1. Just how will Denver play this?
Last year the Broncos treated their pre-season game in Seattle very seriously — and still lost 40-10. Peyton Manning played more snaps than he usually would in week two and sported a classic bitter-beer face when things started to unravel. They went after it, big time — apparently seeing it as an opportunity to make some kind of statement. It’s unusual to see a team put that level of stock into what is, essentially, a warm-up game. Considering this is their first action since a humiliating 43-8 pounding by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, it’ll be intriguing to see how they approach this. Will there be a slightly unnecessary edge? How much time will Manning spend on the field?
2. Can Mayowa, Marsh and co have an impact?
Benson Mayowa was one of the stars of the 2013 summer, yet he was red shirted for most of the regular season. He’s added weight and received decent reports from training camp. Can he have a similar impact this year? Can he force himself into the pass-rush rotation? It’ll also be interesting to see if Cassius Marsh can hit the ground running. The Seahawks lost Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald and will want at least one or two of their younger players to step up.
3. Can a new ‘pedestrian’ receiver emerge?
With Golden Tate in Detroit and Sidney Rice retired, there are spots to be earned here. The situation would’ve been even more intriguing if Kevin Norwood’s injury was more serious than a bone spur. Even so, Norwood won’t play against Denver and might not feature at all in pre-season. Phil Bates has been touted as the next Jermaine Kearse. He’ll be battling with Chris Matthews to make plays (and an impression) over the next few weeks.
4. How does the offensive line perform?
This is perhaps the biggest question mark right now. We’ll see a make-shift line against a Broncos defense determined to prove it’s mettle following the Super Bowl. Russell Okung, James Carpenter and Max Unger won’t play. We’ll get a first look at Eric Winston at some point. It might be wise to limit Russell Wilson’s work to a series. There are spots to be earned at left guard and right tackle.
5. Who gets ahead in Turbin vs Michael
Robert Turbin was the official backup last year but Christine Michael has been complimented and praised by Pete Carroll several times since. They clearly want such a talented player to take the next step and mature. Every snap taken by this pair will be critical in what stands to be a more even contest. Michael lit up pre-season in 2013 and if he repeats that success, he could be first in line to spell Marshawn Lynch.
6. Does Terrelle Pryor have any kind of future in Seattle or the NFL?
This will be decided over the next 2-3 weeks, if not tonight. He’ll get time and he needs to make it count. I’m not sure anyone expects him to beat out Tarvaris Jackson as Seattle’s backup and he might be a long shot to make the roster even now. The only way to change that is to perform on the field. Over to you, T.P. He’ll at least have some background info on the Broncos, having competed in the AFC West with Oakland.
7. Is Brock Coyle as good as advertised?
He’s getting rave reviews in camp and the UDFA will probably get significant playing time tonight due to the number of injuries at linebacker. I personally felt John Lotulelei was overrated last year. He made the final roster but was eventually cut and picked up by Jacksonville — where he lasted less than a year. There aren’t many spots available for impressive UDFA’s this season. Coyle has perhaps the best chance of 2014’s crop.