NFL preseason games are getting more and more irrelevant, but don’t tell fans that

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No Russell Wilson. No Bobby Wagner. No DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett or Chris Carson either.

The most important elements of the Seahawks’ roster missed the field on Saturday night.

This is quite possibly the new normal for the NFL preseason, as the league’s mindset is that there is little point in risking injury for games that don’t count.

Guess who didn’t seem to care? The crowd at Lumen Field almost crowded.

This was going to be a chronicle of how the preseason seems pretty much pointless, and maybe that’s how many of you are feeling. The third week of the exhibition calendar served at least look like something meaningful for the first half, but those days seem to be over. Nonetheless, tickets still sell, concessions are bought and, more importantly, fans are still cheering.

At some point in the third quarter on Saturday, the Seahawks led the Chargers 17-0 with 12 minutes remaining. To your average press wag, the series that followed seemed to be the definition of irrelevance. But for the people in the seats? They still thought it was worth it to exhaust their larynxes for defense on the third try.

It’s something people couldn’t do all season long last year. Gathering the Puget Sounders at Lumen Field for a Seahawks game is a Pacific Northwest tradition that is second to none.

The average fan may not care about Sean Mannion’s passer rating when he throws at Darece Roberson. But the dad with his 7-year-old is all the more cheerful to treat the competition as a playoff game.

It will be interesting to see how the preseason unfolds in the years to come. Shortening it seems commercially wise, as the NFL is getting its 17th game, but top players refraining from exhibition games altogether are new.

Will the fans react by refraining from playing? It’s possible. There’s a reason the Seahawks didn’t announce Wilson would be seated before the start of the game. But what I saw on Saturday was a fan base just happy to see professional football live again.

And it’s not like the game is completely missing from the plot. Perhaps the most compelling scenario was running back Alex Collins, who became the Seahawks’ potential No. 2 backer. He led the team with 10 carries and amassed 37 yards in the 27-0 victory. He added seven catches for a top 52 receiving yards.

Rashaad Penny, the former first-round draft pick who was initially thought to be the No.2 RB (and he could still be) ran seven carries for 24 yards. Did Collins look much better? Still hard to tell in a preseason game with save games. But it wouldn’t be shocking, from what we’ve seen so far, if Collins ends up being the main running back behind Carson in Week 1.

There was also Dee Eskridge. The receiver with a speed of 4.38 was the Seahawks’ first choice in the April draft (he went 56th overall). He only had one goal on Saturday, but he turned it into a 19-yard reception.

Again, preseason games don’t offer a lot of information. The biggest stories that come out of it are usually wounds. But the rookie made a strong impression.

Perhaps the Seahawks’ biggest concern heading into the opening of the regular season is the cornerback. DJ Reed was beaten for much of training camp, but is still expected to start alongside Ahkello Witherspoon once the season begins. And although backup corner Tre Flowers struggled in Week 2, he and Damarious Randall were solid against the Chargers backup quarterbacks.

One of the most entertaining moments of Saturday’s game came in the closing seconds. On the fourth down, Seahawks punter Michael Dickson threw a 55-yard kick that Aaron Fuller knocked down on the 1-yard line.

It was a perfect combination of witchcraft and commotion, and the crowd gave a deserving cheer.

Most of the residents of this city are ready for the start of the regular season. Most people probably think the preseason is reduced to three games and probably wouldn’t complain if that went away altogether.

But there was always joy in Lumen Field. There were still cries and bellows and chants of “Sea falcons!” In the fourth quarter.

The preseason may seem like a mere formality. But from the crowd, it looks like he’s here to stay.



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