Here are eight things to watch in the Seattle-Denver game Friday night.
Football is back! Well, the preseason variety, anyway.
As the Seahawks get set to take on Denver Friday at 7 p.m in the preseason opener, here are eight things to watch. Why eight? Because we can.
First, here are beat reporter Jayson Jenks’ four things to watch.
1, The young pass rushers: One of the hardest things to judge during training camp is the play of either line because there is so little contact. It’s half speed. So what some of Seattle’s young pass rushers do on Friday — Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill are at the top of the list — will be important to seeing what they are and how, or if, they have developed. Marsh, who missed most of last year with an injury, is playing solely at LEO (outside pass rusher) after moving inside sometimes last season. Will that move allow him to zero in on his pass-rushing skills from the edge? Clark will move inside and outside, and coach Pete Carroll said he is their fastest rusher inside. But can he show he can be productive inside? Those are two different things. And Hill looked explosive and gave the Seahawks the inside pressure they needed last year, but is he back and still just as quick? All those guys have received positive reviews so far, which is to be expected, so let’s see what they show in games.
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2, Cornerback Tye Smith: I talked with Smith earlier in the week about his development, and he was pretty honest. He said that he struggled a lot with the technique the Seahawks teach their corners, and it showed early in his time here. He got beat at the line and often looked impatient and overeager. It happens to a lot of young corners. But Smith said he spent the time six weeks before training camp studying himself, looking at what he went wrong and exchanging messages with Richard Sherman looking for feedback. He also watched old tape of Sherman and former Seahawk corner Byron Maxwell to see how they played. Smith will rotate between playing outside at cornerback and inside at nickelback. The Seahawks want to see where he fits. He is raw and young, and I’m curious to see if he looks any more comfortable when the lights are on.
3, Linebacker Brock Coyle: Coyle was one of the breakout players last preseason, but this year he has operated mostly away from the spotlight. In fact, I can’t remember hearing much talk about Coyle so far during training camp, although in fairness it has only been a couple of weeks. But the point is that Coyle is, right now, the Seahawks’ backup middle linebacker, and he was a guy the Seahawks had to rely on as a fill in last year. As most rookies do, he sometimes looked out of place and lost on defense. He is a key special teams contributor for the Seahawks and should be again. But I’m curious to see how he will play in the middle; if he will be around the ball more and take better angles to running backs. He should play a lot and get plenty of opportunities.
4, The return game: And what I really mean when I say the return game is Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks’ rookie receiver who Carroll said would start the season as the team’s kickoff and punt returner. It’s really hard to simulate return situations in practice, so we haven’t been able to see much from Lockett in that department yet. The Seahawks needed to upgrade a return game that lacked explosiveness a year ago, and in Lockett they think they found their answer. Now we will get our first real glimpse of how he looks.
And here are four from beat reporter Bob Condotta:
1, Running back Christine Michael. For the second-round pick in 2013, it may finally really be put up or shut up time. The Seahawks plan to use Michael an awful lot in the preseason, hoping to get their best assessment yet at what they have in him. In 2013 he was a rookie and it was understood the learning curve was steep. Michael then got hurt in the preseason last year, limiting his use. But now he is healthy, and the coaches also expect that at three years into his career, he knows what he needs to get it done. The issue with Michael is not talent, but rather doing everything right play in and play out. Marshawn Lynch won’t play much in the preseason and while Robert Turbin will play some, his role seems pretty well established. It’s Michael they will really want to see. As Pete Carroll said Thursday: “He’s going to get a lot of turns.It’s not just one game or one opportunity here throughout the preseason. I’m really anxious to see him. He’s worked really hard to get to this point. He’s in incredible shape. I’d like to see him get out there and keep coming back and keep running and get a feel for the game which he’s been spots played a lot up to this point. I’d like him to get a good sense for it. That’s a really important evaluation for us. We’d like to see how he does, I think he’s doing to do really well. He’s a very explosive player and hopefully we can get him enough opportunities. But it’s not all in one game in the first shot. We’re going to get him all the way in this first month of games.”
2, The center competition. Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak spent the week trading off working with the ones. Jeanpierre is likely to go first against Denver but Nowak will play lots, as well. Jeanpierre has been the steady vet, Nowak regarded as maybe a little more physically gifted. In other words, Jeanpierre may be the safe bet for now and Nowak the center of the future, with the Seahawks having to decide how far away the future is. Nowak is also left-handed, which hasn’t appeared to matter one bit in any of this but is worth watching since it’s pretty rare.
3, The left guard competition. The Seahawks spent the week using Keavon Milton as the left guard with the ones, after trying Kristjan Sokoli and Mark Glowinski there earlier in camp.It could just be that the Seahawks want to make sure that Bailey — who let his weight balloon during the off-season following the 2013 season — stays properly motivated through camp. They also, though, surely see something in Milton to want to see what he can do in a starring role, as well. Don’t be surprised if Bailey gets the first look Friday against Denver. Some have wondered about Milton’s pass blocking, and that will be something to watch when he gets in the game.
4, The strong safety competition. Here’s another spot where the Seahawks spent the week shuffling players, with Dion Bailey working with the starting unit most of the week with DeShawn Shead also getting some turns. Shead was the starter the first week, but after Bailey got healthy he had a few big days and supplanted him. Bailey has yet to play in a game of any sort, so the Seahawks will want to see how he does under the lights. Seattle knows a little more what it has in Shead. But Carroll has mentioned wanting to see how well he does in his run fits, an especially critical job for a strong safety in the Seahawks’ defense. The assumption, of course, is that the long-term battle at this spot is simply finding a backup for Kam Chancellor. But the Seahawks also have to prepare for the chance that he’s not around.