By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — For the first time since 2011, the Seattle Seahawks lost a preseason game, so clearly there’s room for improvement.
But last week’s loss in Denver isn’t the reason the Seahawks want to take a step forward when they host the San Diego Chargers tonight. The goal this week, like last, is to prepare for the regular season and there are specific things from last week’s game that Pete Carroll and the rest of his coaching staff would like to see cleaned up starting tonight.
Here they are:
1 Improve the pass protection
The Seahawks were missing three-fifths of their starting line last week and Russell Wilson took a bit of a beating. He was sacked twice and hit a couple more times, and considering that he figures to play a bit more in preseason game No. 2, the pass protection has to improve. The good news for the Seahawks is that guard James Carpenter and center Max Unger could both play. Russell Okung, however, is still likely another week away.
“We’d like (Wilson) to not get hit at all, that’s the whole plan here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “… I don’t know if we can do better; this is a very aggressive team coming at us. They like to rush a lot of guys and come after you on the pass rush. They play the run real aggressive and they attack.
“We’re going to have to protect (the quarterback) better than we did last week. Hopefully we can get him through it. That wasn’t what we wanted to have happen (last week).”
2 Get better on third down
On offense, the Seahawks went just 3-for-11 on third down, while on defense they allowed the Broncos to convert on eight of 12 third downs.
“Let’s play better on third down, both sides of the ball,” Carroll said. “We did not do well on third down on either side like we’d like.
Getting that done, especially for Seattle’s defense, will be a challenge against the Philip Rivers-led Chargers offense.
“We happen to be going against one of the best third-down offenses and quarterbacks ever,” Carroll said. “This guy’s great, so he’ll check out our defense, and offensively we will have to do much better than we did.
“It’s the same old story, whenever you’re not converting on third down and you don’t feel the rhythm and you don’t get the extra turns to mix the play passes and running game like you’d like, so we would like to see that happen. (The Chargers have) a really good defense and they’re going to have something to say about that but we are going to see if we can do better.”
While the Seahawks want to improve on third down, they won’t get that done with elaborate schemes. Since the Seahawks and Chargers meet in the regular season, expect both teams to play things close to the vest, even by preseason standards.
“We’re going to be very gauged in how we do this,” Carroll said. “The competition that comes in the regular season is different than what’s going on right now; we really have some different purpose in mind right now. We’re trying to learn stuff, we’re trying to figure stuff out and understand their personnel better. It’s really just like a divisional opponent; you get to know the team better. You know their style, their personnel, you know what you can and can’t do and all of that. We’re hoping to find that kind of stuff out now and then we’ll game plan for the match up later on.”
3 Get more out of the defensive depth
Seattle’s starting defense is the least of Carroll’s concerns, but last week the bulk of Denver’s offensive production came against surprisingly vulnerable second and third-string units. As deep as the Seahawks are, they don’t expect a lot of falloff with the starters out, even in preseason game No. 1, so Carroll wants to see more out of his backups.
“We’ve got to play a lot better,” Carroll said. “We played really poorly at the line of scrimmage last week and I was really disappointed that we looked like that. It was just technique-wise. We got blocked. So I’m hoping the line of scrimmage will start the chain reaction that we’ll play better in the second half.”
4 Clean up the penalties
Flags have been flying in the preseason, especially with some new points of emphasis being enforced. But increased rate of penalties or not, 13 for 131 yards is a lot more than the Seahawks can live with in the regular season. The Seahawks’ aggressive style means they likely will always be one of the league’s more-penalized teams, but those penalty numbers need to come down some, especially the offensive penalties, for the team to function.
5 Individuals with something to show
Plenty of players, young ones especially, have a lot to prove in the remaining games. Among those are second-year cornerback Tharold Simon, who has been a standout in camp and offseason workouts, but who was ejected from last week’s game before he could make an impact.
Rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis should play a lot tonight and in the next two preseason games after missing last week’s game because of injury. Pierre-Louis will get a chance to shine at linebacker, but perhaps more important for his chances of making the team is what he does on special teams.
“We need to see him just play,” Carroll said. “We’re really thinking he’s going to be a factor on special teams, too. He’s shown nothing but encouraging things. He’s a very disciplined kid, he’s very serious about learning and all, his attitude is on it, he just hasn’t had a chance to play yet, so these next three weeks will be enormous from him and he’ll get a lot of play time.”
Benson Mayowa, a camp standout a year ago who made the team as an undrafted rookie, is again battling for a roster spot. Mayowa didn’t have a particularly great game last week, while O’Brien Schofield, perhaps his biggest obstacle to winning a roster spot, played well. Expect Seahawks coaches to pay close attention to the play of those two.
“He’s in the middle of a big competition,” Carroll said. “He and Obie Schofield are battling it out. You saw Benson went with the first group last week in nickel, and Schofield will get some turns at that this week. It’s just a great competition, with special teams entering in also. So we’ll see what happens.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.