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Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks vs Raiders
Greetings from a soggy/sunny/soggy/sunny CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks will close their preseason tonight in familiar fashion – playing the Oakland Raiders, for the eighth consecutive time in their summer finale; and hosting them for the seventh time.
But a little rain – or even a lot – can’t douse what this game means for those players on the fringe of the 75-man roster. Both teams must make 22 roster moves by Saturday to reach the league-mandated 53-man limit, so tonight is a showcase for those players hoping to still be around on Monday when the Seahawks begin preparing for next week’s regular-season opener against the Panthers in Carolina.
Not Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Russell Okung and Golden Tate on offense, of course. And not Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright on defense, either. The established starters will play little, if at all, tonight.
So this evening belongs to rookie linebacker John Lotulelei, third-year cornerback Ron Parker, second-year running back Derrick Coleman and wide receivers Chris Harper and Bryan Walters and so many others – the players who will get this one last chance to make a hey-don’t-forget-about-me statement.
The importance of this seemingly meaningless exhibition is not lost on head coach Pete Carroll, who went to camp with the Honolulu Hawaiians of the World Football League in 1974, but did not make the team.
“Heck yeah. I totally do,” Carroll said after Wednesday’s walkthrough when asked if he could relate to the players that will be released. “I can remember every play that happened leading up to when I got cut in the old World League. And also the exchange that happens when you transition out, too. It’s a critical time for us when we’re growing up. So we respect it very highly.”
One aspect that is threatening to dampen the lofty expectations that have been building for the Seahawks is injuries on the defensive line. At one point in training camp, first-year D-line coach Travis Jones had so many options he almost didn’t know what to do with everyone at his disposal.
But that is not the case tonight.
Rookie Jesse Williams, a fifth-round draft choice who looked like a candidate to win the three-technique tackle spot after the way he played in starting the preseason opener, was placed on injured reserve this week because of a troublesome knee. Jordan Hill, the team’s third-round pick in April’s NFL Draft who started in the second preseason game, won’t play tonight and is out indefinitely after straining his left bicep in practice last week.
Cliff Avril, the team’s biggest addition in free agency this offseason and a candidate to fill-in at the Leo end spot until incumbent starter Chris Clemons is ready to return, also is out indefinitely because of a hamstring issue that sidelined him for most of camp and the first three preseason games. Michael Bennett, another free-agent addition and another Leo candidate, had a procedure done on his toe this week so he won’t play either. Tony McDaniel, another free-agent signing, also is out with a groin injury.
Nose tackle Brandon Mebane, the top tackler among NFC interior linemen over the past two seasons, is out, too. He strained a groin in practice this week, but Mebane could be ready for the regular-season opener.
Clemons? He’s well ahead of schedule in his rehab from the surgery that was needed to repair the ligament and meniscus damage in his left knee he suffered during the wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins in January. But just when he’ll be able to return also is unknown.
Improving the pass-rush was an offseason priority for Carroll, for the second consecutive year. But instead of Clemons or Avril or Bennett – or even Bruce Irvin, who will see more action tonight at strong-side linebacker before beginning his four-game suspension – O’Brien Schofield will start at the Leo end spot. Instead of Mebane, Clinton McDonald will start at nose tackle. Instead of Williams or Hill or Bennett or McDaniel, “to-be-determined” will start at three-tech tackle.
But this situation will give Jones, Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn longer looks at the other D-lineman on the roster – Jaye Howard, who was only active for two games last year during his rookie season; Sealver Siliga and Dewayne Cherrington, who combine to provide 660 pounds of run-stuffing presence but were just acquired last week; Benson Mayowa, a rookie free agent who has continued to be one of the big surprises this summer with his 2.5 sacks, fumble recovery and 10 tackles; rookie Ty Powell, a seventh-round draft choice; and Michael Brooks, who was claimed off waivers during the offseason.
All should see ample action tonight, as will the others who are competing for a role on this team, at best; or a spot on the 53-man roster or eight-man practice squad, at least.
So sit back and watch whatever unfolds, with televised coverage on Q13 FOX set for 7 o’clock, radio coverage on 710 AM ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and online coverage with our Gameday Page and Preseason Live.