Sports Out West

Seahawks preseason 2014: Will energy spent hurt down the stretch?

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Since Pete Carroll took over as head coach in 2010, the Seattle Seahawks have taken preseason games very seriously.

Seattle’s loss on August 7 to the Denver Broncos snapped a nine-game preseason win streak. The Seahawks looked listless and undisciplined for much of the game, a far different scene than in last year’s preseason.

Carroll challenged his team to do better the following Monday in practice and the Seahawks responded with great energy in their second and third preseason games.

The results followed, as the Seahawks dominated the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears in blowout victories. In particular, Seattle’s first-string offense looked to be in midseason form as Russell Wilson led his team efficiently down the field to the tune of 55 first-half points between the two games.

While it was good to see the amount of energy lead to improvement following the Denver game, could that effort take a toll on the Seahawks down the stretch?

Preseason results often don’t have much impact on a team during the regular season, other than deciding position battles and roster spots. The archrival San Francisco 49ers looked completely lethargic during their first two preseason games, but are likely going to be just fine when the regular season rolls around.

Still, the Seahawks face a stiff challenge in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Everything from the start of training camp, including preseason, will take its toll by the stretch run.

Putting max effort into preseason games has worked for Carroll before, but this year will be more challenging for the team. Several factors are different heading into 2014 than last season, meaning the spent energy could have an impact.

Seattle faces a brutal schedule in what might be the toughest division in football. The last six weeks of the regular season include five divisional contests with the only interruption coming in the form of a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Seahawks will still be favored in most, if not all, of those games, but that stretch is going to wear down the team heading into the postseason. Multiple losses are possible, meaning the New Orleans Saints or San Francisco 49ers could take home field advantage in the final weeks, making things very difficult.

Furthermore, this team is not as deep as it was in 2013. Losses in free agency at offensive line and in the secondary means the Seahawks won’t be able to have quite as big of a rotation, which could tire players out in the end.

Breno Giacomini and Golden Tate are also elsewhere now, meaning the Seahawks can’t afford the same amount of injuries they suffered at offensive line and wide receiver in 2013. Fortunately, no major injuries occurred during the high-intensity preseason games, but it would be easy to second-guess if someone went down.

Still, if any team were built to handle the rigors of playing a difficult schedule after an energetic preseason, it would be the Seahawks. Seattle is a relatively young team and Carroll’s coaching tends to get a high energy level out of his squad on a week-by-week basis.

The individual the Seahawks would be most concerned about wearing down is Marshawn Lynch as he enters his age-28 season, but he hasn’t appeared at all during the preseason. Injury-prone offensive linemen Russell Okung and Max Unger have played only sparingly, so they will also be fresh for the regular season.

Even if the defensive line rotation is smaller than a year ago, it will still utilize more players than most teams in football. It was apparent last season that Seattle’s defensive line was well-rested during the playoffs and it made a difference, particularly in the Super Bowl.

The big difference this season is that the Seahawks will be adding some unproven players to the mix in place of productive veterans like Chris Clemens and Red Bryant. If these new players, particularly O’Brien Schofield and Cassius Marsh keep up the same energy they have in preseason the defensive line won’t suffer a drop-off, but that’s still a big “if” at this point.

Carroll’s philosophy is to play preseason games at the same energy level as regular season games and it’s worked out for the Seahawks so far. This year will provide more of a challenge to stay rested and healthy by the end of the year, but the level of energy shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the stretch run. 

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.