Titans vs Seahawks: What to Watch

The Seahawks open the 2010 exhibition season tonight against the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field.

If we learned anything from last season, it is that exhibition games don’t mean much in terms of wins and losses. The Seahawks were undefeated in the preseason last year, but finished the regular season with only five wins.

Rather than stay focused on the scoreboard, fans should take advantage of an excellent opportunity to observe fringe players, backups, and rookies showcase their talents and attempt to impress coaches. A lot of jobs are won and lost in August; the preseason gives fans a chance to evaluate prospects before they ever make an impact in September.

Tonight will be the first exhibition game for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. There will be a lot to focus on during the game, but here is a quick list of what should be watched:

Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst

Last March, the Seahawks acquired Whitehurst from the San Diego Chargers. The unproven quarterback cost Seattle twenty slots in the second round of the NFL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2011 draft. Seattle also gave Whitehurst a new two-year deal worth $8 million – before he has ever thrown a pass in the regular season.

Whitehurst seems like a promising prospect, but no one knows if he is capable of successfully running an offense in the National Football League. The physical tools are definitely there, but how competent Whitehurst is above his shoulders is to be determined.

It could be argued that no one has had a more up-and-down offseason than Charlie Whitehurst. At times, Whitehurst has looked like the next starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks; at others, he looked like a third-string quarterback who will never develop into a good starter in the league.

Wide receiver Mike Williams

At Southern Cal, Williams had established himself as a can’t-miss prospect and obvious pro-caliber wide receiver. In the National Football League, immaturity and a poor work ethic have led to Williams being labeled a bust.

At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Williams is the big, physical target that offenses in the National Football League crave. His physique alone presents matchup problems for opposing defenses; with exceptional ball skills and soft hands, Williams looks like the next Pro Bowl wideout.

Surprisingly, even with his physical tools, Williams is not a lock to make the roster. Pete Carroll, who coached Williams at Southern Cal, could find a way to motivate the former first-round pick, but Williams needs to prove his worth on the field.

Offensive tackle Russell Okung

In April, the Seahawks invested a top-ten selection on Okung. Not only is Okung expected to improve an offensive line that struggled in 2009, but he also needs to replace a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Walter Jones.

Not even two weeks ago, Okung agreed to a six-year contract worth up to $58 million. Despite only being in training camp for about a week, Okung should see lots of playing time against the Titans. Expect to see him play with both the first and second units.

Russell Okung was arguably the best offensive line prospect available in last April’s draft. Now we get to see if he was worth the investment.

The “Leo” position

It is obvious the Seattle Seahawks need help rushing the passer. Last season, the Seahawks ranked twenty-sixth in the National Football League with only 28.0 sacks. A mediocre pass rush makes it very difficult to stop opposing offenses and win football games – the five teams with less sacks than Seattle (Tampa Bay, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jacksonville) combined for only seventeen wins.

Pete Carroll, a defensive-minded head coach, has brought a new strategy with him from Southern Cal: the “Leo” or “Elephant” position.

This position is a hybrid-style defensive end who lines up in a two-point stance on the defensive line. To the casual observer, it will look like Seattle is in a traditional 3-4 defense – there are only three down linemen, but principles and gap responsibilities from a 4-3 defense remain the same.

Players like Chris Clemons, Nick Reed, Rickey Foley, and others will probably have an opportunity to play the new Leo position tonight. Keep an eye out for it and see what sort of tricks the new coaching staff has to generate pressure.

Shaun Dolence: dolencesm@gmail.com
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Tags: Charlie Whitehurst Chris Clemons Exhibition Golden Tate Leo Position Mike Williams National Football League Nick Reed Pete Carroll Preseason Qwest Field Ricky Foley Rookie Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks Tennessee Titans

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