With the roster cut from 75 to 53 players set for Saturday, the Seahawks’ final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night is the last chance for players to impress the coaches.
Regardless of who plays – and how much – in Thursday night’s preseason finale, they need to play smart.
That was the word from coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday, after the Seahawks held a walkthrough that was the final on-field step of their preparation for the final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field.
“I want to see us play with really good intensity again,” Carroll said. “I want to see us play really hard. And with that, we need to make the step in the direction of playing smart. Making good decisions at the end of plays, so that we don’t get penalized and put back.”
Point of emphasis? No, it’s more like a mountain range of jagged peaks after the Seahawks were penalized 14 times for 182 wrong-way yards in last week’s 17-10 victory over the Packers in Green Bay. That flag-filled performance ran the Seahawks’ preseason totals to league-highs of 34 penalties for 354 yards.
Carroll said the pass interference calls against All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and since-released cornerback Will Blackmon that accounted for 57 yards and a 15-yard roughness penalty against middle linebacker Bobby Wagner weren’t. Penalties, that is. But there still were four holding penalties and two false starts.
“It’s the stuff on the offensive side of the ball, the line of scrimmage stuff, and the late calls – finishing a block, knocking a pile, those types of things – that we’re trying to really elevate our awareness on so we don’t get those things called,” he said.
“So that’s what I’d like to see tomorrow night – just play smart.”
Just who we see on the field for the Seahawks, and for how long, remains to be seen. This is the preseason game where the starters traditionally see little or no action, and the focus is fully on those players battling to fill roles and/or earn spots on the 53-man roster.
The Seahawks must make 22 roster moves by Saturday to reach that league-mandated limit, and Carroll can feel for those who won’t be around when the team begins preparing next week for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Panthers in Carolina. He went to camp with the Honolulu Hawaiians of the World Football League in 1974, but did not make the team.
“Heck yeah. I totally do,” Carroll said when asked if he could feel for the players that will be released. “I can remember every play that happened leading up to when I got cut in the old World League. And also the exchange that happens when you transition out, too. It’s a critical time for us when we’re growing up. So we respect it very highly.”
Carroll and general manager John Schneider saw this day eventually coming when they arrived in 2010 and set about upgrading the roster. They made 284 roster moves that first year and 231 in 2011. What all that activity has created is a talented, deep, but still young roster.
“This is a most different time for us,” Carroll said. “We know guys on our team are going to go to other teams and play. We know that. We’re proud of that.”
But that doesn’t make giving up on players who have given so much to you any easier.
“Sometimes you can’t tell,” he said. “We have to make a decision now and maybe a month from now that guy you let go was the better player. That’s how close it is. In some situations, you don’t want to let the guy go. We have guys we just don’t want to cut, but we’re going to have to make those choices.”
Playing well, and especially smart, on Thursday night against the Raiders will only make those choices more difficult when it comes to weighing past production against potential and has-done against could-do.
“It’s a good thing,” Carroll said. “It’s just hard. And it’s emotional. We’ll treat it with great respect.”