RENTON — Some, if not all, of the Seattle Seahawks starters who have yet to play in the preseason are expected to see action in the final tuneup of the year Saturday night.
That includes quarterback Russell Wilson, expected to get some of his first snaps running the offense of new coordinator Shane Waldron against the Los Angeles Chargers at Lumen Field.
But while it will be fun for Seahawks fans to finally see some of the team’s best-known players — which should be better to watch than the combined 50-10 walloping in the first two games — the focus of any preseason game remains on the backups.
Players such as Geno Smith, who for the third straight year will be the backup to Wilson at quarterback — a literal play away from becoming the most important player on the team.
The Seahawks hoped to get Smith a lot of playing time in the preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders and devised a game plan to let him throw liberally. But on the fifth play of the game, a Raiders corner blitz caught the Seahawks unaware, and Smith was blasted to the ground, suffering a concussion.
Smith revealed this week that he’s never suffered a concussion before, one reason that after leaving the field for one snap and being examined on the sideline, he stayed in the game.
“It was a really strange feeling,’’ Smith said. “I thought I was normal and then as time went on you realize you are not really yourself.’’
So, after finishing the first series and playing a second, Smith was pulled from the game after 12 snaps.
Smith, who had to go through the league’s concussion protocol and did not practice the following week, had no issue with the Raiders calling the blitz.
“It’s football,’’ he said. “They can really call any play they want to call. It’s one of those things where had we really game-planned it, we would have been more on top of it. Obviously me seeing it, just get the ball out of my hands faster had I seen it. But I feel like we were in a solid protection to pick it up. It just happened. Things happen fast and that’s why we go through preseason games to knock the rust off.’’
And Smith, due to some football and life realities, has had a lot of rust the last few years.
He has 31 starts in his NFL career, which is why the Seahawks like him as a backup.
But, Smith has played just 18 snaps in two years with the Seahawks — all in the waning moments last year of a 40-3 win against the Jets, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2013.
And last year, due to the pandemic, he didn’t get any preseason snaps.
“A full year of not getting hit,’’ Smith laughed. “My body is not mad at it, but obviously you want to be out there.’’
Which is why he was disappointed the Raiders game turned out the way it did.
Smith said this week he expects to see significant action Saturday — the Seahawks this week waived Alex McGough meaning recently-signed Sean Mannion is the only other QB on the team’s roster.
The backup job, in other words, is his. He re-signed with Seattle in April, saying he had other opportunities but was sold on coming back after talking to Waldron. The up-tempo aspects of the offense, he said, remind him of what he thrived in at West Virginia. He threw 42 touchdowns against just six interceptions in his final year there in 2012.
But Smith intriguingly said he returned to Seattle hoping to show not only the Seahawks, but the rest of the NFL, that he can still play.
“It’s one of those things where I just felt like I have another opportunity to showcase what I can do,’’ he said. “And if another team calls, it could possibly work out for myself and the Seahawks. So it was a decision that we made.’’
Smith’s role in Seattle seems secure — even if due to Wilson’s durability, it’s one that has kept him mostly on the sidelines. But he’s hoping to show the NFL world Saturday that he can still play.
“Every day is an audition, man,’’ he said. “As a quarterback you never get a day off. So just having the opportunity to go out there and audition for the Seahawks, first, and then whoever else is watching is something that’s important.’’
Here are four other positions worth watching Saturday:
The Seahawks have been starting Ahkello Witherspoon on the left side and Tre Flowers on the right. But D.J. Reed is now back from injury and could take over the right side. The Seahawks want to see Damarious Randall compete on the left. All four should get some reps against the Chargers to try to sort it out, as should newly-acquired John Reid, who is playing on the left side. Reid was added via trade after the Seahawks revealed rookie Tre Brown is dealing with a knee injury.
Rookie Dee Eskridge returned to practice last week and appeared to quickly fit right in during workouts this week. That may solve the third-receiver question. What remains up in the air are any of the spots after the first four. Penny Hart missed the first two games but should play this week and Cody Thompson, Aaron Fuller and Cade Johnson, among others, will get their final shot to state their case this week, as well.
Ethan Pocic returned to practice this week and is in a fight to keep the center job with Kyle Fuller. All of the team’s linemen were available in practice this week other than “hold-in’’ Duane Brown. Brandon Shell has consistently been running as the starter at right tackle and Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis have been the right and left guards.
Darrell Taylor has played significantly at strongside linebacker — 56 snaps — and figures to get more Saturday as the Seahawks prepare him for a major role this season. With Ben Burr-Kirven lost for the season, Nick Bellore appears to now be primarily a linebacker.