The third preseason game is typically regarded as the most important for teams around the NFL, and there’s plenty on the line for the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers.
Seattle’s starters are expected to play well into the third quarter, giving Pete Carroll and company an extended look at the first unit in game action that they haven’t had yet. While most of the roster battles will be for reserve roles and positioning on the depth chart, the starting unit will have a few storylines to keep an eye on.
Once again, the focus will be on the offensive line, while some players returning from injury will give a new look to the secondary.
The new offensive line arraignment
After a poor performance in the opener against the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks decided to shuffle up the offensive line. Justin Britt took over for Alvin Bailey at left guard, while Garry Gilliam slid into Britt’s spot at right tackle.
The Seahawks have been using that alignment since in practice and in the second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. By all accounts, that lineup plus Drew Nowak at center will get three quarters of action on Saturday night.
While there are still some issues to resolve, the new lineup played well against a good Kansas City pass rush. The pass protection looked much better in general and kept Russell Wilson clean in the first half.
In particular, Justin Britt looked like a natural at left guard after having an up-and-down season as a rookie right tackle in 2014. Britt was able to use his athleticism much more effectively as a left guard and should be a great fit in Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme. Nowak should provide an athleticism upgrade at center over Lemuel Jeanpierre and other candidates as well.
With the better pass protection, Seattle looked a little out of sync in run blocking. Even if Marshawn Lynch does not play again, the Seahawks would like to see a little more out of the ground game than they have in the first two preseason contests.
New faces at cornerback
Carroll indicated that Richard Sherman, Tharold Simon and Will Blackmon will all return from injury and play on Saturday. That will finally allow a competition within the secondary to fully get underway.
Sherman obviously doesn’t have to worry about his starting job, but the Seahawks must decide who will be starting opposite him. Cary Williams is the favorite right now and has had a strong preseason so far.
However, Simon’s return could open up some competition. Simon has more upside than Williams, but struggled at times when pressed into action last season. Mohammed Seisay, recently acquired from the Detroit Lions, has also looked strong in camp and could be in the mix for some playing time.
Blackmon will have a good chance to be the starting nickel corner until Jeremy Lane is able to return from his gruesome injury, if he’s able to return at all this season. Marcus Burley also remains in the mix for the position.
A battle at safety
It’s about time for the Seahawks to prepare as if they will not have safety Kam Chancellor for their opener against the St. Louis Rams. Seattle has continuously said it will not back down in contract negations, and Chancellor has taken his holdout much further than most expected.
That means all eyes will be on DeShawn Shead and Dion Bailey this week, as one could earn the nod as the starting strong safety until Chancellor returns. Undrafted free agent Ronald Martin will also get plenty of snaps with a chance to establish his place on the depth chart.
Bailey is probably the most interesting player to watch this week as he attempts to continue his impressive preseason. With size, versatility and playmaking ability, Bailey looks like he can provide something to the team even if Chancellor were to start Week 1.
He still has something to prove in pass coverage, so this week will be critical against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers.
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