Lightning continued to bounce off downtown Seattle as of 2 p.m. today. Even off the Seahawks’ home stadium, apparently:
Maybe the Seahawks and Broncos and Mother Nature are trying to be consistent; last summer’s preseason opener in Denver included a lightning delay near the end of the first quarter.
For about a third of the Seahawks’ current training-camp roster of 90, tonight’s exhibition opener against Denver at CenturyLink Field (Channel 13 in the Puget Sound area, NFL Network nationally) means next to nothing.
That’s including the 25 or so who either already have starting jobs or, like Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak at center, are battling closely to win one. That also includes punter Jon Ryan, kicker Steven Hauschka and long snapper Clint Gresham. Then there’s top rookie draft picks Frank Clark at defensive end and wide receiver Tyler Lockett. They may not be starting when the games get real Sept. 13 at St. Louis -- or they may --but they are certainly going to be key contributors this season.
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For the remaining 50-plus Seahawks, roster spots and thus livelihoods are on the line starting with tonight’s game. An overstatement? In the almost-nothing-is-guaranteed NFL, and this month when there are almost twice as many players as there are jobs eventually available on the 53-man regular-season roster, it’s not.
So of those remaining Seahawks, for whom are these preseason games the biggest?
1. Christine Michael, RB: It’s not usual for coaches on this staff to repeatedly mention how they need to see more, get more consistency and just plain need more trust with a player. That’s what coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have been saying for almost the last calendar year about their second-round draft choice from 2013.
I still can’t get out of my mind the play during the game at St. Louis last October when Michael entered for a snap, lined up behind quarterback Russell Wilson, then when he knew the call a pass instead of a run to him shook his head in disgust and visibly complained -- right there in formation. If we could see it from the press box high above the Edward Jones Dome it doesn’t take much for a defense to see that immediately before a snap. Michael got yanked after that pass play that didn’t go to him, then got ripped into on sideline by an assistant. When you play just seven of 71 offensive snaps and not at all on special teams, coaches remember that stuff.
"He’s going to get a lot of turns; it’s not just one game or one opportunity here throughout the preseason,” Carroll said Thursday. “I’m really anxious to see him. He’s worked really hard to get to this point. He’s in incredible shape. I’d like to see him get out there and keep coming back and keep running and get a feel for the game... I’d like him to get a good sense for it.
“That’s a really important evaluation for us. We’d like to see how he does. I think he’s going to do really well. He’s a very explosive player and hopefully we can get him enough opportunities. But it’s not all in one game in the first shot. We’re going to get him all the way in this first month of games."
Asked what he needs to do to make the team, Carroll said: "Play football. I think he’s ready to play ball. He needs to get comfortable. I want to see him get comfortable with the reps and comfortable with the turns and with the success and the tough plays. Just handle it all and keep coming back and keep battling."
Michael will be the No. 2 runner tonight behind Robert Turbin -- assuming Marshawn Lynch takes his usual August hiatus.
2. Cassius Marsh, DE: The fourth-round draft choice in 2014 from UCLA says he’s faster than he’s ever been following specialized, explosiveness training in his native Southern California to recover from the broken foot that cost him the latter half of his rookie season. He’s been zooming past starting left tackle Russell Okung and just about everyone else in his way so far in camp. Carroll says he needs to see Marsh get into the offensive backfield so easily in games to be convinced there’s a role for him in Seattle’s pass rush this season.
Remember last summer how O’Brien Schofield was a preseason pass-rush star? It added up to nothing from him by the time the games got real. And now Schofield plays for Atlanta.
3. Mohammed Seisay, CB: He looks the part of a Seattle cornerback: 6 feet 2, 202 pounds. The Seahawks traded a later-round pick in next year’s draft to get him from Detroit this month. Now opportunity is knocking for the second-year pro from Nebraska: Richard Sherman is resting a hip-flexor strain; Jeremy Lane is almost certainly going to begin the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform list because of the broken arm and torn knee ligament he got in February’s Super Bowl; Will Blackmon won’t play tonight because of a “real slight” groin injury; and Tharold Simon still a week or two away from practicing for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery.
Seisay, who hasn’t played nickel back inside in college or so far in the NFL, says he’s still adjusting to how fast the Seahawks practice. That pace should pay off for him in these exhibition games. In them, he has a chance to win a more promiment place on the depth chart than he could have imagined even a week ago.
