Here is what to watch in Friday's Seahawks-Chiefs game from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
Here are six things to watch in Friday night’s Seattle-Kansas City game from Seahawks’ beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
First, from Jenks:
1, Consistency. A catch-all and cop-out all wrapped into one, but something that is so important at this level. Can guys come back from a good performance and do it again? And again, and again? The best players, the ones that make up the core of the Seahawks’ roster, do that. Now we need to see which young or unproven players can take that step. Rookie defensive lineman Frank Clark was awesome in his first preseason game. He might not play on Friday in Kansas City because of an injury, but if he does, he doesn’t have to be awesome again; he just needs to be productive. Rookie receiver Tyler Lockett doesn’t need to return kickoffs for touchdowns every game, because that’s ridiculous. But he does need to be a potent returner more often than not. Can he follow up his breakout first preseason game with another solid showing? Rookie cornerback Tye Smith looked fine in coverage in his first game and will get plenty of chances to show that he can do it again this week. Consistency is the single hardest thing for players to achieve, and it is also one of the biggest factors that separates fringe players from good players and good players from great ones.
2, Linebacker Brock Coyle. I wrote about Coyle in our “things to watch” section last week, so I’m sort of cheating here. But since Coyle didn’t play in the first preseason game, my initial point still stands: I’m curious to see how he does as Seattle’s backup middle linebacker. He should play a lot in Kansas City, and while he was one of the breakout stories last year in the preseason, he’s flown mostly under the radar this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it means a certain level of expectation is in place. But I want to see how Coyle looks in a game situation, if he’s improved his angles to ball carriers, if he looks more confident and comfortable in the defense.
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3, Defensive end Cassius Marsh. Marsh’s first preseason game was an interesting one for this reason: I heard some people who thought Marsh played really well, and I heard others say he had a few bright spots that overshadowed the fact he wasn’t otherwise involved much. The nice thing about the preseason (I’m being sort of facetious here) is that we get another game to try to solve that mystery. Marsh is quick off the edge, and he certainly made some plays last week against Denver. But the word of the day is consistency, and it’s true that on other players Marsh was pushed or ran himself out of the picture. Either way, he should factor into the defensive line rotation as a pass rusher along with Frank Clark.
1, The offensive line. The Seahawks gave up seven sacks against Denver, one resulting in a lost Russell Wilson fumble and another an injury to backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (out at least two weeks with a sprained ankle). Seattle coaches responded by making some significant changes to the line this week, moving right tackle Justin Britt to left guard, backup left tackle Garry Gilliam to starting right tackle, and starting left guard Alvin Bailey to backup left tackle. Those two joined center Drew Nowak – getting the start this week as he continues to battle Lemuel Jeanpierre for the right to replace the departed Max Unger — and sure thing starting left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy to work as the starting unit all week in practice. If all goes well — or at least better — against the Chiefs then the Seahawks could decide to make that grouping the starters heading into the season. “We need to see them play well,’’ Carroll said when asked what he’s hoping for from that unit. “See them work together. This is about them communicating really well. Talent-wise, we’re okay. We need to make sure this unit is coming together and so I’m anxious to see how they do. Things looked very good in practice.” Added offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell: “Justin inside at guard, I like what I see. He looks like he fits in there. Very natural. He has a great understanding of what we are doing and just being able to make the calls and function in there. Garry has been in there a while and deserves a look. We like what we see but there would be other moves — we don’t know yet. Just trying to get the best five up there.’’ The line will be well-tested by a good Chiefs defense that includes one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Justin Houston.
2, The starting safeties. The Seahawks will again play without their All-Pro safety tandem Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. While Thomas returned to practice this week, he remains limited with the team concentrating on making sure he regains the needed strength in his surgically repaired shoulder to be ready for the regular season opener Sept.13 at St. Louis. Chancellor, meanwhile, remains holding out, with Carroll saying Friday that nothing has changed with his situation and that the team is “working to keep the communication lines open.’’ The Seahawks spent much of the week with undrafted free agent Ronald Martin working as the starting free safety and second-year player Dion Bailey at strong safety, and that duo could start against the Chiefs — and regardless, will get a lot of work. DeShawn Shead also will see time at strong safety as he battles Bailey to be atop the strong safety depth chart for now — and as long as Chancellor is out, with the team suddenly needing to think more seriously about the idea that one or the other could have to start against the Rams. “I really have liked everything those guys have done in practice,’’ Carroll said Friday of Bailey and Martin. “They’ve been very sharp and very on point. Bailey tackled really well last week, I thought (Martin) had a couple nice plays as well, so we’ll just let these guys go and we’ll see what happens. We just need more turns with them.”
3,The young skill players on offense. The line issues last week made it hard for the coaches to get as much of a game evaluation as they would have liked out of a number of young players competing for roster spots, such as tailbacks Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls and the group of receivers that includes B.J. Daniels, Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams. “We weren’t able to function at as high of a level as we could have liked because of how that ended up up front,’’ said Bevell. “So if we can get that shored up, that will enlighten us a little bit more about what our run game is like, what the pass game is like, and be able to move forward.’’ Michael, for instance, had a fumble and just 15 yards on seven carries, but also had nowhere to run. Said Bevell: “Thomas Rawls did a nice job running and Rod (Smith) catching some screens, so I think we were able to see some things.” But he added that “it would definitely feel a lot better for us” if they could avoid what happened with Michael where “we handed him the ball and two guys had already broken through the line of scrimmage” resulting in a fumble. Kevin Smith and Daniels each had two receptions in helping make their case for a roster spot that much more legitimate but the constant pressure left the passing game spotty throughout. “There’s a lot of competition there and every day it seems there’s another guy that shows up,” Bevell said.