The first goal is obvious: don’t get the quarterback broken.
Everything else that goes on in the Seattle Seahawks’ second exhibition game in Kansas City, Missouri, is manageable.
After the first game — a 22-20 loss to Denver — peril to franchise quarterback Russell Wilson’s health became a topic of greater concern than the inevitable rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone.
Last Friday, three Seattle quarterbacks were sacked seven times, and one of them limped off with a high ankle sprain.
When backup Tarvaris Jackson, one of the all-time tough Seahawks, was downed because of shoddy protection, every fan in the region had to gag at the realization that the physical carnage very well could have struck Wilson.
What would happen then? The prospects for the Seahawks’ season would have taken a nose dive. Although, after the initial disappointment, Wilson would have been extremely thankful that he had gone ahead and signed his contract extension after all.
The issue of quarterback protection is foremost because the Seahawks enter the game against a stellar Chiefs defense with three of the five offensive line positions in question.
Left guard (Justin Britt) and right tackle (Garry Gilliam) will be manned by first-time starters at those positions. The same will be true at center if Drew Nowak gets the call, as expected.
We would imagine that Wilson will play much of the first half this week, and common sense would dictate they keep him light on his feet with bootlegs, sprint outs, short routes and maybe screen passes because the slipshod blocking sometimes has looked like unintentional screen passes as it is.
All this speeds up the typical preseason timetable, which generally indicates that the third exhibition game is the most important because that is the one in which the starters play into the second half.
But that’s dependent on identifying those starters coming out of Game 2. If the Hawks are still juggling starters deep into the preseason, the readiness for the first two road games at St. Louis and Green Bay becomes a more critical question.
There’s a good deal of drama boiling lower on the depth chart, too.
Several areas beyond the offensive line should make compelling viewership. About 10 players, for instance, seem to have reasonable shots at five or six wide receiver roster spots.
Chris Matthews would have been Super Bowl MVP if the Hawks had won, but he has been banged up and doesn’t always show that potential daily in practice.
Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have had impressive camps and are sure things — as is rookie Tyler Lockett, who will make it as a returner regardless. Ricardo Lockette is a special teams ace, no question, and the occasional deep threat. Is that enough?
B.J. Daniels threatens for a spot with his versatility as a returner and emergency quarterback. Last year’s draft picks, Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, have shown flashes but have trouble staying healthy. And former Washington Huskies Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams have made a number of big plays in camp.
It’s possible, too, that the addition of Jimmy Graham as a receiving threat at tight end minimizes the need for numbers at wide receiver.
Also, if backup running back Christine Michael is thinking about unleashing the impressive physical skills he possesses, now would be a good time. He has breakaway speed and power, and as a second-round pick, appeared to be the inevitable heir to Marshawn Lynch.
But he has had just 52 carries in two seasons and not only hasn’t pushed Lynch, but also is still third on the depth chart behind Robert Turbin.
Can Michael hold onto the ball? Can he figure out whom to block in pass protection, and then execute the block?
Yeah, that last one is really important in a game where the Seahawks’ biggest concern needs to be keeping Russell Wilson vertical and undamaged.