Geno Smith, Paxton Lynch take backup battle to preseason

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers

RENTON -- While many positional battles will be on display this preseason, none may be as visible as the fight between Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch to serve as the backup quarterback.

It's been rare for the Seahawks to carry three quarterbacks on their active roster since the elimination of the third quarterback rule in the 2011 labor agreement. B.J. Daniels, who was also playing receiver at the time, being apart of the roster in 2015 is the only time during Russell Wilson's seven seasons as the team's starter that a third quarterback was on the 53-man roster.

So with that in mind, it would seem unlikely for Seattle to keep both Smith and Lynch as a part of their active roster following final cuts at the end of the month. While the way both players have practiced up until now will have weight as well, the chance to shine in real games in four opportunities this preseason will be perhaps the most influential aspect of the competition.

"They’re really competing," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "They understand it’s going to be a tough competition that goes a long way. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to who can move the team and who can score points for us in the preseason.”

Smith, 28, is joining his fourth team in as many seasons. The former second-round pick of the New York Jets, played with the New York Giants in 2017, Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and signed with the Seahawks in May. Smith had a chance to sign with Seattle a season ago when the team ultimately traded for Brett Hundley to serve as Wilson's backup at the end of training camp. Smith chose to sign with the Chargers at the time but was eager to sign with the Seahawks when the opportunity came around again this spring.

"I always held Pete and coach (Schottenheimer) in high regard. Schotty was in New York (with the Jets) before I got there and people had a lot of great things to say about him. So I just wanted to see for myself," Smith said.

"The entire culture is a winning culture and that’s what you want to be a part of. We all want to win it. When you come to an organization like that it helps you get better as a player. The morale of the team is always high but we’re competing. We’re working extremely hard but the culture here is great."

Smith spent two seasons as a starter for the Jets before an unfortunate run-in with teammate IK Enemkpali left him with a broken jaw following an altercation. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over in relief and held onto the starting job for the rest of Smith's last two years with the team. He started 29 of 30 games, passing for 5,571 yards with 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

He moved to join the Giants in 2017 and ended up being caught up in a controversy not of his making when the team elected to bench Eli Manning in favor of Smith, which ended a streak of 210 consecutive starts for Manning. Both head coach Ben McAdoo and G.M. Jerry Reese would be fired following the decision amid fan backlash.

Smith appeared in five games last year in relief of Philip Rivers, completing just one pass on four attempts.

Lynch, 25, was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2016 out of the University of Memphis. However, Lynch had trouble finding a footing in Denver. He couldn't unseat Trevor Siemian as the starting quarterback and was third on the depth chart behind Brock Osweiler in 2017. Lynch was the presumptive long-term replacement for Peyton Manning following his retirement after the 2015 season. Instead, Lynch was gone from Denver in less than three years.

"I was glad for the opportunity to get into the league, obviously," Lynch said. "I was very thankful that they drafted me in the first round and gave me the opportunity to play there. Things didn’t work out how I wanted them to and I’m sure how they wanted to as well. I’m kind of glad that I got a fresh start and I know that they’re doing their thing too.”

Lynch didn't sign with another team at all last year. The Washington Redskins tried to bring him in late in the season but Lynch elected against the move in the hopes of having more options through free agency. Lynch said it was tough to find himself without a job in the NFL less than three years after being a first-round pick.

"“It was really bad," he said. "It was hard to watch football games on TV. You just know what that feels like and you want to be out there with those guys obviously. But the plan that God has for my life, he kind of pumped the brakes on me and he had other plans for me that I, obviously, would have loved to be out there, but I wasn’t.

"Most first rounders don’t go to a team and then get cut within their second year but it’s an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to grow and you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re made of. You get back up and you keep fighting. That’s what I’m doing."

The second chance with Seattle is exactly what Lynch has been hoping for. He gets to watch how Wilson carries himself on a daily basis and learn from one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Additionally, Lynch feels Seattle's playbook is a better fit for the type of skills he has to offer.

“I feel really good," Lynch said. "This offense compared to other offenses I feel fits my style of play better. Russell, the type of quarterback he is, is a little similar to the style of play I’m used to, running around and taking shots with the ball. I feel really comfortable with this offense. I’m happy to be in this offense because I feel comfortable out there. I know what I’m doing - go here with the ball, go there with the ball - so I’m excited.”

Last Saturday's mock game was the first chance to compare Smith and Lynch against each other in a game-like setting. The battle seemed to end in a draw. Lynch piloted the second-team offense on two scoring drives, completing 7 of 11 passes for 91 yards. Smith also led two touchdown drives late, completing 5 of 10 passes for 87 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns to Jazz Ferguson. Lynch was a bit more steady while Smith made some plays late. In the end, both players had their moments.

"Paxton is a great guy," Smith said. "He has an extremely strong arm. He’s a great quarterback and I enjoy competition. I feel like I’ve been going through this thing for a couple years now so it’s nothing new to me. I enjoy it. I think it’s going to make all of us better. We all compete and the more we compete the better we’ll be."

They'll get four preseason games to square off and prove who should be Wilson's backup for the 2018 season. The first audition is Thursday night against Lynch's former team, the Denver Broncos.


-- Linebacker Cody Barton and safety Lano Hill were relegated to work on a side field on Tuesday as the rest of the team got their work in. Barton has been held out the last few days with a first-degree groin strain. Hill is being eased back in and coming off the physically unable to perform list on Monday. He missed the first 10 days of camp while coming back from a fractured hip at the end of last season. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah continues to do work on the side as well.

-- Wide receiver DK Metcalf was back in team drills after being held out since Friday with a minor oblique strain. Metcalf made a tough catch over the top of cornerback Tre Flowers and beat Shaquill Griffin on a release off the line of scrimmage for a 20-yard gain up the sideline.

-- Quarterback Geno Smith, running back Travis Homer and running back C.J. Prosise were new additions to the group sitting out on Tuesday. Head coach Pete Carroll didn't talk to reporters so no updates as of yet on their status.

-- Safety Marwin Evans hauled in an interception after cornerback Jamar Taylor broke up a throw from Paxton Lynch to Gary Jennings over the middle.

-- Barkevious Mingo said he's fully a defensive end now after working most of last season as a strong-side linebacker. Mingo was moved to end this offseason and the Seahawks hope to get some help in the pass rush department by deploying Mingo at a position he feels most comfortable at.

"I’m enjoying it a lot," Mingo said. "I get to go back to what I did in college. That’s kind of what got me here in the NFL. Being able to do this again, I’m enjoying the opportunity.”

-- Other players not practicing on Tuesday: LB Bobby Wagner (leg), TE Jacob Hollister (groin), TE Ed Dickson (knee), DE L.J. Collier (ankle), CB Davante Davis, S Jalen Harvey, LB Justin Currie (hamstring), G Demetrius Knox, G Mike Iupati (foot), G Phil Haynes (PUP/sports hernia), DT Demarcus Christmas (PUP/back).

Photo Credit: CARSON, CA - AUGUST 18: Geno Smith #3 of the Los Angeles Chargers calls a play at the line during a 24-14 presseason win over the Seattle Seahawks at StubHub Center on August 18, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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