Bubble Watch: L.J. Collier, Several Veteran Seahawks On Hot Seat Entering Exhibition Finale – Sports Illustrated

When the Seahawks face the Cowboys in their preseason finale on Friday evening, roster spots will be on the line on offense, defense, and special teams.
Most notably, thanks in part to Seattle's current youth movement spearheaded by an exciting nine-player draft class and the emergence of several returning second and third-year players, several established veterans find themselves on the hot seat with final cuts coming by next Tuesday at 1 PM PST.
Here's a look at five veterans who may have a lot on the line heading into Friday's last dress rehearsal in Dallas:
After a dismal third season where Collier fell out of the rotation was held out as a healthy scratch seven times, the Seahawks held out hope the former first-round pick would bounce back playing defensive tackle exclusively in a 3-4 defense. Bulking back up to nearly 290 pounds, coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt seemed encouraged by his progress in the team's offseason program and he received extensive action rotating with the first-team defense.
But that momentum didn't carry over into training camp, as Collier began to slide down the depth chart before suffering an elbow strain during Seattle's mock scrimmage at Lumen Field earlier this month. He hasn't played in either preseason game, while his main competitor Myles Adams has been a revelation producing a pair of sacks in those contests and shining on the practice field. As of Thursday, Carroll still listed him as questionable to play against the Cowboys after returning to practice this week and even if he does play, it's possible his fate has already been sealed thanks to Adams' presence and the franchise may be ready to sever ties.
Surpassing expectations as a sixth-round pick, Swain made Seattle's roster as a rookie and produced 159 receiving yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Showing improvement as a route runner and capitalizing on injuries to Dee Eskridge, he doubled his numbers across the board in 2021 with 25 receptions for 343 yards and four touchdowns, suggesting he may be a bigger focal point behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett moving forward.
But while other receivers have stood out during camp and the preseason, Swain has gone into ghost mode for most of the month of August, failing to take his next step forward. In fact, he's taken a significant step back, failing to make many plays in practice and suffering from a bad case of the drops in two exhibition games, including dropping a perfect third down strike from Geno Smith against the Bears last Thursday. Since Eskridge has been sidelined and other receivers have dealt with their own consistency issues, he may still have a spot for him on the team. But he's far from a lock at this point, especially with seventh-round picks Dareke Young and Bo Melton flashing at times in camp, and needs a stellar preseason finale to solidify his standing.
Like Swain, Fuller isn't battling for a starting spot with Austin Blythe entrenched as the new starter at the pivot position in front of him. Despite struggling in nine starts at center and guard a year ago, Carroll and his staff hold the former Baylor standout in high regard due to his positional versatility, which explains why they opted to bring him back on a new one-year deal this spring. Throughout camp, he has received the vast majority of second-team reps, signaling his place on the team should be secure.
So why might Fuller's roster spot be in jeopardy? The Seahawks know what he can and cannot do, for better or worse, with this being his third season with the organization. Dakoda Shepley, on the other hand, hasn't had many opportunities since he joined the team after last preseason as a waiver wire pickup and the ex-CFL star remains a bit of a curiosity. Shepley looked good while snapping the ball to Jacob Eason for several drives last week and if he turns in another quality game, it's possible Seattle could surprise and opt to move on from a known commodity in Fuller in favor of potential upside.
Known for his goofy personality – see the "Between Two Bellores" segments – and immense versatility, Bellore has been a glue guy for the Seahawks on the field and in the locker room over the past three seasons. Only two years removed from a Pro Bowl selection due to his outstanding kick and punt coverage work, he remains a key cog on special teams entering his 12th NFL season and can play fullback or linebacker in a pinch if needed after starting games at both positions in his career.
With that said, Bellore turned 33 in May and struggled mightily when Seattle plugged him in at linebacker in the preseason opener at Pittsburgh. Never known as a speed demon by any means, he looks to have lost a step and missed a pair of tackles on just 12 defensive snaps in that contest, further magnifying the team's desperate depth problem at the position. Despite his popularity in the locker room and leadership on special teams, it's not out of the question he could be released in final cuts in favor of a younger linebacker with special teams versatility such as Tanner Muse. It's also possible he could be cut and brought back on a non-guaranteed deal.
Collier isn't the only former high draft pick from Seattle's 2019 class whose job security may be in question heading into the exhibition finale. Health-wise, Blair looks fully recovered from the fractured kneecap that ended his third season after just seven games and has moved well throughout training camp. But he hasn't been a factor in the slot corner competition, instead shifting back to full-time safety duty in a crowded position group and struggling to stand out amongst his competitors.
Blair has always been known for his hard-hitting, physical play style and did force a fumble on special teams last Thursday after lowering the boom on the kick returner. But his bad habit of gunning for a highlight reel hit has brought more harm than good this preseason, as evidenced by his five missed tackles and an unnecessary roughness penalty in the loss to the Bears. Meanwhile, Josh Jones has been one of Seattle's most impressive defenders regardless of position and has vaulted ahead of him on the depth chart. With Ryan Neal working back from a high ankle sprain and potentially ready to return in Week 1, Blair needs a strong bounce back performance on Friday and can't afford to leave a bunch more tackles on the field if he wants to ensure himself a roster spot.


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