What we’re watching in Minnesota

Logo -- PreseasonIt has been an eventful week leading up to the big dress rehearsal game.

Among other things, we learned J.D. McKissic is out 4-6 weeks, Doug Baldwin and Rashaad Penny could be back next week, George Fant is going to compete against Germain Ifedi, and Brian Schottenheimer isn’t satisfied with the running game.

As the Seahawks head to Pete Carroll’s formative NFL stomping grounds in Minnesota for the all-telling third preseason game, the coach has a few goals.

First, he wants his team to get used to the process of playing on the road, especially because they start with trips to Denver and Chicago.

“This is our last shot at going out onto the road and working on it,” he said. “Knowing that we got a couple games starting off the season on the road, this is an important trip for us to get comfortable with the whole process and how we do it — the meetings and the hotel and the whole thing. That’s important to me right now — that we get one more shot at getting that right.”

With guys slowly returning from injuries, Carroll said it “feels like a bigger roster than we’ve had with some guys coming out of some stuff that they’ve been dealing with. We’ll still look at some young guys and try to see some guys that will make the club. However, one of the things to do this week is to get our guys to play through the half and come out after halftime.”

He also wants to fix their red-zone issues — the first offense was 0 for 3 vs. the Chargers, including a fumble on the 1-yard line.

“You can’t win if you turn the ball over,” Carroll said. “If you do it in the red zone, it’s doubling the impact of the game. Both of our games kind of got marred because we were in such great situations. We were in command of the first-and-5 on the 5 (against Indy) and we gave them the ball (on Austin Davis’ interception), and then we were first-and-1 on the inch line, and we ended up giving the ball to them on the 20 (via Chris Carson’s fumble). You can’t do anything worse than that for your club.

“Those two things we have to get through, but I think probably, the focus really is the red zone and touchdowns. We have to get down and get in the end zone. That’s real clear. We’re kicking the ball fine, but that’s not what we want to do down there.”

Schottenheimer also wants to see his group run the ball well.

“(Minnesota has a) really good run defense. They’re going to have a heavy box, but we want to see us run the ball really well,” he said. “They’re going to have some negative plays that they create, but we expect that we’re going to churn out some good yards as well.

“We’d like to see us run the football well against these guys and mix up the type of runs that we have, not just be a wide zone team. You’ll see us attacking with some different run types.”

Here’s what we’ll be watching, by position:

QUARTERBACK
This game is all about the starters, so we want to see Russell Wilson finish off drives with touchdowns — whether from long distance or short. Rookie Alex McGough put together a good half or so against the Chargers, finishing off a drive with a touchdown pass. McGough won’t get a lot of time in this one. But the fourth game will be mostly him and Austin Davis, whose experience still recommends him as the backup.

RUNNING BACK
Penny and McKissic are out, which means Carson, Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise will get most of the work this week. “C.J. was very limited in his first game and he’s not so limited this time around. He’ll play more,” Carroll said. “What I’m looking for is for him just to play football. I know he’s a good ballplayer. … Just go out there and battle and club away and hopefully make a couple of plays. We want to get him more in the passing game. Really, this is just about consistency for him and coming back and continuing to return to the playing field. We’re just excited to have him working in practice a little bit because it’s been so erratic over the time he’s been with us. He’s going to play quite a bit.”

WIDE RECEIVER
Apparently Amara Darboh’s clavicle injury is not serious. He still won’t play in Minnesota, but Carroll said, “We’re going to get him back in action next week; he’s almost there. He’s working and practicing and all that, but they’re not ready to cut him loose. Hopefully next week is a good shot for him. He’s missed some really valuable time, and so he’s got to make the most of next week.” Darboh is still the favorite to be the No. 6 receiver — simply because no one else has really stepped up. But, if Cyril Grayson or Keenan Reynolds or Dam Stringfellow put together a couple of good games and Darboh still can’t make it to practice, the team will have to consider whether to cut the 2017 third-rounder (or put him on IR, if applicable). Meanwhile, Carroll said Brandon Marshall will “get some good play time this week and we’ll see how it fits together with Russ and the offense and give himself a chance to be a part of the club.”

