Seattle struggles to get out of its own way in preseason opener but starts making evaluations

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RENTON, Washington — Between the penalties and an offense that staggered, Pete Carroll had to settle for being able to make some evaluations after the Seattle Seahawks' preseason opener.

"We got in our own way a lot," Carroll said Sunday as the Seahawks returned to practice. "A lot of penalties, a lot of problems getting any kind of continuity moving the football. ... We saw a lot of stuff. It was a great evaluation tool for us."

Seattle was called for 13 penalties and its offense struggled at times in a 21-16 loss to Denver on Thursday night. The biggest area of concern going into and coming out of the opener was the play of offensive line. The Seahawks played only one regular starter — guard J.R. Sweezy — while using a group of backups to try and protect quarterback Russell Wilson.

The results were mixed at best. Wilson was sacked twice and forced to scramble a handful of times. While three of the linemen who played are expected to be reserves, there was particular attention paid to rookie Justin Britt getting the start at right tackle. With Seattle choosing to release Michael Bowie at the beginning of the month, the expectation is either Britt or veteran Eric Winston will end up as Seattle's right tackle to begin the season.

"They were a really good defense, a really good challenge and a good first test," Britt said. "With the delay and everything I think I will remember my first time on an NFL field."

Britt felt his technique — staying lower in both run blocking and pass protection — could have been better. Carroll was complimentary of how Britt played aside from a communication mistake with guard Stephen Schilling that led to Wilson taking a big hit.

"I knew my assignments. I didn't have a lot of mental errors. I knew who I was going to, I knew how to block them," Britt said. "I'm sure every lineman tells you technique is important and it is extremely important in this league. Your technique has to be on point every time you go to block a guy."

Figuring out right tackle is the top priority for Seattle's offense over the final three preseason games. But not far behind is figuring out how the rest of the offensive line reserves will shake out. Seattle's offensive line depth was tested last season with Sweezy and now departed guard Paul McQuistan the only two linemen to make at least 14 starts.

Versatility is important and that's why guard Stephen Schilling spent time during Sunday's practice working at center. Schilling took the most snaps of any Seattle player in Thursday's game.

"He does a nice job under center and we like him there. He played pretty well at right guard too," Carroll said. "That flexibility is really valuable to a guy trying to make the team. It's helping his cause."

The only major injury to come out of the preseason opener was cornerback A.J. Jefferson, who suffered a substantial left ankle sprain after intercepting a pass in the second half. Carroll had no time frame but said Jefferson would be out for a while.

Jefferson was in contention for a reserve spot in Seattle's secondary.

NOTES: RB Marshawn Lynch had his most extensive work of training camp on Sunday. Carroll said Lynch "has a chance to compete" this week, which could lead to a very limited appearance in Friday night's preseason game against San Diego ... G James Carpenter (calf) was a full participant in practice after being slowed last week. C Max Unger (groin) is expected to increase his practice time later this week, Carroll said. ... Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (ankle surgery) is ahead of LB Bobby Wagner (hamstring) in getting back on the field, but both are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, Carroll said. Wagner injured his hamstring early in camp, while Smith has been a spectator so far recovering from surgery. ... Seattle re-signed CB Trey Wolfe and waived/injured LB Mike Taylor. Wolfe was with the team for one day last week before being cut.

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