Here we go with our six things to watch — three each from beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta — in the Seattle-Green Bay game.
First, from Jenks:
1, Cornerback Byron Maxwell. Maxwell was one of the biggest revelations last year, when he played at an All-Pro caliber down the stretch. But coach Pete Carroll indicated this preseason that Maxwell didn’t show up to training camp in great shape, and he had some moments in the preseason in which receivers got the best of him. I’m curious to see how Maxwell does against one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers.
2, Seattle’s third-down defensive line. The Seahawks tinkered with their defensive line on third down and in nickel situations for the first half of last season until they finally settled on a line consisting of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald. With Clemons and McDonald gone, the Seahawks will need to settle on another rotation to generate pressure. Kevin Williams played a lot of defensive tackle in these situations during the preseason. Could linebacker Bruce Irvin slide back in to a defensive end spot, where he racked up eight sacks as a pass-rush specialist during his rookie season?
3, Rookie offensive tackle Justin Britt. Britt is going to have a challenge either way you slice it: He’ll either face Clay Matthews or the veteran Julius Peppers. Britt went against Cliff Avril for a lot of training camp, and while the hope is that got him ready for similar pass rushers, Avril also got the best of Britt a number of times. Britt is going to have his struggles, as most rookie lineman in the NFL do. He’ll get tested right away.
And from Condotta:
1, Punt returner Earl Thomas: We saw Thomas return in the pre-season, and win the job with the help of a 59-yarder against the Bears. He’s listed No. 1, and will definitely get his chances. But he may not get all of them, especially with Bryan Walters back on the roster for now. I’d assume there could be some situational returning, or maybe just finding a way to get them both their chances. Or maybe not. It’s somewhat of an unknown with Carroll saying only today that “you’ll have to wait and see” if Thomas is really the lead punt returner. It’s par for Carroll to be vague, so not sure I’d read anything into it other than that. But given that it’s hard to really judge much from what happens in the preseason, the great debate over Thomas’ punt returning abilities will finally get its truest test against the Packers.
2. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane: For a player who is always as physical as there is on the field, Mebane’s contributions can often be sort of subtle on the stat sheet, with his job being to clog up the middle and let others get the glory of the tackle. But he could be in a big spotlight against the Packers as Green Bay will go with rookie Corey Linsley at center replacing the injured JC Tretter. That led to the memorable quote of the week from Irvin when asked about Mebane going against a rookie. “I’m going to pray for him. It’s going to be a long night, man. We’ve just got to take advantage of it, all the weaknesses that he shows us, we’ve got to expose it and hopefully Bane is going to do what I know he is going to do to him.’’
3, CB Jeremy Lane: Jayson rightly noted the challenge that Maxwell could face against the Packers, and all season. I think another key matchup tonight is Lane in the slot against Randall Cobb, who was on pace for a 93-catch season last year before suffering a broken leg, doing most of his damage out of the slot. Lane has ascended to the nickelback role with the departure of Walter Thurmond in free agency, and will make what will be only his fourth career start. Lane has also been hobbled a bit of late with a groin injury but is listed as probable to play. He also showed some confidence this week when he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Cobb “definitely can be stopped.” With Tharold Simon out, if Lane has any issues with his hamstring, the Seahawks may need to call on newly-acquired Marcus Burley to fill in.