In a normal preseason, Pete Carroll runs whatever plays he wants the Seahawks to work on, usually base packages. He focuses entirely on his guys. He doesn’t game-plan for the opponent or even look across the line at the other team’s players.
This is not a normal preseason.
For the first time since 2002 the Seahawks are playing three exhibition games against teams they’ll face later in that year’s regular season. The second one in as many weeks is Friday night at CenturyLink Field when the Seahawks meet the San Diego Chargers, Seattle’s Week 2 opponent next month.
Last week it was Denver, which Seattle will play for real again in Week 3 of the regular season. The final exhibition is Aug. 28 at Oakland, which the Seahawks host on the first weekend of November.
The scheduling quirk would seem to make this month more peculiar for Carroll’s “game” plans. It indeed affords the Seahawks bonus enemy intelligence, chances to glean something out of these exhibitions that otherwise mean next-to-nothing — outside of their own roster battles, of course.
“Peculiar?” Carroll said Wednesday, grinning at and pondering that word choice. “It doesn’t make it more peculiar. We are going to be very gauged at how we do this.
“The competition in the regular season is nothing like what is going right now. We really have a different purpose in mind right now. But we are trying to pick up stuff, learn stuff, learn their personnel better. Really, it’s like a division opponent. You get to know the team better. You know their style. You know their personnel, what you can and can’t do and all of that. We are hoping to find that kind of stuff out now.”
This week at practice assistant coaches were in huddles holding up cue cards for the players containing diagrams of plays for a pseudo scout-team to run. It was regular-season like. Not necessarily because the Seahawks really want to out-fox and stick it to the Chargers — not this time, anyway — but because becoming familiar with San Diego’s base schemes now may pay off when the players get the game plan for the real deal in San Diego on Sept. 14.
So, yes, Russell Wilson is going to be paying attention to where defensive end Kendall Reyes, who had five sacks last season for San Diego, lines up against certain formations Friday, more so than he might track where Chicago’s Jared Allen goes next week in Seattle’s third exhibition game.
“It is a little unusual. We have three preseason games this year where we play the teams twice, which is a little bit rare,” Wilson said. “But I think it’s a benefit for both teams at the same time, get familiar with the teams, get familiar with the players.”
So beyond a little more gamesmanship than usual, what can we expect from the Seahawks’ first home game since they won the NFC title at CenturyLink Field in late January?
• The starters playing most of not all of the first half.
• Marshawn Lynch perhaps playing for the first time this preseason, though he might not necessarily run or catch the ball. He had all of five carries last preseason — and that 2013 regular season turned out OK for him and the Seahawks. Carroll was characteristically coy Wednesday when asked if Lynch might play against San Diego, saying “he could.”
• Max Unger at center and James Carpenter at left guard returning from injuries to make their exhibition-game debuts. That would mean two of the three starters on the offensive line that missed last week’s exhibition at Denver would back in the lineup. It appears left tackle Russell Okung (offseason toe surgery) may not play until next week against the Bears.
• More from Tarvaris Jackson. Carroll said the way the Denver game went, with long drives by both teams early, skewed the playing time more toward quarterback Terrelle Pryor late. Look for Jackson to play more of the second half as the Seahawks try to determine who will be their No. 2 QB.
As for Pryor, when asked this week what he’d like to see from the offseason acquisition, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said “seeing the field a little bit better, making some of the decisions a little bit quicker.”
• Perhaps more spice on third downs. The Seahawks stayed very basic last week in those situations, dropping as many as eight in coverage on defense and running screens or quick-read throws on offense.
Carroll sounded like he may use more than vanilla on Friday, especially on defense against San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers.
“I’d like to see us do better on third down, on both sides of the ball. We did not play third downs, on either side, like we like (in Denver),” Carroll said. “And we happen to be going against one of the best third-down offenses and quarterbacks ever. He’s great. ... Defensively, we have to do much better than we did.”