The Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers will kick off their preseason schedules on Thursday night from Qualcomm Stadium in California.
Seattle is coming off an impressive 11-5 season where Russell Wilson emerged into one of the top young quarterbacks in the National Football League. He and Marshawn Lynch were fantastic on the ground in 2012, as the Seahawks finished the year with the third-most rushing yards in the NFL.
The Chargers failed to make the postseason a year ago for the third consecutive year. Mike McCoy is the new head coach, and he’ll be hoping that Philip Rivers can take the team to the playoffs this year. The offense wasn’t very sharp in 2012, as San Diego averaged the 20th-most points per game.
There are still many questions needing answers before the regular season commences in a few weeks for each franchise. We won’t get them all on Thursday night, but the matchup should give us a small glimpse as to what’s to come in 2013.
Here’s a complete preview for this exhibition between San Diego and the Seahawks, including how you can watch the game and what to expect from each organization.
When: Thursday, August 8 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
TV Info: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Preseason Live
Spread: Seattle -2 (via Bovada)
Seattle Player to Watch: Russell Wilson, Quarterback
The Seahawks have finally found their long-term quarterback: Russell Wilson. He was great for Seattle last season, throwing for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns and running for 489 yards and four scores in his rookie campaign. He finished third in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting (h/t NFL.com).
Wilson’s ability to take off running at any moment makes him one of the toughest quarterbacks to stop. The Wisconsin standout was impressive throughout the entire season for the Seahawks, and it’s worth noting that he continued to improve as the year went on, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:
Wilson will likely only be on the field for a series or two on Thursday night, but you should still expect to see him flaunt his wheels when in the game. The read option was effective for Wilson and Seattle a year ago, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com it’s actually just a small part of the offense:
We’re always looking for the next thing, the thing that can help us get better. [Read-option plays] were a small part of what we did. It wasn’t a huge part of the offense. We have so many other things that we can do, that we feel like are strengths for us. It’s not something that we hang our hat on. We hang our hat on running the ball, and we still have the ability to do that.
Seattle is going to need its offense to play at a very high level to win the division, and a lot of the team’s success will rely on Wilson. Can he replicate his rookie campaign and avoid a sophomore slump? That’ll be one storyline to keep an eye on throughout the year for the Seahawks quarterback.
San Diego Player to Watch: Manti Te’o, Linebacker
Manti Te’o is one rookie in the league who’ll likely capture a lot of attention. He’s been in the spotlight for most of the last year due to his performance at Notre Dame in 2012 and his fake girlfriend fiasco. San Diego selected him in the second round of this year’s draft.
Te’o was one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy last season and should make a big impact with San Diego’s defense in the upcoming season. Jim Trotter of MMQB writes that the team’s defensive line has the talent to open up space for the rookie linebacker to make plays. Here’s what a coach said of Te’o, per Trotter:
He’s going to be smart enough to read what you’re doing, and if he has clean access he has that potential to make a play. In pass coverage, his greatest asset is being able to drop instinctively in a zone and read the quarterback and react. He has ball-hawking skills that are very natural. If you build a defense around that, you’re going to give him the opportunity to be productive.
Thursday night will be the first time we get to see Te’o in action since the BCS National Championship Game in Jan., when his Fighting Irish fell to the Crimson Tide of Alabama. It should be interesting to see how he makes the transition from college to the NFL.
If the transition is a smooth one, Te’o could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. That’s still a ways away, though. For now, we’ll be looking to see if he can help contain Wilson and Lynch, among other offensive stars for Seattle.
When both teams take the field on Thursday night, expect to see a lot of players who’ll be playing small yet important roles in the upcoming year. The starters for each side will likely see a few minutes on the field before the coaching staff takes them out to avoid a potential injury and to refrain from showing too much too early.
The San Diego defense will give up a few big plays to Seattle’s offense, which will lead to touchdowns. The Chargers will use their ground game to get into the end zone but will struggle to put many points on the scoreboard. While the game should be competitive throughout all four quarters, Seattle will prevail for the preseason victory.
Prediction: Seattle 24, San Diego 10
All statistics in this article were obtained via ESPN unless otherwise noted.