DENVER – A new Seahawks season begins Thursday night same as the last one ended — with the Denver Broncos on the other side of the ball.
But while the 43-8 walloping the Seahawks put on the Broncos in the Super Bowl Feb. 2 figures to be fresh on the minds of fans in the stands, and certainly some Denver players, any resemblance between that game and this one is coincidental.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he expects the matchup with Denver will mean “a fired-up team and a difficult situation to play in.’’
But the goal remains the same as in any first preseason game — to get the best look yet at younger players, or those fighting for roster spots.
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“The first thing we want to do is see them run and hit,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve held back the whole time – this will be their first real live work that we get. As a coach, you always wonder what’s going to happen the first couple opportunities to tackle or run down the field and make plays on special teams and all that.’’
And if the Seahawks happen to do that and get the victory, all the better. Seattle has won nine straight exhibition games, and Carroll says “we’re playing to win.’’
Here are some of more interesting position battles the team will get a good look at against the Broncos:
Backup quarterback: This is usually regarded as a fight between veteran Tarvaris Jackson and recently-acquired Terrelle Pryor. Carroll, however, said this week the team also wanted to get a look at B.J. Daniels, who was on the practice squad most of last season. Daniels, though, tweaked his groin this week and it’s unclear if he will be able to play much. Jackson is listed ahead of Pryor on the team’s public depth chart, but Carroll wouldn’t say Wednesday which QB will be the first to play after starter Russell Wilson, who may only go a series or two.
Right tackle: This has been the most eventful battle of camp, with the injury and then release of Michael Bowie and the signing of veteran Eric Winston. Rookie Justin Britt is listed atop the depth chart, and coaches will be curious to see how he reacts against Denver’s first-team ends. Expect Winston to also play quite a bit.
Tailback: Don’t expect to see Marshawn Lynch, of whom Carroll said Wednesday “needs a lot of work to get back.’’ That will instead leave the carries to Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart and may get the first crack against the Broncos.
Middle linebacker: Bobby Wagner won’t play due to a hamstring injury, which means undrafted free agent Brock Coyle of Montana will start. Coyle has been one of the rising stars of training camp and will get a chance to show if he can translate impressive practice performances into production under the lights. If he continues to progress, he could make Seattle face the tough decision of whether to keep him or veteran Heath Farwell, the backup MLB and special-teams captain last season.
Punt returns: Safety Earl Thomas is listed first on the depth chart, followed by Richard Sherman and rookie receiver Paul Richardson. Carroll, though, was coy on whether Thomas will get the first return against the Broncos, though he has said previously that Thomas is the leader for the job.
Backup cornerback: Seattle has been thrilled by the play of second-year cornerback Tharold Simon, who appears to have secured a spot behind starters Sherman and Byron Maxwell and nickelback Jeremy Lane. But after missing all of last season due to injury, this will be his first NFL game action of any kind, and he will surely be tested by the pass-happy Broncos.
Backup defensive line: Carroll noted thatexhibition games can tell the most about the interior lines. While Seattle’s starting front four appears set, exhibitions will be critical for Seattle to find out what it has in young defensive linemen such as Greg Scruggs, Benson Mayowa, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh.