Reporter Bob Condotta breaks down the key storylines as Seahawks take on Kansas City in their preseason opener Saturday. Kickoff at 1:30 p.m. PDT.
Here are some key players and situations to watch as the Seahawks open the preseason Saturday at Kansas City.
The offensive line: This figures to top any such list from now until the line proves it’s not the biggest question mark on the team.
That’s not likely to happen as quickly as Saturday, though, with projected starting right tackle J’Marcus Webb out with a knee injury, which will have Garry Gilliam — who has spent most of training camp at left tackle — moving to the right side with Bradley Sowell on the left side.
Sowell has been making a run at Gilliam for the left tackle spot and this game could serve as something of an inadvertent test of whether the team might be better off with Sowell there and Gilliam back to the right tackle spot he played last season.
The game will also mark the debut for highly touted first-round pick Germain Ifedi at right guard and a test of whether the don’t-back-down mentality he has displayed throughout camp will translate to good play on gameday.
The game also served as a debut for Justin Britt at center, and also the first time for Mark Glowinski at left guard.
While starters often go just a series or two in the first preseason game, some of the offensive line could see more time. But the backups will be no less interesting as recently signed veteran Jahri Evans is expected to see time at right guard and young players such as rookie guard/tackle Rees Odhiambo and right tackle Terry Poole will also get significant action.
QB Trevone Boykin: Expect Russell Wilson to get just a series or two with the rest falling on Boykin and third-teamer Jake Heaps. The game may be especially critical for Boykin, though, to begin to show he can handle the backup QB job. Opening preseason games have historically played a big role in later decisions — Wilson memorably debuted by hitting 12-16 passes for 124 yards against Tennessee to open the 2012 preseason on his way to winning the starting job and Tarvaris Jackson used what was a perfect passing efficiency rating against San Diego in 2013 to essentially win the backup job over Brady Quinn in 2013. Seattle has had no real drama for the top two QB spots since.
One key for Boykin is to show the Seahawks that he can translate the run-pass play-making ability that made him such a success at TCU to the NFL
RB Alex Collins: With Thomas Rawls still on the road back and injuries to other rookies such as C.J. Prosise and Zac Brooks, the bulk of the tailback duties will fall to Christine Michael and Collins, a fifth-round pick out of Arkansas. Collins was one of the stars of a scrimmage last Sunday with touchdowns running and receiving. His pass-catching ability has been something of a surprise and if he can continue to show that, it may create additional options for Collins to get on the field as a potential third-down back, particularly with Prosise — who was drafted with the idea he would step right into that role — having yet to practice much at all.
WR Douglas McNeil: The battle for the final one or two receiver spots after the top four of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson is wide open. And McNeil and others who will play against the Chiefs should get a longer look than usual with the likes of Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith out with hamstring injuries. The 6-foot-3 McNeil was a standout of the offseason but will need to transfer that to making some plays on the field. Rookie Kenny Lawler should also get a lot of action as he also tries to make an early positive impression.
DT Brandin Bryant: An undrafted rookie free agent, Bryant has been getting a lot of work as a three-technique defensive tackle, including getting some plays this week with the starting unit with the likes of Jordan Hill and Sealver Siliga sidelined. Carroll said Friday, though, that Bryant has to improve his discipline.
LB Cassius Marsh: The third-year player is making a run at the wide-open starting strongside linebacker job and could get the first reps there against the Chiefs (Mike Morgan and Eric Pinkins are also in that competition). One of Marsh’s strength is his versatility to rush the passer and play well in space, the latter of which could get a good test against the Chiefs’ precision passing offense.
S Brandon Browner: The founding member of the Legion of Boom is playing safety in his second go-round with the Seahawks, typically at strong safety. With Kam Chancellor out, Kelcie McCray will get the start against the Chiefs, but Browner should get plenty of work to show where he is in adjusting to a position in which there is more of a premium on run defense and covering receivers in the middle of the field.