Unfortunately, last week I wasn’t able to catch the first half of action, so I didn’t get a chance to see the starters. Luckily, from the recaps I’ve watched and read, they were fairly underwhelming and the team play was overall forgettable. I was, however, impressed with both the second string offense and defense. Charlie looked pretty good, and the young secondary made some nice plays. Bubble players like Jameson Konz and Jeron Johnson played better than I expected, and KJ Wright displayed impressive leadership at MLB filling in for Hawthorne. I want to see more from Golden Tate. Thomas Clayton, outside of the TD, did nothing to show me he deserves a roster spot. Josh Portis is awesome.
So this week my eyes will be on the starters, as they’re expected to play at least a full quarter, possibly the entire first half. Other than the obvious (Offensive Line/ QB play), here’s a few things I’ll be watching for:
- The Jackson to Rice rapport. Sidney Rice will play his first game as a Hawk, against his former team, with the same QB and Coordinator he had with said team. It’s a nice storyline, but I want to see what he can bring to this team. Antoine Winfield of the Vikes is a talented corner and should give us a good look at how well Rice matches up with equal talent. Anything less than a jump ball in the endzone, going over the heads of three defenders for a touchdown, and it’ll be a let down. That’s a joke, but I do hope Rice can flash some of that big play/ spectacular catch potential we’ve read about in camp.
- The Run Defense. Red Bryant is back from injury and is expected to start at defensive end. Adrian Peterson was reportedly upset with his light workload last week and is expected to receive more carries tonight. We know the impact Red had on the run defense last season, and it will be fun to see the whole line work together to stop arguably the best RB in the NFL. I expect Kam Chancellor to be effective in run support from his strong safety position, and it will be fun to see how he fares against Peterson. A.P. will also test our linebackers’ speed to the edges. Overall, it will be intersting to see how the first team D fares against an elite running back. Keep an eye on Alan Branch as well.
- Second Team DBs. Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Greg Camarillo are all inactive this week. We should see Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian starting at WR and talented rookie Kyle Rudolph in at TE. With McNabb and Ponder throwing the ball, this should not scare a competant secondary. Our second unit DBs will see guys like Devin Aromashodu and Juaquin Iglesias, receivers who have been around for a few years and offer better competition than San Diego’s second and third stringers. If Kelly Jennings can’t match up well against Jenkins and Berrian, after the pitiful display last week (albeit, Vincent Jackson is a top notch receiver), he doesn’t deserve the starting gig, and I’d like to see what a guy like Browner or Sherman can do with the first team defense (and subsequent game experience).
- Leon Washington’s Carries. If you’ve read some things I’ve written, I’ve been lobbying for Neon Leon to get more carries. He was obviously eased in to action last year returning from injury, and rightfully so, but he’s fully healed and playing with both a spring in his step and chip on his shoulder. Lynch will start. Okay. But Pete Carroll loves him some playmakers, and Leon Washington IS playmaker. Give him the ball. Hit him on screens. Run him behind Robinson and Moffitt. Let him go on a ‘2nd and who cares’ draw play. He’s been hyped again during training camp, and Carroll has said he want to get Leon more involved. Good, Pete. Now prove it.