Packers vs Seahawks: What to Watch For

Another week, another football game. There’s definitely no better time of year than football season.

Tonight, the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers at Qwest Field for their second game of the exhibition season. Last Saturday, in their first exhibition game, the Seahawks defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-18.

Preseason records are never meaningful – the Seahawks were undefeated last year – but there are still several things worth watching. It is fun to see guys battle for spots on the final roster, but here are the specific things I’ll be watching tonight:

Running back Leon Washington

The Seahawks acquired Washington from the New York Jets for nearly nothing. With Washington, the Seahawks have a certifiable homerun threat in their backfield – the first since Shaun Alexander was leading the league in rushing touchdowns.

Washington, however, suffered a compound fracture to his fibula in Week 7 last season. The gruesome injury ended Washington’s 2009 season and kept him off the field throughout the offseason – until now.

In his last full season, Washington averaged nearly six yards per carry on 76 attempts. With the New York Jets, he was known for his big-play ability and explosiveness. In Seattle, the Seahawks desperately need him to return healthy and productive; injecting Washington’s explosiveness to an otherwise bland backfield would immediately improve the offense.

While it is uncertain how many touches he’ll get, head coach Pete Carroll confirmed that Leon Washington will make his debut in Seattle against the Packers.

“We’re really excited about Leon playing this week,” Carroll said. “He’s ready to go at this point, so we’ll see where he is.”

Wide receiver Golden Tate

When Golden Tate was drafted in the second round of last April’s draft, everyone assumed the Seahawks added a dynamic playmaker to their offense. Tate is a capable athlete who is dangerous after the catch and a threat to score whenever he holds the football.

I watched Golden Tate shred up the Washington Huskies in a dominating performance last October and was extremely glad to finally have a player of his caliber on our side. In the game against Washington, the former Notre Dame receiver caught 9 balls for 244 yards and a touchdown.

In the preseason opener, however, Tate looked rather pedestrian. He dropped a few balls, ran poor routes, slipped after the catch, and looked quite lost in Seattle’s offense. Tate finished the night with 2 catches for only 5 yards. As a punt returner, he never demonstrated any explosiveness and just looked like another guy vying for a roster spot.

Tate is obviously better than he played in his debut at Qwest Field. Tonight would be a great night to prove he can produce at the professional level.

The quarterbacks

Without question, Matt Hasselbeck is Seattle’s starting quarterback. But against the Titans, Hasselbeck completed only 4 of 10 passes and threw for just 26 yards. While Hasselbeck was on the field, the Seahawks were unable to consistently move the ball on offense.

Charlie Whitehurst, who was acquired to help the franchise prepare for life after Hasselbeck, looked surprisingly good last weekend. Despite one mistake – a miscommunication with Mike Williams that resulted in an interception – Whitehurst still finished the game with a 107.0 quarterback rating. The unproven veteran completed 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

I need to see Matt Hasselbeck perform better tonight. And I want Charlie Whitehurst to impress again, proving that last week wasn’t just a fluke.

The defensive pass rush

Last week, the Seahawks recorded two sacks and generated consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks throughout the game. Chris Clemons, who was acquired in the Darryl Tapp trade, looked quite good at times and showed a unique ability to get after the quarterback.

On Clemons’ only recorded sack, he beat Pro Bowl tackle Michael Roos with a few quick moves and tackled Chris Simms for a 13-yard loss. The other sack, by rookie Dexter Davis, was on an obvious passing down; on 3rd and 18, broke through to the quarterback for another big loss.

The Seahawks struggled to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season, and any improvement will obviously help the defense as a whole. The first preseason game was a good sign, but probably not indicative of performance through the regular season.

I know it is only the preseason, but I need to see Seattle’s defense harass opposing quarterbacks in consecutive weeks.

Shaun Dolence: dolencesm@gmail.com
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Tags: Charlie Whitehurst Chris Clemons Dexter Davis Exhibition Golden Tate Green Bay Packers Leon Washington Matt Hasselbeck Preseason Qwest Field Seattle Seahawks

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