Rarely has game two of the preseason come with this type of anticipation. Seattle takes on the Kansas City Chiefs, but more than that, they take on the pressing question marks on their roster that have a direct impact on their collective potential.
The Chiefs ranked third overall in sack rate last year. They only got to Russell Wilson twice in last year’s matchup. This is a different line that has never played a game together. They could wind up looking as overmatched as the group that played last week, or they could look like a group that could be better than what Seattle played with last year. It will probably fall somewhere in the middle.
A good game in pass protection does not mean Chiefs players are unable to get upfield. The focus here should be on the lineman’s ability to stay in front of their assigned rusher. It would be valuable to see the Chiefs try some twists so we can see how this newly formed group can communicate and hand off rushers.
Keep an eye on Garry Gilliam at right tackle. He might give up a sack against the powerful pair of edge rushers the Chiefs feature, but it would be a surprise if he was not a significant upgrade to Justin Britt in pass protection overall.
We are all highly aware of pass protection. It was an obvious problem last week. This offense is predicated on being able to run the ball. Gilliam has to show he can move people in the run game. Britt has to show he can be effective on the interior where things happen faster.
Look for Seattle to run the ball more this game to set their passing up. There will be more play action and a more concerted effort to force the Chiefs to defend the run so they cannot race off the ball when pass rushing.
Nowak deserves some special consideration as I expect him to start this game at center. It will be his first start, and it will be on the road in what can be a loud stadium. The general take is that Nowak is the better athlete and Lemuel Jeanpierre is more assignment sound.
This is a chance for Nowak to ease coaches concerns about his preparedness and reliability in the middle of that line. There may be some chances to see his physical skills in space against talented Chiefs middle linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Lost in the uproar over the line’s performance last week was a rather tame pass rush. The first string line started well, but things fell off quite a bit. Look for the starters to get more time, and it is definitely time to see some dominance against a Chiefs offensive line that has more questions than Seattle’s.
Kansas City is missing both of their starting tackles, and are featuring a rookie center and a new starter at right guard. This is a group the Seahawks should overwhelm.
Interior line versus the run
Seattle was gashed in the middle in their first game. You can bet that stuck in Pete Carroll’s craw. Pay special attention to Ahtyba Rubin and T.Y. McGill. I am not yet convinced Rubin is on par with Tony McDaniel as a run stuffer despite his size.
It would be nice to see some evidence that he can make an impact. McGill deserves an extended look after playing pretty darn well last week. He is a guy who has really come on and already showed some impressive line play. It is not out of the question that he pushes Rubin for snaps in the base defense.
It will be a pretty special moment when two cancer survivors step on the same field Friday night. Eric Berry continues his comeback for the Chiefs at safety, and Jesse Williams is expected to play his second game after having a cancerous kidney removed. Williams needs a strong performance to make his story more than just inspirational.
Don’t freak about corner play
Injuries to the corner position could make coverage pretty ugly. Richard Sherman may not play. Will Blackmon probably won’t play. Marcus Burley had a wrap on his calf at the end of Wednesday’s practice. Tharold Simon is not due back until next week. Oh, and Mohammed Seisay is out. If all of those guys miss this game, it is not even clear who the starting nickel corner will be, let alone the second string corners. Do not fall into the trap of judging the secondary by this game.
Oh Christine Michael…
I jumped off the Michael bandwagon last week after he inexcusably fumbled again. That means he will probably run for 200 yards tonight. Look for him to get extended snaps, and more with the starting line this week so Seattle can better evaluate him. Hold onto the ball!
The enigma that is Cassius Marsh will be on display again. His get-off is terrific. His effort and motor are great. The only question that really remains about Marsh is whether he can be productive against starting NFL lineman.
An underrated part of his game is pursuit against the run. He has been more consistent making plays there than getting to the quarterback. Marsh is a valuable part of this line rotation. We continue to learn more about just how valuable with each snap.
Tyler Lockett as wide receiver
Lockett made a statement as a returner last week. He was barely involved on offense. That should change tonight. Expect Lockett to be targeted a few times and make the most of his opportunities. He has nothing to prove in my eyes. I’m just looking forward to more Seahawks fans getting to see him in action.
Linebacker depth in action
Brock Coyle will be back, and that can go a long way toward improving that second string run defense. An overlooked part of the problem last week was the Seahawks being forced to play third string undrafted free agents at middle and weakside linebacker due to the absence of Coyle and Kevin Pierre-Louis.
That group should look far more solid with Coyle, KPL and Mike Morgan. This is a chance for KPL to shine.
Pig pile at receiver
Kevin Smith, B.J. Daniels, Kasen Williams, and Kevin Norwood are battling for a spot on this team. Daniels has a clear edge given his special teams talents and his ability to serve as a third quarterback if needed. Smith has probably been the best pure receiver of the group so far. Norwood is solid and makes plays when the ball comes his way.
Williams has the highest ceiling of any of them, but is fighting an uphill battle, and is more likely headed to the practice squad. None of these guys had much of a shot to catch a pass due to the pass protection issues last week. That might not change much given the second string offensive line looked pretty vulnerable during practice this week. Hopefully, some of these guys mix in with the starters and we get a chance to see what they can do.
Frank Clark probably will not play after missing practice all week. The team probably saw what they needed in game one and can afford to rest him. Jordan Hill was also out much of the week.
Thomas Rawls missed part of practice Wednesday. If he misses the game, Rod Smith will get a chance to show what he can do.
Demarcus Dobbs is healthy again and will get his first action. He could be a factor in deciding the final roster.