RENTON – Week 3 of the exhibition season is traditionally the “dress rehearsal’’ in the NFL, the closest thing to a real game.
The Seahawks will follow suit Friday when they host the Chicago Bears at CenturyLink Field at 7 p.m., with starters likely to play into the third quarter.
“Just to get adapted to the new season again,’’ as coach Pete Carroll put it Thursday.
Otherwise, it’s still the preseason, where winning is nice but gathering more information about the team is the biggest goal.
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Here are six key players/positions to watch against the Bears:
1. Marshawn Lynch: Lynch was on the field for the first two plays last week but did not get a carry. That will change against the Bears, with Carroll saying Thursday “it’s time for him to get some carries and get involved a little bit.’’
Lynch held out the first seven days of training camp in a contract dispute, and much of the focus of the offseason has been on younger tailbacks Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. But Lynch is the team’s starter and the man around whom the running game revolves until further notice. And Carroll said so far all signs point to Lynch being as effective as ever.
“Really, I could not be more pleased with the conditioning level that he’s had — the consistency of practice and his preparation has been great,’’ Carroll said.
2. Christine Michael: Turbin and Michael, though, will get their fair share of work. Turbin appears to have a hold on the backup tailback spot after an impressive game against the Chargers. Michael, meanwhile, has had a spotty beginning to the preseason with a fumble in each game and also a penalty against Denver in the first game on a cut block.
Carroll, though, has consistently praised Michael’s progress, and Thursday called him “the most improved player on our team.’’ No one denies his talent, but the Seahawks will want to see Michael limit mistakes.
3. The starting offensive line: The regular offensive line should be intact for the first time this exhibition season with left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger expected to make their debuts, joining guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter and right tackle Justin Britt.
Carroll said “it’s really important’’ for the line to get some game time together to hone communication and “the sense for one another.’’ Britt, a rookie, appears to have won the right-tackle job and can erase any doubt with a solid performance against Chicago.
4. Korey Toomer: A fifth-round pick from Idaho in 2012, he missed his first two seasons with injuries. He looked like a breakout player in the spring when he impressed throughout OTAs and minicamp. But he showed up to training camp with an injured hamstring and didn’t return to practice until this week.
The linebacking corps has emerged as one of the most competitive positions on the team, and Toomer might have just the next two weeks to show he deserves a roster spot.
“Time’s running out,’’ Carroll said Thursday. “We haven’t had a chance to see him. He had a really good offseason, but unfortunately he just has not had enough back-to-back time to really establish where he is on the roster and all of that. So more than some other guys, he has a lot to show.’’
5. The punt-return situation: Free safety Earl Thomas remains atop the depth chart, with Carroll making it clear again this week he has no qualms about using him in that role. The question is whether Thomas is the best guy for the job. He’s had two returns for 5 yards and one fair catch. Receiver Bryan Walters took the returns after Thomas last week and had two attempts for 33 yards. But Walters suffered a rib injury in the process and isn’t expected to play against the Bears, a tough blow for a player whose return ability would help him land a roster spot. Cornerback Richard Sherman and receiver Doug Baldwin are others who have been mentioned as punt-return candidates.
6. Backup quarterback: Carroll said earlier in the week to expect Tarvaris Jackson to be the first man up in relief of starter Russell Wilson. With Wilson likely to go into the third quarter, that might not leave a lot of snaps for Terrelle Pryor, whose creative runs have been a highlight of the first two exhibition season games. But every snap counts as the team decides who is the backup or whether to keep both Jackson and Pryor behind Wilson.
• Carroll said safety Kam Chancellor, who has not played yet, “may get out there’’ against the Bears. He also said LB Malcolm Smith, who returned to practice this week, is “ready to play some football.’’