Saturday, August 15, 2009
What to watch in Seahawks' exhibition opener
By Mike Sando
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals, 49ers and Rams have played their exhibition openers, leaving only the Seahawks among NFC West teams on the Saturday night viewing schedule.
A few things I'll be watching for once their game against the Chargers kicks off at 10 p.m. ET on NFL Network:
I'll also be interested to see how much Patrick Kerney and Cory Redding will play. Both are hugely important players for Seattle. Both have also rested some during camp as they try to avoid injuries and prepare themselves for the regular season. How they play in an exhibition opener might not mean much.
- Zone blocking: The Seahawks' have overhauled their blocking scheme. Let's see how well each player seems to fit in a zone scheme. Does the line produce cut-back lanes for Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett? How well does the scheme seem to fit those backs? Speaking of backs, is Owen Schmitt going to remain the starting fullback?
- Quarterback health: Matt Hasselbeck hasn't taken punishment in a game since his back imploded last season. The Chargers have the potential to pressure him, particularly against a Seahawks line without Walter Jones. How will Hasselbeck hold up?
- Aaron Curry: The fourth overall choice in the draft will start at strongside linebacker. The Seahawks also plan to try him at defensive end as they figure out how well he rushes the passer. One game won't necessarily tell us much, but the Seahawks are obviously very much interested in finding out what Curry can do.
- Young receivers. Teams tend to like their depth until that depth has to play. That was the case when the Seahawks ran out of receivers last season. They liked Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor as role players, not front-line contributors. Seattle's top four at the position appear set heading into 2009 (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler). Ben Obomanu seems likely to stick for what might be one of the final two spots. What about Taylor, Kent, Logan Payne, etc.?
- Brandon Mebane. The Seahawks think he can be effective as an up-the-field defensive tackle. The team has been very excited about this move. Let's see if Mebane shows early signs of making it work. He's a good player. Is this the position for him?
- The safeties. Jordan Babineaux needs to play well in the preseason to seriously challenge veteran Brian Russell as the starting free safety. I didn't see evidence in camp that Babineaux was making a strong run. Can Babineaux live up to his "Big Play Babs" reputation as a free safety, or only as a role player off the bench?