It’s finally time. For most of the wannabe Seahawks anyway.
The Seahawks kick off their 2016 preseason Saturday in Kansas City (1:30 pm PT), and Pete Carroll and his coaches will take the next step in evaluating these guys.
“There (are) so many things to see, so many areas to watch,” he said Friday. “For the coaches, so many exciting guys that see challenge for the first time in a game situation and we’ll start making sense of this thing. This is one huge opportunity to do that.”
Of course, a few guys are going to miss this “huge opportunity” and will fall behind in the competition. Among them are J’Marcus Webb, C.J. Prosise, Zac Brooks, Jordan Hill, Sealver Siliga, Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith.
Carroll expects many of them to be ready for Thursday against Minnesota.
“Next week should be a big week for guys returning,” he said. “We’ve had some soft tissue things that caught us but they’re starting to come back, so it’ll be steady. I would think by next week we’ll have a bunch of those guys back.”
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the coaches finally will see their team playing at full speed.
“We really do take the preseason seriously,” Carroll said. “We wait until these games to go full speed tackling and hitting, so that’s what these games are for, for us. I’m anxious to see how the guys come out, and I’m expecting them to be flying and doing it just like we want to and like we have in the past. We’ll see how that goes come Saturday.”
Here’s what we will be watching:
QUARTERBACK: The backups.
The battle, at least for now, is between mini-Wilson Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps. “Both those guys are making some big splash plays (in camp),” OC Darrell Bevell said, “so I think it is going to be fun to watch them play and see how much they are going to be able to retain and react to.” Bevell said Boykin has good field vision and a big arm, but Bevell and assistant head coach Tom Cable said Boykin still is learning how to run the offense from huddle to snap. Heaps has been very accurate, Doug Baldwin said. The first two preseason games should tell the coaches whether one of these guys is going to be good enough to be Seattle’s No. 2 QB — or whether the Hawks should bring in a veteran.
RUNNING BACK: Alex Collins and Christine Michael.
Collins and Michael are the only healthy backs among the top five. It’s so bad that George Farmer has been flipped from defense. “There’s a lot of guys that have missed a lot of time and so we are just not able to get a good look at them at this point,” Bevell said. “I know that they are working hard on the side and we want them back out here as soon as we can get them back out here.” In the meantime, Collins and Michael are battling for the No. 2 spot behind Rawls — a position that might get a lot of carries early in the season as Rawls continues to work his way back from his broken ankle.
WIDE RECEIVER: Kenny Lawler, Douglas McNeil, Montario Hunter, Tanner McEvoy.
With SeaDawg holdovers Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith sidelined by hamstring injuries and the top four guys not figuring to play much, these four will get their chances to separate themselves from the pack. Lawler, a seventh-round draft pick, has huge hands but a slight frame and needs to prove he can withstand NFL punishment. McNeil showed some promise last summer, while also helping at cornerback, and reportedly has had a good camp this time, too. Hunter has impressed observers with his speed (he’s wearing Ricardo “Rocket” Lockette’s old No. 83, too) and steady camp performance. McEvoy’s unique quality is his 6-foot-6 size.
TIGHT END: Nick Vannett, Brandon Williams.
As a third-round pick, Vannett is as close to a lock as you can get; he just needs to affirm his status as the No. 3 guy behind Graham and Luke Willson. Williams is one of the better stories of camp and could force the Seahawks to consider keeping four tight ends. So, he’s probably competing not just against Vannett but against all of those third-tier receivers. He is known as a good special-teams player, which would aid him greatly in making the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Germain Ifedi, Justin Britt, Bradley Sowell.
With Webb hurt again (Carroll said he could miss the second game as well), the Hawks are keeping Garry Gilliam at right tackle and starting Sowell at left tackle. “See how they do,” Carroll said, “then next week we’ll revisit and see where we are.” This is also the first Cable said he plans to mix and match, feeling out which players play best in various positions and combinations. Basically, prepare for a preseason full of growing pains.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Brandin Bryant, Ryan Robinson.
Jordan Hill and Sealver Siliga, who have been injured for most of camp, are being pushed hard by Jefferson and Bryant. Carroll already has said fifth-rounder Jefferson looks like he will fit into the D-line rotation with second-rounder Reed. And UDFA Bryant is “going to get a good look. He has looked very good in practice. He has a lot to learn; he still makes mistakes because he’s still learning, but he makes them coming at you and attacking. … We need to see how disciplined he is in the game, if he’ll do the right thing and all that.”
LINEBACKER: Cassius Marsh, Eric Pinkins, Steve Longa, Kyle Coleman.
Marsh and Pinkins are battling Mike Morgan for the strongside linebacker spot. Morgan is the fallback option; the question is whether Marsh or Pinkins can unseat him. We’re not really that interested in this battle because it seems like Carroll and DC Kris Richard plan to rotate a lot of players through this 11th Man spot on defense. Longa and Coleman have intrigued observers, so it will be interesting to see whether they can surpass Brock Coyle in special-teams contributions.
SECONDARY: Brandon Browner, Tye Smith, Tharold Simon, Tyvis Powell.
The top six spots are set, with the steady Kelcie McCray the No. 3 safety and Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead battling for the No. 2 CB spot. It will be curious to see Browner in his super safety/nickel ‘backer role. “He’s doing well, he’s still working at it,” Carroll said. “There’s still nuances and things he’s got to get comfortable with. He can do everything: He can play the run, he can get in the passing game, he can play terrific coverage when we lock him up. … He just needs experience so he can make the right choices and right decisions.” Smith and Simon are both battling for roster spots, although both could make it if the Hawks keep 10 defensive backs. Powell has received positive reviews from observers, but it seems hard to imagine he has any chance of breaking into the very deep Legion of Boom.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The long snapper.
The Hawks have gone through so many since releasing Clint Gresham earlier this year that we’re not going to bother learning any names. We’ll know his name if he messes up — and the Hawks will be on to a new guy.