4. Jesse Williams, DT: How could playing tonight not be regular-season huge for him? He is going to play just 2 1/2 months after surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center to remove his cancerous kidney. I found only one other NFL player with just one kidney: defensive back Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie of the Giants. And he has his removed at age 8 because it wasn’t functioning. Williams and everyone else don’t know of a guy to play a game -- exhibition or not -- less than three months after having his kidney removed.
On top of all that, he’s missed his first two seasons in 2013 and ‘14 because of knee injuries, so the third-year pro from Australia has yet to play in a regular-season game. This is his first exhibition game since the summer of ‘13, before his first knee injury.
Think he might be amped for tonight?
“What a story,” Carroll said. “What a story.”
5. Anthony McCoy, TE: The sixth-round draft choice from 2010 by finally be healthy after bulling through dehydration issues early in camp. Carroll seems like he wants a big-body tight end to compliment Jimmy Graham playing all over the field and No. 2 man Luke Willson being so fast down the field. Why not his former guy at USC? Because he hasn’t proven he can stay on the field. If he does this month, he could win a spot over Cooper Helfet as the third tight end.
6. Kasen Williams, WR: The undrafted rookie from UW has a standout set of practices a scrimmage from Saturday through Tuesday this week, getting coaches’ attention that he may be all the way back from the broken leg and foot injury that ruined his junior and most of his senior seasons with the Huskies.
“He’s shown he has the ability to play here,” Bevell said this week.
Now he has to show it in these exhibition games. And not just by catching anything thrown his way by the backup quarterbacks. He must show he can play on all four special-teams units. That’s the way Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette -- the man with whom Williams could end up battling for a roster spot -- stuck with the Seahawks as undrafted rookie free agents.
Williams said he knows tonight is the biggest game of his life, but that he can’t afford to think that way to add any more pressure. There’s enough there for the former national high school player of the year out of Skyline in the Seattle suburbs as it is.
Here is all Carroll said yesterday following the team’s walkthrough practice for this exhibition opener:
Head Coach Pete Carroll
August 13, 2015
"As we’re getting to this day before the game, this has been a great camp for the 12s. They have come out in great force, players have been interacting with them all throughout. Just as they’ve always been fantastic, they have been. Yesterday we had to call practice and get indoors because of the storm and all, so disappointing for those people who came out here and wanted to hang with us, but it’s been a great camp to just connect with them. There’s so many kids out here having fun and all that. So I hope we’re all feeling this connection as we start off the first game at CenturyLink [Field]. It’s a big deal for us to start a game here and get playing here. It’s been so crucial to our success playing well at home and connecting with our fans, and the whole experience here, and so we want to do this right. We want to play really well. Everybody’s going to play, but everybody that’s playing is really playing for the same thought as always. We want to play great football here, and execute well and play with great intensity, running real high and hot with the fans and do it the way we like to do it. So it’s exciting to start here."
(On what he is looking for in particular in the preseason game tomorrow) "There’s a million things. We want to see us play fast, the general thing is to see us play fast. I’d like to see these guys play with confidence like they know what they’re doing, and that which they take from all the offseason and the work that we’ve done. That is one of the building blocks, that you’re confident and that you can play fast, we want to see that. That’s always been something that we’re reaching for. It’s the first time we block and tackle full speed, when guys are getting off their feet and knocking guys down, and getting up and coming back and all that kind of stuff. We want to see that all take place. Our guys have practiced so well that I have no thought that they’re not going to get after it. But you still have to get your timing down, and your tackling, and get the feel for that. So the mental side of that part getting ready is important right now to see if they come out like we like. There will be a lot of time focused on the younger guys in this game, they’ll get to play a lot and the second half will really be important for a bunch of guys to show where they are to start. This will be like the first real impression that we have. We have an early impression that doesn’t make any difference right now, because now it’s football time and now we get to see the guys. So I’m really looking forward to that. There’s a million guys, you could ask me about any of them and I’ll tell you something specific."
(On if any player will for sure not play in the first preseason game) "Yes. Yeah, wait and see."
(On how much Russell Wilson will play) "He’s going to play some, we’ll see. It’s not like the great secret of the ages here, but he’ll play some."
