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What should the Broncos expect from the Seahawks?

I spoke with Field Gulls John Fraley to find out.

The Broncos are hours away from facing off against their second preseason opponent the Seattle Seahawks. It’s a game we should see more starters, and it could serve as the last step towards deciding the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

To gather insight on the Broncos’ opponent and what to expect from the matchup, I reached out to someone with intimate knowledge of the Seahawks, Field Gulls John Fraley.

1st and 10

Coming off the Vikings game, all eyes in Broncos Country remain Locked onto the QB competition. Teddy Bridgewater is set to get the start this weekend, what should fans expect to see from this Seahawks defense? Will they play starters?

Fraley: Pete Carroll aggressively rested his starters in Week 1 against the Raiders on both sides of the ball, and I do not expect him to do the same again. Guys need live reps, even the vets, so the odds are we’ll see a lot more quality Seahawks defenders on the field this time around. Which isn’t bad for the Broncos, right? You want to measure yourself against the best ahead of time, at least a little.

Perennial All-Pro Bobby Wagner should finally get some snaps alongside blossoming linebacker Jordyn Brooks. The second-year man takes over this season for K.J. Wright as the main off-ball linebacker. Brooks is often praised for his coverage skills and sideline-to-sideline quickness, which is good, because they spent a rare first-round pick on him. Probably replaces Wagner at MLB eventually — if the Seahawks’ plan goes just right, that is.

Neither starting safety appeared in Week 1, but they’ll both figure to make an appearance against Denver. Quandre Diggs is an underrated FS who has a nose for the ball in the air. Jamal Adams just signed a 4-year, $70 million contract on Tuesday so he’ll be itching to make everyone forget the mini-holdout that dominated our story lines in Seattle.

Pass rush is bolstered this year. Between Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder (FA from the 49ers) and Darrell Taylor, a de facto rookie who missed all of 2020, there’s a lot for the Broncos offensive line to handle. Really blossoming on the interior is DT Poona Ford, a bowling ball of a man with nefarious intentions. I think pass rush will be the strength of the 2021 Seahawks, especially because of their depth and how they looooove to blitz Adams. If Wagner is Seattle’s king of the chess board, Adams is the queen, able to move any direction on the board at any time.

I’ll get to the corners next.

2nd and 8

Pat Shurmur went against type last week and the Broncos used a bunch of heavier sets with multiple tight ends and a fullback. Pete Carroll is famous for his role in building the Legion of Boom and Seattle’s defense leans heavily on single high safety coverage shells such as cover 3. Do you expect that to be the case on Saturday?

Fraley: It used to be a criticism of the Seahawks defense that they would play only one type of defense all game, lining up the same way play after play, relying on Earl Thomas to be the last line of defense at single-high, daring quarterbacks to beat them straight up. Then, as the LOB dissipated, it took Carroll a while to find his footing with the new talent. He appears to have done so in the latter half of last season, and along with that footing came a willingness to mix it up. We’ll still see single-high, we’ll still see variants of cover 2 and cover 3, and we’ll even see press coverage from the corners in spurts, but there’s no telling how they’re going to line up ahead of time anymore. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, who wasn’t special with the Raiders, as your readers will recall, is beloved by his players and experienced enough to experiment more than before.

The outside corners need to be competent in a defense with this many moving parts. And ironically, that’s where the Seahawks defense looks most shaky, or the least assured, if you will. D.J. Reed and Ahkello Witherspoon are the presumptive starters, and they’ve started a total of eight games combined for Seattle. Their replacements are Tre Flowers, who is best described as high-ceiling/low-floor, and rookie Tre Brown. If something holds the Seahawks back this year, if there’s an obvious weak link in the defense to exploit, it’ll be the cornerbacks. Unless Pete Carroll is a wizard, an outcome nobody should immediately discount.

3rd and 3

Shane Waldron was hired this offseason to be the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator. What should the Broncos’ defense expect to see when they’re on the field?

Fraley: The Week 1 preseason offense was blander than Wonder bread. (No offense to Wonder fans!) I don’t know if Waldron’s going to give anything away until the regular season opener. Russell Wilson will play because he didn’t last week. D.K. Metcalf has been practicing and Tyler Lockett has not. So, a few Wilson-to-Metcalf connections seem inevitable, but most realistically the Denver D will be fed a heavy dose of the run game because nobody wants to see Wilson hurt behind a backup offensive line. Sorry this is such a bland answer but we’ve got nothing to work with so far.

4th and inches

One of my favorite parts about the preseason is a chance to learn about some unsung players on opposing teams. Who has stood out to you so far? Where is this roster strongest? Deepest? Are there any glaring weaknesses?

Fraley: The roster is strong on special teams. They don’t really make mistakes. The receivers are top-heavy with DK and Lockett, but untested thereafter. The offensive line is better than its reputation when everyone is active. I think the offense in general is primed for a very, very good year, something between their scorching start in 2020 and their sputtering finish. The defense has no obvious holes, so it will go as its pass defense goes. And its health. Which feels true about most NFL teams, though, doesn’t it?

Players I liked in Week 1 include CB Gavin Heslop, nickel corner/safety Ugo Amadi, third-string QB Alex McGough (I confess this attraction may be irrational), and defensive end Alton Robinson, who came out of nowhere in 2020 and now seems to have cemented a rotational DE spot for himself. Unsung guys are the best and such a big part of why we even watch the preseason.