Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos
Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, Colorado)
Six months ago the Seahawks wrapped up the best season in franchise history, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The 2014 season starts against the same team that we ended our 2013 season against as the Seahawks head to Denver Thursday night to play the Broncos in the 2014 preseason opener. The Seahawks defeated the Broncos in the preseason last year, winning in convincing style 40-10 at CenturyLink Field. This will be the first of two games against the Broncos in 2014; the Seahawks and Broncos will meet in week 3 of the regular season in Seattle. Although this is only a preseason game there are many things to keep an eye on. Here are a few of the things I will be focusing on this week.
Seahawks training camp has been going on for two weeks. With the first live game action since February on deck, it is reasonable to expect that the first team offense and defense may come out a bit rusty. That is what the preseason is for after all; to shake the rust off and get ready for the regular season. I am very interested to see a couple of different things on offense. First I am interested to see what kind of protection Russell Wilson gets in the passing game. If the unofficial Seattle Times depth chart is accurate, the Seahawks will start 3 linemen that did not start in 2013. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left tackle with Caylin Hauptmann at left guard and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle. With this questionable offensive line, I could see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell using wide receiver Percy Harvin on quick throws or sweeps, especially if Wilson is feeling the pressure at the beginning of the serie(s). The second thing I want to see on offense is how running plays will be split between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. I do not expect to see Marshawn Lynch until maybe next week against San Diego, so Turbin and Michael will see expanded playing time on Thursday. Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart but it would not surprise me to see an alternating committee instead of Turbin playing with the second team offense and Michael playing strictly with the third team offense.
The Seahawks defense has made a name for themselves as being one of the deepest units in the NFL as a whole. Over the past couple of seasons backups such as Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them while solidifying themselves as reliable starters. On Thursday defensive backups will get their first opportunity to make a name for themselves and for some, prove that they are simply capable of making the 53-man roster. The Seahawks are projected to start Mike Morgan at outside linebacker and rookie Brock Coyle from Montana at middle linebacker. Coyle will start over incumbent special teamer Heath Farwell, which shows how far Coyle has progressed during training camp.
This will also be the first time the Seahawks show off their (semi) new look defensive line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are now in Jacksonville, which opens up both starting defensive end spots to 2013 rotational players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks pass rush package now consists of Avril, Bennett, Bruce Irvin (who will not play on Thursday) and rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh.
The Denver Broncos are coming off one of the most impressive statistical seasons of any offensive unit in NFL history. After breaking numerous passing records, yet getting embarrassed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, Denver spent a large amount of money in the offseason upgrading their defense with veteran talent. After the Seahawks defense only allowed 8 points to Denver in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made these moves in free agency to counter select NFC powers such as Seattle and San Francisco. The Broncos signed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib among others to improve the Broncos pass rush and secondary respectively. From a Seahawks perspective, I view this game as a hollow preview of what could be coming when we play Denver in the regular season. I am curious to see just how improved the Broncos defense is compared to last season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Broncos this week is rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is the Denver’s 2014 first round draft pick and is currently slotted behind Aqib Talib on the depth chart. Roby has been playing really well during training camp and will likely see significant playing time on Thursday, especially later in the game.
Random Thoughts: This will be a mini uniform rematch from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and the Broncos will wear orange jerseys with white pants. The Seahawks pant color has yet to be announced but it would not surprise me at all if we wear blue pants just like in the Super Bowl… I am glad we get Denver at home in the regular season. We will see three of our preseason opponents in the regular season and in each instance the location of the game is different from the preseason to the regular season… I am curious to how the Seahawks will be received in Denver as the team that just beat the home team in the Super Bowl mere months earlier. I imagine it will be as hostile an environment as possible for a preseason game… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Menefee and Huard will call all 4 Seahawks preseason games on television this year. As always, the score and the outcome in the preseason does not matter. The only thing that truly matters is that we can fly home injury-free. If the Seahawks can avoid sustaining any major injuries we will have already won heading into another week of training camp.
Prediction: I think that the Broncos will be as fired up as possible coming into this game. They want to stick it to us after we embarrassed them back in February. I could see the Seahawks starting the game with the ball and struggling early. If the Seahawks win this game, I expect it to be on the arm and legs of a much improved Terrelle Pryor. The Seahawks have not lost a preseason game since 2011 but I believe our 10-game preseason winning streak will come to an end this week. The final score will be close but the Broncos will be able to do just enough more on offense to walk away with the victory.
Broncos 27, Seahawks 17
Check back on Friday for my review of our preseason opener, as well as an early preview of the week ahead as we get set to host the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!