The Seahawks head to Minnesota Saturday ahead of Sunday night's game against the Vikings, their second preseason trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in as many years. As always, the final score isn't all that significant in the preseason, but there will be plenty to learn about the team as the Seahawks play the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here are five things to watch in Sunday night's game:
1. How do the full (or closer to it) starting offense and defense look in their preseason debuts?
Unlike past preseason openers under Pete Carroll when starters saw at least some playing time, several of Seattle's veteran starters, including quarterback Russell Wilson, sat out last week's game all together.
While Carroll was mum on the plans for this week, joking that he “had a really bad performance” in last week's press conference when he admitted that Wilson and others would sit out the game, it's likely that we'll see more starters get at least some playing time against the Vikings.
And while the following preseason game at the Los Angeles Chargers will see the starters get their most playing time, it will be a good test for the starters this week when they face a Vikings team that features a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
Will Russell Wilson look as sharp against a good Vikings defense as he has throughout camp? Will the offensive line and the running game pick up where it left off in 2018? How is the pass rush, minus Ziggy Ansah, who is still working his way back? Can the defense accomplish one of Carroll's biggest stated goals by cutting down on explosive plays allowed?
All of that and more will begin to get answers on Sunday night… You know, unless it doesn't.
"Have to wait and see," Carroll said when asked about starters getting more playing time. "Let's get to game time."
2. How do the rookies progress in their second game.
Seattle's rookies showed a lot of promising things in the preseason opener, from Cody Barton's solid play at middle linebacker to Marquise Blair's big hits and solid tackling, to Ugo Amadi's work on special teams, to Jazz Ferguson's big day at receiver. But there were also rookie mistakes, which is inevitable for players making their NFL debuts. The Seahawks are looking to get a lot out of their rookie class in 2019, and while jobs won't necessarily be won or lost on Sunday, it would be encouraging if those young players can take another step forward in their second game.
"I think it was pretty obvious to us just going through practice this week—and we had the bonus practices (earlier in the week)—the game really benefitted those guys," Carroll said. "They really came out of it feeling better, you could sense the confidence in them and the "OK, I can do this' kind of thing, it was clear in a number of guys. Which is a really good sign, they were uncertain going in, they played real hard and they showed themselves that they're worthy of being here. So we'll expect that they step forward again, hopefully they'll be a little clearer on their assignments and do things right and make some good choices as well as play real hard."
3. Which roster hopeful at receiver helps his cause.
The competition at receiver is one of the most interesting in camp, and it's anyone's guess what players win the final couple of spots on the 53-man roster. Last week, Ferguson, an undrafted rookie, made his case with a big game that included a touchdown catch. Will he build off of that strong performance, or could another young player shine this week?
One player who, based off the week of practice, could be ready for a breakout game is fourth-round pick Gary Jennings. After a quiet first couple weeks of camp, Jennings had a great week leading up to this game, including one practice early in the week that was one of the best single days had by any receiver in camp this summer.
4. The nickel cornerback competition.
Yes, we mentioned this last week as well, but it remains one of the more intriguing battles for a starting spot on the roster, and because there are four players battling for the job—Akeem King, Kalan Reed, Jamar Taylor and Ugo Amadi—it's likely going to take all four preseason games to settle things. King worked with the No. 1 defense for most of camp leading up to this week, but Reed saw a lot of action with the first team this week, and Carroll indicated they'll try to rotate everyone through to get them a fair look.
"We've had trouble," Carroll said of seeing everyone in the nickel battle. "We had a little log jam at the nickel spot to get guys reps."
Asked about that competition earlier in the week, Carroll said, "It's ongoing. Kalan Reed did a nice job in the game, Ugo Amadi did a nice job in the game too in the plays that he had, and we know that Jamar Taylor and Akeem King can play there. So, we've got four guys that it's kind of hard to get their reps right, right now. Kalan Reed has done a really nice overall job right now, pass coverage-wise. He's done all that stuff well enough that he can hold his spot going into the week, but it's up for grabs, and those guys will be rotating evenly throughout."
5. Does Paxton Lynch build off of his strong performance last week?
While it is uncertain if Geno Smith, who had a cyst removed from his knee late last week, will be able to play Sunday, his competition in the battle for the backup job, Paxton Lynch, figures to get a lot of playing time once again. And while Smith got the start a week ago ahead of Lynch, Lynch helped himself against the Broncos, completing 11 of 15 attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 38 yards and a score on four carries.
Whether or not Smith is able to play, he'll get plenty of chances over the next two preseason games to state his case, but Sunday is a good chance for Lynch to build off of a strong performance and a good week of practice that followed.