 1 against the Colts in Indianapolis is just around the corner.

Which players will take the field when Seattle kicks off its season in September? And which ones may be the odd players out?

As the upcoming season rapidly approaches, here's my latest crack at projecting the Seahawks 53-man roster with expected starters, key reserves, and "bubble" players who narrowly miss the cut.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Russell Wilson

Reserve: Geno Smith

On the Bubble: N/A

The Seahawks will have four quarterbacks in training camp, but Alex McGough and Danny Etling have zero regular season snaps under their belts and even with stellar preseason showings, neither of them will be cracking the roster without injuries ahead of them on the depth chart. Wilson will once again star under center orchestrating coordinator Shane Waldron's offense, while Smith will provide a viable insurance option with more than 30 NFL starts on his resume. Nothing to see here.

Running Backs

Starter: Chris Carson

Reserves: Rashaad Penny, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, Nick Bellore

On the Bubble: Travis Homer, Josh Johnson

At this point, with Carson being the exception, it's worth wondering if any other back on Seattle's roster is a 100 percent lock to make the Week 1 roster. Penny will be entering the last year of his rookie contract and though he's expected to be ready for camp, he underwent another knee procedure this offseason. He's going to have to prove he can stay healthy to fend off the competition behind him as Collins impressed in three games last year and Dallas offers a versatile skill set due to his prior receiver background. Barring injuries, at least one talented back in a crowded group will be sent packing in early September, and in this latest projection, Homer gets beaten out by his former college teammate Dallas to land the third-down role and final spot on the depth chart. Johnson should be squarely in the mix for a practice squad role.

Receivers

Starters: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D'Wayne Eskridge

Reserves: Freddie Swain, Penny Hart

On the Bubble: Cade Johnson, Tamorrion Terry, Cody Thompson, John Ursua, Connor Wedington

While the Seahawks boast one of the NFL's most electric duos in Metcalf and Lockett and couldn't be more excited about the potential of Eskridge, behind those three, two or three roster spots will be up for grabs with at least five or six players having a realistic shot of making the team. Out of the "fringe" players vying for those spots, Swain should be close to a lock to keep his role on the team after a solid rookie season with 13 receptions and a pair of touchdowns.

As for the fifth spot, jobs aren't won in OTAs or mandatory minicamp, but Hart's emergence last summer coupled with his outstanding performance during the offseason program should give him an edge over the competition. But he will have to continue playing at a high level in camp and during the preseason with a trio of intriguing undrafted rookies in Johnson, Terry, and Wedington all chomping at the bit for their chances to impress and Thompson and Ursua still waiting in the wings as capable NFL receivers. As always, this race will likely boil down to special teams and it's possible the team could wind up keeping six receivers.

Tight Ends

Starter: Gerald Everett

Reserves: Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

On the Bubble: Tyler Mabry

If Waldron's offense offers significant carryover from Sean McVay's scheme in Los Angeles, the trio of Everett, Dissly, and Parkinson should receive ample snaps in multiple tight end personnel groupings. All three of those players should be locks and the preseason will be used simply to devise a pecking order for playing time. If there's an X-factor to keep an eye on, Mabry enjoyed a strong training camp as a rookie last summer and if he excels during exhibition play on offense and special teams, he may have a chance to steal a roster spot. At worst, he should be on the practice squad or snatched up by another team.

Offensive Line

Starters: Duane Brown, Brandon Shell, Ethan Pocic, Gabe Jackson, Damien Lewis

Reserves: Stone Forsythe, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, Jamarco Jones, Kyle Fuller

On the Bubble: Phil Haynes, Jake Curhan

With four starters returning from last year's team and Jackson arriving via trade from Las Vegas, Seattle's starting front line should be set in stone for Week 1. The team also has solid depth across the board with Forsythe, Ogbuehi, and Jones all offering the ability to play either tackle spot and Simmons and Jones having the ability to start in a pinch at both guard positions.

Center may be the one spot with questionable depth for Seattle, though the organization seems content with Fuller as a backup for Pocic and Lewis proved last year he could play there in an emergency situation. If he's able to stay healthy, Haynes may still make a push to usurp Jones or Simmons on the depth chart, while Curhan is a wild card to watch competing for a backup tackle role after being a four-year starter for California in the Pac-12.

