So much has changed with the Seahawks this year — stars gone, coaches switched, touted rookies arrived — and we finally get to see how it is all coming together when the Hawks open the preseason against the Colts on Thursday.
One of the biggest overall stories to watch is the development of the offense under Brian Schottenheimer, who has always come across as a very average coordinator but who also has never had a quarterback like Russell Wilson.
Schottenheimer has said the offense is 70 percent carryover from Darrell Bevell and 30 percent tweaks from Schottenheimer and Mike Solari. We won’t see every trick in Schottenheimer’s book, but it will be significant to see how the blocking scheme has improved (hopefully) and also see how Schottenheimer makes better use of running backs and tight ends.
“We’re a little different than we’ve been,” Pete Carroll said. “We have a little more spread in things that we’re trying to do with the running game in particular. It isn’t rocket science, but it has given us a chance to work our guys in some different principles and some man-blocking schemes and all of that, and our guys have really taken to it. Mike is a master of it and he’s doing a great job of transitioning these guys, so I am excited. … It’s probably the part of our team that I’m most looking forward to.”
Here’s what else we’ll be watching, by position:
How has Russell Wilson taken to Schottenheimer’s coaching? Will he look more settled or continue to turn every play into a high-flying circus act? Obviously half of this relies on the line’s performance in front of Wilson. Rookie Alex McGough has had a tough time in camp, Carroll said, so what will he look like in a game setting? Will he even give a chance to the receivers fighting for the last roster spot?
First-round pick Rashaad Penny is the marquee here. We’ve seen the other guys, so this game is about getting a close-up look at just how good the rookie is. The other thing to watch is C.J. Prosise; if he continues to screw up or gets hurt, he will have no shot at beating out either Mike Davis or J.D. McKissic. We know those guys are both solid contributors. Every game is make-or-break for Prosise this preseason.
Doug Baldwin is out and Tyler Lockett probably won’t play much. We all have seen Jaron Brown in action for Arizona, but now we get to see him as a Seahawk (Carroll has been impressed by his veteran savvy). Brandon Marshall probably won’t play much as the Hawks work him into football shape. If Marshall is the lock some think, then it comes down to David Moore and Amara Darboh for the fifth spot. Moore, who started camp hot and then got injured, needs to get back on the field soon. Darboh needs to prove he was worth the third-round pick last year. A wild card: Will Keenan Reynolds show the versatility coaches have touted?
It’s a whole new crew, with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson gone. With Ed Dickson injured, Nick Vannett gets a chance to show he has what it takes; he’s apparently healthy after a bad back hindered him the past two years. Will Dissly and Tyrone Swoopes are also worth watching; Swoopes is trying to make the coaches consider four tight ends.
This is the biggest unit to watch — the key to the entire season, as usual. How far has Mike Solari taken them? Can Germain Ifedi stop making so many mistakes and play to his talent? What will the guards look like? Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle will be interesting to watch because they are the options behind Ifedi. Eventually, George Fant might become an option — but not now. This will be a big first step for him as he comes off an ACL injury.
So many changes here, with new tackles and pass rushers. Let’s see what rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin and vets Barkevious Mingo and Marcus Smith can do on the outside. And can UDFA tackle Poona Ford really challenge for a spot? Carroll made it sound like ex-Vikings Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen are roster locks behind Jarran Reed and Nazair Jones, so Ford seemingly would have a shot only if the team keeps nine D-linemen and Dion Jordan starts the season on PUP.
Obviously, all eyes will be on Shaquem Griffin, who has impressed wherever he has played in camp. He’s not going to supplant K.J. Wright as the starter (this year anyway), but it will be fun to see his 4.38 speed and watch him fly all over the field on defense and special teams. Austin Calitro is pushing for a chance to back up Bobby Wagner, so it will be interesting to see whether he has anything.
Camp superstar Tedric Thompson will be the main attraction here, starting at free safety. Will he show us the big-play ability he has exhibited in camp? Also worth watching will be Tre Flowers, who is pushing for a roster spot as he converts from safety to corner; he will get lots of playing time. Trovon Reed, a camp playmaker, is worth watching, too — if he returns.
Everyone wants to see the punter the Seahawks coveted so highly that they traded up for, so all eyes will be on Michael Dickson. The kicking battle officially starts as well; consistency and leg strength are the things to look for from Sebastian Janikowski and Jason Myers. This also will be Brian Schneider’s first chance to experiment with the new kickoff rules — will he put Lockett and Penny back together?