Preseason is a proving ground.
That's the best way to understand the importance of Seattle's four practice games because it's the jobs that are won – and in some cases lost – that turn out to be the most important thing for an NFL team.
With that in mind, here's a list of players to watch when the Seahawks host the Chargers tonight:
1. Christine Michael's forward progress.
He's the player in Seattle's backfield with the most to gain. Marshawn Lynch is the incumbent whose role as the primary back is secure until his production shows otherwise, while Robert Turbin has played two seasons with the Seahawks and shown himself to be a very capable backup. Now, it's up to Michael to show where he might fit in. He is an explosive athlete, and his 8-yard run to the goal line last week in Denver was testament to that. His fumble – which was recovered by his own team – also demonstrated some of the erratic tendencies the team has seen. The reality is that if Michael is going to earn playing time and move up the depth chart, he needs to make significant progress starting tonight against San Diego.
2. A mountain out of Jordan Hill.
Like most of Seattle's rookie class last season, Hill was an afterthought. In his case, that came after he suffered a biceps injury in training camp, costing him a chance to make headway in terms of playing time. Well, he's back this season and stronger than he was a year ago. And after missing last week's exhibition game because of a sore groin, he needs to earn a role on this defensive line, which is turning out to be one of the more competitive spots. Specifically, watch Seattle's nickel pass-rush package because that's a tackle role where Hill is going to be competing against promising rookie Cassius Marsh.
3. Benson Mayowa getting rush orders.
Mayowa is also part of the defensive-line competition, only he's at the edge of the discussion. The pass-rushing edge, that is. Mayowa spent all of last season on the active roster, and while he gained weight in the offseason, he didn't make much of an impression in the preseason opener at Denver when he was part of the pass-rush package. O'Brien Schofield is going to get a shot to play with the first-unit against San Diego, which only increases the urgency for Mayowa. "It's just a great competition," coach Pete Carroll said. "With special teams entering in also. So we'll see what happens."
4. Simon says.
The Seahawks are hoping to get a complete game from cornerback Tharold Simon tonight. They mean that literally since he was ejected from last week's game for taking a swipe at a Bronco. Simon is another second-year player who essentially red-shirted last year, sidelined by a foot sprain, but he was one of the more consistent workers in the offseason program and has shown he fits Seattle's mold for bigger cornerbacks who can cover. "He's really been consistent," Carroll said. "He's played the deep ball really well. He's been able to run and stay on top of everybody that we have. He's done a real nice job against our speed receivers. For a big kid that's great to see."