The final preseason game is usually merely a final tune-up, most important to players desperately clinging to the bottom of the roster. With the quarterback competition all wrapped up this game feels fairly anti-climactic but there are some interesting roster battles to observe. It’s also our last chance to see the Seahawks before they take the regular season plunge and our last to chance to not care if they lose. Despite that fact, losing to the Raiders just feels wrong. Without further ado, here is this week’s edition of Matchups of the Game.
Matchup #1: Richard Sherman vs. Darrius Heyward-Bey
The disadvantage of the big corners that Pete Carroll prefers is the ever present risk of getting beat down the field by receivers with elite speed. If there is anything Heyward-Bey has it’s elite speed. Many laughed at Oakland when they selected Heyward-Bey 7th overall in the 2009 draft, believing that he was a late first round value at best. To his credit, he developed into a very productive receiver last year with 975 yards despite missing two games. Heyward-Bey’s calling card is his world-class 4.25 speed which easily trumps Sherman’s 4.54 mark. That gap in raw speed makes me nervous, but luckily for Sherman there is more to football than running extremely fast. Sherman has the ability to dominate receivers with his physicality and Heyward-Bey is not very large or particularly strong. It is the sort of scenario where Sherman could bully Heyward-Bey all game at the line of scrimmage, but if Heyward-Bey blows by him just once it will be considered a rough game for Sherman. Considering neither of them will play all game it’s probably most likely that Sherman holds his man in check for a couple of series.
Matchup #2: Braylon Edwards vs. Ron Bartell
This is a battle of two players trying to re-establish their value in the latter portion of their careers. Bartell is 30 and trying to rebound from a gruesome neck injury. Edwards, 29, is attempting to bounce back from an off-year and some questions about his character. Bartell was a very effective corner with St.Louis and has the size, at 6-1, to compete with Edwards on balls in the air. Since the departure of T.O Edwards looks fairly likely to make the team but having a good game today certainly wouldn’t do him any harm. He has made some big catches so far this preseason but producing against a quality corner with size will help prove Edwards is more than just a big target. Receiver reclamation projects are something of a specialty of Pete Carroll and Edwards can help continue that tradition with a good performance today.
Matchup # 3: Breno Giacomini vs. Lamarr Houston
Giacomini has come into his own over the last few years, perhaps due to the fact he is a converted tight-end who didn’t play offensive tackle until his senior year of college at Louisville. He started 8 games for the Seahawks last year and looked competent doing so. His opposition is Lamarr Houston, a well thought of DT coming out of college that Oakland converted to a big DE, sort of in the mold of Red Bryant. Houston made an encouraging debut in 2010 but regressed last year. Apparently he has lost a lot of weight in hopes of putting the production levels of his “sophomore slump” in the past. Giacomini is probably quicker on his feet but Houston could likely have some success with the bull rush against the 6-7 Giacomini. Houston is a talented and unusual DE who will be a nice last challenge for the Seahawk OT before we start with the games that matter.
This game is more important to the guys fighting for their livelihoods rather than the established players that figure to play the biggest role with this year’s Seahawks. That being said, depth is exceedingly important in a game as violent as football, and while some of last roster spots may seem inconsequential now, the players at the bottom of the roster may well be playing big roles by the end of the year. So when you are watching this game don’t complain about watching all the backups because these guys are a play or two for starting for your 2012 Seattle Seahawks. Every player on the 53-man roster is important and as a result so too is this game.