As each team heads into the biggest game of the preseason, NFL Media's network of reporters gets you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:
But first, a look at a development in Seattle that should frighten the rest of the league ...
RENTON, Wash. -- Standing over Richard Sherman's limp body, Jermaine Kearse nudged his teammate's arm toward his torso with his foot, ripped off the (imaginary) elbow pad on his right arm, sprinted toward one set of (imaginary) ropes, bounced off them, leaped over Sherman, bounced off the other pair of (imaginary) ropes, stopped, loaded up his right arm, delivered a blow to Sherman's chest that sent the All-Pro cornerback into convulsions and delighted in the (real) cheers of the (real) fans watching the scene.
It doesn't take long to figure out a trip to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center is unlike a visit to any of the other 31 facilities in the NFL. Not since Pete Carroll arrived and general manager John Schneider began to work with Carroll to annually assemble a roster of proud, competitive players who mirror their coach's passion for the game. Practices feel less like grueling workouts and more like recess, with the DJ in the northwest corner of the field providing beats for the players and fans and later shaking the walls of the facility's lobby by playing more tunes during a team meeting.
This is high-energy, new-age football many other teams have tried to mimic, at least to a degree, in recent years. Except it can't quite be duplicated, and it's extremely tough to maintain -- even for the Seahawks.
Talk to players, coaches and members of the organization, and they'll admit there was something lacking the past two years in the vibe surrounding this team. Carroll always has been his enthusiastic self, and both sides of the ball played consistently tough football. But everyone wasn't quite on the same page and working together, not with running back Marshawn Lynch and safety Kam Chancellor holding out, other players wanting (and often getting) new contracts and Lynch sort of doing his own thing the last two years of his career.
Now with "Beast Mode" retired and many of the contract situations settled, there's a feeling the locker room is thriving on a spirit of cooperation not felt since the Super Bowl season of 2013.
"There's an energy about us that's very positive and directed toward each other, so there's a sense of everybody building each other up. That's what I would say is most prominent right now," wide receiver Doug Baldwin, he of the $46 million contract extension inked this offseason, told NFL Media after a recent practice. "If you watched the [first preseason] game, you see everybody celebrating on the sidelines like we won the Super Bowl. We have so much positive energy to the younger guys and bouncing off them to the older guys.
"It's a familiar feeling we had when we won the Super Bowl -- the positivity and the feelings we had. Yeah, it's different."
A couple of caveats to this assessment are necessary.
For one, there have been a few fights in practice this summer, notably ones involving defensive end Michael Bennett and the offensive linemen, as well as one between Baldwin and Sherman. But such dustups are accepted as a byproduct of this team's competitive environment. Even in the Super Bowl season that Baldwin cited as the peak of positivity, there were some brawls. Percy Harvin dropped Golden Tate on his head the week leading up to the Super Bowl blowout of the Broncos.
"It's not always positive," Baldwin said of the occasional friction, "but it's always constructively positive."
By that, he means there's a sense the players' competitive nature peaks when they're all working toward the same goal. They weren't sure that was the case when Chancellor wasn't there for training camp and the first two regular-season games last year.
This year, the player with the biggest contract gripe entering camp was Bennett. While Chancellor remains one of the highest-paid strong safeties in the league, Bennett's average of $7.125 million per season is now 28th in the NFL among defensive linemen following a run of huge contracts given to tackles and ends in recent years.
Still, after pondering a holdout, Bennett was there on the first day of camp. That was a huge sign to his teammates he's committed to team goals, not just individual ones. Bennett hasn't griped publicly about his contract in recent weeks, and there's still a chance he receives a deal in line with the compensation given to the top pass rushers before the regular season begins. That would go a long way toward ensuring he's content going forward.
"The coaches say that sometimes: 'Marshawn's not here no more. You guys have to step up,' " running back Thomas Rawls said with a laugh. "We'll miss him. I know I do, but it's time for us to go."
Rawls, who continues to say he'll be fully rehabbed from ankle surgery before Week 1, says the overarching feeling of positivity and cooperation is as strong amongst the running backs attempting to replace Lynch as anywhere else on the team. They're reminding one another what it takes to bring the physical presence Lynch brought.
"Sometimes you've got to be possessed, you've got to get out of your body at the running back position. You have to be something special," Rawls said. "You gotta be tough, play with passion, you gotta have something different -- the 'it' -- to be in the backfield, especially here with the Seahawks, because this whole team is built on toughness, leadership. Just dogs -- straight savages, man."
And now, the rest of this week's notes from NFL Media's reporters:
DENVER BRONCOS: Siemian starting, but who'll be the No. 2 QB on Saturday? Gary Kubiak has yet to announce who will start the regular season at quarterback, but the Denver coach did announce Monday second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian would start Saturday in the Broncos' third preseason game against the Rams. Siemian didn't throw during Tuesday's practice because of a sore throwing shoulder -- an injury that occurred while Siemian was attempting to make a tackle after throwing an interception in Denver's second preseason game.
Despite still being a little sore, Siemian did throw Wednesday and took about 80 percent of his normal practice workload, according to Kubiak. What is interesting is the head coach has yet to say who will sub in for Siemian on Saturday. Will it be Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch to take the field next?
