Seahawks flex depth in dominant outing against Bears
While the NFL expanded practice squads from eight to 10 players this past week, two additional roster spots is surely not enough space to contain all the talent stashed in Seattle.
Teams are mandated to trim rosters from 90 to 75 on Tuesday. Days later, they’ll finalize their 53-man roster.
The Seahawks might boast the deepest roster from top to bottom, but they will soon have to part ways with some highly skilled players.
Humiliating the Bears in the first half of a 34-6 win Friday night, the Seahawks’ first-team offense and defense is clicking.
Quarterback Russell Wilson piloted scoring drives on each of the team’s first five series.
Wilson, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, connected with five different receivers while also riding the running game. Running backs Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin pounded their way for 70 yards on 17 carries.
Their defense was impeccable. Special teams were superb.
It was a complete performance as far as preseason games go.
What’s more is they were able to maintain a high level of play deep into the fourth quarter.
While the Seahawks are rich in talent, they have never been afraid to part ways with draft picks, allowing more opportunities for undrafted free agents.
Developing homegrown talent on the cheap is how Seattle is built to sustain success.
Since 2010, 15 undrafted players have earned a roster spot on the 53-man roster. In that same time, Seahawks brass has released nine players who were drafted that same year.
It comes back to the Seahawks’ No. 1 priority, which is keeping the best players on the team, no matter how they were acquired.
During the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run last season they had eight former undrafted free agents — OL Alvin Bailey, WR Doug Baldwin, DB Jeron Johnson, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Ricardo Lockette, DE Benson Mayowa, LB Mike Morgan and DB DeShawn Snead — who contributed to the team’s success.
Now, general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll must decide on the most versatile players. It could lead to unpopular decisions in the locker room, but that won’t deter them from doing things the Seahawks’ way.
It’s how they consistently field one of the youngest rosters in the entire league.
Giant crisis averted
It took six series for the Giants’ first-team offense to find what they’re searching for in Friday night’s 35-24 preseason win against the Jets: Progress.
While they remain a work in progress, encouraging signs emerged at the tail end of the first half.
Feeling the growing pains of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast system, quarterback Eli Manning surprisingly ran the hurry-up offense with ease.
Beginning deep in their own territory with less than two minutes remaining in the half, Manning opened up the drive by completing four consecutive passes, including a 16-yard strike to wide receiver Victor Cruz on an out route.
Finding his rhythm, Manning rolled right and attempted to squeeze a pass between two defenders to Cruz, but it was initially picked off by Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson. Since the play occurred with less than two minutes remaining, a review showed the ball hitting the MetLife Stadium turf and was ruled an incompletion.
Then, Manning, lining up in the shotgun, rolled to his left and connected with Cruz for 18 yards, setting up the team in the red zone.
Three plays later, facing a third-and-7 on the Jets’ 15-yard line, Manning lofted a pass into the end zone and wide receiver Rueben Randle hauled in the score.
The 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive, which included Manning’s first preseason scoring pass, didn’t erase the first five ailing drives.
Overmatched by a relentless Jets’ pass rush, the Giants’ offensive line had Manning under constant duress.
Manning’s three-step drop wasn’t quick enough to escape Jets defensive end Jason Babin from bursting into the backfield and swiping the ball out of his throwing hand. While Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz was able to recover it, the play set up a third-and-long. Schwartz later exited the game with a dislocated toe, FOX Sports 1’s NFL insider Mike Garafolo reported.
Manning, who entered the game completing just 7 of 16 passes for 49 yards this preseason, was about to add to growing speculation that the team is struggling to adapt to McAdoo’s system.
While Manning’s latest outing (12 of 21 for 139 yards) certainly doesn’t suggest otherwise, it’s a good starting point as the first-team offense has 17 days to prepare for its first real test against the Lions on Monday Night Football.
If it’s any consolation, backup quarterback Ryan Nassib continues to show great comfort in McAdoo’s system, throwing three touchdowns, sparking a second-half comeback for the win … and of course the Snoopy Bowl trophy.
The QB battle that won’t go away
Blake Bortles keeps fueling the quarterback debate in Jacksonville.
Earning valuable reps with the first-team offense in a 13-12 loss to the Lions, Bortles produced immediately after taking over for quarterback Chad Henne. Setting up his team in field-goal range, Bortles showed command of the offense while running the two-minute drill.
In the second half, Bortles found his favorite target — undrafted wide receiver Allen Hurns — for a big gain, while he drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. While that drive didn’t muster any points, it was a confidence builder for Bortles.
The next series, Bortles rolled to his right on a play-action fake and threw it across his body to an uncovered running back Jordan Todman. Three plays later, Bortles, with a face full of pressure, zipped a pass to Hurns for an 11-yard score.
Hurns, who played for Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch at the University of Miami, has made quite the impression this preseason, leading the team in receiving each game and totaling 13 catches for 230 yards during that span.
Even though Bortles (10-for-16, 158 yards) appears to have more upside than Henne (9-for14, 70 yards), head coach Gus Bradley stands firm on his decision that the veteran remains the starter for Week 1 against the Eagles.
Cam Newton got his first taste of life without former Pro Bowl tackle Jordan Gross.
Gross, who unexpectedly decided to retire this past offseason, has been replaced by Byron Bell. The latter was abused in Friday night’s 30-7 loss against the Patriots.
Patriots outside linebacker Chandler Jones sacked Newton twice and finished with six tackles. Newton took a tough hit to the back in the first quarter, which he later underwent X-rays for in the second half. While the X-rays came back negative, according to NFL.com, Newton left the contest with a contusion in the middle of his back.
It wasn’t all ugly for the Panthers’ offense, though, as rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin used his big frame to make challenging receptions in traffic. The former Florida State standout caught five passes for 47 yards.
New England, without tight end Rob Gronkowski, looks like one of the most complete teams in the league. But head coach Bill Belichick cautioned the preseason praise as only he can do.
"There were certainly some positive things out there; still a lot of things we need to work on," Belichick said, via the team’s transcript.