Seahawks value preseason games

RENTON — The Seahawks will shoot for an eighth consecutive preseason victory in Green Bay tonight.

And as remarkable as that, um, accomplishment might be considering how many variables are at play in the preseason — consider how many players factor into these games who won’t even be on the regular season roster — what stands out most about that streak is not so much the victories themselves, but that they actually matter to Pete Carroll and his team.

Will a victory tonight help the Seahawks in the standings? Not even a little. But Carroll genuinely believes his players can learn about how to win football games even when the final score doesn’t mean a thing for the regular season.

The Seahawks won’t approach this game with a win-at-all-costs mentality — Sidney Rice and Zach Miller are just two of several players who could play if the stakes were higher, but won’t in this game. Yet for a Carroll-coached team, there is still plenty of value in fighting for a victory, even in August.

“Preseason is really important to us,” Carroll said. “… I do not blow off these games like it’s just another game and we’re looking at the young guys. It’s way more than that for us, and we’re trying to build a mentality around here of winning, and to understand how you win and the lessons that it takes and the discipline that it takes to always show your best every time you go.

“I don’t think that you should ever play anything and just kind of show up. You should go for it every chance you get forever, because you can’t afford to try to call on it when you need it. We don’t do that. Every game is a huge game.”

A preseason winning streak doesn’t mean much of anything by itself to the Seahawks, but what led to those seven straight victories is significant. Seattle’s run of preseason blowouts not only shows the depth Carroll and general manager John Schneider have built, it’s also an indicator of how fully the team has bought into the “always compete” mantra. Would it have really mattered in the grand scheme of things if the Broncos finished off that second-quarter drive with a one-yard touchdown run? Probably not, but that didn’t keep Seattle defense from putting in maximum effort for one last play, the result of which was a goal-line fumble that Brandon Browner returned 106 yards for a score.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a preseason game or if it’s the last game of the year, we’re trying to play them all the same,” Carroll said.

That being said, Carroll won’t pretend he treats the game exactly like he would a regular-season game. Teams barely game-plan for each other, even in this third preseason game in which the starters see the most playing time of the preseason. And as much as winning matters to the Seahawks, so too does figuring out several questions that remain unanswered two weeks before the regular season kicks off, including:

Who starts at defensive tackle next to Brandon Mebane? Jesse Williams has gotten a crack at the spot that belonged to Alan Branch last year, as has fellow rookie Jordan Hill. However, both are injured and won’t play. That could open the door for free-agent signing Tony McDaniel, who has not played in the first two preseason games because of a groin injury, but returned to practice this week.

“This is a great opportunity for Tony,” Carroll said. “He’s starting. … We’re counting on him to do some good things. He’s looked very good in practice.”

Can the Seahawks clean up the penalties? Seattle was penalized eight times for 65 yards in San Diego, then a whopping 12 times for 107 yards against Denver a week later. That prompted Carroll to say, “There were some garbage things with the penalty situation, and we’ll continue to work on that. … We just have to get better there. It’s lousy to play football like that. I don’t like it at all.”

Will the turnover dominance keep up? It’s all about the ball. Carroll loves saying that, and so far his players seem to be paying attention. The Seahawks intercepted the Chargers twice two weeks ago, then forced four turnovers against the Broncos. Even better in Carroll’s eyes is the fact that the Seahawks have not turned the ball over in the preseason.

“The most important factor that’s happening right now is that we’re not giving the football up, and there’s nothing more important than that,” Carroll said following last week’s victory. “That’s two games with no turnovers, and that’s how we intend to play forever. When you do that, you win.”

Injury update

Carroll said rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill strained a bicep strain during Tuesday’s practice, and that an exact timetable on his return is not known. Carroll did, however, say that the report from a Pennsylvania TV station of a three-to-six week recovers was “not accurate.”

“We’re just going day-to-day, week-to-week if it takes that long,” Carroll said. “We’ll see how it goes. He won’t play in this game.”

Also not expected to play are fellow rookie defensive tackle Jesse Williams (knee), guard James Carpenter (foot) and fullback Michael Robinson (illness). Two of Seattle’s pass rushers who returned to practice recently, Bruce Irvin (groin) and Cliff Avril (hamstring), will be game-day decisions.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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