TIGHT END
“We’ll find out a little bit more in this game,” Schottenheimer said of Nick Vannett, Will Dissly and Tyrone Swoopes. “We want to see the progress meter continue to go up both in run and pass, see how these guys handle playing on the road against a great opponent.” Ed Dickson (groin/quad) is questionable for the opener, but Schottenheimer said he has been in all of the meetings so won’t be mentally behind once he returns. “You have to rely on the fact that he’s a veteran,” the OC said. “Certainly, there is a period of time that it takes. … He’s going to get his body right; his mind is going to be right. And ultimately it just comes back to the timing of he and Russ getting together in the passing game and then some of the fundamentals (take) a little bit of time in the run game.”

OFFENSIVE LINE
As the coaches move guys around to create more competition, the first five remain, including D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi. George Fant will see game action at right tackle as he pushes Ifedi. “He’s anxious and excited to get comfortable and make a move,” Carroll said. “It’s going to take a little bit for him to really feel comfortable with all the things that are happening.” J.R. Sweezy has a high ankle sprain and won’t play until perhaps next week. He is going to work at left guard, where he has never played, battling Ethan Pocic. It’s hard to see Fant or Sweezy supplanting Ifedi or Pocic, given their position changes coming off injuries. The bigger question for Sweezy is whether he has time to make the team. Jordan Roos did not look bad last week, filling in for Fluker. And Rees Odhiambo is trying to hold his roster spot, too.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Frank Clark and Nazair Jones had nice debuts last week. Rookie Rasheem Green (three sacks) has been a nice revelation, and Quinton Jefferson has become a very active player. The only question among this group is whether UDFA Poona Ford can continue to do enough to make the coaches consider keeping a fifth tackle (alongside Jones, Jarran Reed, Tim Johnson and Shamar Stephen) — keeping in mind Jefferson and Green both can play inside on passing downs. Do they have room for four run-stopping tackles?

LINEBACKER
Jacob Martin didn’t play much against the Chargers, but Carroll said that will change vs. the Vikings. “He’s going to have a big role this week.” New vet Erik Walden, 33, also should see action, showing whether he can still rush the passer (he has 15 sacks the past two years). Carroll also surely wants to see more pass rush from Barky Mingo and also see whether Austin Calitro can continue to stay in the discussion to be Bobby Wagner’s backup. No word, though, on whether John Schneider has taken Wagner’s advice and started extension talks with K.J. Wright.

SECONDARY
With Bradley McDougald (chest) sitting this one out, Maurice Alexander gets a big chance to show whether he should be considered as a starter. Tedric Thompson has been leading the way as the No. 2 safety all summer, but the competition apparently is not over. Meanwhile, neither is the fight for the right corner spot. As Byron Maxwell (hip) languishes on the injured list for another game, Dontae Johnson will get a shot to show he should start. Tre Flowers seems to be the future, so one of the vets figures to get the first-string pull. Meanwhile, Neiko Thorpe is still trying to overcome a broken wrist. “Neiko’s got a chance. We’ve got to wait and see,” Carroll said. “The crack in his wrist has got to settle down so he can use it and stab with it. He’s not quite there yet.” If Johnson seizes the spot and Akeem King continues to play well, it could be Maxwell vs. Thorpe for the sixth corner spot (to go with four safeties).

SPECIAL TEAMS
With Jon Ryan and Jason Myers off to other teams this week, Michael Dickson and Sebastian Janikowski have the stage to themselves. Dickson and Brian Schneider have been working on some tricks, so we’ll see if they show any of them vs. the Vikings. With Penny and McKissic out, David Moore will get into the return mix, Carroll said. “Really excited to see David,” Carroll said. “David’s had a terrific couple of first games and, more than that, what he’s doing on the practice field just continues to show up. … He’s been a real exciting player in this camp.”

 

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