The Seahawks host the Bears in their second preseason game, another chance for players to get ready for the upcoming season, to state their case for roster spots or starting jobs, and, as Pete Carroll noted, to avoid some of the early-game jitters that seemed to contribute to a loss in Pittsburgh last week.
"Well, let's hope we get off to a better start," Carroll said, referring to Pittsburgh taking an early 14-0 lead by completing long touchdown passes against Seattle's rookie cornerbacks.
Those two rookies, Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, did a lot of good things after those early touchdowns, and, like the rest of their fellow rookies, are looking to continue what has been an impressive start to their NFL careers when they host the Bears.
The play of those rookies is just one of our five things to watch in Thursday night's game at Lumen Field:
1. Just how good is this rookie class?
The Seahawks have gotten big contributions from their 2022 draft class so far in training camp, and that showed up in the preseason opener as well. Tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas were part of a very strong overall effort from the line, outside linebacker Boye Mafe had two sacks and a forced fumble, running back Kenneth Walker III looked explosive, receivers Dareke Young and Bo Melton both made some big plays, and as mentioned earlier, the two cornerbacks both started the game and settled down to play well as the game went on.
Walker won't play this week due to an injury, though he shouldn't be out long, and outside linebacker Tyreke Smith has been limited in camp due to hip injuries, but overall the rookie class is off to a great start and looks like it could be a foundation of the team's future, and those players can back up the early hype with more strong performances against the Bears.
"Once we got settled in and those guys started to play, they played well and contributed well, obviously," Carroll said. "It's a very encouraging first sign for us. As we all saw, this draft really set right with us with what we needed to do, so we kept our fingers crossed that we might have really hit it. The first indication is that we did. We have a long ways to go, but I'm really excited about the potential."
2. Can the O-Line build off an impressive start?
Seattle's rookie tackles, Lucas and Cross, received a lot of attention for their play against the Steelers, and for good reason—they had very strong debuts—but just as encouraging was how well that entire position group functioned, both in terms of the starting line and its depth. If the line can put up a similar performance on Thursday, it will be a very good sign for Seattle's offense going forward.
"I thought the guys did really well," Carroll said. "The guys up front played the game like they've been practicing. The consistency and our targeting and communication. Austin (Blythe) did a great job as did Kyle (Fuller); helping the guys get everything lined up. Their play was complemented by a really consistent performance by all the running backs. Everybody looked good. Everybody made yards. Pass protection was very solid. It was a really good first game. The two young tackles both played well."
3. Does the tackling improve?
Following last weekend's loss, Carroll was quick to point to his team's many missed tackles as a big reason for the negative end result. It's not entirely surprising that a team might struggle to tackle well in its first preseason game seeing as teams don't tackle in practice, but even if some rust was to be expected, Carroll wants to see better out of his defense and special teams when it comes to tackling.
"This is a big challenge for us to come back tackling-wise," Carroll said. "We've got to do way better than we did. We tried really hard; the effort was really good. That wasn't the part, it was just, technically we were kind of crazed, and it was a lot of the young guys that missed their stuff, so I'm counting on us being much better."
4. Does Geno Smith take advantage of the extra work with the No. 1 offense?
The Seahawks were going to start Drew Lock in this week's game after Geno Smith got the start last week, but unfortunately for Lock, and for the coaches' ability to evaluate the competition, Lock came down with COVID-19 and will miss the game. While Lock will hopefully get his chance to show what he can do next week, this week represents, for the time, being, a chance for Smith to build on what has been a strong camp and preseason. It would seem very unlikely that the Seahawks would make any decision on the starting job as soon as this week, but another strong performance would certainly be good for Smith's chances.
"I'm fired up for Geno to go," Carroll said. "He had an excellent abbreviated week, had a terrific—this was a Friday-type day for us—so he is ready to go."
5. Cade Johnson, Vi Jones, Joel Dublanko & others making their case for a spot on the team.
A pair of undrafted rookie linebackers, Joel Dublanko (eight tackles) and Vi Jones (six tackles and a sack), were among the statistical leaders on defense last weekend, which isn't always that indicative of future success given that a lot of both team's best players didn't see significant playing time, but Carroll has praised both players this week, and on Friday when talking about Dublanko, he noted that there could be a shot for a young player to earn a roster spot, particularly with Jon Rhattigan and Ben Burr-Kirven both sidelined by injuries.
"Shoot, man, he made a good impression," Carroll said. "He has made a good impression. There's an opportunity at linebacker for somebody to work their way in and fit into the special teams unit. With Jonny (Rhattigan) not being up and going, this is a good opportunity for him. He's going to get a lot of action this week, he'll play a lot. So for the town of Aberdeen, you ought to show up. Be early, he's going to be out there."
Another young player who has impressed Carroll and will try to build off a good start on Thursday is Cade Johnson, an undrafted rookie last year who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
"Cade is making a move," Carroll said. "He's making a move. We've seen it in the game, and we've seen it in practice. I'm fired up for him. He's a very instinctive football player. He's a savvy football player. He's not the biggest guy, the fastest guy; sometimes, it takes a while to appreciate it. He's making some noise. I'm really fired up for him."
The Seahawks finished their walkthroughs by hanging out with the Make-A-Wish kids and plenty of smiles were shared between both kids and players.