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Seahawks what to watch for at MIN: Russell Wilson, vets playing about 1 quarter, DB jobs

Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, last week, and rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for the Seahawks.
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Quarterback Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, last week, and rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for the Seahawks.

Russell Wilson is going to play more than he did last week.

Well, yeah. Since the franchise quarterback did not play at all in the Seahawks’ preseason opener last week, that’s not saying much.

Coach Pete Carroll wasn’t either when he was asked how long Wilson and fellow veteran starters will play Sunday night in the second preseason game, against the Minnesota Vikings here in Minneapolis.

Carroll was more coy than he was before Seattle’s first preseason game against Denver. He says he revealed too much to the media last week about Wilson being shelved for a preseason opener for the first time in his eight-year career, and about who would and would not play for how long against the Broncos.

“I thought I really had a bad performance on that one,” Carroll joked, shaking his head.

Yet, do not fret. We have clues about Sunday night.

The coach and his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have said Wilson will start at quarterback—that he is “dying,” to, Carroll said.

“Yeah, assuming I get to play...,” Wilson said, with a grin, “I’m always excited to play, strap on the cleats and go. ...

“I’m going to be ready and have my helmet on and be ready to roll. That’s just kind of my mentality.”

Expect Wilson to play multiple series, perhaps the entire first quarter. Same for the rest of the starting offense, including running back Chris Carson, wide receiver Tyler Lockett, left tackle Duane Brown and right guard D.J. Fluker. They didn’t play last week, either.

How long they play Sunday depends on how long their initial drives are against Minnesota’s talented starting defense.

The Seahawks’ starting defense is also likely to play most if not all the first quarter.

One starter who won’t play again on Sunday: Mike Iupati. The left guard Seattle signed this offseason from Arizona after J.R. Sweezy signed with the Cardinals remains out indefinitely. Iupati was out since the start of training camp with a sprained foot. Now, like defensive end Ziggy Ansha, Iupati has a second injury he got trying to come back from the first.

“Yeah, I visited with Mike (Friday) morning, he was ready to go. He just had an unfortunate calf thing that came back in his workout the other day,” Carroll said. “So we’ve got to get through that.”

Iupati is 32 and entering his 10th NFL season. He hasn’t played a full one since 2012, when he was with current Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari in San Francisco.

Ethan Pocic will start again at left guard, as the second-round draft choice from 2017 has all month.

Here’s what else to look for tonight here from “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”:

STARTING SAFETIES COMPETITION: Bradley McDougald is likely to start at strong safety after sitting out last week. He’ll be with free safety Tedric Thompson. Look for rookie second-round pick Marquise Blair to get a long chance to build off his impressive game debut last week. Blair been the second free safety this week in practice. That’s after Carroll and GM John Schneider had been touting his hitting as a strong safety for months.

Blair was the player of practice Friday. He knocked down a pass by zooming across the field in front of receiver Keenan Reynolds before Wilson’s pass arrived in a scout-team scrimmage. Then on the final play of practice in 11-on-11 work, Blair broke quickly on Terry Wright’s out, stepped inside Wright and intercepted Paxton Lynch’s pass. Blair got the player-of-the-day honor from coaches minutes later: “breaking down” his teammates with a chant before they dispersed into the locker room.

He’s showing he’s more than just the “silent assassin” hitter Schneider raved about as a strong safety this spring.

Carroll said Lano Hill may play Sunday. Hill returned to strong safety this week on the second-team defense after missing the first weeks of camp coming back from the cracked hip that ended his 2018 season early.

“He does have a chance to play in this game,” Carroll said, “but he’s one of those guys we’ll have to figure it out (during pregame warmups).”

It increasingly appears whoever performs better between Hill and the right-now more versatile Blair over the last two weeks of the preseason may start the opener Sept. 8 against Cincinnati. That will determine where McDougald starts.

He can play both safety positions. McDougald has said he prefers strong safety with its tackling and positioning closer to the line of scrimmage. But Carroll has called him Seattle’s best coverage defensive back.

AND WHAT OF NICKEL DB?: Seven-year veteran Jamar Taylor, the old man among all the kid cornerbacks and nickel defensive backs, was the nickel with the starting defense for a couple plays again Friday. That was the second consecutive day for him with the starting defense. Finally, an acknowledgement from coaches of Taylor’s consistently knocking down and intercepting passes in practices this camp.

Taylor has been Seattle’s best cornerback in coverage this month..

He spent more of this week playing nickel. It’s he spot he primarily played for Cleveland while its full-time starter in 2016 and ‘17. He’s in a competition there with Akeem King, Kalan Reed and rookie fourth-round pick Ugo Amadi to replace departed free agent Justin Coleman at nickel, the fifth defensive back in passing situations.

