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3 things to watch in Seahawks preseason opener

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After an offseason of change for the Seattle Seahawks, it’s now time for the revamped, but not rebuilt, roster to show what it can do. Obviously, preseason games don’t count in the standings, so the outcome of the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday isn’t of grave importance. However, with the Hawks set to take the field against an opponent for the first time in the post-Russell Wilson, post-Bobby Wagner era, what is of grave importance is figuring out what the team has for not only 2022, but into 2023 and beyond as well.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch for while enjoying something resembling football on Saturday evening.

Who is actually on the field?

Injuries have taken a toll on the Seahawks roster so far in training camp, and there are a lot of players who could certainly use the reps and the playing time who might miss out for health related reasons.

The number of injuries in the secondary alone is shocking. It seems unlikely fans get to see either of the veteran cornerbacks signed as free agents in the spring and who spent the offseason as the projected starters on the outside in Artie Burns or Sidney Jones. Add to that the fact that Tre Brown remains on the PUP list, John Reid is out with a groin injury, Ryan Neal has a high ankle sprain, Jamal Adams is nursing a broken finger and Quandre Diggs set to potentially take the field for the first time since breaking his leg in the final minutes of Week 18 last season, and the secondary will be interesting.

However, the secondary isn’t even the only position group that could see players sidelined due to injuries. Jordyn Brooks has not been practicing while he recovers from a hamstring tweak and rookie Tyreke Smith overcame whatever hip ailment had him on the PUP list before an issue popped up with his other hip that has kept him out of practice. L.J. Collier, who is in the final year of his rookie contract could also be sidelined by an elbow injury suffered in the mock game last weekend, but that’s probably more a relief and less of a concern for many fans.

On the offensive side of the ball, Dee Eskridge has been held out of practice with a hamstring issue, and according to head coach Pete Carroll was not yet back to running full speed as of Tuesday, which would seem to make it unlikely he plays Saturday. However, something to watch for Thursday is whether Marquise Goodwin practices, as he brings a similar skillset to the table as Eskridge, but did not practice Wednesday. There has been no word on whether Goodwin had the day off as a veteran rest day or due to injury, so could be a situation worth watching.

How is the pass blocking of DeeJay Dallas and Ken Walker III?

Barring injury, Rashaad Penny is the starting running back and Travis Homer is likely the third down back for 2022. That said, as of right now the only running backs under contract for the 2023 season are DeeJay Dallas and Ken Walker III, meaning how they perform through this season will obviously help shape the position for next season.

When Homer missed time during 2021 the team turned to Dallas as the third down back with enough success it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him given an opportunity to lay claim to the role for 2023. However, with Walker waiting in the wings to potentially take over as the starter next season, both fans and the team will be excited to see how he looks against NFL competition for the first time.

And while for both fans are more likely to focus on how many yards per carry they averaged, or how good they looked making their reads and hitting the hole, if one or the other wants to set themselves up for additional snaps this season, showing out as a pass blocker would be a great way to do it. Homer has been limited to just 23 games over the past two seasons due to injuries, and with as brutal as the running back position is, it won’t be a surprise if he were to miss time again this year, possibly opening the door for Dallas and Walker to audition for the 2023 third down back.

Who gets the special teams snaps, particularly in the first half?

Everybody loves to fall for a darling receiver during training camp. Whether it’s Kasen Williams, Jazz Ferguson, John Ursua, Cade Johnson or anyone else, it’s not really training camp unless there’s a raging debate among fans about whether or not the team can be taken seriously if the front office is so blind as to waive the sixth or seventh best wideout on the roster.

So, with that in mind, here’s a little tip: Instead of worrying about who put up decent receiving stats in the second half against defensive backs who won’t even be on NFL practice squads this season, pay attention to who is on the field on special teams.

Any receiver below fourth on the depth chart is in a developmental spot, and the only real playing time that receiver is going to see - if they’re even active on gameday - is on special teams. That means it’s wise to pay attention to who is on the field for returns, as well as in coverage than playing offense during the second half.

  • There was a not small contingent of fans who were certain Cade Johnson was going to make the 53 man roster in 2021 after recording nine catches for 72 yards during the preseason. However, those paying close attention to special teams noticed the following:
  • DK Metcalf (did not play during 2021 preseason)
  • Tyler Lockett (did not play during 2021 preseason)
  • Dee Eskridge (played only 13 offensive snaps during 2021 preseason)
  • Cody Thompson (34 special teams snaps)
  • Travis Toivonen (28 special teams snaps)
  • Conor Wedington (15 special teams snaps)
  • Darece Roberson (7 special teams snaps)
  • Aaron Fuller (6 special teams snaps)
  • Freddie Swain (5 special teams snaps)
  • Penny Hart (5 special teams snaps)
  • Cade Johnson (1 special teams snap)

In short, preseason receiving stats won’t reveal a whole lot. Special teams contributions, on the other hand, can reveal a whole lot. And, let’s face reality for a second, if at the end of the day a team’s season hangs in the balance based on the receiving ability of the team’s fifth or sixth wide receiver, it’s probably a throwaway season because things aren’t likely to end well.

AMFOOT - NFL - SUPERBOWL Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images