Countdown to kickoff

DENVER – Greetings from Sports Authority Field at Mile High, or the place where the Broncos will host the Seahawks tonight in their preseason home opener.

This city is gaga over Peyton Manning, the future Hall of Fame quarterback who signed with the Broncos in March and will make his Mile High debut against the Seahawks. But what I’m looking for in this matchup is how the Seahawks’ oh-so-young, but oh-so-talented secondary handles the matchup.

The unit played better than any other in the team’s just-concluded training camp, and Manning is coming off a disappointing opener for the Broncos. He had a pass tipped and intercepted near the goal line in his only series last week, so of course he stayed after practice this week to work on his red-zone execution.

As second-year cornerback Richard Sherman said, the Seahawks’ secondary can’t get caught up in the Manning-mania and just needs to play as well and aggressively as it did in intercepting two Matt Hasselbeck passes in last week’s opener against the Titans at CenturyLink Field.

Another wrinkle for the unit that also includes the Pro Bowl trio of safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Brandon Browner will be long-time starting corner Marcus Trufant stepping as the nickel back in the No. 1 defense. It’s a new role for Trufant and he’s actually competing for the spot with incumbent Roy Lewis and Phillip Adams, one of the pleasant surprises who emerged from camp.

Facing Manning will be a good preseason test for the entire secondary, because the Seahawks also will go against the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, Patriots’ Tom Brady, Lions’ Matthew Stafford and Cowboys’ Tony Romo during the regular season. Each ranked among the Top 5 in passer rating last season, with Brady and Stafford passing for more than 5,000 yards and Rodgers and Stafford throwing for more than 40 touchdowns.

Also tonight, another future Hall of Famer makes his debut with the Seahawks – Terrell Owens. He was signed just last week, but has progressed well enough in practice that coach Pete Carroll wants to give Owens an early look against the Broncos. Although Carroll is seeking a big body with big-play ability at split end to replace Mike Williams, who was released last month, Owens has been working at flanker.

Then there’s the Seahawks’ on-going QB competition. Matt Flynn gets the start, again, and rookie Russell Wilson will replace him at some point. Flynn was efficient in the opener (11 of 13 passing) while taking what the Titans’ defense gave him. But against the Broncos, the free-agent acquisition needs to produce bigger plays (his longest completion was 14 yards, and average per attempt 5.46 yards) and more points (three) than in the opener.

After tonight, the Seahawks will be looking at two short weeks of preparation for their final preseason games as they play the Chiefs in Kansas City next Friday night and then host the Raiders at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, Aug. 30.

Also keep in mind, the 90-man roster must be trimmed to 75 players by Aug. 27 and then to 53 on Aug. 31 – we can’t use the term “final” 53-man roster, not with Carroll and GM John Schneider at the controls.

Many of the players competing for roster spots should get extended looks tonight because the list of those watching Friday’s walkthrough of a practice was lengthy: wide receiver Ben Obomanu; tight ends Zach Miller and Cameron Morrah; offensive linemen John Moffitt, James Carpenter and Lemuel Jeanpierre; defensive linemen Cordarro Law and Pep Levingston; linebackers Matt McCoy, Barrett Ruud, Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan; and defensive backs Walter Thurmond and Ron Parker. Also, Carroll is not ready to play wide receiver Sidney Rice, either, as he works his way back from double shoulder surgeries.

Enjoy the game, which kicks off at 6:05 p.m., PDT, and is being televised on KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area and broadcast on 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM.

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