Element of surprise for Broncos, Seahawks


In their final preseason tune-up, the Seahawks’ starting offense ran 35 snaps and used only two personnel groups: Three receivers/one running back/one tight end and two receivers/two tight ends/one running back.

Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall noticed.

“They’ve saving it,” he said. “They’re going to come out with something we haven’t seen.”

A lot of somethings.

The challenge for players and coaches — and the beauty for fans — about every Week 1 game is the unknown. The Seahawks and Broncos staffs have been plotting for Sunday since the schedule came out in late April. They know which matchups they want to exploit offensively and which pressure packages and coverages defensively could cause trouble.

Thing is, they have kept it under wraps. The team that can better execute their new looks in a game setting will start 1-0.

“It’s definitely a unique game,” Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after practice Thursday. “There’s nothing like an opener. We know things we’ve seen on film from Seattle won’t necessarily be what we see on the field on Sunday.”

Against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks’ offense kept it simple and so did their defense. The starters had only six five-man pressures — four from the slot corner and two from the linebackers, Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo.

Against Washington two weeks ago, the Broncos’ top defense rushed four men on 12 of 15 drop-backs. Musgrave used four personnel groups, but primarily stuck to three receiver/one tight end/one back (21 first-half snaps).

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his team is preparing for the Broncos “in a general sense.”

“That’s always the case,” Carroll said. “You can take the preseason games and you try to figure it out and everybody is doing that solve-the-puzzle game so we have to be ready to adjust. The guys that adjust the best in this game (have the edge). By the time we get to halftime, we’ll all have a pretty good feel for what’s going on.”

The Seahawks will present several play-calling challenges: Broncos players confirmed Seattle didn’t show much in the preseason, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is new and receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett and running back Rashaad Penny are coming back from injuries.

“They were kind of bland, but they won’t be bland at all in our game,” Marshall said. “It’s tough to watch their film to study because their coordinator came from (Indianapolis) so we could watch Indy’s tape but they’ll also still want to do what (quarterback) Russell Wilson does and cater to their best players.”

Schottenheimer was the Colts’ quarterback coach last year so watching Indy film is unlikely to glean much intelligence. He was last an NFL coordinator in 2014 (Rams). Wilson’s unique style of play makes it probable Schottenheimer has tailored his playbook to his quarterback’s strengths.

“We have to read our keys, stay disciplined and play fast,” Marshall said. “By the end of the first quarter, we’ll know what they’re trying to do.”

Said safety Justin Simmons: “Just like them, with our third game, we kept the menu pretty short so we could execute at a high level and didn’t want to show too much on tape. I’m sure that was (Seattle’s) mindset. We’re expecting some of those (same) plays, but new stuff will pop up, too.”

From an offensive standpoint, the Broncos must be wary of the nickel back blitz from quarterback Case Keenum’s blindside. Left tackle Garett Bolles will kick out and left guard Ron Leary will pick up the defensive end.

“You’re watching film, but at the same time, they’ll have surprises,” Bolles said. “You roll with it. If something happens you don’t expect, you don’t get frustrated. You go to the sidelines and get it fixed.”

Tight ends coach Geep Chryst has been an offensive coordinator for San Diego and San Francisco. One year with the 49ers, they spent time practicing a three tight end/one receiver/one running back package.

“We had purposely not shown that,” Chryst said. “Everybody is trying to do that. What can we keep in the garage under the cloak of secrecy? It was the most exciting thing to roll that out and drive around in.”

Said Musgrave: “It will be a tough game to coach. We’ll need to make adjustments on the fly between series, not just at halftime, and we’ll be ready for that.”

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