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|SEAHAWKS VS BRONCOS|
When: Today, 6 p.m., Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Records: Seahawks 1-1; Broncos 1-1
TV: KING/5, with Curt Menefee and Warren Moon
Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Dave Wyman and Jen Mueller
Series: Broncos lead 7-1 in preseason games, but the Seahawks won the last meeting – 27-13 in Seattle in 2009.
What to watch
Seahawks No. 2 offense: The Charlie Whitehurst-led unit has been as productive as the starters have been frustrated. In eight series and 68 plays, they’ve produced 275 yards and Whitehurst is 28 of 39 for 212 of those yards. The line has handled the backups for the Chargers and Vikings. If it continues, Whitehurst just might get his shot with the No. 1 unit sooner rather than later.
The kids: The Seahawks’ younger players have performed well in the preseason. Tonight, rookie K.J. Wright will start at middle linebacker for David Hawthorne (sore knee) and second-year man Josh Pinkard will start at strong safety for Kam Chancellor (sore foot). It’s a great chance to see them work with the No. 1 defense, and for them to show they can play as well against better competition.
Mile High mystique: The Seahawks have not played well at altitude in the preseason. In their last two games on the Broncos’ home field, they’ve been outscored 20-3 (in 2003) and 31-0 (in 2002). This, of course, is a completely different Seahawks team, and it needs to produce a completely different outcome.
DENVER – Asked about Saturday night’s preseason game against the Broncos, Tarvaris Jackson answers the what-do-you-need-to-see question before it has been completed.
“Just looking to go out there and put some points on the board,” the Seahawks’ starting quarterback said, in a more poised than panicked tone.
That would be a first in this oddest of preseasons, as the Seahawks’ first two non-counting games have been pointless exhibitions for the No. 1 offense. Nine series. Fifty-six plays. Zero points.
“So we’re looking to move the ball and put the ball in the end zone a couple times,” Jackson said.
The first unit will get more opportunities at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, because the starters are scheduled to play into the third quarter in what will be their longest stint of a preseason that concludes next Friday night at CenturyLink Field against the Oakland Raiders.
“We may go with the (starters) three quarters,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It just depends on what happens. Last week was an especially unusual game for a few series. The clock was just screaming by. I’m sure it’ll be different this week. We’ll just have to gauge it as we go.”
The No. 1 offense has moved the ball.
There was a nine-play, 39-yard drive on the first series of the opener against the Chargers in San Diego. It included Jackson’s 7-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Doug Baldwin on third-and-6; a 4-yard run by Leon Washington on third-and-1; and an 8-yard scramble by Jackson. But it fizzled when Jackson was penalized for intentional grounding after the Seahawks had reached midfield.
There was a 15-play, 62-yard drive against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field last Saturday night. It included an 8-yard scramble by Jackson on third-and-7; a 9-yard run by Washington; and Jackson’s 17-yard pass to Mike Williams on third-and-5. But it turned into an exercise in frustration as Justin Forsett was unable to get into the end zone on four tries after the Seahawks had reached the Vikings’ 2-yard line.
But score? Not yet, as penalties and missed blocks have forced Jackson to too often operate in long-yardage situations and scramble from the pocket before even beginning his read progressions.
Because of that, Carroll is standing by the man he anointed as the starter before Jackson had ever practicing with the team after being signed in free agency.
Asked what he was able to take from Jackson’s on-the-run performance against the Vikings, Carroll offered, “That he can function out there. He made good decisions, he moved well, the rush was much closer to him – he has (Vikings) around him. We weren’t as stout with the pass pro as we’d like to be. But he can make plays.”
Against the Broncos, Jackson will try to make them without leading rusher Marshawn Lynch, who will sit out to rest a sore ankle; left tackle Russell Okung, who has been out since spraining his left ankle on the opening series against the Chargers; and tight end John Carlson, who is sidelined after injuring his labrum diving for a pass in practice two weeks ago.
Jackson, however, seems undaunted. By the inability to score points, or the line to protect him, or those who won’t be on the field. That’s because he realizes it’s still very early – even if this is the third preseason game. There were no offseason minicamps or OTA sessions because of the 136-day lockout. That also delayed free agency, so Jackson and the other players signed in free agency could not even begin practicing until Aug. 4 – a group that also includes left guard Robert Gallery, tight end Zach Miller, fullback Michael Robinson and Tyler Polumbus, who is subbing for Okung at left tackle.
“Everywhere,” Jackson said when asked about the areas where the offense needs to show improvement. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to improve on as a whole offense. We are looking to get better in the passing game. We’re looking to run the ball better. Penalties have killed us a little bit.
“We’re kind of hurting ourselves, so if we eliminate the penalties and stay ahead of the sticks, we’ll be fine.”
Make that fine, to a point. Because if the No. 1 offense can’t produce points during its longest stint of the preseason, it will only ratchet the level of handwringing as the Seahawks move closer to their Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco.
None of those hands, however, belong to Jackson.
“We feel like we’re going to go out there and do well this weekend,” he said. “We’re going to put some points on the board and put the ball in the end zone a couple of times since we’re playing pretty much through the first half and into the third quarter.
“We should have a couple of touchdowns.”
That definitely would help even the score after a couple of pointless and frustrating outings against the Chargers and Vikings.