Just over six months ago, our hometown Seahawks were celebrating their first-ever Super Bowl title with a 43-8 victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Tonight, the Hawks begin their quest to repeat with their first preseason game against those very same Broncos. Of course, preseason means that this game doesn’t matter, right? Sort of. While the final score will not affect either team’s playoff chances, the preseason exists for a reason (well a few of them).
It’s an opportunity for the starters to adjust to game-speed on limited reps so they aren’t playing the first game of the season under layers of rust. More than that, however, it’s about giving the young players a chance to live out their NFL dream.
“It is that time of year of opportunity. It’s what’s going on right now,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys have dreamed their whole life of being in the NFL and having a chance to play. Here it is. So we’ll kind of dedicate this…game tomorrow to these young guys playing in their first NFL game.”
Some of those young players won’t ever play another snap in the NFL after tonight. The result of the game tonight may not have playoff implications, but it does mean something to these young players who will get the bulk of the playing time. If Seattle wins, they get to know in their mind that they contributed to a win in an NFL game, even if it didn’t matter.
What really makes the NFL preseason special, though, is those young players that shine in these games and prove the doubters wrong. Remember when people doubted that Russell Wilson would start in the NFL, much less the first regular season game of his career? Then the 2012 preseason happened. His performances in the preseason games and potential made the offense so dangerous that Pete Carroll couldn’t help but not start Russell from the beginning. He was a natural leader, and that trait really came out during preseason.
Who will be the next Russell Wilson story? Will there even be one? Who knows. But I’ve come up with five players to watch tonight because they’re going to have a big opportunity to show something for the coaches. Without further to do, here they are (with numbers provided because there will be so much switching tonight that it could be hard to keep track of names):
Terrelle Pryor, QB, #2
After three seasons in Oakland, Pryor joins the Hawks and their backup quarterback competition with Tarvaris Jackson – behind incumbent starter Russell Wilson. Pryor, like Jackson, has starting experience in the NFL. But Jackson is clearly the favorite to be the backup behind Wilson because of his familiarity with the offense, how well-respected he is by the players in the locker room, and he’s just a better QB. So why did Seattle even bring Pryor in? Because he is an absolutely incredible athlete. His 6’6″ frame and blazing speed could land him in special (Wildcat?) formations this year where he could be used as a threat to run. However, he’s extremely raw as a passer, often struggling with accuracy. In other words, Pryor is a project. He should have some great chances to showcase his skills in tonight’s matchup with Denver’s defense.
Christine Michael, RB, #33
I mentioned in my pre-preseason accolades that Michael has a great chance to be a breakout star this season for the Hawks. Now the Marshawn Lynch is back from his holdout, Michael certainly won’t be getting starter reps this season. But Lynch won’t be playing at all tonight so C-Mike will get plenty of chances to show the coaches how much he’s grown over the past year. Michael had a solid preseason last year, but he was raw and struggled with injuries throughout the year and only carried the ball 18 times during the season. Not to mention, the team didn’t really need him. Look for Michael to get a healthy amount of carries tonight, and expect him to take full advantage of it. He and Robert Turbin will be battling to pick up the remaining carries that Lynch won’t get this season. That battle begins tonight.
Kevin Smith, WR, #17
Smith is a undrafted free-agent rookie wide receiver out of the University of Washington, where he was the leading receiver last season. Sound familiar? (Cough, Cough Jermaine Kearse). A long shot to make the roster, Smith will be looking to put on a show for the coaches in order to make the first round of cuts in a few weeks. He will really have to prove himself and show something very special in order to make this deep roster. But, no doubt, he will get every opportunity to prove himself tonight. It’s hard to not root for a guy like Kevin Smith. Best-case scenario for Smith is likely landing on the practice squad this season, much like Kearse did two years ago – and look what he did last season. Here is a touchdown grab from him last year against Oregon State.
Tharold Simon, CB, #27
As with Michael, I mentioned Tharold Simon in my pre-preseason accolades as the breakout star on the defensive side. Tonight will be a great opportunity for Simon to show that he belongs in the regular rotation of this defense. He’s been one of the stars of camp, intercepting passes left and right with his lanky 6’3″ frame. With Denver’s pass-happy offense on display tonight, Simon will be playing and likely will have balls thrown his way. It’s what happens once the ball is thrown that will determine the fate of the LSU-product.
Benson Mayowa, DE, #95
Mayowa was last year’s preseason star, but never found himself in the rotation on the defense during the regular season. With the spots behind Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril wide open right now, defensive end out of Idaho will be looking to capitalize on his reps tonight. He’s been impressive in camp, and he definitely has some speed and great pass-rush skills. Expect those to be on full-display tonight as the Broncos will be dropping back to pass fairly often. Here is a highlight against the Raiders last preseason.
These are certainly not the only players you will end up watching tonight. In fact, Carroll said that he hopes to give everyone on the active roster playing time tonight. Expect Seattle’s depth to prove the difference tonight in a Seahawks victory.
FOOTBALL IS BACK, BABY. GO HAWKS!