STACY ROST

Rost: 3 big questions surrounding Seahawks’ preseason opener

Aug 12, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: Aug 13, 2022, 10:12 am

Seahawks Darrell Taylor...

Seahawks pass rusger Darrell Taylor tackles Rams running back Darrell Henderson .on Tuesday. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Seahawks head to Pittsburgh Saturday for their first preseason game of the 2022 season. In August, the most important thing isn’t to win exhibition games – though it’s certainly a plus. Instead, Seattle’s coaches will be eager to see how well this team has implemented the playbook and lessons learned in camp, and how effectively younger players can embrace playing at full speed.

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Bad news is you don’t know what’s in the playbook, but you can still see whether these three big questions pass the eye test this weekend – all of which will be hugely important to the success of the 2022 season:

Will Drew Lock outplay Geno Smith?

What to watch: How do both quarterbacks perform in third down and red zone situations?

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Smith will start this Saturday and appears to be the favorite to be the starter against Denver in Week 1 unless Lock can take the job with a stronger preseason. Even after a solid first half in Seattle’s mock game last week, Lock remained with the second-team the following day at camp.

The simplest takeaway? That in a quarterback battle where the competition is close, Lock will need to make himself a much more obvious choice over Smith, and he has yet to do that.

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He can make up ground against Pittsburgh with a performance that looks a lot more like the first half of his mock game – efficient and accurate, with some zip on the ball and a nice ability to pick up yardage with his legs – and less like the second half, which saw overthrows and misses.

Of course, Lock’s career has been marred by inaccuracy and a single preseason game won’t end that perception. Which is why it’s also important for Seattle to see Lock implement lessons learned from camp in the biggest moments: third down and red zone plays.

What’s this defense look like at full speed?

What to watch: Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu showing how effective the pass rush can be with a new 3-4 defense

“We’ve had plenty of hitting,” Carroll said of Seattle’s camp so far without preseason games during a press conference with reporters Thursday. “It’s not like we haven’t hit each other. We have done a lot of that. But this is the next step, so we will learn a lot.”

This Saturday will be the first time Seattle’s defenders are allowed to complete some of their biggest plays. So far, quarterbacks have kept the no-contact red jerseys, which means for as good as outside linebackers Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu have looked, they’ve yet to truly complete a sack of the passer. Both have looked solid: Taylor popped particularly early on in camp and Nwosu has picked off a pass from Smith. But Saturday brings the first test – far from the most important, but at the very least the first – for a defense that will need to be the strength of this team in 2022.

Can the rookie corners hold it down?

Who to watch: Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen

Veteran corners Artie Burns and Sidney Jones were taking first-team reps when camp started over rookies Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, but Jones (concussion) and Burns (groin) will not play Saturday, meaning more reps for some of Seattle’s youngest players.

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Bryant impressed early in camp, in part because of the praise he received coming into summer as a four-year starter out of Cincinnati who played opposite Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. Bryant’s counterpart, Woolen, wowed with a rare combination of size and speed (he runs a 4.26-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4), but lacked the experience, having transitioned to corner from wide receiver as a redshirt sophomore.

“In college, he was a little all over the place” Carroll said of Woolen. “At times you can see him press and see him do the things he does at the line of scrimmage, and there was a lot of other stuff that showed up too. But now, he’s just taken to the coaching and (defensive pass game coordinator) Karl (Scott) has got him going… he’s taken it in stride so far so we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.”

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