By Danny O'Neil
The Seahawks return 45 of their 53 players on the roster for the final regular-season game in 2012. They signed five players in unrestricted free agency in addition to trading for Percy Harvin. They drafted 11 players in April and added quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in June.
You don't need to know much math to know that adds up to a whole lot of tough decisions between now and Aug. 31 when the Seahawks must have their roster down to 53 players.
Those choices only got harder after Thursday's game when you consider what a player like Stephen Williams did, catching two passes, each covering more than 40 yards and one putting Seattle in the end zone. At 6 feet 5, he's got the size coach Pete Carroll loves in a receiver. He's also got the speed to be a downfield threat, and the only drawback is the lack of a clear special-teams value and the fact that Seattle's roster is much deeper now than it was three years ago.
Will Williams make it? He's just one of several players on the bubble for Seattle's offense as we put a microscope on the roster, starting with the offense and looking at where the most difficult decisions will be.
• Average kept under Pete Carroll: 2.3.
• Lock: Russell Wilson.
• Decision time: Tarvaris Jackson or Brady Quinn.
• Situation report: Given Jackson's perfect comeback in his preseason debut last week and his six seasons of experience playing for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, it would be a major shock if he's not Seattle's backup to Wilson.
Stephen Williams has made big plays in training camp and had a pair of long receptions in the preseason opener, but his lack of special-teams ability hurts his chances of making the team as Seattle's fifth or sixth wide receiver. (AP)
• Locks: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin.
• Almost certainly safe: Jermaine Kearse.
• Decision time: Stephen Williams and/or Chris Harper and/or Phil Bates.
• Uphill climb: Bryan Walters, Brett Swain, Perez Ashford, Arceto Clark, Donavon Kemp.
• Situation report: Percy Harvin's injury opens up a spot as he's almost certain to start the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he must miss at least the first six games, but won't count against the 53-man roster limit.
Kearse's value on special teams makes him a shoe-in for the roster. Williams has size and speed and he was outstanding in the preseason opener, but he may need to prove his worth on special teams to warrant a spot. Harper was a fourth-round draft choice, which makes it tough to imagine Seattle releasing him, though the team did let go of a fifth-round pick heading into each of the previous two years, and Bates is a similar style of receiver and he entered the game before Harper. That's a competition worth watching.
Bryan Walters, a Juanita graduate who went to Cornell and has been in the NFL a couple of years, had a great first week of training camp, but a leg injury has kept him out for more than a week now, preventing him from auditioning as a kickoff returner in the preseason opener.
• Average kept under Carroll: 4.7.
• Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael.
• Almost certainly safe: FB Michael Robinson.
• Decision time: Derrick Coleman or Spencer Ware.
• Situation report: Some wondered if Robinson was going to make the team after Seattle drafted Ware in the sixth round and announced he would be playing fullback. Well, Ware has spent more time running the ball this training camp than blocking, and Coleman has played well enough to make that a true competition over who the Seahawks will keep if they go with five backs on the 53-man roster.
• Average kept under Carroll: 3.3.
• Locks: Zach Miller and Luke Willson.
• Decision time: Sean McGrath and/or Cooper Helfet.
• Uphill climb: Darren Fells, Jameson Konz, Andrei Lintz.
• Situation report: Miller remains held out of practice with a sore foot, but the team fully expects him to be ready for the regular season. There's a real question whether Willson is ready to be the second tight end on this team, but no doubt he'll be on this roster. Helfet has made quite an impression with his catching ability while McGrath is more physical at the line, but the real question may not be which one of those two is kept, but whether the Seahawks go out and sign a veteran such as Travis Beckum once he gets healthy or waits to see who becomes available after teams across the league make their final cuts.
• Average kept under Carroll: 9.7.
• Locks: LT Russell Okung, C Max Unger, LG Paul McQuistan, RT Breno Giacomini, RG J.R. Sweezy, RG John Moffitt, LG James Carpenter.
• Almost certainly safe: C Lemuel Jeanpierre.
• Decision time: OT Alvin Bailey and/or OT Michael Bowie and/or OT Mike Person.
• Uphill climb: C Jared Smith, G Ryan Seymour, G Rishaw Johnson.
• Situation report: Sweezy and Moffitt are competing for the starting spot at right guard while Carpenter's foot injury canned any thought he might play his way into a starting job before the season began. No doubt about any of those making the roster, though.
Person is a player the Seahawks were pretty encouraged by a year ago, but he has been out with a calf injury while Bailey and Bowie – Seattle's two rookie tackles – played well in the preseason opener.
Bailey is particularly intriguing. After mostly playing guard in college, he entered the draft after his junior year at Arkansas, went unchosen and came to Seattle, which moved him to tackle. Down the road, he may wind up back at guard, but for now he's looked very good as a reserve tackle.