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell on veteran defensive back Jamar Taylor, quietly a standout this month, battered runnings backs and more from Seahawks camp day 14

Taylor, who turns 29 next week, has played in 78 NFL regular-season games.

King, Reed and Amadi have 28 career games in the league. Combined.

“He’s very competitive,” Carroll said of Taylor, who played for Arizona and Denver last season. “He’s really fast and explosive, aggressive in coverage, has been real aggressive at times and drawn a couple calls on him here in practice and otherwise. He’s very competitive. He’s involved.

“He’ll get a chance to show some stuff again this weekend.”

Sunday night will be the next step in determining who eventually becomes Seattle’s new nickel.

“It’s competing. It’s about the games,” Norton said. “I think practice is one thing, but making plays, and working, and communicating and covering the good guys in the games is what it comes down to.”

Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Seahawks defense blitzing, plans for that going forward

L.J. COLLIER STATUS: Rookie first-round draft choice L.J. Collier continues his recovery from a uniquely sprained foot and ankle he got in practice July 30.

“I was with him this morning. He’s feeling good. He’s looking and moving around a lot. He’s getting closer. He’s making really good progress. I don’t know what the timeline will be there. He’s pushing it now and that’s good to know.”

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell on top rookie L.J. Collier carted off from practice Seahawks’ issue on pass rush, and more from training camp day 5.

SHAQUEM GRIFFIN HURTING: Linebacker Shaquem Griffin left practice soon after it began Friday. Carroll said the knee he bruised in last week’s game is still bothering the 2018 draft choice.

“I don’t know what that means for the ball game,” Carroll said.

Because of Wagner’s absence and an earlier injury to rookie linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, Griffin has been more of an off-the-ball linebacker this month than Seattle planned for him to be in 2019. The coaches want to see Griffin rush the quarterback off the edge more this season. That particular role, and special teams, are where he can make an impact in his second season with the Seahawks.

“He has had to be available to stay inside and do all that stuff, as well as the outside stuff,” Carroll said. “He has some chances to pressure and he has looked OK doing that. At 219, I don’t see him as a defensive end. He’s definitely a guy that will come off the edge and give you some problems because he is so fast.”

GENO SMITH RETURNS: Geno Smith returned to practice seven days after a procedure to remove a cyst from his left knee. The former New York Jets and Giants starting quarterback has been Wilson’s first backup this preseason.

He may play at Minnesota.

WHERE’S THAT LEAVE J.T. BARRETT?: If Smith plays, that lessens but does not eliminate the chance J.T. Barrett plays.

Seattle signed Barrett last weekend after Smith’s procedure.

Carroll and Schottenheimer would like to see what the former Ohio State star released by New Orleans this month can do with Seattle’s offense in a game. Barrett got jhis first reps in 11-on-11 scrimmaging with the backup offense in practices Thursday and Friday.

INJURY UPDATES: Expect rookie third-round draft choice Cody Barton to start tonight at middle linebacker. Bobby Wagner returned to practice on a limited basis, position drills only, Friday. Wagner and Carroll would like the All-Pro to get a few snaps in Saturday’s third preseason game, at the Los Angeles Chargers. Wagner had a platelet-rich plasma injection into an achy knee two weeks ago. ... Tight end Jacob Hollister returned to practice and has a chance to play Sunday. He’d been out more than a week with a groin strain. Hollister, acquired this spring from New England for a seventh-round pick next year, was emerging as a versatile receiving option inside and outside before he got hurt. With starting tight end Ed Dickson out into September and a question to even make the roster to begin the regular season following knee surgery, Hollister has a chance to seize a sizable role in the offense. ... Carroll said running back Bo Scarbrough injured his groin in practice this week. He hurt his hand in last week’s preseason opener. If Scarbrough, signed during last season, can’t play at Minnesota expect more for recently signed Xavier Turner than the team-high 13 carries he had in the first preseason game. ... Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny aren’t likely to carry the ball many times Sunday. .... Carroll said rookie guard Phil Haynes isn’t likely to play in any of the preseason games. The fourth-round draft choice has been out all month following surgery for a sports hernia in June. ... Rookie sixth-round pick Demarcus Christmas, who had been getting looks at defensive tackle in the spring, remains out with a back injury. “He has made good progress,” Carroll said “He’s had a couple treatments, the second one kicked in a little bit and has helped him. But he’s not on the field yet.” ... Carroll said “it’s going to take us another week or so before we know” how George Fant’s sprained ankle is progressing. The backup offensive tackle Seattle used effectively as an extra, blocking tight end in its league-leading running game last season got hurt in last week’s first preseason game. ... The team’s third preseason game is Saturday at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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