Defensive Ends

Starters: Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder

Reserves: L.J. Collier, Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, Aldon Smith

On the Bubble: Rasheem Green

Coming off a strong finish to the 2020 season, Dunlap will remain in the starting lineup at the LEO defensive end spot, but it looks like he will have a new running mate opposite of him in Hyder at the base end position. Behind them, the Seahawks should have the best depth they have had rushing off the edge since Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril still were on the team with Mayowa, Robinson, and potentially Smith all capable of playing snaps on either side of the line and Collier possessing the size and versatility to play base end along with dipping inside as a defensive tackle on passing downs.

Smith's status remains unknown as he awaits arraignment for second degree battery charges in Louisiana and even if he's cleared of charges, a suspension could be a possibility given his lengthy discipline history with the NFL league office. But if he's allowed to play, his presence could leave Green as the odd-man out after three inconsistent, injury-impacted seasons.

Defensive Tackles

Starters: Poona Ford, Bryan Mone

Reserves: Al Woods, Robert Nkemdiche

On the Bubble: Cedrick Lattimore, Jarrod Hewitt

With Jarran Reed departing for Kansas City, the torch will be passed to Ford as the undisputed leader of Seattle's interior defensive line. Alongside him, Mone could become a full-time starter for the first time in his career at the nose tackle position after playing well in 10 games as a reserve in 2020. The Seahawks will have a reliable veteran contingency plan if Mone isn't ready, however, as Woods returned for a third stint on a one-year deal and the 34-year old will be ready for extensive snaps if needed.

Where things could get very interesting will be the battle for fourth and final defensive tackle position, if Seattle even keeps that many. Assuming they do, Nkemdiche has impressed thus far and will continue to work towards reviving his career in training camp. He will have to beat out Lattimore, who played well in his NFL debut last January, as well as Hewitt, an athletic undrafted rookie out of Virginia Tech. Those two players could be in the mix all the way until the final preseason game.

Linebackers

Starters: Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor

Reserves: Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven

On the Bubble: Jon Rhattigan, Aaron Donkor

While some fans continue to hold out hope K.J. Wright could return at some point, the Seahawks seem content moving forward with Wagner, Brooks, and Taylor as their three starting linebackers. Capable of playing all three linebacker spots, Barton may be in line for occasional defensive snaps as well while continuing to be a key anchor on the team's special teams units. Burr-Kirven should also be able to hold onto his job as a special teams contributor and backup inside linebacker, though the organization seems to be high on Rhattigan, an undrafted rookie out of Army who could push him for reps during the preseason. Despite his lack of experience, Donkor's exciting athletic traits will make the German rookie worth monitoring in camp as well.

Cornerbacks

Starters: D.J. Reed, Ahkello Witherspoon

Reserves: Tre Brown, Pierre Desir, Tre Flowers

On the Bubble: Damarious Randall, Bryan Mills, Gavin Heslop

Widely viewed by analysts as Seattle's biggest question mark with the season approaching, a fun positional battle should be on tap at cornerback in August. After performing quite well in eight starts a year ago, Reed should be the favorite to retain the starting role at right cornerback, while the 6-foot-3 Witherspoon wasn't signed to be a backup and will get the first crack at taking over on the left side. The two ex-49ers will likely be the starters in Week 1.

Behind Reed and Witherspoon, the Seahawks have high expectations for Brown, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma. The rookie may not be ready to start, but he's going to be a significant contributor on special teams and could find his way onto the field defensively as the year progresses. Desir and Flowers have each started more than 35 games in the NFL and offer special teams value, allowing them to edge out Randall and several younger players for the last two spots on the depth chart.

Safeties

Starters: Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams

Reserves: Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi, Ryan Neal

On the Bubble: Aashari Crosswell

Assuming Adams and/or Diggs receive extensions before the start of training camp, the Seahawks should be in excellent shape with a pair of Pro Bowl safeties doing damage near the line of scrimmage as well as in the secondary. Blair and Amadi will be competing for the starting nickel cornerback role, but both have the ability to play either safety spot as well if necessary. As for Neal, he was a revelation filling in for Adams last year and excelled on special teams throughout the season. Given his prior background playing cornerback will aid him in retaining his spot on the roster over the likes of an untested rookie such as Crosswell, who has a chance to be a sleeper to watch during the preseason at a position offering minimal drama otherwise.

Specialists

Starters: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers, Tyler Ott

On the Bubble: N/A

In terms of the punting and kicking game, there won't be any open competitions for Dickson, Myers, or Ott to deal with. With all three players having Pro Bowl pedigree, the team doesn't have any concerns to worry about, though figuring out who ultimately returns punts and kicks will be the one unanswered storyline on special teams going into camp.