Still, if you did well, you’re craning your neck in meetings and on the practice field – you want to hear if anyone noticed. You’ve been dying for a chance to show what you can do, and the plays you made in the first preseason game should validate your belief that you can make it in the NFL. You just have to hope that you’re not the fifth guy at a three-player position.
On the other hand, you might have welcomed Monday morning with more than just the normal postgame aches and pains – now, there’s a cold, clammy feeling in the pit of your stomach as the mistakes you made in the game add to some less-than-stellar practices. What’s that they say? You know it’s over when you mess up and the coaches stop yelling at you. Right now, they’re still in your grill, but it won’t always be that way. Time to put it together…
While preseason games in and of themselves are about as competitive as a Merchant Ivory film festival is exciting, there are murderous mini-battles going on all over the league. Players who have lived their professional lives on the fringe, hoping for a spot on someone’s practice squad at worst, fight for survival this time of year. Draft picks from high to low jockey for position, and those who were not drafted look to show every $%^&* personnel guy in the business just how much THEY know. Young players who have cleared many professional hurdles prepare for their shot at stardom, and superstars round into shape for one more dominant season.
Every year, it’s the same. The roster churn from now until first cuts to 75 on August 28, and final cuts to 53 on September 1, is simply mindblowing. Day after day, players drop off the radar, never to return. While none of the six players below is at risk for cruel fate to come knocking, some, like our first player to watch, had best step up sooner than later. Others can establish their futures by continuing to impress.
David Greene – According to Mike Holmgren, the Green Bay game will be Greene’s first chance for action in the 2007 preseason. For all the uncertainty about his future with the team (based on Holmgren’s own comments last year), Greene led all Seattle quarterbacks through the 2006 preseason in completion percentage, yards per attempt, longest pass (29 yards) and finished with a 79.8 passer rating. He was especially effective in the preseason finale against Oakland, completing 13 of 19 passes for 144 yards in a 30-7 win (though a lot of that was against various scrub teams).
That said, there’s no question that Greene’s on the hook now – his collegiate records at Georgia for wins and starts are worth as much to the Seahawks as his rookie card. The question is, what can he do now?
Through his first three training camps, the 2005 third-round pick has struggled with accuracy, and he exhibits difficulty making the touch passes required in a West Coast offense. Seneca Wallace struggles with these as well, but Wallace brings his own set of attributes to the table. Greene is still trying to prove that he can be an acceptable NFL backup. On Tuesday, Holmgren said, “I have to play David Greene and give him a shot.” Based on what Greene does against the Packers, the answer could be different soon.
Leonard Weaver – The fan favorite fullback, lost for the 2006 season to a high ankle sprain, didn’t exactly light up the San Diego sky in his first game back with four carries for six yards and one reception for eight yards. He lost an easy gain on a route over the middle when Seneca Wallace overthrew him and gave the ball to Chargers safety Eric Weddle.
The Seahawks like Weaver’s potential as a running back and a receiver (he was a tight end in college), but he needs to start showing more. So far, Marquis Weeks is once again the Seahawks’ best preseason back. While Weeks’ chances of unseating Weaver lie somewhere between slim and none, “The Hydrant” would greatly benefit from a solid game against a Green Bay defense that gave up 132 rushing yards against the Steelers.
D.J. Hackett – There might not be any Seahawks player more in limbo than Hackett right now. Highly-regarded rookies that mess up get a relative pass, and the less-than-spectacular efforts of veterans who have proven themselves in the past are generally set aside this early. The men on the fringe are those like Hackett.
Coming into this season, his great potential collided head-on with great expectations, and the early returns are a bit confusing for the player pegged by Football Outsiders as the NFL’s #1 fantasy football breakout star. He’s found the ire of Mike Holmgren in practice, and Matt Hasselbeck’s opening drive interception against San Diego (overturned by a holding penalty on cornerback Drayton Florence) was the result of confusion on which route Hackett was to run.
Last year, Hackett caught Seattle’s only preseason passing touchdown in the finale against the Raiders, the highlight of a seven-catch, 60-yard performance. It was the start of something big for Hackett. What Hackett needs now is a performance that proves he’s ready to be the team’s #2 receiver opposite Deion Branch.
Brandon Mebane – The third-round rookie defensive tackle from Cal has been the team’s most impressive rookie all the way through training camp. Many hope that Mebane can be the answer to the run-stopping woes that plagued the Seahawks when Marcus Tubbs missed eleven games in 2006. Though Tubbs’ recovery from microfracture surgery appears to be coming along (he practiced on Tuesday for the first time since his surgery), it would be wise to put him in rotation, and Mebane could be Seattle’s second run-stopper. Green Bay ran 31 times for 124 yards against Pittsburgh in their preseason opener, so Mebane will have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
Will Herring – The former free safety from Auburn impressed as soon as he was put in the game as a second-team linebacker. Herring led all Seahawks in defensive tackles with six, and added another on special teams. With Seattle’s outstanding linebackers ready to dominate in the regular season, Herring is playing for a backup role and a spot on special teams.
Still, it was a notable debut for a player who seemed to be a bit of a square peg due to his size (6’2.5”, 229 pounds at the 2007 Combine). Herring set Auburn records for consecutive starts with 49, and tackles among active Auburn players with 244. Certain players just have a nose for breaking up the play, and he might very well be one of those.
Josh Wilson – The San Diego game was a learning experience for Seattle’s first pick in 2007. The former Maryland cornerback frequently looked out of place, was beaten on a touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd and misdirected by Philip Rivers’ bootleg on the play, and fumbled a kickoff return.
Nobody who understands how
preseason works, and how difficult it is to play cornerback in the NFL, is anywhere
near the point where they’re going to throw Wilson under a bus. However,
Wilson could silence his detractors with a strong showing against Green Bay
and backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who put together a solid game against
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a frequent contributor to FoxSports.com. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.