With the Raiders heading to Seattle this week to face the Seahawks, I spoke with Danny Kelly, from Seahawks blog Field Gulls to learn a little bit about the team the Raiders will be facing when they take the field in Seattle.
Here is that question and answer session:
1. How much do you expect to see the Seahawks starters in this game?
That's a good question. My first instinct is to say 'not much', - I don't think Russell Wilson will play for more than a few series and overall I'm guessing Seattle errs on the side of caution with their starters, but I think we may see a few select guys get extra time. Zach Miller, as you know, a former Raider, has missed all of the preseason but has recently been cleared to play, so he'll probably try to knock off some of the rust in anticipation of Week 1. Seahawks 2012 first round pick Bruce Irvin has also missed much of the preseason with an injury but is expected to get a lot of action this week, to get him acclimated to the outside linebacker role he's taking on this year. He will miss the first four games of the season on suspension, but with a move from defensive end to linebacker, he'll need as many snaps as possible so he can hit the ground running once the suspension is up.
2. What are the impressions of Matt Flynn over there being that he appears to be going through a very similar experience to what happened in Seattle last year, complete with going out with tendonitis in his arm?
I think the general consensus is that Flynn is a guy that can be placed in a balanced offense with some talented players and execute what the offensive coordinator wants to do. He's not a gun slinger, but he's smart, savvy, and generally accurate. He's a guy that can read defenses, make the proper checks and audibles, etc. However, he doesn't have a great arm, he's not overly mobile or athletic, and doesn't seem to be the type of quarterback that can put an offense on his back and carry it. The stark difference between Flynn and Russell Wilson in the preseason last year was that Wilson was quite obviously a dynamic, multi-faceted player - dangerous on the run, escapable, deadly downfield. Flynn showed some aptitude in the offense and could move the chains, but didn't display the same dynamic playmaking ability. I haven't watched the Raiders yet during the preseason, but I'm guessing Oakland fans can see some of the same in the Pryor-Flynn competition.
And as for the tendonitis - that's unfortunate for Flynn, once again. Russell Wilson started Preseason Week 3 last year as Flynn rested his arm, and shortly after that game the rookie was named the stater.
With Oakland's issues on the offensive line, it almost seems to make most sense to go with Pryor because he offers the escapability factor that may discourage all out blitzes and just give the Raiders a chance to keep their quarterback upright. That may be simplistic, obviously, but it's a factor.
3. Terrelle Pryor was shut down in New Orleans week 2, but sprung to life against Chicago last week. Do you expect the Seahawks to perform more like the Saints or the Bears against him?
That will be interesting to see. The Seahawks' 2nd unit struggled against the Packers' Vince Young for a series or two last week because of Young's mobility. After the pocket had collapsed, Young was able to scramble for big gains as things broke down, and I don't think this is something the Hawks game planned for and it showed.
Obviously, Pryor offers that mobility. That said, the Hawks' 2nd team defense - which, I'm guessing, will get the majority of the snaps - is one of the better 'backup' teams in the NFL, especially in coverage. Defensive backs like Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane could possibly start on other rosters, and Walter Thurmond is a guy that's making a push for snaps in the Seahawks offense this year. I think Pryor will have a good challenge on his hands in passing the football this week, but his dual-threat running ability makes it a fun matchup.
4. With Percy Harvin placed on the PUP list, who will the Seahawks ask to step up as the number on receiver? Is there a guy on the team who can be a legitimate number one receiver?
Sidney Rice is the Seahawks' de facto #1 receiver but he's more of a possession, catch-anything-near-him type of receiver more than a vertical, "#1" type of guy. Golden Tate still has the potential as a #1 in the Steve Smith vein, and really came onto the scene last year in the 2nd half. That said, Seattle's offense is balanced and distributes the football fairly evenly among its playmakers, so statistically speaking, the Seahawks haven't had a #1 type of guy for some time, nor do they really seem to need one, at this point. With a strong rushing game, success in play-action, and some underneath weapons like Zach Miller, Seattle has done alright without a true number one guy. If I had to pick a go-to target in this offense with the game on the line though, I'd probably call a play targeting Golden Tate.
5. What young player(s) should we watch out for in this game?
Defensive end Benson Mayowa has made some waves and is making a push to make the roster. He's been very good coming off the edge and I'm guessing he'll get a ton of snaps in this one. Linebackers Alan Branch and John Lotulelei are also trying to make the team and thus far have looked good out there, so they will be two to watch. On offense, Stephen Williams and Jermaine Kearse have been lighting up the preseason at receiver, and both are likely to make the final roster. This will be their last chance to make a statement, so look for them to get a lot of targets.
Finally, running back Christine Michael, the Seahawks' 2nd round pick this year, has shown an explosiveness in running the football, so he's a guy to monitor. #33.