Most preseason games have about as much meaning as a Wayans brothers spoof, but for the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers, tomorrow night's clash is expected to be a showcase of two teams with quite a bit to prove. Here's a look at some things to expect in Saturday's preseason opener.
9-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones returned to practice Thursday, after sitting out since the beginning of camp with back spasms. Jones practiced with the scout team and seems to be recovering well from not only the back injury but also from his off-season micro-fracture knee surgery. Despite the triumphant return, Jones is still a no-go against San Diego. Right tackle Sean Locklear, who has been temping on the left side in Jones' absence, will get the start. Seattle will get a good look at whether Locklear can be their left-tackle-of-the-future as he will face a tough test in pass-rushing dynamo Shawne Merriman, who is hungrier than ever after missing nearly all of last season to knee surgery. Ray Willis, a fifth-year guard out of Florida State, will continue to fill in at right tackle for Locklear. Center Charles Spencer is likely to start after the 2005 first round pick made strides Thursday in his recovery from an ankle injury. Spencer, Locklear and Willis will be joined by guards Rob Sims and second-rounder Max Unger. Unger is battling incumbent Mansfield Wrotto for the starting right guard job, but gets the nod this week as Wrotto is out with a leg injury. The make-shift offensive line will have to stand tall against this aggressive San Diego pass rush that doesn't just feature Merriman, but also linebackers Shaun Phillips and rookie Larry English(the Chargers' first round pick, who was a defensive end at Southern Illinois).
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will get a series or two to play with his newest weapon, wide receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Hasselbeck and Housh have showed solid chemistry in training camp, particularly in the red zone where Houshmanzadeh has been Hasselbeck's favorite target(Something fantasy football fans should keep an eye on). Despite the new-found bro-mance with Housh, expect Hasselbeck to pass the ball around on a Chargers defense that ranked 31st against the pass last season. Saturday's game will be a good test for the man lining up opposite Houshmanzadeh, Nate Burleson, who is trying to return from a torn ACL.
On the other side of the ball, the obvious key to victory on defense will be stopping future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who will be making his first preseason start in years. Tomlinson is also trying to prove himself after an off-season of naysayers declaring him finished and speculation that his days in San Diego were coming to an end. LT will face a revamped, beefier Seahawk defensive line, led by 330lb. defensive tackle Colin Cole and 293lb. defensive end Cory Redding. Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney will be a game-time decision but should see a series or two. One man who will see significant action will be 4th overall pick, linebacker Aaron Curry. Mora, who until now has been mum on the amount of time he plans on giving his players in the opener, let it be known that Curry will be playing deep into the third quarter. In the secondary, Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant will not be making the trip to San Diego, leaving the task of containing Charger wideouts Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers to Josh Wilson and Ken Lucas. Wilson, last year's team leader in interceptions, has a slight edge over former first rounder Kelly Jennings, who was burned routinely last season, for the nickel back job behind Lucas and Trufant(when he returns).
Trufant, Jones and Wrotto, along with guard Grey Ruegamer, are the only sure bets not to see action but they might not be alone come game time. “There could be other guys that are added to that list, but I don't think their will be.” Mora said, following Thursday's practice.
The Seahawks and Chargers are prime examples of two teams who underachieved last season mainly due to injury but are well aware that their windows as contenders are shutting rapidly. With the amount of talent on the field tomorrow, we could be looking at a preview of this year's Super Bowl. While preseason games usually hold as much weight as Lara Flynn Boyle, this could be an opportunity to show and prove for several Seahawks including rookie Courtney Greene, quarterback Jeff Rowe and safety Jamar Adams. One thing is for certain, however……FOOTBALL IS BACK, BABY! Let the games begin!
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.