Seahawks Insider Blog

Hawks position watch

Most of the regulars – such as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and linebacker Lofa Tatupu – likely will be limited to anywhere from a couple series to up to a quarter against the Chargers, giving way to some of the younger players looking to make the active roster.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the positions to watch for during the game.

Offensive lineThis group remains a big question mark with cornerstone offensive tackle Walter Jones recovering from back spasms and returning to the field last Thursday after a long layoff.

Sean Locklear, usually the right tackle, has been playing left tackle with Jones out. And Ray Willis has filled in for Locklear at right tackle. However, Willis and Locklear are expected to compete for the right-tackle spot once Jones returns, with the loser possibly moving to right guard.

Rookie Max Unger gets his first pro start, at right guard, with Mansfield Wrotto suffering a leg bruise midway through the week and unable to play. If Unger plays well, he might be on his way to cementing a starting role on the team.

Chris Spencer returned to practice this week after suffering an ankle sprain that was not as bad as he initially thought. Spencer and left guard Rob Sims need to perform up to their potential to provide stability and leadership for this young group.

ReceiverThe Seahawks have one of the best receiving units in the league if everyone stays healthy. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, along with tight end John Carlson, give Hasselbeck some dynamic options in the passing game. Rookie Deon Butler provides the Seahawks another downfield option with his speed, and likely will be the team’s fourth receiver.

That leaves four others – Ben Obomanu, Logan Payne, Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent likely competing for two spots.

Whoever plays well on Saturday could get a leg up on the competition.

FullbackSecond year player Owen Schmitt is penciled in as the starter.

However, Schmitt has to prove that he can get the job done, both as a lead blocker for the team’s new zone-blocking scheme and also as personal protector for Hasselbeck in the backfield during passing situations.

If Schmitt stumbles, he could be overtaken by veteran Justin Griffith, who knows the offense well, having played under Knapp’s system in Oakland and Atlanta.

Running backWe get our first look at the zone blocking scheme. The Seahawks believe all three running backs – Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett are good fit for the one-cut, downhill running style.

There’s pressure on this group to perform well, with most league observers believing the team’s running backs are not dynamic enough to get the job done. Specifically, Jones needs to begin eliminating questions about his ability after a so-so performance last year.

Tight endThis is a strength for the team as long as John Carlson stays healthy. John Owens is a solid backup but not as dynamic in the passing game as Carlson.

There’s also competition for the third tight end job between Joe Newton and Cameron Morrah. Newton, an Oregon State product, has been on the practice squad for two seasons and now looks to make the active roster. Morrah is a talented pass catcher who has to improve his run blocking skills. Whoever makes some plays today could take the lead in that competition.

QuarterbackMatt Hasselbeck has had his ups and down in practice, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in the series or two he’ll get tonight -- although the most important thing for Hasselbeck is to come out of the game healthy.

Seneca Wallace should see a lot of playing time, including some snaps with the first unit, as offensive coordinator Greg Knapp tires to get him acclimated to the new system.

We should also see Mike Teel and Jeff Rowe, who are competing for the No. 3 job. Both have had their moments, but how they play tonight and the rest of the preseason games will determine who gets the nod.

KickerOlindo Mare had a solid year in 2008, making 24 of 27 field goals with a long of 51 yards, and putting 30 percent of his kicks in the end zone for touchbacks.

Yet he still finds himself battling to keep his job from second-year player Brandon Coutu. General manager Tim Ruskell already has said he will not keep two kickers this season, so one of these guys will be gone at the end of the exhibition season. And the competition begins in earnest today.

Defensive lineWith the additions of Cory Redding and Colin Cole, along with a new defensive line coach in Dan Quinn, this group needs to play at a high level in order for the rest of the defense to succeed. I’m interested to see how the starting front four performs, with Redding at left end, Brandon Mebane and Cole at defensive tackle, and with Patrick Kerney likely out, Darryl Tapp at defensive end.

This group needs to get after the quarterback on a regular basis, along with playing stout against the run, in order for the people behind them to do their job.

I’m also interested to see what Lawrence Jackson, Red Bryant, Baraka Atkins and Michael Bennett can do. Jackson has looked OK in camp, but needs to play well during the game as he competes for snaps with Redding. Bennett has looked good at times in camp, and gives the Seahawks some versatility with his ability to play both tackle and end. Bryant should be a high energy guy who can push the pocket and give Cole a break.

LinebackerAll eyes will be on rookie Aaron Curry. Coach Mora said they’ll play him three quarters, so I’m interested to see what kind of shape Curry’s in after only practicing for a week. They also plan to line Curry up at defensive end, so we’ll see if he can rush the passer against an offensive tackle.

Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill likely will not play that much tonight, giving way to guys like David Hawthorne, D.D. Lewis, Lance Laury and Will Herring. Hawthorne in particular has had a good camp, so I’m interested to see how he does inside.

CornerbackMarcus Trufant is still out with a sore back, which means veteran Ken Lucas and third-year player Josh Wilson will start opposite each other against San Diego. However, they still are battling for a starting spot opposite Trufant once he returns to action.

Lucas, at 30, has shown he still has some gas in the tank. At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Lucas is a bigger corner and a better option for the Seahawks against bigger receivers.

But the 5- 9, 192-pound Wilson also has made some big plays during camp and has shown toughness, getting into a tussle with receiver Michael Bumpus.

SafetyThe switch to more of a cover-2 look should be beneficial to both Deon Grant and Brian Russell, so we shouldn’t see receivers getting behind the middle of the defense. However, we should see a fair amount of blitzing today, so it will be important for both Grant and Russell to be able to come up in the run game and make sure tackles.

C.J. Wallace has put some good hits on people in camp – can he do it in the game? And Jordan Babineaux gets an opportunity to show what he can do at safety.