What to watch in the Seahawks’ preseason opener

Aug 6, 2014, 9:41 AM | Updated: 11:41 am
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Linebacker Brock Coyle (45) is making a case to be the latest undrafted rookie to make Seattle’s roster. (AP)

The Seahawks will begin this season the same way they ended their previous one: by playing the Broncos.

That’s about the only similarity between February’s Super Bowl and the practice game the two teams will play on Thursday night in Denver. And while this preseason game is nowhere near as meaningful as that last meeting, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely meaningless, either.

Here are three things to watch on Thursday in the first of Seattle’s four preseason games:

1. The man in the middle of Seattle’s defense

That would be Brock Coyle, a rookie linebacker from Montana. He’s likely the starter with Bobby Wagner sidelined the past week with a first-degree hamstring strain, which means that in three months Coyle has gone from being undrafted to manning the middle of the defense that allowed the fewest points in the league last season. Then again, Coyle is used to making progress quickly. He was a promising downhill ski racer growing up in Montana before switching his focus to football. He led the University of Montana in tackles as a junior and senior. Undrafted in May, he signed with Seattle knowing the Seahawks have been true to their word in the emphasis on competition. Seattle has a strong history of giving undrafted players an opportunity under coach Pete Carroll to the point the Seahawks released a fourth-round pick last year – receiver Chris Harper – and had three undrafted rookies on the Week 1 roster: defensive end Benson Mayowa, linebacker John Lotulelei and offensive lineman Alvin Bailey.

2. QB or not QB?

No player on Seattle’s roster has more at stake than Terrelle Pryor, currently the team’s No. 3 quarterback. He’s everything a team could want in a quarterback in terms of size, arm strength and foot speed. It’s his consistency that’s a question, particularly when it comes to passing accuracy. His resiliency was also a question in Oakland as some felt he tended to cave in after a play or possession fizzled. While Seattle has tended to start the season with only two quarterbacks on the roster under Carroll, Pryor has enough talent that the Seahawks would consider making an exception. But for that to happen, Pryor needs to show not just his promise but his progress during these exhibition games.

3. Rushing to conclusions

Seattle lost three members of last year’s defensive line rotation, releasing veterans Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and watching Clinton McDonald sign with Tampa Bay in free agency. That means opportunities for some of the young linemen on this team, particularly Mayowa. An undrafted rookie out of Idaho last year, Seattle kept him on the 53-man roster last season despite not playing after Week 2. He’s added more than 10 pounds of muscle and remains a lightning-quick outside pass rusher. Last year, Mayowa played his way onto the roster in the preseason games. This season he’ll need to play his way onto the field.

Programming note: Pregame coverage of the Seahawks’ preseason opener will begin at 4 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com. Kickoff is at 6.

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