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August 14, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Seattle Seahawks-San Diego Chargers: What to watch

Here are three things to watch Friday when the Seahawks host the San Diego Chargers from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.

First, three from Jenks:

1, Defensive end Benson Mayowa. Mayowa was one of the breakout players of the preseason last year and finished third in the league in sacks during the preseason. Mayowa is locked in a competition with O’Brien Schofield for a pass-rushing role with the Seahawks’ nickel defense, and he didn’t make many plays in Seattle’s preseason opener against Denver. The Seahawks need to see more of him moving forward.

2, How Earl Thomas handles punt returns. Thomas fielded only one punt against Denver and didn’t pick up any yards on the return. The punt return job is one of the few big question marks facing the Seahawks at the moment. Thomas will once again get the first crack at the job against the Chargers, and I’m curious to see if he’s able to get a few more chances to show what he can do.

3, Cornerback Byron Maxwell. Maxwell gave up a number of catches against Denver, most of which went to Demaryius Thomas. Maxwell was in good position on a number of the catches, but the Broncos seemed to go after him with their first-team offense in the preseason opener. Will that be a trend going forward?

And from Condotta:

1, How the offensive line plays. This is a pretty obvoius one after last week, when the Seahawks allowed three sacks and left their QBs running for their lives much of the night. The expected return of Max Unger and James Carpenter should help, as should a second game of working in the offense for a lot of newcomers. It’s easy to overlook how many new or y0ung players are being called on for backup roles. Lemuel Jeanpierre is the only player who has more than a year of experience with the team or in the NFL that is working behind the starters. Vets such as Eric Winston and Wade Smith figure to be more comfortable in what the Seahawks are doing now, for instance.

2, How the second-team defense plays, and the reserve units overall. Pete Carroll was pretty frank in his disappointment in the play of the backup defense last week saying they simply were not fundamentally sound. That helped lead to Denver outscoring Seattle 14-6 in the second half — the first time the Seahawks had been outscored in the second half of a preseason game since 2011. The way Seattle outscored foes so decisively in preseason games — a combined 125-37 the last two years — was indicative of the overall depth of Seattle’s roster. One game is too early to make a judgment. But the usual second-half dominance we’ve seen in Seattle preseason games the last two years was missing in Denver.

3, Brock Coyle. It will be really interesting to see how he does in a second straight game as the starting middle linebacker with Bobby Wagner out as San Diego’s offense will be a challenge. Coyle played well last week, almost being treated as a starter, getting 21 snaps with the first team defense and then getting out of there, and making five tackles. But Carroll said Thursday there is plenty for Coyle to work on. “He’s got some areas that he can improve – as a matter of fact I met with him yesterday to talk specifically about those things,” said Carroll. “He’s done a fantastic job. We’re really fired up about what he’s done for us. But we’d like to see him get better, he’s gone probably past what you’d think a Mike linebacker could do at this time because he’s handled the huddle so well, with the adjustments and the calls and all that. Now he needs to settle in and play and do a good job in the passing game as well as in his tackling. But I’m really fired up for the kid, he’s really made a great statement and he’ll try to make this team. … I talked to him about cleaner tackling, a little bit cleaner job in his coverage – in his drops, breaking on the football and stuff like that – just really fundamental stuff. He kind of handled the big picture well, and now we’re going to zero in a little bit. I think he should feel more comfortable this week. He knows he can go out and play NFL football. So I’m hoping we’ll see him take a step forward. Whether he does or not, it’s not crucial at this time. He’s got these three games to make a statement. But I know he wants to do really well, he’s really determined.”

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