RENTON — Thirteen days ago, Justin Forsett put on one of the finest preseason shows ever turned in by a Seattle Seahawks player.
Now he’s one subpar performance away from getting cut.
“Every play, you have to play it like it’s your last game,” said Forsett, a rookie running back who rushed for 136 yards against Chicago but struggled in Monday’s game at San Diego. “I’m going to take (tonight’s game against Oakland) serious and try to make it a tough decision for the coaches. If I go out and play well, I feel like I’m going to stay.”
For several current Seahawks, tonight’s preseason finale could be the difference between making the final cut and having to brush up their resume. Several starters will rest, leaving the action to those still involved in battles for a roster spot.
The most intriguing could be at running back, where Forsett and veteran T.J. Duckett could be battling each other for a single roster spot. Four other Seahawks — halfbacks Julius Jones and Maurice Morris and fullbacks Leonard Weaver and Owen Schmitt — look like good bets to make the roster. That leaves only one, possibly two, spots up for grabs.
Forsett made a good case in the Chicago game, with 115 of his 136 rushing yards coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. Duckett had the better game Monday, rushing for 46 yards on six carries while Forsett’s evening was marred by a costly fumble.
They are both very different backs. The diminutive Forsett relies on speed and special-teams ability, while the 254-pound Duckett could be Seattle’s short-yardage specialist.
A very likely scenario has the duo battling for a single roster spot, which could be determined tonight.
“I can’t worry about it,” Duckett said. “I’ve just got to play and not sweat it.”
Among the other intriguing battles still going on:
n Brandon Coutu vs. Olindo Mare, kicker: Josh Brown’s replacement as the Seahawks’ kicker has still yet to be determined, with everything coming down to tonight’s game.
Coutu seemed to have the inside track after hitting five field goals, including the game-winner, in the overtime win against Chicago. But he strained a groin shortly thereafter, keeping him out of Monday’s game at San Diego.
Coach Mike Holmgren said of Coutu’s injury: “That hasn’t helped him. It allowed Mare to really show.”
Mare has more experience and is better at kickoffs, but Coutu is a talented rookie whom the Seahawks don’t want to get away.
n Logan Payne vs. Ben Obomanu, wide receiver: Jordan Kent’s preseason success means that these two players might be battling for a single roster spot. It’s conceivable that Seattle could keep both of them by holding onto seven receivers, but that might mean keeping only five running backs.
Obomanu looked like a roster lock as the team headed into preseason play, but he has yet to catch a pass in any of the Seahawks’ three games thus far. He can play all three receiver positions, and the coaches like his route-running and his grasp of the offense.
But Payne is the best fit in the slot position, where Engram plays but is likely to miss the first three games.
n Jason Babin vs. Baraka Atkins, defensive end: Babin, a veteran who played linebacker before Houston traded him to Seattle last September, was on the outside looking in when he arrived at training camp.
But after bulking up during the summer, he’s fit in a lot better in Seattle’s system and has been one of the stars of the preseason.
Seattle is likely to only keep four defensive ends, and Patrick Kerney, Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp are virtual locks. That means either Babin or Atkins could get pinched.
n Jordan Babineaux vs. Josh Wilson, nickel back: Both players will make the roster, but only one will be the No. 3 cornerback who comes onto the field in nickel situations.
Babineaux has filled the role during the preseason. The Seahawks like Wilson’s speed, and the former second-round pick has improved in his second NFL season.
n C.J. Wallace vs. Jamar Adams, safety: Wallace was an undrafted rookie who made the roster in 2007. Adams may well fit that description this year.
The University of Michigan safety has been so impressive that he’s seriously pushing Wallace for a job.
n Forsett vs. Obomanu, return man: It’s possible that only one of these players might make the roster, depending on which one is selected to be the Seahawks’ punt returner.
In addition to roster spots, there are also some ongoing battles for starting jobs.
First-round pick Jackson appears to have the inside track in the battle at defensive end, but Tapp started last year and is still in the picture. Wide receiver Kent has had such a solid preseason that he might push Courtney Taylor for the right to start at flanker in the regular-season opener. And rookie John Carlson hasn’t quite wrapped up the job at tight end.
The Seahawks currently have 76 players on their roster and must cut 22 by Saturday afternoon. The only player who is assured not to get cut is offensive lineman Samuel Gutekunst, a native of Germany who will be on the practice squad as part of the NFL’s overseas development program.
The other 53 roster spots are up for grabs, and a handful of them may well be determined tonight.