Preseason opener presents opportunities
MINNEAPOLIS – Part of the reason Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has installed one of the biggest playbooks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck can remember this season is simple craftiness.
Because the defense has so many returning starters, and already knows the offense’s plays so well, Holmgren had to throw in different formations so he could get something accomplished.
Those are the pitfalls of training camp, the monotony and boredom of seeing and hitting the same teammates every day, rehearsing the same plays, hearing the same voices.
The Seahawks get a brief respite from that tedium tonight when they face the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in their first preseason game.
Yes, the starters will see only a fraction of their normal playing time, but anything is better than having to beat on the same jersey again.
Holmgren would not say exactly whom he plans to play or for what amount of time, but it is likely that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will see only a series or two, as will offensive tackle Walter Jones.
Other starters, such as running back Julius Jones, may see as much as a quarter or more before heading to the sideline to watch their younger teammates try to prove they are worthy of a roster spot.
Jones, in fact, thought he was going to see more time during last Saturday’s scrimmage at Qwest Field, one of his favorite places to play. But Holmgren decided to give the bulk of the carries to rookie Justin Forsett and T.J. Duckett.
To say Jones is eager to put his days in Dallas behind him and start anew in his Seahawks uniform is an understatement.
“Every game is a chance to prove something, especially when you are with a new team,” Jones said. “New guys, new system, new everything. So, it definitely is going to be a lot of emotions for me in the game. I am just going to try to prove myself and prove I am a good addition to the team.
“But I need to get wet, man, I need to get wet. I got to get in there.”
Holmgren lamented the team’s long list of injured players and its residual effect – some of the veterans will have to play longer minutes in order to fill the gaps.
But this first exhibition is more about watching the younger players more closely than it is about establishing offensive and defensive cohesion, which comes later in the preseason.
“The scrimmage and the preseason games are great evaluation tools for us to see the player without a coach around yelling in their ear,” Holmgren said. “They are out there on their own and they have to play – so let’s see how they do.”
Some of the more interesting battles:
• Forsett got much of the attention following last week’s scrimmage, when he ran for 51 yards on nine carries, but he still has to overcome a lack of roster spots and his diminutive size to earn a role on the team. A good showing here would go a long way toward cementing the coaches’ initial opinion of him,
• Safeties C.J. Wallace and Jamar Adams are battling for the last spot in the secondary. Wallace is a big hitter who was on the roster last season, but Adams, an undrafted rookie from Michigan, comes with better size and a better pedigree.
• With Courtney Taylor missing a week of work because of a tight hamstring, Ben Obomanu has moved into the third spot at wide receiver. However, that is tenuous. A solid performance by the highly gifted Taylor could place him back as the frontrunner to accompany Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson on the field in the three-receiver set.
• Because of the uncertainty surrounding defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, a final spot along the defensive front could be up for grabs between Howard Green, Chris Cooper, Larry Tripplett and Jason Babin. Tripplett and Cooper have been injured in the past week, while Green and Babin have had good camps.
• With Will Herring’s immediate future uncertain and Wesly Mallard placed on the IR, linebacker David Hawthorne has a great chance to earn a job with some decent play.
• Though they are being evaluated throughout camp, the competition between kickers Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu will take on additional significance, when limited opportunities means additional pressure.
SEATTLE (0-0) at MINNESOTA (0-0)
5 p.m., Metrodome.
Seattle leads all-time series, 6-5, winning a 30-13 exhibition game in ’07.
What to watch:
The Seahawks badly need to avoid injuries, which have decimated them during training camp. They had eight players injured in last week’s scrimmage at Qwest Field. QB Matt Hasselbeck is likely to see only a series or two before giving way to Seneca Wallace, who played the remainder of the first preseason game last year in San Diego. This year, however, Charlie Frye has a better grasp of the offense and could get some time. New RB Julius Jones is hoping to get some time with his new team, as well. The Vikings are no longer in the running for Green Bay QB Brett Favre, who was traded to the New York Jets, leaving Minnesota in search of a quality starter. Still, they have second-year RB Adrian Peterson, who shocked the NFL last season with his talents.
Frank Hughes, The News Tribune