RENTON — Through all the new — their refreshed, starting-over vibe, the worries still very much warranted about the pass-rush and the totally remodeled secondary — the Seattle Seahawks have two main issues left to settle this preseason.
Right tackle. And right cornerback.
Those are the starting jobs available to win Friday night when Seattle plays its third of four preseason games, at Minnesota.
The Seahawks’ starters will play into the second half in the final rehearsal before the games get real in two weeks.
“We’ll see Dontae Johnson for a good dose of plays,” coach Pete Carroll said following Thursday’s practice, talking about the former San Francisco starting right cornerback who signed with Seattle in the offseason.
A broken bone in his foot in June delayed until last week Johnson being able to show how he could fit in Seattle’s plans for 2018. Byron Maxwell missing another preseason game Friday because of a hip-flexor injury swings the door wide open for Johnson to prove he belongs.
The Seahawks drafted rookie Tre Flowers in the fifth round and are converting him from Oklahoma State safety to NFL cornerback this month. The rangy, aggressive, confident Flowers is the future at right cornerback, and he started the preseason opener this month when Maxwell first got hurt.
Johnson has a chance to be the present for Seattle at the position opposite starting left cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
It breaks down to three guys for two roster spots playing the same position. Maxwell, 30, re-signed for one season. He does not factor into the Seahawks’ plans on special teams. He needs to get on the field, pronto, to ensure his place on the 53-man roster the team must set Sept. 1 for the regular season.
Bradley McDougald will not play against the Vikings, Carroll said. He’s been the starting strong safety replacing Kam Chancellor, then hurt his pectoral muscle last week in the preseason game at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Expect to see a lot of 2016 draft choice Delano Hill at strong safety, perhaps starting there Friday, and more from former Rams starter Maurice Alexander.
“Last week Mo Alexander, it was his first week (coming off injury). He got a dozen plays (against the Chargers),” Carroll said. “He’ll get to play a lot.”
Second-year man Tedric Thompson will start again at free safety while Earl Thomas’ holdout goes past one month.
The only other starting job to be won is at right tackle. Germain Ifedi’s continued problems in pass protection, underlined last weekend by Chargers Pro Bowl edge-rusher Melvin Ingram speeding through and around Seattle’s first-round pick in 2016, means George Fant gets his chance to win Ifedi’s job Friday night.
“We’ll see more of George Fant this week. He’ll get a good shot,” Carroll said.
It will be Fant’s most extensive action since reconstructive knee surgery 12 months ago ended his 2017 season, in which he was to be Seattle’s starting left tackle.
That injury forced the Seahawks to trade for veteran Duane Brown. Brown is now entrenched as the starting left tackle.
“It just feels like we are going to get more impact from guys we need more information on,” before trimming the 90-man preseason roster down to 53, Carroll said of Friday at Minnesota.
“It should be a good one for us.”
If only those two starting jobs were the only issues for this transitioning team.
Carroll said rookie sixth-round draft choice Jacob Martin will play more at defensive end Friday. The Seahawks are trying to find more pass-rushers while still not knowing when Dion Jordan, presumed to be the starting defensive end opposite Frank Clark, will return to the field. Branden Jackson has started the first two preseason games at end.
Martin, from Temple, has impressed coaches with his speed off the edge and his versatility in being able to play outside linebacker in pass coverage.
Friday will be the Seahawks debut of another pass-rusher trying to win a job late in the preseason. Erik Walden, a double-digit sack man for the Colts in 2016, practiced fully this week after signing Aug. 17. He will get many snaps in Minnesota to show whether, at age 33, he deserves consideration for a Seahawks roster spot.
The Seahawks will consider any and all who have pressured quarterbacks before or can show they can do it. Such is the concern for the pass-rush in the wake of trading Michael Bennett to Philadelphia and fellow Pro Bowl end Cliff Avril retiring because of a neck injury this offseason.
Carroll said wide receiver Amara Darboh won’t play again because of a clavicle injury. The third-round pick from 2017 is another one who needs to get on the field soon to secure a roster spot. The wide-receiver group is forming quickly after the strong games last weekend by Jaron Brown and David Moore. The others surely on the team are Doug Baldwin (who could return to practice next week from a left-knee injury), Tyler Lockett and revitalized, 34-year-old Brandon Marshall.
Carroll said Marshall had his best week of practice yet in his return from toe and ankle surgeries and a hamstring issue in the offseason. Those injuries and a career-low 18 catches in five games last season with the New York Giants had the rest of the NFL thinking the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was finished.
He’s not. He’s proven in practices throughout the preseason by his physical domination of cornerbacks that at 6-5 and 240 pounds he not only will make the team but is likely to start with Baldwin Sept. 9 in the opener at Denver.
Carroll said J.R. Sweezy won’t play but the Seahawks hope he will in the Aug. 30 preseason finale against Oakland. Sweezy’s had a high-ankle sprain since the first practice after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl starter three years ago re-signed Aug. 1.
Sweezy is playing left guard now. He’s been a right guard his entire career.
“He’s going to battle (starter Ethan) Pocic for his spot,” Carroll said of left guard.