NFL Nation: Three things: Seattle-San Diego 2011

Three things: Seahawks-Chargers

August, 11, 2011
Three things to watch for in the Seattle Seahawks' preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The quarterback rotation: Tarvaris Jackson will start and Josh Portis will finish. What happens in between interests me as much. No. 2 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will stare down his former team and hardening perceptions of him as a career backup. Coach Pete Carroll professes to be all about competition, but he was all about installing Jackson as the starter before Jackson took even one snap in practice. That made sense on one level. Jackson has played in new coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense, and Jackson could use the vote of confidence after some tough seasons in Minnesota. But what about Whitehurst? Sure, Carroll said Whitehurst would compete for the job upon learning the offense, but that sounded charitable. Besides, Whitehurst has ranked third on the list of most impressive quarterbacks in Seahawks camp. Let's see how he runs the offense and whether he can throw shorter passes with greater accuracy, a necessity in the Seahawks' system.

New toys on offense: Seattle has a few of them. Receiver Sidney Rice played with Jackson in this very offense. He should have a leg up on teammates. Tight end Zach Miller, another high-priced addition in free agency, is making his Seattle debut. The other big-name addition this offseason will not play a snap. Tom Cable, hired as assistant head coach/offensive line, expects to see a more physical ground game. Right tackle James Carpenter, a first-round choice, has dominated at times during one-on-one drills. His conditioning has appeared a little shaky. How will he fare getting extended snaps?

Youth movement on defense: The Seahawks have gotten younger at linebacker and safety in particular. They also have some tall, young press cornerbacks. Second-year strong safety Kam Chancellor started strong in camp and can use the exhibition season to prove he's ready to become a full-time starter. I'm also interested in seeing how rookie safety Mark LeGree performs on passing downs in conjunction with free safety Earl Thomas. Thomas has the athletic ability to play corner against slot receivers, with LeGree taking over at free safety in those situations. LeGree was a ball-hawk in college. Will that carry over? At linebacker, the post-Lofa Tatupu era gets under way. K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith are two rookie linebackers to watch.

Three things: Chargers-Seahawks

August, 11, 2011
Three things to watch for in San Diego’s preseason opener against visiting Seattle on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Special teams: The San Diego special teams' cost the Chargers a playoff spot last year. The unit was a disaster. New special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has a great reputation and should be able to help this unit. It starts in this game. San Diego head coach Norv Turner raved this week about Bisaccia’s impact on the unit. He expects instant dividends. Turner also said the Chargers have improved their talent at several areas of special teams. So, it’s clear the team is ready to see what this group has to offer against the Seahawks.

Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton: The two young inside linebackers are fighting for a starting point. Butler was a third-round pick last year who missed the entire season with an injury. Mouton was a second-round pick this year. This is a big test for both players as the Chargers look for a replacement for the steady Kevin Burnett, who signed with Miami. If neither Butler nor Mouton plays well, the Chargers may have to consider outside options. But if the youngsters play well, as the team expects, their will chances of further contributions should both increase.

Bob Sanders: The new San Diego safety has played in just nine games in the past three seasons while with the Colts. He is healthy and is expected to be a difference maker for the Chargers’ defense. There was a major buzz about Sanders this week at the team’s training camp. Several people said Sanders still has blazing speed and he is flying around the field. I spoke to Sanders and he is bouncing off the walls. He is excited about being healthy again. We won’t see Sanders a lot Thursday night, but I know he is ready to play again.