The Seahawks head to Green Bay this weekend looking to stay unbeaten in preseason play following home victories over Minnesota and Dallas. And this final preseason tune-up not only represents one last chance for players to get ready for the regular season and to state their cases for roster spots or roles on the team, but also the first chance to go through the mechanics of a road trip, which is particularly important for the rookies on the team.
And with that in mind, here are five things to watch when the Seahawks play the Packers at historic Lambeau Field on Saturday:
1. How do young players handle their first road trip?
While the score of Saturday's game won't count in the standings, the experiences players gain this weekend do matter, and in the case of a trip to Green Bay, that includes more than just what happens for the three or so hours when the game is taking place. For rookies in particular, and really for anyone new to the team, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants his players to get used to what a road trip is like with the team, from simple travel logistics to how meetings work on the road to experiencing playing in a hostile environment.
The Seahawks have a 48-32-1 record on the road dating back to 2013, the third best road record in the NFL over that span, and yes, part of that is the fact that the Seahawks have just been a good team over that span, it also has to do with the routine the team has found on the road that allows players to be at their best in unfamiliar environments. And for the rookies on the teams, as well as other newcomers, this weekend's trip is the first opportunity to start getting comfortable on the road and to show that they can play at a high level in any environment.
"This is really important," Carroll said. "We make a big deal about making the trip and all that that takes because we are practicing it. That's really what it is. We do all the stuff that we do."
2. Can Drew Lock shine again in what is potentially his last significant playing time of the year?
Unlike last season when Lock and Geno Smith were competing for the starting job, there is a clear pecking order in this year's camp, with Lock serving as the backup to last year's AP Comeback Player of the Year. And that means, if all goes according to plan this season, the snaps Lock plays on Saturday might be the last extended playing time he receives this season. Lock will, of course, stay ready as he prepares for each week's game, but he also knows his role shifts after this weekend. So after two impressive showings in Seattle's first two preseason games, Saturday's contest represents, potentially, the last chance Lock gets this season to show what he can do and build off of what have been two strong performances in his previous two outings.
"I think that he's really rolling," Carroll said "I think he's fine. I can't wait to see him play again this week and be out there and do it again. I know the first week he had a feeling about it and the second week had a different feeling about it. I think he should be able to feel much like he did in week two where he's comfortable with it and he knows he's going out and he knows he's going to get some playing time and we'll be able to work his game. He's really impressive. He does great stuff every day on the practice field. Throws, decisions, and movements. We would do everything that we can think of doing with him as we're doing with Geno."
3. The final audition for roster hopefuls.
In less than a week, the Seahawks and every other NFL team must trim their rosters from 90 players down to 53, which means across the league, plenty of good players will suddenly find themselves looking for their next opportunity. That means that, in addition to fighting to make the Seahawks roster, a lot of the players who will see significant playing time Saturday night are also auditioning for the league's other 31 teams. With that fact in mind, veteran defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. helped sum up what's at stake for all those players on the bubble.
"You're not just playing for this organization, you're playing for 31 other organizations," he said. "What you put on tape is what they're going to have. You can either continue your career and be three, four, five, or nine years like me, or it can go a different way. Make sure you put what you want to see on film."
So while many of the players getting the bulk of the playing time on Saturday night won't be starters or big-name players, know that the stakes are very high for everyone on the field, which means there should be plenty of intensity and energy on display throughout all four quarters.
4. Can Olu Oluwatimi get himself back in the center competition?
When training camp opened, the Seahawks had an open competition at center between Evan Brown, a free-agent addition, and Olu Oluwatimi, a fifth-round pick in this year's draft and last year's winner of the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to college football's top center. Brown eventually took the lead in that competition, getting more time with the No. 1 offense, then an elbow injury sidelined Oluwatimi, keeping him from playing in last week's game.
Carroll said Oluwatimi should play Saturday night, and with fellow center Joey Hunt not expected to play due to a knee injury, the rookie figures to see significant playing time.
For Oluwatimi, this game is important in order, as Carroll put it, "See where he is. See if he keeps making progress. He's been a little bit hindered because his elbow has been a little bit of a problem. He's had to adapt to that but to his credit, his mentality and attitude have been great. He doesn't want to miss anything, he's trying to fight. He never squeaked anything about his elbow other than reporting it. He doesn't want to miss a play, so his attitude has been great."
And while Brown's play and availability throughout camp has given him the lead in the competition, Carroll said the battle is still ongoing with two weeks to go until the regular-season opener.
"It always is," Carroll said. "Evan's done a nice job and he's had the benefit of health and being out there, steady and all that it's really helped him. We're there right now, but Olu is not back to full strength yet, and this game may be a good opportunity for him to show. We're just trying to play the best guys, however that works out. Evan has made a really good statement for being out there with the first group."
5. With the receiver depth being tested, who steps up?
Based on the previous two preseason games, it would seem unlikely that DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will see much, if any, playing time Saturday night. Add to that the injuries that are expected to sideline Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Dareke Young and Cody Thompson, and that means the rest of Seattle's receiving depth will be on display in this game.
At this point, undrafted rookie Jake Bobo seems like a safe bet to make the team, but beyond that there are several receivers battling for a roster spot or two—the Seahawks usually carry five or six receivers on the 53-man roster, but could have to open the season with more depending on the prognosis of Smith-Njigba and Young. The good news both for the team's depth and for their roster chances is that three receivers who have been battling injuries are expected to play, undrafted rookie Matt Landers, Cade Johnson and Easop Winston Jr.
"It will be fun to see them go, they're ready to play," Carroll said. "Matt Landers made it back and he's ready to go, he had a nice couple of days here, Easop made it back too, he made it back to go. Cade is going to play, you know so we got some guys coming back to us. We're excited to see them back out there."
The Seahawks and the Packers will meet this Saturday at Lambeau Field for the final week of the 2023 preseason. Take a look back at the best photos from the teams' matchups over the years.