In his 10th preseason opener as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll is taking a slightly different approach to the game. While starters have rarely played extensively in the first preseason game in past years, Carroll has almost always had them at least start the game and play a series or two.
When the Seahawks host the Denver Broncos on Thursday, however, a number of healthy starters will sit out the entire game, including quarterback Russell Wilson, Carroll said following Wednesday's practice. In the case of Wilson not starting, that decision is mostly based on allowing Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch to get the best opportunity to show what they can do in the competition for the backup job. But from a big-picture standpoint, some starters on both sides of the ball will be rested so the Seahawks can focus on giving young players more playing time, particularly a big rookie class that features 11 draft picks and nine undrafted free agents.
"This is an opportunity for the young guys, this is the game that we dedicate to the rooks," Carroll said. "This is their first game in the NFL ever, and we make somewhat of a big deal out of it, kind of share the experience, make sure it's one they remember. We think it's worthwhile to do it that way. And in that also, we're going to play our young guys a ton.
"There will be some mixes in the starting lineup. You'll see right from the get-go some guys won't play in this game. It's really the game to get the season started and get these young guys rolling and give them the opportunity to compete like we want to compete around here. We want to see these guys and see if they can help our football team, and they can't do it by just watching, they need to get out and play."
On not playing Wilson, Carroll said, "We've got a big competition at the quarterback position in particular. We want these guys to play as much as they can and play their way into their spots. I don't want these to be decisions we have to make without a lot of great information, so that's what's most important right now. We have a lot of competition at the receiver spot, we have a lot of competition in the offensive line, and we're going to be able to play a lot of guys in this game and see how they can do."
Carroll also said the decision to rest Wilson "has to do with other guys playing and not playing as well too," which combined with his comment about the competition in the offensive line, is probably fair to assume means that the Seahawks could be resting some offensive line starters as well.
Overall the game won't look much different than past preseason openers—starters rarely play past the first quarter—but as Carroll put it, there is "a little bit of different emphasis," on focusing on young players even more. For example, the Seahawks started pretty much every healthy starter in last year's preseason opener against the Colts, with Wilson and the starting offense playing the entire first series, a drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Nick Vannett.
But the decision to rest more starters doesn't mean the Seahawks are going to have those players less prepared for the regular season. Knowing some starters won't play Thursday, the Seahawks changed their practice schedule this week to increase the workload for the No. 1 offense and defense in Tuesday's practice.
"Yesterday we had a big practice for the ones, they had tons of work out here," Carroll said. "It was a little bit different emphasis for us where they got really almost twice as much work as they would normally get going into a game to compensate for the plays that they don't get, and I think they might have gained ground by doing it that way. We had more competition with the ones against ones out here that they wouldn't get if they were going to play handful of plays in the first game. We've made an effort to get more out of this process by them not playing the game than to get less out of it."
The Seahawks and Broncos will meet for the 57th time this Thursday at CenturyLink Field. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.