(On his philosophy on playing starters in the first preseason game) "I’m going to go play football, and start it off and get ready. As important as anything to me in particular for the first guys is they work to get mentally ready. They start practicing getting ready to play. So them not knowing how much they’re going to play is part of that, and you not knowing how much they play is part of that. I want them to go there and get ready to go, and then we’ll take them out when we take them out. I think there is a real process to getting mentally right to play this game at the level of intensity we expect, and this is the first chance that they really get to prepare in that matter, so we’re going into it. It’s a big deal to us, we’re going to try to play great football in all phases, and it starts with the ones when they get out there first."
(On the importance of special team in preseason games) "This is huge for us, because we get a chance to see the guys in open field and see them really make their decisions, and see how they take the coaching and the teaching to the game. It will be big for Tyler Lockett in his return opportunities. Hopefully we get some and we’ll give him a chance to return some. Our coverage guys, to get a chance to get real live sense of what these guys are all about and where they come from, we’ll find that out. So it’s huge, and sometimes that’s where their best opportunities are to show themselves."
(On if FB Derrick Coleman will play in the preseason game tomorrow) "We’ll see tomorrow. He’s really close, he practiced full speed today and yesterday. We’ll see if we can get some snaps out of him in the game, we’d like to."
(On Christine Michael contributing during preseason) "He’s going to get a lot of turns, it’s not just one game or one opportunity here throughout the preseason. I’m really anxious to see him. He’s worked really hard to get to this point. He’s in incredible shape. I’d like to see him get out there and keep coming back and keep running and get a feel for the game which he’s been spots played a lot up to this point. I’d like him to get a good sense for it. That’s a really important evaluation for us. We’d like to see how he does, I think he’s going to do really well. He’s a very explosive player and hopefully we can get him enough opportunities. But it’s not all in one game in the first shot. We’re going to get him all the way in this first month of games."
(On what he needs to do to be on the team) "Play football. I think he’s ready to play ball. He needs to get comfortable. I want to see him get comfortable with the reps and comfortable with the turns and with the success and the tough plays. Just handle it all and keep coming back and keep battling."
(On Kevin Pierre-Louis) "He’s got a shoulder strain and that might keep him out of this game. It looks like it might. He’s had a fantastic camp. He’s been one of the highlight players out here. He does have a little bit of a lack of strength and direction in the shoulder so we’re going to take care of him. At this time we always air on holding guys back and getting a couple more days of recovery and that may come into play, we’ll see tomorrow."
(On Pierre-Louis’ position) "He is a classic linebacker. He’s exactly the type of guy you’re looking for in terms of speed and movement and all of that. We’ve been recruiting and drafting for a long time to find a guy that runs 4-4 that can play the linebacker. He’s done a great job. He’s really an exciting player for us."
(On the secondary guys) "We’ve had great battles out here. Our guys have gone after it. So I’m going to tell them, keep playing like we’ve been playing and see what the game bring you. We have a lot of competition going on in the corner spots in particular. The safeties are crucial right now with Earl [Thomas] and Kam [Chancellor] not going so it’s huge for them too. I’m really excited to see the corners go and see what they do. They really take into the style and technique and all that so we’ll see how it carries over. I think they are prepared to play well and I am expecting that."
(On Jesse Williams) "Jesse’s going - we’re going to play Jesse. What a story. He’s never, never hinted that he wouldn’t make it back and get ready. He’s practiced well. We’ll control the number of snaps he plays. He’s going to be out there battling. I think it’s a great tribute to the kid. He’s a real competitor."
(On Richard Sherman) "Sherman’s got a little bit of irritation, hip flexor area so we’re going to tend to that and take care of that and make sure he’s right for the long haul."
(On Will Blackmon) "Will’s got a groin thing that is bothering him a little bit. Real slight, but again those are the kinds of decisions we’ll probably make in favor of holding him out. We’ll see how they are."
(On Nate Boyer) "I’m hoping he’s playing tomorrow night. I’m counting on him playing."
(On Anthony McCoy) "Anthony had a little bit of setback in camp just with the heat that was happening and he’s bounced back and he’s raring to go. I just talked to him this morning about it and he looked great at practice yesterday. He’s feeling good, it’s been a long haul for him. He’s overcome a tremendous amount of setback to get to this point. I’m really excited that he gets a chance to play football again. He’s had a great camp. He looks good. He’s really solid. He’s big and blocking well and catching the ball well so he’ll get significant play time."
(On Tye Smith playing inside and outside corner) "He’ll do both. Yeah, we plan on him doing both in the game."
(On talks with Kam Chancellor) "The conversations are ongoing. John [Schneider] continues to visit with Kam and his representation, and nothing’s changed at this point."