Preseason Opener: Seahawks vs Chargers



We’re only hours away from the opening kickoff of Seattle’s first exhibition game of the 2009 season. The organization and its fans will finally have an opportunity to get rid of any depressing feelings lingering from last season.

The Seattle Seahawks will open the 2009 NFL Preseason against the San Diego Chargers away from Qwest Field. Though they’re health is much improved compared to last season, the Hawks still have some issues, particularly along the offensive line.

Walter Jones is still recovering from offseason surgery, and did not travel with the team despite participating in his first training camp practice on Friday. In addition to Jones being out, guard Mansfield Wrotto did not make the trip either, suffering from what coach Jim Mora called a “bruise”. These injuries follow Mike Wahle’s (somewhat) unexpected release due to a failed physical, which led to Rob Sims sliding back to the left side.

Those injuries, combined with Chris Spencer’s sore ankle, could make for a busy night in the pocket for Seattle quarterbacks. The starting offensive line tonight will likely be Sean Locklear and Rob Sims on the left side, Chris Spencer at center, and rookie Max Unger and Kyle Williams at the right guard and tackle positions. If Chris Spencer is unable to go, then competent reserve Steve Vallos will get the start; Vallos proved last preseason that he was more than capable of holding his own against NFL-caliber players.

Based on the projected starters for the offensive line, Seattle fans may have to hold their collective breath until Matt Hasselbeck returns to the sideline without injury. San Diego has a very good pass rush, and boasts defenders like Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.

It is very probable that Hasselbeck will take his first hit from an opponent since last season. We’ll find out if his hard work over the offseason will help his body tolerate an entire NFL season – or a couple of drives in the opening exhibition game, at least.

I’m cautiously excited for tonight’s matchup, and look forward to seeing how Seattle fares against real competition.

WHAT TO WATCH: Aside from the offensive line and Matt Hasselbeck, keep a sharp eye on the wide receivers. The crowded group offers some of the toughest competition of any position on the team, and there are several talented players competing for roster spots.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, and Deon Butler are probably locks to make the team. After that, however, it is wide open. The team generally keeps six (on average) wide receivers, so there are likely two spots up for grabs.

That means that only two of the following will make the active roster: Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent, Ben Obomanu, Michael Bumpus, Logan Payne, and Mike Hass. Taylor and Kent have looked very good during most of training camp, and Obomanu has been a solid performer.

Since there are probably only two spots available for six competitors, it will be fun to watch these guys take the field tonight. Every minute of playing time during the preseason will be crucial for each of these receivers.

FUN TO WATCH: Linebacker Aaron Curry is the guy to watch for fun tonight. A lot of fans haven’t had an opportunity to see Curry in camp, and those who have saw him in limited sessions. For Seattle fans, it is likely the first time he’ll be seen in real action.

Based on camp observations, Curry was more than worth the fourth overall pick. Although his first few practices weren’t very impressive, Curry came on strong and showed observers why he was the best player available in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Expect Curry to play through the first half, and be sure to keep a sharp eye on number 59 when the Seahawks are on defense.

PREDICTION: Hopefully Seattle’s starters will look good, but the Chargers are going to be tough to beat in San Diego.

Seattle 17, San Diego 20