Key matchups for Packers-Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. – Rookies on the offensive line are involved in two key matchups for Thursday’s season opening game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

1. Seattle rookie right tackle Justin Britt vs. Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews

Talk about getting tested right out of the chute. Britt (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) earned the starting job somewhat by default when Michael Bowie came to camp out of shape and suffering with a shoulder injury before being waived.

The truth is Britt would have won the job even if Bowie had come in healthy. Britt, a second-round draft choice from Missouri, has performed surprisingly well and looks like a guy who can play at a high level for a long time.

But he’s still a rookie, and going against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in his first game will be a difficult assignment.

“He’ll get tested in a big way,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Britt. “There is nobody more effective than Clay Matthews. He’s as big a factor in the game as anybody. He’s going to be all over the place, and they’ll use other guys to try to mask where he is.”

“[Britt] has worked a ton against [Seattle defensive end] Cliff Avril all camp in preparation for that speed and strength, and hopefully he’ll be ready to handle that.”

Britt won’t always be one-on-one with Matthews. Sometimes he’ll be blocking defensive end Datone Jones. Veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers might line up on that side of the field a few times.

But Britt will get help on trying to block Matthews. On some plays it will be fullback Derrick Coleman, or running back Marshawn Lynch if Coleman isn’t in the game. Look for the Seahawks to line up tight end Zach Miller next to Britt quite a bit to give him some help with Matthews off the edge.

2. Green Bay rookie center Corey Linsley vs. Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane

Starting the rookie center wasn’t part of the plan for the Packers, but the plan changed when starting center JC Tretter injured a knee and will be out for several weeks.

Linsley (6-3, 300) is a fifth-round pick who is used to playing in front of loud crowds at Ohio State, but he’s in for quite a noise bombardment from the 12s at CenturyLink Field, probably the loudest stadium in the NFL.

Hearing the quarterback and getting the line calls is a tough task for any opposing-team center, but add in a rookie starting his first NFL game while trying to block Mebane, and you can understand what Seattle outside linebacker Bruce Irvin said of Linsley: “I’m going to pray for him.”

Mebane might be the most underrated player on the Seahawks. Seattle center Max Unger said his toughest task as a player is going up against Mebane at practice, “because he is impossible to block.”

Linsley will try to keep Mebane from crashing through the line and disrupting things in the backfield. Linsley also at times will have to block defensive tackle Kevin Williams, a wily veteran who has made a lot of top-notch centers look bad over the years.