Nine Seahawks to Watch This Preseason

One of the most compelling dramas of the NFL preseason is the Personnel Shuffle. Players fight for position and employment, as the game within the game reveals a near-desperate quality. These nine current Seahawks are all jockeying for something - a roster spot, a leap up the depth chart, or a way into a starting role. Who are you watching this preseason?

QB Gibran Hamdan: In 2005 and 2006, Hamdan led his Amsterdam Admirals to strong starts in the NFL Europe League, only to suffer season-ending injuries down the stretch. While his backups led the Admirals to one World Bowl championship and one runner-up, Hamdan could do little but rehab and hope for a chance in the NFL. In 2005, that chance wasn’t going to happen in Seattle – the Seahawks drafted QB David Greene from Georgia in the third round, and the rookie was going to get a shot on a No Matter What basis. This preseason seems to be different. Greene hasn’t impressed in very limited action, nor has he seemed to raise eyebrows in a positive way in practice. The former Bulldog has struggled to grasp Mike Holmgren’s offense according to the coach himself, and Hamdan has shown a good grasp of the simplified NFLEL playbook, posting the highest quarterback ranking in league history.

In training camp this year, Hamdan has looked very impressive – good read progression, excellent arm, and he’s got a bit of a swagger. In the team’s August 5 scrimmage at Cheney’s Woodward Field, he threw lasers between two defenders on three separate occasions. The third QB spot behind Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace would appear to be a bit more open this season, and it’s pretty obvious that Hamdan wants it. When Wallace hits the bench and #5 hits the field, take a good look.

RB Leonard Weaver: This second-year undrafted free agent out of Carson-Newman College has gained some serious fan appreciation due to his downhill running style and impressive stiff-arm. A tight end at the collegiate level, Weaver is now in the backfield trying to make his mark. Last year, he was the backup fullback behind Mack Strong. This season, the selection of USC fullback David Kirtman might signify that the Seahawks have other plans for Weaver. He’s got surprising elusiveness for his size, but he’s not known for his blocking.

If they keep him on, the Seahawks may throw the Personnel Gods a curveball and make this 250-pounder a third halfback behind Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris. Holmgren has called Weaver “a halfback in a fullback’s body”.

WR Peter Warrick: The fourth overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft, Warrick has been forced to fight for a backup slot spot behind Bobby Engam just a few years later after suffering several injuries. In 2006, the Seahawks want to see more from the former Cincinnati Bengal, who they signed in 2005 and re-signed to a one-year deal in the off-season. Holmgren seems fairly convinced that Warrick’s improved health and understanding of Seattle’s system will pay dividends. However, Seattle is stocked in the mid-to-low depth chart at receiver, and Warrick might make more of an impression as a punt returner. That position, most frequently in the hands of cornerback Jimmy Williams last year, was a complete disaster.

“If you ask anybody, you watch him run, he’s always had great hands, but he’s running better and he understands what we’re doing now,” Holmgren said about Warrick at the end of July. “For a wide receiver, if there’s any doubt as to what you’re doing, and then you add on a little bit of an injury, a little bit of a leg thing, it’s pretty hard to play the position. Also, he probably will be our punt return guy. We have some good competition there, too.”

Translation: It’s Peter Warrick’s time to show what he can do.

G Rob Sims: The rookie guard from Ohio State, a fourth-round selection, got a big push in his maturation process when Floyd Womack injured his hamstring this week. When second-year center Chris Spencer slides over from left guard to replace starting center Robbie Tobeck against the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason opener, Sims will find himself matching blows with Dallas’ estimable front seven – or whatever’s left of the starters in the second, third and fourth quarters. Still, the Seahawks’ confidence in Sims is evident, and the All-Big Ten former left tackle seems to have the skills to back that up. If Seattle is forced to use a rotation along the offensive line this season, Sims could find himself in the starting lineup from time to time when the games actually matter.

Sims is articulate, a hard worker, and has played against top-shelf competition throughout his collegiate career. He’s a good bet to show well quickly at this level.

DE Kemp Rasmussen: A physical presence in camp, the former Carolina Panther is competing with Joe Tafoya for a backup DE spot. He’s strong and elusive, but he’ll have a challenge in unseating Tafoya, who has followed Seahawks president Tim Ruskell to Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Seattle. You’ll see both players a lot in the preseason, and with second-round pick Darryl Tapp a sure thing in a situational role, the competition for remaining roster room will be something to keep a sharp eye on.

DT Alex Guerrero: Cut by the Chiefs on July 26th, Guerrero is an undrafted free agent from Boise State who has displayed very impressive footwork and some playmaking ability in training camp. His problem is that Seattle’s defensive tackle rotation is not only stacked to the gills, but perhaps the most talent-laden in the NFL. Whether he’s competing for a spot on the Seahawks’ practice squad, or as a film room pickup by another team, watch this kid when he gets going – he can shoot the gaps and make some noise.

He could be this year’s Craig Terrill…except he’d have to be Craig Terrill somewhere else.

LB D.D. Lewis: What was Lewis’ reward for having perhaps his best season in 2005? The Seahawks went out and signed Julian Peterson, the most freakishly athletic linebacker in the NFL, and made their linebacker trio quite possibly the league’s most dominant. That leaves Lewis on the outside looking in, hoping for as much playing time as possible and knowing that the sightline is dwindling. It’s good for the Seahawks to have Lewis as a depth option.

All Lewis can do is take advantage of the field time he’ll get in the preseason and on special teams. He’ll also need to avoid any further injuries – throughout his career, he’s been nicked up more often than he or the team would like.

CB Jordan Babineaux: The last time Babineaux was on the Qwest Field turf facing the Cowboys, he made the interception of a Drew Bledsoe pass that put the Seahawks in position to win that game, a 13-10 nail-biter on October 23. “Big Play Babs” made the play as Seattle’s nickel back. This season, with the Two Kellies – Jennings and Herndon – fighting to see who starts at left cornerback and who mans the nickel, Babineaux will be asked to play more of a hybrid role.

Babineaux is a good tackler, an asset on special teams, and can alternate positions in the defensive backfield. With Seattle’s secondary in flux for the second consecutive season, utility players like Babineaux can make a real difference.

P Ryan Plackemeier: One of Seattle’s two seventh-round selections, the rookie punter from Wake Forest is both taller (6’3”) and heavier (253 at the NFL Combine) than first-year DE Darryl Tapp. If nothing else, special teams defenders might think twice before roughing THIS kicker! The recipient of the 2005 Ray Guy Award, given to college football’s best punter, Plackemeier enters a dream situation if he can stick.

Last season, Seahawks special teams coach Bob Casullo sanctioned the release of two young punters who performed far better than the veteran hodge-podge the team was forced to assemble. Now, one suspects that a rookie punter, especially one with Plackemeier’s ability to boot the living bejesus out of the ball, will spend more time on the radar. If he can show accuracy and precision in key situations, the Seahawks would be foolish to let 2005’s debacle happen again.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here. Top Stories