By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — When the Seattle Seahawks play host to Oakland tonight in their final preseason game, many of both teams’ best players will play little, if at all. And the final score? Please, nobody cares who wins these games. Heck, a lot of people will probably be in bed when the game ends.
But don’t think that means tonight’s game isn’t important.
Yes, we already know who is starting at quarterback for the Seahawks, and few if any starting jobs are up for grabs, but for the players fighting for a roster spot, a good performance tonight could be the difference between an NFL career or a job search that begins this weekend.
When asked about his plan for rotating players in tonight’s game, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, “We’re planning on playing the young guys a lot.”
Yes, one reason to play the young guys is that it allows veterans to rest and get healthy prior to the regular season opener, but the other big reason for going young tonight is that it will give Carroll, his coaching staff and general manager John Schneider one final chance to evaluate players on the bubble before trimming the roster from 75 to 53 on Friday.
Whether it’s receivers like Deon Butler, Charly Martin, and Ricardo Lockette, or defensive lineman Cordarro Law or cornerback Jeremy Lane or linebacker Korey Toomer, numerous players on Seattle’s roster feel like they’re good enough to help this team in the regular season, but not all can be on the roster by Friday afternoon.
“This is big for our young guys,” Carroll said. “This is their biggest opportunity because they’ll get their most playing time in this game and it’s kind of a final test of camp and the offseason. I’m hoping, for their own good, that they really come through and put themselves in the best positions to make the club. It’s a highly competitive roster right now and everybody is battling.”
Of course, players need to fight against putting too much on tonight’s game. Yes, a good showing could be the difference between being the 53rd man on the roster and the last man cut, but players have been making their case throughout training camp and the preseason, not just in this one game. Players know that if they try to do too much, mistakes will inevitably follow.
“I don’t think you can (make this game more important),” said Martin, who has made a strong case for a roster spot over the past couple of weeks. “The first day was important. If you’re not performing and doing what you should be doing, you’re not going to stick around. It’s a business, and you’ve got to make sure that you’re at your best every day, you take advantage of your opportunities and ultimately control what you can control.”
Carroll said “the biggest issue is that guys will over-try in times like this. We’ll just try to convince them that their best chance is to try to do like they’ve been practicing and play with great effort. That will give them their best opportunity.”
While practice, games and meetings are all important, preseason games, and this game in particular, provide opportunities to evaluate players in ways that practice simply cannot replicate. That is especially true when it comes to special teams, and special teams play is very important to almost any young roster hopeful.
“With special teams you can’t show anything unless you play in games,” Carroll said. “That is hugely important. We have set this week in motion with the thought that this week is really about the young guys getting an opportunity. So we’re orchestrating it so they have to be out there in stressful situations and they really have to come through.”
Tonight, long after the starters have changed into street clothes, and after many fans have headed home, don’t write off those final series as meaningless. Jobs are at stake, and for many young players around the league, this “meaningless” preseason game could be one of the biggest they ever play.
“It’s going to be a real battle,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t matter about who we’re playing, these guys just want to go out and play really well. I’m looking forward to seeing some exciting things.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.