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John Clayton’s primer to Seahawks’ preseason opener vs Colts

Rookie TE Will Dissly will have an opportunity to make a case for the Seahawks' starting job. (AP)

With so many young players competing for playing time and roster spots with the Seahawks, Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts offers more than most preseason openers.

Carroll: Tedric Thompson, Jacob Martin standing out on defense

On a national scale, though, the Seahawks-Colts game offers one of the biggest offerings of the preseason: the return of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck could play as much as a quarter – rare for a starting quarterback, but this is a rare situation. Luck is returning to the field for the first time in 20 months, or around 600 days. Each day he has been throwing more and more – and better and better – coming off shoulder surgery in January 2017.

For the Seahawks, starters aren’t going to play much, but that’s OK. Pete Carroll has a lot to study.

Let’s review the big things to watch in Thursday’s preseason opener.

The improvement along the offensive line.

Offensive line coach Mike Solari is trying to install a more physical blocking scheme that would cater to a better running offense. Even though there has to be concerns about the long-term health of D.J. Fluker at 343 pounds and with some lingering leg injuries, this will be the first time to see how Fluker fits in with the revised offense.

This also could be an important 15 or so plays for right tackle Germain Ifedi, who was pulled from a weekend scrimmage after getting flagged twice for penalties. If the mistakes continue, Ifedi could lose his starting job to Isaiah Battle, who has had a decent training camp.

There is plenty to sort out at wide receiver.

Doug Baldwin won’t play because of a knee injury. Carroll might elect to let the 34-year-old Brandon Marshall rest his legs, too, and who knows if they do much with Tyler Lockett in the first preseason game. Still, there is plenty to see.

With Jaron Brown, Marcus Johnson, David Moore, Amara Darboh, Damore’a Stringfellow and Keenan Reynolds joining the other three names, the Seahawks need to start sorting out the final roster spots for receivers. Baldwin, Lockett and Brown are locks, with Darboh next in line. Marshall showed enough in the past week to prove he still has gas in the tank, but there are plenty of unknowns at receiver that need to be answered.

Some new looks

• This will be an important game for Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson. At free safety, Thompson has been one of the training camp stars. Hill has been pretty much the No. 4 safety behind Bradley McDougald, Thompson and Maurice Alexander, so the pressure will be more on Hill to show he’s a gamer.

• Seahawks fans will get their first glimpse of a Brian Schottenheimer offense. They should pass more to the running backs, show a bigger commitment to the run and a call for more physical plays.

• With Dion Jordan hurt and Frank Clark probably sitting out while recovering from hand surgery, the Seahawks will need to see something from the pass rush. Barkevious Mingo, Marcus Smith, Quinton Jefferson and Brandon Jackson will be interesting players to follow.

Rookies who could make an impact

• This will be an important game for quarterback Alex McGough, After looking great in OTAs and mini camp, McGough has struggled in the first two weeks of training camp. In the spring he looked like he had a chance to be the backup quarterback this year. Now he looks like he’s more of a practice squad candidate, with the backup job going to Austin Davis. McGough could start reversing the equation with a strong performance against the Colts.

• With tight end Ed Dickson still on the physically unable to perform list, rookie Will Dissly has become one of the stars of camp. None other than Russell Wilson has praised the University of Washington product. Could Dissly, with his blocking and surprisingly good pass-catching ability, challenge for a starting job? A decent game Thursday could enhance those chances.

• Rookie cornerback Tre Flowers, who came out of college as a safety, continues to look promising by growing in practice as a long, angular corner. He could put himself in position to get playing time if there is the need, and the Colts game could be a good test to see how he does in game situations.

McDougald can play both safety spots, but which does he prefer?

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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