GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Greeting from Lambeau Field, the last of the football cathedrals still standing in the NFL, where the Seahawks play the Packers tonight in their third preseason game.
Preseason game No. 3 is all about the starters, as they’ll get their longest – and for some - last action before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Panthers in Carolina. And this one should be a dandy, as it’s a rematch of the Seahawks’ wild 14-12 victory over the Packers on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3 last season.
It’s also a crossover game, as it will be televised nationally on CBS, the network that carries AFC games during the regular season. But when the nationally televised preseason matchups were divvied up, CBS ended up with this game between two of the better teams in the NFC. So rather than Q13 Fox, tonight’s “Friday night lights” game is on KIRO/7 in the greater Seattle area.
But back to those starters, and especially who will start at three spots:
J.R. Sweezy – A year ago the rookie, who had been a defensive lineman at North Carolina State, was up to his chinstrap in making the transition to NFL guard. This week, he was named the starter on the right side. In fact, John Moffitt, the player he was competing against, was traded first to the Cleveland Browns and then to the Denver Broncos after the first deal was voided.
“We gave John a really good chance. We alternated all through camp. J.R. beat him out and did a nice job,” coach Pete Carroll said on Tuesday. “But we would not have been able to do a trade like that if the young guys hadn’t been doing a really good job. I think it’s really a statement about those guys growing and coming in and helping us.”
Those young guys are rookies Michael Bowie, a seventh-round draft choice, and Alvin Bailey, a free agent. They’ve played beyond expectations during the preseason and training camp, at guard as well as tackle. Against the Packers, they aren’t expected to play until the starters have called it a night.
O’Brien Schofield – Claimed in late July after being released by the Arizona Cardinals, Schofield will get the start at the Leo end spot in the base defense. He also has been playing strong-side linebacker and, just this week, Leo in the nickel package.
The Leo spot is where you’ve been able to find Chris Clemons the past three seasons, when he has compiled 33.5 sacks. But he remains on the physically unable to perform list while completing his rehab from surgery to repair the ligament and meniscus damage in his left knee that he got in the wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins in January. Bruce Irvin was the backup last season, when he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks. But he’s been sidelined by a hamstring injury and mostly playing strong-side linebacker when on the field. Besides, he’ll miss the first four regular-season games while serving a league-imposed suspension for violating NFL policy.
Aaron Rodgers definitely is familiar with this duo, as they combined to sack the Packers’ QB six times at CenturyLink Field last September.
Irvin could make his preseason debut tonight. But Schofield gets the start.
“My biggest focus has been whatever they put in front of me is just to do well at it and show them that I can do it,” Schofield said on Wednesday of playing multiple positions. “Practice is learning. You can make mistakes in practice. But when you get to the game, just to be productive and make them be like, ‘Wow, look at this guy.’ ”
Tony McDaniel – In the first two games, rookies Jesse Williams (Chargers) and Jordan Hill (Broncos) started at the three-technique tackle spot that is up for grabs after incumbent starter Alan Branch signed elsewhere in free agency. But the draft choices won’t play tonight, Williams to rest a sore knee and Hill because of the biceps he strained in practice this week.
So McDaniel gets the start in his preseason debut after being out with a groin injury. He was signed in free agent with the idea that he could provide the same length and leverage that Branch added. Tonight, he’ll get a chance to show that he can do just that. And he’ll be easy to spot because he’s 6 feet 7.
“It’s very important,” McDaniel told the News Tribune. “I missed the first two games. I’m a new player. The coaches here have only seen me for things I’ve done in practice. So I can’t wait to get out there and show them what I can do in a game.”
Those are just three things to keep an eye on tonight. There’s also the reception Golden Tate is expected to receiver from the Packers’ Cheesehead fans after his controversial catch in the end zone on the final play of the game last September (and that was Tate walking through the lobby of the team hotel this morning wearing a T-shirt that said “Don’t Hate” on the front and “Golden Tate” on the back); Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who played his final college season at Wisconsin, making his first visit to Lambeau; just how many carries Marshawn Lynch might get before rookies Christine Michael and Spencer Ware and Derrick Coleman take over at running back; and whether or not the Seahawks can avoid another rash of penalties after being flagged 20 times in their first two games.
So sit back and enjoy. This should be a good one.