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3 Things to Watch in the Seattle Seahawks’ 1st Preseason Game

Thursday, August 13, 2015

 

Yes, you can get excited about preseason football.

Two more days until the Seattle Seahawks kick off their 2015 preseason schedule at CenturyLink Field against the visiting Denver Broncos. No, it won’t wash away the bad Super Bowl taste in every 12’s mouth. It is, however, a start.

We may not see much from starters on Friday night. Traditionally, a few series is all that can be expected from the frontline players as they readjust to live hitting by unfamiliar foes. Marshawn Lynch, if history is any guide, probably will not play. Ditto for any other nicked up starter, out of precaution.

Preseason games are hard to get excited about, I’ll grant you that. The Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers proved that point definitively last Sunday by serving up a lot of sloppy execution, unfamiliar names in familiar-looking uniforms and a yearning for baseball. OK, it wasn’t that bad. Two touchdowns were scored in that “game.” I bet you cannot tell me by whom.

It’s preseason, game one. The coaching staffs for both the Broncos and the Seahawks plan to shuffle players like Reno blackjack dealers. Before they do, though, we’ll see a few new wrinkles for the first time. Sit back, watch and learn. This will be valuable information — that will have much to say about the Seahawks’ 2015 season.

The Jimmy Graham Factor

File this change under good — and potentially great — news. The new guy, brought in to add a heretofore unseen dimension to the Seahawks’ passing offense has been earning mostly positive reviews early on in his first Seahawks training camp. Jimmy Graham’s size, athleticism and skill have been on display as he and quarterback Russell Wilson have worked diligently to get in sync.

Again, I said “good,” not “great.” Not yet. As to be expected, there have been a few bumps in the road. As Pete Carroll admitted to Seattle Times reporter Jayson Jenks, “They’re not there yet. It’s just going to take time. The intricacies of the things that they’re trying to do together go way deep, so it’s going to take them a lot of time. We missed a hot (route) today and Russell was too early with a ball one time to him. They’re trying to catch up. Both of them are really determined to get there.”

This honest assessment from Carroll might alarm some, but the smart take is that these are normal growing pains. Graham racked up an average of just under 89 catches a season over his last four (non-rookie) seasons with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. That’s a very, very high bar, to say the least. But the talent level is a game-changer for the Seahawks’ offense.

Graham surely won’t reach those kinds of numbers in Seattle, but that’s not a slight to Wilson or Graham. The last and only time a tight end led the Seahawks in receptions was the 2008 version of John Carlson, with 55. The last time a Seahawks receiver of any kind topped 89 receptions in a season was the 2007 version of Bobby Engram (94). So, no. High-flying passing numbers are not in the Seahawks’ DNA.

Instead, what the Seahawks expect to see, hopefully as soon as this Friday night, is a dynamic big-bodied receiver (some say he’s a tight end only in name) who can win matchups in all areas of the field. To counter this new factor in the Seahawks’ offensive attack, defenders will have to play more single coverage on all other Seahawks receivers. Focus on how the Broncos defense decides to play Graham and how they adjust. The Broncos will have a new look since the Seahawks last saw them in week three. The old Regime was sent packing and in their place, Wade Phillips has returned to Denver as defensive coordinator. It won’t shock you to hear that they expect to play more aggressively, which is what every defensive coordinator has always said upon arrival in his newest city. What will be different from the multiple 3-4 / 4-3 fronts the Broncos deployed last year probably won’t be definitively unveiled on Friday. Just know that Wilson is renowned for taking over defenses and making them better quickly.

Look for Wilson to get Graham involved early before both take a seat. We won’t know for sure how that will benefit Beast Mode, but we’ll know in September.

The Reconstituted Offensive Line

If you like puzzles, you’ll like the Seahawks’ offensive line. The Seahawks’ oft-shuffled offensive line of 2014 was further shuffled even more in the 2015 offseason. Starting center Max Unger and starting left guard James Carpenter both departed for other NFL teams. Enter a handful of contestants vying for both open spots.

At left guard, veteran Alvin Bailey was tasked with holding down the spot as offseason camps took place. Recent reports indicate that the competition is now wide open a week-plus into camp. The up-and-down Bailey has opened the door for a trio of players looking to grease his tenuous grasp. Fourth-round draft choice Mark Glowinski and sixth-round draft choice Kristjan Sokoli have gotten time with the starters. Third-year UDFA Keavon Milton is also not out of the mix, having worked with the ones in place of Bailey as recently as Monday, according to the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta

The even-larger hole at center, created with the departure of Unger is equally unsettled. Conventional thinking said that Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis would have the inside track early on. Indeed, Jeanpierre was the frontrunner at first, with Lewis described as fading to third behind fourth-year guard/center Drew Nowak.

Via Seahawks.com, Carroll admitted that Nowak is now the putative frontrunner: “It’s still very competitive. Drew is a little bit ahead right now. Lem is ahead in all of the assignments and all that stuff; Drew looks really good physically. We’re just going to keep working it and see what happens.”

The Ailing / Missing / Learning Legion of Boom

Call it the Legion of Whom for this first preseason game. Starting safety Earl Thomas? Still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Starting safety Kam Chancellor? Absent without leave, in protest of his contract situation. Starting cornerback Richard Sherman? Participating, but concerns still exist for his recovering elbow. It’s a fair bet that he sees little if any action.

At the other corner spot, newcomer Cary Williams looks to have the current lead as the starter, getting the most work with the ones. Former and once-again cornerback Will Blackmon is making strides toward locking down the nickel corner role, while Jeremy Lane still tries to come back from his gruesome Super Bowl injuries.

Newly acquired cornerback Mohammed Seisay is in the mix for playing time but too new to the defense to be entrusted with a starting role. Marcus Burley has made a few notable plays during the early days of camp.

So who’s going to play this Friday? A mild surprise so far in camp, Dion Bailey has impressed and by several accounts has surpassed DeShawn Shead for the strong safety slot in the absence of Thomas. Steven Terrell is expected to start at the free safety spot normally manned by Chancellor.  

All in all, the Seahawks may have more open questions about depth in the secondary than they do about who will start on the offensive line. There are many moving parts. Thankfully, they’ll begin to sort themselves out this Friday at 7 pm at CenturyLink Field.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Slideshow: Duck Fans React to NCAA Football Championship

Fans gathered throughout Portland Monday night to watch the NCAA Football Championship, the first ever to be determined by a playoff series.  GoLocalPDX caught some of fan reactions in the heat of the moment. 

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1st Quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings (Eastside)

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