SEATTLE — Editor's note: This story is part of KING 5's Seahawks season preview series.
The Seattle Seahawks are one step closer to beginning its 2022 National Football League (NFL) season.
Quarterback Geno Smith will lead the way in the Seahawks' Thursday night preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
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It will be the Seahawks' second of three preseason games this season. The team's much-anticipated home opener against Russell Wilson's Denver Broncos is fewer than one month away.
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Here's what to watch for as the Seahawks host the Bears in a nationally televised game at 5 p.m. Thursday night.
Geno's time to shine
Drew Lock was initially scheduled to start the Seahawks' second preseason game Thursday night, giving him a prime chance to leap forward in the quarterback battle.
Lock tested positive for COVID-19 hours after the announcement. Now Smith will have the start and can effectively claim the starting job if he plays well enough against the Bears.
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The momentum for Lock has been slowly growing since his performance in the Seahawks' "mock game" on Aug. 8, however. He outplayed the veteran incumbent, finishing with 185 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Smith threw for just 94 yards in the game.
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In the team's first preseason game, Lock had a 141.0 passer rating, 100 yards and two touchdowns when the pocket was "kept clean," according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Smith matched Lock's efficiency on a per-attempt basis, but he did not throw a touchdown in the loss to the Steelers.
Can he do just enough to ward off the emerging Lock?
Rookie Charles Cross
Cross is the Seahawks' highest draft pick (ninth overall) since Russell Okung, also an offensive tackle, was nabbed with the sixth selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Safe to say, the rookie will have a ton of expectations heaped on his 6-foot-5 shoulders.
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Cross was a standout in the first preseason game, with zero pressures allowed. He pass-blocked on 23 snaps, according to PFF.
Pivotal game for players on "roster bubble"
Now that the NFL preseason is three games, the second game takes on an elevated importance. In some ways, it's a dress rehearsal for the players entrenched in their spots.
For others, this game could be the difference between realizing their NFL dreams or going back to the drawing board.
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Here's the timeline: Seattle has to cut the roster from 85 players to 80 by Aug. 23, five days after the game against the Bears. One week later, the big day looms. Coach Pete Carroll has to cut another 27 players on Aug. 30 to trim the Seahawks roster to its 53-man size.
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This leaves two big opportunities for a sizable chunk of the preseason roster to prove themselves on the big stage.