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7 Things To Watch In The Seahawks' Preseason Opener At Las Vegas

Players and position battles to watch when the Seahawks open preseason play against the Las Vegas Raiders.

A general view outside of Allegiant Stadium prior to an NFL football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. Las Vegas won 34-24. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

The Seahawks head to Las Vegas this weekend for their preseason opener, as well as their first visit to Allegiant Stadium, the home of the recently relocated Raiders.

While Saturday night's game, which kicks off at 6 p.m. and can be seen on Q13 FOX, doesn't count in the standings and likely won't see most starters playing for very long, there are still plenty of interesting storylines and competitions to keep an eye on as the game unfolds.

First and foremost, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll just wants to see his team build off of the preparation they've done so far and camp, and for the defense and special teams units, this will be the first chance at full-speed, full-contact tackling.

"Guys just being able to do what they've done in here—carry the preparation to the game field and show it," Carroll said when asked what he's looking to see out of his team. "Then of course it's always about tackling. Coaches feel like we may never tackle anybody, because we haven't yet; we use the games for that. We've been preparing, we've been doing all the drills and everything we can do, but not until you hit somebody. But over the years our guys always get it done, they come out flying and running and hitting. I'm really not worried about that, I'm just kind of anxious to see it happen, see who's who, and let these guys show themselves."

With that in mind, here are seven things to watch in the Seahawks' preseason opener:

1. How does the new offense look?

No, we don't know yet how much Russell Wilson and the No. 1 offense will play—if the starters play at all—but whoever is on the field, this will be the first glimpse of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's offense in game action. The Seahawks will of course try not to give away very much during the preseason, but even if it's a more vanilla version of what the offense will look like, it will still be interesting to see some of the things players and Carroll have been talking so enthusiastically about in camp and in the offseason, most notably the use of tempo and a passing game that will likely be more balanced when it comes to utilizing short and intermediate passes in addition to the deep ball.

Preseason game No. 1 with a new offense is less about being dominant and marching up and down the field than it is about looking like everyone's in sync and making the type of progress needed for the offense to hit the ground running in next month's opener.

2. Who handles returns?

By the end of last season D.J. Reed looked to be Seattle's most explosive return man, but he's also competing to be a starting cornerback, and while he could still handle return duties, more likely punt returns, the Seahawks could also decide to take that off of Reed's plate if he's going to be an every-down player on defense.

And with former All-Pro return man Tyler Lockett having given up return duties, there are a lot of contenders and no clear-cut favorite to win the starting job. In last weekend's mock game Freddie Swain and rookie Tre Brown both handled kick return duties, and there are a number of players who have worked in the two return spots during camp. Saturday night will provide a look at who, as of now, might be the leading candidates, while giving those players a chance to show what they can do in return scenarios that are impossible to safely replicate in practice.

3. Who makes a mark on special teams?

In addition to returners having their chance to show what they can do, special teams situations will also provide an opportunity for so many roster hopefuls to show what they can do on coverage units or as blockers on return units. If a receiver or defensive back or linebacker or running back is fighting for a final roster spot at his position, he almost certainly will need to be a mainstay on special teams, so showing up in preseason games in that phase of the game could make all the difference when the roster is trimmed to 53 players.

4. The competition at cornerback.

Again, we don't know how much starters will play, and it's possible some veterans don't play at all, but with competition underway for both starting cornerback spot, every preseason rep will be big for Ahkello Witherspoon, Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed and Damarious Randall, the four players who have been getting the most work with the No. 1 defense, though Reed and Randall have both been out with injuries this week so there's a good chance we don't see them on Saturday.

Rookie Tre Brown will be another player to watch, and he should get plenty of playing time to show if he can be a factor in the competition for starting spots.

The nickel cornerback battle between Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi has also been a good one to watch in camp, so those two will also be looking to capitalize on their opportunities.

The Seahawks also have two competitive spots on the offensive line, though for now those battles are on hold due to injuries to Ethan Pocic, who is competing with Kyle Fuller at center, and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who is competing with Brandon Shell at right tackle.

5. Darrell Taylor at strongside linebacker.

One of the big bright spots during offseason workouts as well as training camp has been the play of second-year defensive end Darrell Taylor, a 2020 second-round pick who missed his entire rookie season due to a leg injury. The Seahawks have been using Taylor in a hybrid role this year with him playing strongside linebacker and defensive end, similar to the role Bruce Irvin used to have in the defense. Teammates have been raving about Taylor's explosiveness over the past couple of weeks, and now he'll get a chance to show it in game action, but in addition to showing that athletic ability off the edge, he'll also need to show he's ready to handle the linebacker responsibilities that come with the dual role.

6. The receiver depth.

Over the past few days of a camp, a different receiver has seemed to step up and make big plays nearly every day. On Thursday it was John Ursua showing up, while a day earlier it was Cody Thompson and Aaron Fuller. The Seahawks seem to have a pretty clear top three right now in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Freddie Swain, and once he's healthy, second-round pick D'Wayne Eskridge will be in the mix as well, but beyond those four, it's a pretty wide-open battle between the likes those players mentioned above and several other players, most notably Penny Hart, who injured his ankle last weekend and may not play Saturday.

7. Stone Forsythe at left tackle.

The Seahawks have been thin at tackle of late due to injuries and with starting left tackle sitting out practice, which has meant a lot of work with the No. 1 offense for sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe. Those injuries will mean plenty of work for Forsythe on Saturday night, which will be a very good chance for him to show how he's coming along and how ready he might be to help in 2021 if called upon. Forsythe also comes from a Florida offense that called for very little run blocking so getting full-contact game reps in the running game will be big for him to show he can become a complete tackle and not just the elite pass-blocker he was in the SEC.

Photos from Seahawks Training Camp practice, held on Thursday, August 12 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.

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