Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers
Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)
Welcome to another season of Seahawks football on the blog! The Seahawks kick off the preseason tomorrow night in San Diego as they take on the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers finished 2nd in the AFC West in 2012, posting a 7-9 record. Unfortunately this mark was not good enough to save some jobs and the winds of change hit San Diego. Norv Turner was fired as head coach and former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was named head coach. Ken Whisenhunt, the former Arizona head coach is now the Chargers offensive coordinator. The Seahawks finished 11-5 last season and lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The Seahawks and Chargers last met in the preseason in 2011 when the Seahawks defeated San Diego 24-17. Even though it is the preseason here are a few things I will still have my eye on.
Russell Wilson will only see a series or two to start the game. I think we will quite a bit of Tarvaris Jackson and even more of Brady Quinn tomorrow night. Jackson was listed as the number two quarterback on the newly-released depth chart last week. The coaching staff knows what they have in Jackson and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jackson play through the first half and Quinn play the entire second half. Winning is secondary in the preseason but if the Seahawks cannot score early in the game with the first and second string units, the Seahawks will struggle to win. Based on what I have seen during training camp, Quinn has consistently struggled to move the ball during 11-on-11 drills and is very timid to make vertical throws, often choosing to check down to the running back or slot receiver. If Quinn can lead the Seahawks on a couple scoring drives he will have a much greater chance in my eyes to win the backup quarterback job.
With Percy Harvin out and Sidney Rice questionable after his knee procedure in Switzerland, many of the Seahawks young receivers will get a chance to show what they can do on Thursday night. I will be focusing on three receivers tomorrow night; Jermaine Kearse, Chris Harper, and Stephen Williams. Kearse is projected to earn a roster spot behind Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin since Percy Harvin will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The coaching staff likes Kearse a lot and he is seen as a sleeper who can stretch the field. Chris Harper is our 4th round rookie who in my opinion has not impressed much during training camp. With the play of our other receivers fighting to make the roster, Harper could wind up being a casualty when it comes time for roster cuts. Harper will need to play well during the preseason to prove he belongs on the team when we open the season against Carolina. Stephen Williams is arguably having the best camp of any wide receiver. All three quarterbacks have developed chemistry with Williams and he could also be a vertical threat. I expect to see a lot of Stephen Williams on Thursday night.
On defense for the Seahawks, I am focusing on three spots. Defensive end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker are the positions with the most question marks on defense. Tony McDaniel will get the start at defensive tackle alongside Brandon Mebane on Thursday night. McDaniel will most likely compete with Jesse Williams and Clinton McDonald for the starting defensive tackle spot. Malcolm Smith will start at outside linebacker with Bruce Irvin taking his spot on passing downs. Smith is the favorite to win this job, replacing Leroy Hill who spent 8 seasons starting at outside linebacker. Cliff Avril is nursing a foot injury and will not play Thursday night. Mike Morgan and Michael Bennett will see time at defensive end with Red Bryant on the other side.
For the San Diego Chargers, they spent the offseason trying to fix their once-dominant offense. Mike McCoy was hired as head coach, coming over from Denver where he coached one of the most explosive offenses in 2012. The Chargers used their first round draft pick on offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, which goes to show how poor the Chargers offensive line has been over the past few years and, in effect, how bad the offense has struggled as a whole. With a stronger offensive line, running back Ryan Mathews looks to bounce back after another disappointing 2012 campaign and Philip Rivers also looks to bounce back after two sub-par seasons. I am curious to see how backup running back Danny Woodhead fits into the Chargers plans. I expect to see a lot of Woodhead on Thursday night.
On defense, San Diego filled a hole at outside linebacker by signing free agent Dwight Freeney. Freeney adds veteran leadership to a position group that is more-or-less inexperienced and also adds a punch rushing the passer. One of the most notable additions for the Chargers this offseason was the drafting of linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o and Donald Butler will both start at inside linebacker and it will be interesting to see how Te’o moves around the field, given one of his weaknesses before the draft was his tackling.
Random Thoughts: First and foremost, it feels so good to be back… The Seahawks will have 9 days off before coming home to play Denver. They will then have only 6 days off before playing Green Bay and another 6-day short week before ending the preseason against Oakland… The weather forecast for Thursday night is high 60’s and partly cloudy at kickoff. We have played in the sun every time we have gone to San Diego to play in the preseason… I have been to Qualcomm Stadium to see the Mariners play the San Diego Padres 10 years ago. How that stadium ever hosted a super bowl I’ll never understand. It is a dump (but not as bad of a dump as Candlestick)… The Seahawks will wear white uniforms Thursday night. No word on pant color yet… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call on Q13 FOX this week. They will call 2 more Seahawks preseason games… I do not care if we win this game. All I hope is that we can leave San Diego injury free.
Prediction: I think the Seahawks will look a bit rusty at the beginning of the game but we will put together a couple lengthy drives that will result in points. I expect to see Brady Quinn struggle but improve as the game goes on. Unfortunately however I think that the continuity Chargers backup quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Brad Sorensen is stronger than the continuity Quinn has and that will be the difference in the game.
Chargers 23, Seahawks 13
Check back on Friday for a review of the Seahawks first preseason game of the season! Go Seahawks!