After a long offseason, and a couple weeks of training camp, practice gives way to games that matter (not really).
And after debating for months about how the Seahawks will look in 2012, we'll find out tonight (at least for a few series when the starters are in).
OK, so tonight's preseason opener against Tennessee isn't a real game, and there will still be more questions than answers about the team after the final whistle sounds. But as far as preseason openers go, this one is more intriguing than most.
The Seahawks are unsettled at the most important position in the game; they have a defense that everything thinks will be elite, but still has plenty to prove; the roster includes a couple of big-name receivers who are trying to revive their careers; and more so than in the previous two years, Pete Carroll is starting this season with real expectations on his team. Also, Seattle's opponent, Tennessee, brings with it a quarterback battle between two Seattle sports icons, former University of Washington star Jake Locker and former Seahawks Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck.
So even if the final score will be forgotten before most fans get to their cars -- come to think of it, most fans will be to their cars before there is a final score -- there are plenty of storylines that should keep you interested in tonight's game. Here are five of them:
1. Flynn's chance to shine
Carroll announced early in the week that Matt Flynn would get the start in Saturday, as well as the first-team reps all week in practice. And while that doesn't mean the quarterback battle is over, it does give Flynn an early chance to make his case for the job. Flynn responded to that news Wednesday with one of his best practices in training camp, and now he'll try to continue that progress in game action.
"I'm looking at it as a great opportunity," he said. "I've always been a guy that I don't let things get too big for me or too little for me. I'm looking at it as a chance to go out there and prove that I can run this offense and prove that I can take control and move the ball."
Also worth watching will be the play of rookie Russell Wilson, who will come in after Flynn. Will we know if the third-round pick can be an NFL quarterback after one half or so of preseason football? Of course not, but he still needs a good performance to show that he still belongs in the battle for the starting job.
2. Irvin's impact
Seattle's first-round pick, Bruce Irvin, is a speedy, pass rushing specialist--the type of player who can be one of the most exciting in the sport. But here's the problem with a guy whose primary job is to sack quarterbacks: he can't actually do that in training camp, because it turns out NFL teams tend to frown upon having their quarterbacks knocked around in practice. So even though Irvin has been impressive in practice, getting to see him at full speed, and with the ability to actually hit a quarterback, should be entertaining.
Asked what he was hoping to get out of tonight's game, Irving flashed a big grin and said, "Sacks. Just have fun and play my game. Run around, have fun and make plays."
3. Turbin shouldering the load
Rookie running back Robert Turbin has looked good in camp, and will get a chance to show what he can do tonight, particularly because Marshawn Lynch won't play. Well Carroll actually didn't come out and definitely say Lynch won't play, but he did say that "Marshawn will not get a bunch of carries in this game. In his street clothes." That most likely means Lynch isn't playing, or it means Lynch will get a couple of carries while wearing street clothes, in which case "Lynch playing in jeans with no helmet and no pads" goes straight to top of the list of things to watch tonight.
4. Secondary that's second-to-none
OK, so maybe we can't say the Seahawks secondary is the best in the NFL quite yet, but they certainly belong in the conversation. And as interesting as it will be to see starters Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman in action, watching the backups will be more intriguing in a lot of ways. There is no question who will start for Seattle at safety and cornerback, but once those four come out of the game, there is a lot of uncertainty behind them as a lot of young, talented players battle for a handful of roster spots.
5. The T.O. Show!
Wait, what's that? Oh, Terrell Owens isn't playing tonight?
Well then, never mind.
Actually, while we're on the topic of receivers, this is still an intriguing group to watch even if Owens won't play having signed less than a week ago, and even with Ricardo Lockett, Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice also sidelined. Golden Tate has been phenomenal in training camp, and now he'll try to see if it carries over into game action. Braylon Edwards, who is coming off a disappointing 2011 season, is trying to show he can still be a productive receiver, and plenty of other receivers, including Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler, need a strong showing in the preseason to earn a spot on the roster.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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