Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from – for the first time – CenturyLink Field. By any name, this stadium is the home of the Seahawks, and the 12th MAN. Tonight, the Seahawks will play their preseason home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Kickoff is at 7:05.

After the uncertainty created by the 136-day lockout and then the rushed process that was the team’s just-concluded training camp, we can finally ask: Are you ready for some football in Seattle!?!

New name for the field. New season. And definitely a new-look team. Only 17 players on the current 90-man roster were on the team Pete Carroll inherited 18 months ago.

There could be as many as six new starters on offense this season, Carroll’s second as coach: QB Tarvaris Jackson, wide receiver Sidney Rice, left guard Robert Gallery, tight end Zach Miller and the rookie right side of the line – tackle James Carpenter and guard John Moffitt. A seventh – center Max Unger – is starting at a new spot, and after missing most of last season with an injury.

They’re all working in the new system being installed by coordinator Darrell Bevell. Like Jackson and Rice, Bevell came over from the Vikings – and we explored that purple connection in a story that is featured in the GameDay program at the stadium, as well as on Seahawks.com.

On defense, tonight there will be new starters at strong safety (Kam Chancellor) and right cornerback (Brandon Browner), as well as an old starter at weakside linebacker (Leroy Hill) and David Hawthorne moving to middle linebacker. Brandon Mebane also has a new position – nose tackle – and is being replaced at the three-technique tackle spot by Alan Branch.

After playing briefly in the preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego last week, the starters are scheduled to play most of the first half against the Vikings. Along with seeing more of them, we need to see more from them tonight.

Against the Chargers, the No. 1 defense played well on first and second downs – allowing 24 yards on eight of those snaps in the Chargers’ opening touchdown drive. Third downs? That was another story, or a familiar story. The Seahawks gave up a 48-yard pass play on third-and-6 and a 16-yarder on third-and-11 on the Chargers’ scoring drive.

The No. 1 offense, meanwhile, did not give Jackson enough time to operate. On nine passing downs, he was sacked twice, had to scramble to avoid pressure twice and was penalized for grounding. Jackson also played without starting wide-outs Mike Williams and Rice, who will start tonight.

But the second half will belong to “the kids,” as Carroll calls the rookies. So continue to keep an eye on QB Josh Portis (No. 13), wide receivers Doug Baldwin (No. 15) and Ricardo Lockette (No. 2), defensive lineman Pep Levingston (No. 93), linebackers Malcolm Smith (No. 53) and K.J. Wright (No. 50) and defensive backs Richard Sherman (No. 25), Byron Maxwell (No. 41) and Jeron Johnson (No. 35). Wright had eight tackles against the Chargers, while Johnson tipped a fourth-down pass incomplete in the end zone to ice the 24-17 victory.

The “Where’s Waldo?” aspect of tonight’s game involves Jameson Konz, a seventh-round draft choice last year who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. This summer, he started camp at tight end, was moved to defensive end and this week has been working at outside linebacker. He had a sack against the Chargers.

So, sit back and enjoy this first up-close-and-personal look at the new-look Seahawks – not to mention basking in the return of football on this gorgeous Seattle evening.


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