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Three things to watch when the Seahawks are on defense against the Chargers

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NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday evening old AFC West foes the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers will face off in Week 3 of the preseason with plenty of roster spots still up for grabs. I took a look at three things to watch when the Seahawks are on offense, so here are three things to keep an eye on when the Chargers have the ball and the Hawks are playing defense.

Who’s at nickel corner?

Pete Carroll spoke with the media on Wednesday, and during his time at the podium stated that Jamar Taylor will be the starter at the nickel corner spot Saturday night. Obviously, that’s no guarantee that Taylor keeps that assignment heading into the regular season, but it would certainly seem to indicate that Taylor has the inside track to that role. Two more games worth of snaps to help answer that question, however, so it certainly bears watching.

Can the Seahawks generate pass rush?

In the preseason opener the Seattle defense delivered eight hits to the quarterbacks of the Denver Broncos, however, half of those eight came from members of the secondary on blitzes. Against the Minnesota Vikings in the second preseason game the Hawks got to the quarterback only three times, with one of those three hits delivered by Taylor coming from his spot at nickel corner.

So, in short through the first two games the Hawks defense has generated:

  • 11 quarterback hits, with five of those coming from defensive backs
  • 3 sacks, with one of those coming from a defensive back

That means the defensive front seven has generated six quarterback hits and two sacks on 79 passing plays by the opponent. That’s likely not exactly the type of pass rush the team is looking for, especially in the wake of having traded away Frank Clark during the offseason.

Obviously, neither Ziggy Ansah nor L.J. Collier have set foot on the field for the Hawks this so far this preseason so it’s not time to panic just yet. That said, the reason neither of those players has been on the field is because of health issues, which are issues that could of course continue to keep them off the field going forward.

With the Chargers sporting an offensive line that has been at or near the bottom of the league in recent seasons and enters Saturday night as one of the worst performing lines of the preseason, it should be a chance for the Seattle front seven to generate some pressure. If that doesn’t happen, it might be time to start worrying.

Can the defense continue to stop the run?

The Hawks run defense in 2018 was the worst of the Pete Carroll era and appears to have been a major point of emphasis for improvement during the offseason. When the Seahawks visited the Chargers in the 2018 preseason the Bolts ground game gashed the Seattle run defense to the tune of 176 yards on 37 carries.

Thus, the question becomes whether the Seattle run defense that plays on Saturday will be the run defense that has looked stout through the first two games against the Broncos and Vikings, or if it will be the porous version from 2018. One time Russell Wilson teammate at Wisconsin and Two time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon is still holding out rather than play this season on his fifth year option, so the Hawks will be seeing the likes of Austin Ekeler, Detrez Newsome, Justin Jackson and possibly even some Troymaine Pope sprinkled in.

However, where Seattle fans may get to see 2016 training camp darling Pope most is in testing the Seahawks revamped punt coverage unit.

So, while Saturday night is just another step on the way to the regular season, how things play out could go a long way to how these questions get answered.