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What we learned from the Seahawks’ second preseason game

Christine Michael gained 45 yards on eight carries but fumbled for the second straight preseason game. (AP)

You don’t need a microscope to find the significance of Seattle’s second preseason game, but you do have to look beyond the final score of 41-14 to see not only the significance but the questions that remain unanswered.

Three things we learned:

1. Christine Michael is still running third in Seattle’s offense.

It’s not just the fact that he fumbled for the second time in two exhibition games, though that admittedly didn’t help. And it’s not just because Robert Turbin rushed for a game-high 81 yards against San Diego, including a 47-yard cutback against the flow of the play. In two preseason games, Michael hasn’t given the coaching staff reason to leapfrog him ahead of Turbin let alone take a chunk out of the workload that will be directed upon starter Marshawn Lynch when the season begins. Michael is averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the preseason, which is more than acceptable, but there are still times he seems too quick to the hole instead of letting the running lanes open up like offensive-line coach Tom Cable needs from his backs.

2. Percy Harvin will catch more passes than any Seahawks receiver since Pete Carroll took over.

At least he will if he stays healthy. Harvin caught four passes in the four possessions he was on the field on Friday night, and more telling than the total was the position. Every one of those catches came within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. That’s part of the Seahawks’ plan to get him the ball in space and stretch a defense horizontally across the field. Mike Williams – remember him? – caught 65 passes in 2010, which is the most by any Seahawk in Carroll’s four seasons in Seattle. That could change with the way Harvin is going to be featured in the offense this season.

3. The Seahawks definitely left an impression on a regular-season opponent.

That impression was a dent in the Chargers, who host the Seahawks in Week 2. Seattle’s starters played most of the first half against San Diego, quarterback Russell Wilson completed the first nine passes he threw, and the Seahawks ran roughshod over the Chargers. Given the fact that these two teams meet in the second week of the regular season, was Seattle trying to send a message? “I’m not worried about messages,” Wilson said afterward. “I think every game’s different. We play to win every time, no matter if it’s preseason or a regular-season game or playoffs. We treat every game as a championship game. I think we really did that tonight.”

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. Why does the NFL engages in this whole “point of emphasis” charade in the preseason?

We got the message: Referees are going to crack down on illegal contact and defensive holding in the secondary. And through the first week, officials called five times as many of those specific infractions than they did last season. The result: Games have become borderline insufferable – but no less expensive – and really great plays like Tharold Simon’s interception in the end zone have been nullified as the NFL seeks to make its point with what is the officiating equivalent of a brushback pitch. The league is just trying to show it means business. Just wait, when the regular season starts, the number of flags will be dialed back and coaches will start crowing about the way their players have adjusted to the new officiating points. Hogwash. The league just wants to get everyone’s attention this August before easing up on the scrutiny in the regular season. And no, that doesn’t mean you can get a refund for paying regular-season prices to watch this preseason posturing.

2. Is it an either/or decision between Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor to make this team?

It’s starting to feel that way with Pryor getting a turn with the second-unit offense on Friday, and Carroll saying after the game that Jackson will get that chance with the No. 2 offense on Friday against Chicago. Pryor showed his breakaway speed on the 44-yard touchdown run off a naked bootleg, but Thursday’s game didn’t lend itself to the kind of passing opportunities required for a proper assessment. But the head-to-head nature of the comparison the Seahawks are engineering between Jackson and Pryor makes you think this is a heads-up competition for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart rather than deciding if Pryor will be kept as the No. 3 quarterback.

3. Is Earl Thomas an effective punt returner?

Everyone has spent so much time debating the recklessness of putting the All-Pro safety back there, but no one has stopped to ask whether he would be any good at it. He certainly has the athleticism and the explosiveness, but through two exhibition games, it’s also been an adventure with him back there. He has one fair catch and two returns that netted a combined total of 5 yards. We’ve heard plenty about the potential downside of putting Thomas back to return punts, but we have yet to really see the upside of it.