Not only is the third NFL preseason game the one in which the starters play the most, it's also the one with the most on the line. Players trying to work their way into the starting lineup, or learning new positions, have to show some actual progress by the third preseason game or risk having the coaching staff use that final week to find a replacement.
So, what should you be watching on Saturday?
- D.J. Fluker at Guard - I've seen good progress from Fluker at his new position, but Mike McCoy was public in needing to see better run-blocking from his offensive line going forward.
- Denzel Perryman at ILB - Manti Te'o doesn't look likely to play in this one after missing the last three practices, and it will be interesting to see if Perryman starts in his spot or if they move over Donald Butler or Kavell Conner. My guess is the rookie gets the start, and an extended look, so the coaches know if they can count on him if there's an injury this season.
- Melvin Ingram / Jerry Attaochu at OLB - How will they look against a first-string offensive line that has gone to the Super Bowl in each of the last two seasons? Will Pagano change his blitz-heavy gameplan against the very mobile Russell Wilson?
- Melvin Gordon at RB - By his own admission, Gordon feels like he needs the preseason snaps to improve his pass blocking. I think he needs the carries to get used to this faster, still-new offense that he's trying to be a big part of. I expect him to get 10+ touches on Saturday.
- Philip Rivers at QB - He didn't play against the Cardinals and barely played against the Cowboys. I don't have any doubts that he's ready, but I'll be interested to see how he responds if he takes a big hit (which he might against this ferocious Seattle defense).
- Antonio Gates / Ladarius Green at TE - While McCoy and others said, pre-Training Camp, that Ladarius Green would take a larger role in the offense with Gates gone for the first quarter of the regular season, I haven't seen it. In my estimation, there's tons of reasons for Green to get the start and the snaps in this matchup against Seattle, and almost no reason for Gates to play at all.
- Stevie Johnson at WR - People are still wondering if Stevie can live up to the Training Camp hype, which means he hasn't yet. It's hard to believe he'll team up for big things with Rivers without seeing it, so hopefully he gets a few targets in this one.
- ???? at NT - Who is starting at Nose Tackle and what does the defensive line rotation look like? I've been watching this team closely for weeks and I still don't really know what to expect to see at the two spots next to Corey Liuget.
So, while the second half may once again be a snoozefest (try not to actually fall asleep), the first half of this game is about as close to a regular season game as we're going to get for another two weeks. That, itself, is reason enough to watch (and celebrate).