The Hit Job
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The Hit Job

The way, way, way too early preview of the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Green Bay Packers

Let’s do it anyway

Now that the 2014 NFL Draft is in the history books, it’s time to take a look at the Seattle Seahawks’ week one matchup against the visiting Green Bay Packers on September 4.

Actually, it’s way too early to do that, but I’m going to do it anyway. You don’t need another profile of the new rookies making their way to the VMAC in Renton for OTAs. I’m ready for some football. You?

Sticking to the script

Going according to the plan, the Seahawks focused their offseason talent acquisition/retention strategies on re-signing core players and barely dipping a toenail in the new free agent waters. The influx of new talent began and ended with the just-concluded draft.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, as expected, turned their six draft picks into nine draft picks with some shrewd trading. It was an act of necessity, given the salary cap strictures the Seahawks face, having just offered record-breaking contracts to Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. It also means you’ve almost certainly seen all the new faces of note that will be wearing Seahawks blue and green this year.

Good news, bad news

Of the nine new rookies, exactly zero will take the field as starters against the Green Bay Packers on opening day. Contrast that with the Packers, who will likely line up with at least two rookies in the starting lineup: First-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (a virtual lock to start) and fifth-round center Corey Linsley (perhaps a 70/30 shot to start).

The good news is that the Seahawks don’t necessarily need to fill holes with rookies. The bad news is it portends a second straight Seahawks draft class without much sizzle. It’s fair to assume that the Seahawks are counting on last year’s mostly absent draft class to step up into prominent roles this year as their primary means of roster improvement.

Worried? Don’t believe me? Tell me which rookie will likely unseat a veteran in this projection of week one starters:

It is likely that one or more rookies from both the Seahawks and the Packers will earn starting roles before the 2014 regular season concludes. Week one, however, will most certainly see veterans taking the field after kickoff. There is no sure-fire rookie talent that won’t be denied on Seattle side of the ball.

Second-round pick Justin Britt may have a chance at unseating Michael Bowie as the starting right tackle. However, as a head-scratcher of a selection to begin with as many had him rated more as a fifth-round talent that is more of a “technician” than a Seahawks-type running game road grader, I’m not sure if awarding Britt a starting spot over Bowie makes the Seahawks line any better. Britt most aptly fits as a project; a rarity among NFL second-round choices. Offensive line coach Tom Cable apparently campaigned for Britt as a right tackle, so we’ll see if he can win with his pet project. For now, at least, he’s behind the surprising Bowie.

Seattle’s other second-round selection (and first overall in the 2014 draft), wide receiver Paul Richardson, can expect to see some action in certain offensive packages. Regardless, he’s not likely to surpass Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice and Jermaine Kearse on the depth chart. Most likely, he’ll be the fourth or fifth receiver and special teams returner in week one. He’ll also have to beat out fourth-round selection Kevin Norwood out of Alabama for one of the last roster spots.

It is also possible that the Seahawks opt to make last year’s draft pick, tight end Luke Willson, the starter over incumbent Zach Miller. Willson and Bowie were the only two 2013 rookies that actually racked up significant playing time in the Seahawks’ championship season.

The Seahawks’ defensive line didn’t get much ka-pow from the 2014 draft, either. As a rotational player, rookie defensive lineman Cassius Marsh (fourth round) may see some playing time, but will not be a starter. Fifth-round defensive tackle Jimmy Staten is a project.

The other guys

The Green Bay Packers will come to Seattle featuring a few starting rookies. My projection:

The reason why Green Bay will start some rookies while the Seahawks will not is need. The Packers needed to fill roster holes created by ineffectiveness and departures at the safety and center positions. So, while the Packers appear to be getting more bang for their rookie buck, what does that mean for the two teams when they clash on September 4?

It means the Seahawks will be facing a couple of rookies attempting their first NFL starts. The Packers, in contrast, will face off against a group of experienced veterans. Advantage, Seattle—for one game. It is the next game, which means it is the only one that matters.

Also in a case of contrasts, the Packers defense admittedly relies upon multiple formations and personnel groupings, requiring new calls from a rotating cast of defensive players almost down by down. The Seahawks sport a far simpler our-guys-will-beat-your-guys type of defense that requires less shifting, communication and consequently a lower propensity for assignment errors. If there’s a defensive squad that can more easily integrate a talented rookie, it’s Seattle’s defense, not Green Bay’s.

Over the course of a season, the development of rookies will become a core building block for both teams. However, for this match up, the team with the fastest start will likely emerge victorious. Factor in Seattle’s defensive prowess, clock-chewing running game, stellar special teams and the home crowd versus the visiting Packers’ new lineup — the odds are tilted in favor of the Seahawks.

The NFL is full of surprises. There is no telling just yet who on which team’s roster will get an owie, get arrested, or get caught sprinkling the wrong substance on their Wheaties before September comes around. Seattle certainly is no stranger to such woes.

Like Seattle, Green Bay will also see a few rookies make significant contributions from non-starting roles. Second-round draft pick wide receiver Davante Adams (a player many Seattle fans coveted for the Seahawks) will certainly see a few passes in his direction in week one. Keep an eye out for former Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford coming off the edge or blitzing up the middle when the Seahawks are otherwise preoccupied with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers on passing downs.

These are the top players we’ll see in uniform in just under four months. Ready for kickoff?

An earlier version of this article appeared on Oregon Sports News.



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