It’s Finally Time for (Preseason) Football!

No more speculation, no more waiting, and no more what-ifs for now, ’cause it’s time for the Seahawks to show us what they can do on the field.  Granted, it’s the preseason, so winning the game doesn’t matter so much (remember Jim Mora’s perfect 4-0 preseason record in 2009?), but there’s still plenty to watch in this game.  Here’s the five main things I’m interested in seeing:

1) Who looks best at QB, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst?  Whitehurst is in the last year of his contract and needs to prove to the team that he’s the guy they want under center.  Will he pick the Chargers apart like he did the Rams last year, or will his inexperience lead to another night of boneheaded mistakes?

Meanwhile, Jackson has every break going his way — he’s got starting experience in this offense, he’s worked with the offensive coordinator, and he even has one of his favorite Vikings receivers to throw to.  Will he look like a starting-caliber QB, or will he justify all the criticisms leveled at him during his stint in Minnesota?.

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2) How’s our new offensive line coming along?  The new additions on the line have reputations as being great run blockers — are they?  And how well do they hold up in pass protection?  Can our QBs finally look forward to keeping their jerseys clean this season?

3) What’s the word on the d-line?  Is anyone missing from the starting lineup?  Is Alan Branch disruptive enough to play the 3-tech DT?  Do we finally have some depth behind Red Bryant at the 5-tech DE spot?  How many sacks will the guys auditioning for the Leo position rack up?

4) Who should join David Hawthorne and Aaron Curry as a starting LB?  Does Leroy Hill still have what it takes, or will one of the younger guys like Malcolm Smith prove to be a better option?

5) Who is our new right cornerback?  Walter Thurmond has experience in this defense and is the favorite to start, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Byron Maxwell have to offer.  If none of them can outplay Kelly Jennings to start opposite Trufant I’ll probably be celebrating the beginning of the regular season by upping the dosage on my antidepressants.

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In the comments thread for the Seahawk Addicts on The Pulse Network article, longtime reader AuburnHawk asked about what we can expect out of the Seahawks’ pass defense this year.  I started writing a reply earlier, but I decided to tack it on to the end of this article instead.

Last year, two of our four starting DBs (Lawyer Milloy and Kelly Jennings) were liabilities in coverage, which is awful considering that’s their main job on defense.  The team is hoping for much better this time around.  Among other things, better pass defense from the RCB and SS means that Earl Thomas can be freed up to roam the field a bit more and hunt for interceptions.  And if the nickel back (Mark LeGree, perhaps?) can be trusted to hold up in coverage too instead of just helping to double team someone, then in nickel packages Earl Thomas becomes the team’s designated Ed Reed.

I think that the extent to which we see the team use nickel packages depends heavily on how well Kam Chancellor pans out as the new starting strong safety.  Taking a linebacker off the field and replacing him with a smaller DB carries a certain level of risk with it, but that risk is much lower if one of your safeties is already the size of a linebacker (Chancellor is 6’3″, 232 lbs) — heck, Chancellor is so big that with him on the field the Seahawks’ base 4-3 defense is almost a de facto 4-4. 

And as long as I’m thinking about it, having that kind of size at SS also makes it much easier to slip in some 46 defense looks, too.  However, that only becomes important if the defensive line fails to put pressure on the QB — remember, Ryan invented the 46 because his d-line was failing to generate enough pass rush and he wanted to be able to send as many guys as it took to get to the QB.