Both quarterbacks said Wednesday they don't know when they will play or how much. After two fumbles against the 49ers, Sanchez isn't throwing in the towel by any means.
"I don't quit," Sanchez told reporters. "I'll take this thing down to the wire if that's what it takes, and that's what it looks like. So let's go."
Kubiak said he would announce the order in which the quarterbacks will play later in the week, and he expects to name his starting signal caller for the season next week.
* * * **
LOS ANGELES RAMS: The biggest reason Keenum will start over Goff in Week 1.Last week in this space, I stated that I felt No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff would start at quarterback for the Rams' season opener in San Francisco. I know that was the team's initial goal, and that the coaches felt he was progressing at a good pace.
I am taking a do-over.
I can cite how the offense simply flows better with Keenum, that Goff didn't look great with the starting offensive line vs. Kansas City last Saturday and that he is still behind in overall knowledge of the NFL game.
It simply comes down to this, though: Coach Jeff Fisher might not get the full support of his players if he entrusts the most valuable position on the team to someone they know isn't the best option right now. The Rams believe they will be competitive. Starting the season with the best players on the field enhances that belief.
Starting Goff would signal to some players -- many of whom have never been on an NFL team with a winning record -- that this is another rebuild.
Players believe in Keenum and trust that he knows what he is doing. The 28-year-old -- who went undrafted in 2012 -- doesn't have the physical gifts of Goff, but Keenum has grit and leadership that endear him to the entire team, according to some Rams players I spoke with. Everyone knows that Goff will be the starter one day, but he isn't ready today.
Coliseum upkeep. The L.A. Coliseum playing surface was replaced this week after some players had trouble with their footing in the Chiefs-Rams contest last Saturday. The field was slated to be replaced after the preseason anyway.
The Rams and USC will monitor the field closely during the regular season because of the double usage.
* * * **
MIAMI DOLPHINS: Don't expect to see a lot of Foster on Thursday.Arian Foster played just nine snaps last week, carrying the ball only twice for negative-5 yards. And when the Dolphins play the Falcons on Thursday night, don't be surprised if Foster -- who is coming off an Achilles tear and turned 30 on Wednesday -- gets a small workload once again.
"In-game, I don't know how much I want to see -- I'm not looking to play him 40 snaps," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Wednesday morning of Foster, who's competing for carries with second-year man Jay Ajayi. "I know what he's done in the past. I'm trying to get him to feel good about his body. I have a good feel for how I want to use that group. I'd love to be able to get a good seam to pop a run in the preseason game."
Gase is confident that Foster, who has not logged a 16-game season since 2012 and has a history of soft-tissue injuries, does not necessarily have a durability problem. Gase, the former Bears offensive coordinator, cites the example of tight end Zach Miller, who had not played a regular-season game since 2011 because of a series of serious injuries, but played in 15 games last season.
"The way I watch Arian work, it's like watching Cam Wake -- how they prepare, how they take care of their bodies, all the things they do prevention-wise. Usually when guys do that, it gives them a good chance," Gase said. "I'm taking a shot on a guy I feel is good for our program, good for our organization. I'll give a shot to a guy like that because he can help us in more ways than one. I know he still has some ability. I see him slip through a hole a lot of guys don't see."
Tannehill showing early promise under Gase. The success of the Dolphins -- and Gase's first season -- largely will be judged on the progress of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had a promising appearance against the Cowboys in last week's game. With good pass protection from the offensive line, Tannehill looked confident, throwing two touchdown passes -- his receivers had a few red-zone drops, too -- and completed a pass of 55 yards on a designed quarterback rollout.
For those who want to see more of the athletic Tannehill on the move, you can almost hear Gase cringe over the phone. He said everybody wanted Jay Cutler on the move, too, until he got blasted on a naked bootleg.
"I just want him to go into every game and know we'll get consistency out of him," Gase said of Tannehill. "I look at quarterbacks I've had in the past -- I was lucky enough to be around one of the best to ever play -- that's the thing that made Peyton Manning great. Did he have really special games? Yes. But you always felt you'd get the same guy as far as consistency of playing well. If Ryan keeps building, there is a good shot for him to be a consistent player for us. Will he go for 330 yards and four touchdowns? No. But he can be a guy that gives us a consistent chance to win."
* * * **
OAKLAND RAIDERS: McKenzie goes the extra mile in scouting. Here is a snapshot of an NFL press box on game day: rows of media, team personnel and opposing scouts.
McKenzie told me that since the Raiders played a Thursday game, he felt he could make a short flight to watch the Chargers on Friday and Chiefs on Saturday so he could get an advanced look at his AFC West rivals. He also was checking out talent that might become available when rosters are trimmed down.
McKenzie said that he can watch players on film and break down reports from his scouts, but seeing guys compete in person gives him a better evaluation of how they can fit into the Raiders' schemes. The fact that he was getting a first-hand look at Chiefs players really shouldn't have been too shocking, since he's signed two of their top free agents (center Rodney Hudson and cornerback Sean Smith) the past two seasons.
McKenzie has stocked Oakland's roster with plenty of talent over the past few seasons, and now the Raiders are a legitimate threat to win the AFC West. His worker-bee style and hands-on approach to talent evaluation is a reason why.