SEATTLE -- With one last warm-up before the regular season, here are four things to watch -- and one you won’t get to watch -- Thursday night in the Seattle Seahawks game against Oakland.
The Seahawks pass rush: Hopefully, there is one to watch. Oakland has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. If Seattle can’t get to the quarterback in this game, it’s time to worry. And they’ll have to do with backups. Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril won’t play. Neither will defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett.
Clemons and Avril probably won’t play next weekend in the season opener at Carolina. So it is increasingly important to watch Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield to see if they can continue to shine as pass-rushers. Ty Powell, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, also will see some time as a down rusher.
Penalty flags: Just keeping the yellow flags under double figures and less than 100 yards would look decent at this point. The Seahawks haf 14 penalties for 182 yards last week in the 17-10 victory at Green Bay. Seattle has 354 yards on 34 penalties in the three preseason games.
“We just want to be really disciplined with our offense and make sure we’re not getting any penalties,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said Tuesday. “That’s our No. 1 focus.”
Coach Pete Carroll has harped on this for the past two weeks.
“We have to show progress before we head into the opener in terms of getting out of our own way,” Carroll said. “We have to comply and we’re a little out of compliance. The guys know. They don’t want to play like that. They just have to make better decisions.”
Pass blocking: The Seahawks offensive line struggled to stop the blitzing Packers last week. That has to improve, along with cutting down on holding calls and false starts. James Carpenter finally will get back on the field at guard, which could help. This is a good line overall, especially in run blocking. But a better showing on pass plays needs to happen tonight.
Bubble boys: No team in the NFL has tougher roster cuts to make than the Seahawks. The depth on this team is extraordinary and the coaches have difficult decisions to make after this game.
Some players need to shine to earn a spot. Receiver Stephen Williams probably already has done so, but one more good game wouldn’t hurt. Rookie receiver Chris Harper needs to step up. Will the Seahawks keep three fullbacks -- Michael Robinson (who won’t play tonight) rookie Spencer Ware and Derrick Coleman?
The toughest cuts will come in the secondary, where some of the backups could start for many NFL teams. Cornerback Ron Parker needs a good game. So does Winston Guy and DeShawn Shead. The coaches really like rookie linebacker John Lotulelei, but is there room for him?
No Matt Flynn: Some Seattle fans probably were looking forward to seeing quarterback Matt Flynn play against his former Seahawks teammates, but Flynn will watch from the sideline because of a sore arm.
He's probably got a few other sore places considering he’s been sacked seven times in the preseason. Flynn hasn’t played well, so it’s possible he could lose out on the starting-job competition for the second consecutive year. Terrelle Pryor will start against Seattle. He’s much better at running and avoiding the rush than Flynn, which is important with the Raiders porous offensive line.