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August 8, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Three things to watch against the Chargers

1. Walter Thurmond and Antoine Winfield, nickel:

Pete Carroll called the nickel spot a “real battle” between the 14-year veteran Winfield and Thurmond, Seattle’s oft-injured but highly talented fourth-round draft pick in 2010. Winfield was viewed as one of Seattle’s biggest coups this offseason when he agreed to sign with the team after nine years in Minnesota. He was immediately penciled in by most as Seattle’s replacement for departed Marcus Trufant as the team’s fifth cornerback. But Thurmond, who has been limited to just eight games over the last two years because of injuries, has been arguably the most impressive defensive player of training camp so far. He and Winfield have alternated with the first-team nickel defense and it likely will be a back-and-forth battle until the season starts.

2. Who will return kickoffs?

You can’t really simulate these at full speed in practice, unless you want to get guys hurt, so the preseason should play an important role in helping Seattle select a kickoff return man. Golden Tate will return punts, but Carroll has said he would prefer not having him do both. Carroll has said multiple times that he would like to see what Jeremy Lane can do because Lane is one of the team’s fastest players. He also said on Wednesday that rookie RB Christine Michael will return kicks against the Chargers. Will Blackmon and Bryant Walters are also guys who have spent time in practice returning kicks.

3. How will Chris Harper look?

Harper, a rookie drafted in the fourth round, starred at Kansas State, where he was a physical receiver who used his size and positioning to come down with balls. Harper has struggled some in training camp, but it’s also important to remember that he has only played receiver for about three years. He’s still learning the nuances of the position, particularly in his route running. It will be interesting to see if he’s either a) able to create separation against San Diego’s defensive backs or b) use his size and physicality to come down with contested catches or jump balls, like he did in college.

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