Analysis: Where Seahawks Positional Battles Stand Heading Into Preseason Finale vs. Cowboys – Sports Illustrated

Now nearly a month into preparation for the 2022 season, the Seahawks still have several starting roles up for grabs heading into Friday's preseason finale against the Cowboys.
Most notably, coach Pete Carroll hasn't yet named a starter to replace Russell Wilson at quarterback and doesn't seem to be in a rush to announce a decision due to an extra week of practice time on the schedule. As announced on Wednesday, Geno Smith will receive the start in Dallas, but Drew Lock is expected to play quite a bit with the competition still ongoing.
With the clock ticking down towards the regular season, the Seahawks have plenty of other questions still left to answer elsewhere on the roster before meeting the Broncos on Monday Night Football. Heading towards their final dress rehearsal in Texas, here's where things stand at quarterback, right tackle, and other contested positions:
Not surprisingly, the duel between Smith and Lock has drawn the most headlines over the past four months as the two veterans vie to succeed Wilson running offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's scheme. But to this point, it's been tough to truly call this a competition with Smith receiving the vast majority of the first-team offensive reps dating back to the start of organized team activities in May and throughout training camp.
Momentum looked to finally be shifting towards Lock before he received a bad hand and tested positive for COVID-19 last week, as the former Missouri star threw two touchdown passes in his team debut in Pittsburgh and also outperformed Smith in Seattle's mock scrimmage at Lumen Field earlier this month. Slated to start against Chicago last week, contracting the virus prevented him from suiting up and he missed out on a critical opportunity to close the gap.
This race has yet to be decided and with an impressive performance in Dallas, Lock could make things interesting with the Seahawks benefiting from two weeks between the preseason finale and their opener against the Broncos. With that said, Smith has maintained a stranglehold on the job from the outset due to his familiarity with Waldron's offense, his consistency playing Carroll's "point guard" role, and his standing in the locker room, making it far more difficult to unseat him at this stage.
Prediction: Already with one foot under center, Smith will earn the opportunity to face Wilson in a Week 1 matchup pitting the two former teammates against each other.
Atop the depth chart, the Seahawks have one of the most talented duos of receivers in the league with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett creating headaches for opposing coordinators. But as has been the case for the past three years, finding a quality third receiver who can be counted on to consistently produce and capitalize on advantageous single coverage opportunities remains a pressing need. 
Former second-round pick Dee Eskridge missed nearly all of training camp dealing with a tweaked hamstring and Freddie Swain has struggled in the preseason, opening the door for other players to seize the third receiver job. But while veterans Marquise Goodwin and Penny Hart as well as rookies Dareke Young and Bo Melton have had their moments, injuries and erratic play have plagued the group as a whole and there hasn't been one receiver who has truly stood out amongst his peers. In a way, Eskridge was a big winner not playing last week while other receivers dropped the ball – literally.
With Eskridge on the mend and potentially ready to play against the Cowboys, the speedy wideout will have a chance to further solidify his standing as the Seahawks third receiver despite missing extensive time. If he doesn't play, the door will crack open again for the likes of Swain, Hart, Young, and Melton to impress and put their name in the hat before the regular season kicks off.
Prediction: Seattle still believes in Eskridge and assuming he's fully recovered from his hamstring injury, he will be Seattle's third receiver in Week 1.
During the first week of camp, Jake Curhan appeared to have a firm grip on the starting job he held during the final five games of the 2021 season. The former undrafted signee out of California vastly exceeded expectations as a rookie and reported with added strength and improved technique, bolstering his candidacy as a viable starter on the right side.
But eventually, upside usually wins in the NFL and while Curhan has a chance to make an impact as an invaluable swing lineman who can play tackle and guard for the Seahawks, Abraham Lucas has quickly turned this competition into a one-horse race. A far superior athlete with similar size and length, he has been surprisingly effective as a run blocker in two preseason games, amassing four pancakes driving defenders to the ground. He's also been sharp in pass protection, far less shocking given his pedigree coming from pass-happy Washington State.
As expected, Carroll has continued to call this an open competition and for what it is worth, Curhan has started both preseason games. But considering how well Lucas has performed in all facets, there's no reason to delay the inevitable and he should be set to make history starting across from fellow rookie tackle Charles Cross in Week 1.
Prediction: After starting the preseason finale, Lucas will be named the starter over Curhan and join Cross as the third duo of rookie tackles starting in Week 1 since 1970.
After an excellent start to camp that featured several pass breakups in coverage against Metcalf, Artie Burns looked destined to start across from Sidney Jones, giving the Seahawks two experienced veterans on the outside. But then, he came up lame during one-on-one drills with a groin injury shortly before the preseason opener, creating an opportunity for rookie Tariq Woolen to make a run for his job.
Unfortunately for Burns, Woolen has eclipsed any reasonable expectations as one of the true stars of training camp, continuing to come through with big play after big play on the practice field and flashing his rare blend of size, speed, and length. From day one, he's been one of Seattle's most impressive defenders, whether he's been racking up a pair of pass breakups in the mock scrimmage, denying Metcalf on fade routes in the end zone, or making what Carroll called a "special play" picking off Lock in the middle of the field. Showing he's a quick learner, he bounced back from a tough debut to allow no receptions on three targets and make two nice tackles against the Bears last week.
Despite how well Woolen has performed, Carroll may still have some reservations about throwing him into the fire against a quarterback of Wilson's caliber in the season opener and may prefer Burns, who has a chance to return to play this week. But all signs point to the rookie phenom playing sooner rather than later and with the Seahawks in the midst of a youth movement, rolling with him right off the bat may be the best course of action.
Prediction: Unable to keep Woolen's immense physical gifts on the sidelines, Carroll names Woolen as a Week 1 starter, jump-starting a new era in the secondary.
As Woolen and Burns battle on the right side, the Seahawks also have a competition for the nickel role featuring a seasoned veteran and upstart rookie that remains undecided. Entering training camp last month, Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair were considered contenders for the job, only for Amadi to be traded to the Eagles and Blair to struggle in the preseason coming off of a knee injury. This has left Justin Coleman and Coby Bryant as the main candidates with one game left to play.
Coleman didn't necessarily play great football in Seattle's first two preseason games, but he didn't allow a completion in coverage against Chicago and he has a lengthy track record of success. Back in 2017 and 2018, he emerged as a key cog in the secondary, returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and excelling in the slot. Carroll and his staff trust the veteran and with defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt mentioning several times that his scheme will utilize more man coverages this year, he's a good short-term plug and play option.
With that said, Bryant played extensive snaps out of the slot against Chicago and turned in a stellar performance, including swatting away a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter covering a slot fade. Like Woolen, he's turned heads throughout his first camp by frequently getting his hands on the football and learning quickly from his mistakes, which gives him a fighting chance to push for immediate playing time.
Prediction: It may be a matter of time until Bryant finds his way into the lineup, but in this case, the Seahawks will roll with the reliable Coleman to kick off the season.


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