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Originally published August 16, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Page modified August 16, 2014 at 8:51 PM

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Seahawks 41, Chargers 14: Five things we learned

Some takeaways from the Seahawks’ 41-14 win over the Chargers on Friday, including strong play by James Carpenter and Russell Wilson.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Get Earl Thomas out of there on punt returns. Put in a reciever. MORE
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Another exhibition game for the Seahawks, a few more things we learned as Seattle beat the San Diego Chargers 41-14 Friday night:

1. The NFL may be going overboard in its emphasis on illegal contact in the secondary.

Seattle might really have routed the Chargers had Tharold Simon’s apparent 105-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter been allowed to stand instead of being called back for illegal contact. Coach Pete Carroll said afterward he thought Simon had turned in a “perfectly executed two-hand jam and press and turn and roll with the ball.” Instead, it was first down Chargers at the 3-yard-line and a San Diego touchdown on the next play.

Carroll said there was no question the flag would not have been thrown last year before the NFL decided to emphasize illegal contact. He also said he thinks the NFL “is open to the conversation” to alter things before the regular season.

“It doesn’t seem quite right,” Carroll said. “It seems like there are too many calls being made and too many incidental calls that seem to be affecting the game. ... it’s obviously different. So the question is, is it better? I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll have a good conversation about it.”

2. Maybe James Carpenter really will have a breakout year.

Coaches have been singing the praises of the team’s 2011 first-round pick since the spring, citing his return to health after some nagging knee injuries and better conditioning. Friday was the first chance to see Carpenter on the field after he missed the Denver game with a calf injury, and the line was noticeably better than it had been against the Broncos.

“We came off the ball well and all of the backs were able to get some running room,” Carroll said after a game in which Seattle rushed for 243 yards, with tailbacks Robert Turbin and Christine Michael combining for 126 yards on 20 carries.

One caveat — San Diego’s running defense has more holes than the plot of a “Mission Impossible” movie, and the Chargers were without a few key players up front.

And Carpenter was far from alone, as fellow guard J.R. Sweezy also seemed to play well.

But the first impression for Carpenter in what may be a make-or-break year for him was a positive one. Recall that the team did not exercise an option on his contract for 2015, allowing him to become a free agent after this season.

The line should get even closer to full strength next week when center Max Unger likely returns after again being held out due to a groin injury. Left tackle Russell Okung also inches ever closer to returning and at the very least should be good to go for the regular season.

3. Michael needs to secure the ball better.

And no one understands that more than Michael, who has fumbled twice in 15 carries this preseason, each time with Seattle recovering. Each time, a defender came from under Michael to knock the ball out. Carroll said it’s a concern but noted that with the Seahawks do not have any full-contact practices so “we’ve not been in that situation and hopefully he’ll learn from it.” For now, Michael remains third on the tailback depth chart behind Marshawn Lynch and Turbin.

4. The punt return job appears far from settled.

Earl Thomas again got the first chances, but was limited to 5 yards on only one return, with one being downed and another being fair caught. “I’m making it look like I’ve been playing as far as catching the ball,” Thomas said. “I’ve just got to make something happen.”

Bryan Walters had two returns for 33 yards and three kickoff returns for 73, and special teams could be a way for him to secure a spot on the roster as a receiver.

5. Russell Wilson is still really good.

The preseason emphasis on who will win certain position battles or roster spots can make it tempting to overlook the obvious.

It’s hard, though, not to take note of Wilson’s play so far. Wilson is 15-of-19 passing for 158 yards while running five times for 38 yards and two touchdowns. True, it’s just the preseason.

But to use Carroll’s description, Wilson appears “really dialed in” as he begins his third NFL season, one in which he may be asked to shoulder more of the offensive load. So far, he looks ready for whatever the team throws his way this season.

2014 Seahawks schedule
Seattle has a bye in Week 4 of the regular season. Game times subject to change.
Aug. 7at DenverL, 21-16
Aug. 15San DiegoW, 41-14
Aug. 22Chicago7 p.m.Ch. 13
Aug. 28at Oakland7 p.m.Ch. 13
Regular seasonOpponentTimeTV
Sept. 4Green Bay5:30 p.m.Ch. 5
Sept. 14at San Diego1:05 p.m.Ch. 13
Sept. 21Denver1:25 p.m.Ch. 7
Oct. 6at Washington5:30 p.m.ESPN
Oct. 12Dallas1:25 p.m.Ch. 13
Oct. 19at St. Louis10 a.m.Ch. 13
Oct. 26at Carolina10 a.m.Ch. 7
Nov. 2Oakland1:25 p.m.Ch. 7
Nov. 9N.Y. Giants1:25 p.m.Ch. 13
Nov. 16at Kansas City10 a.m.Ch. 13
Nov. 23 Arizona1:05 p.m.Ch. 13
Nov. 27at San Francisco 5:30 p.m.Ch. 5
Dec. 7at Philadelphia1:25 p.m.Ch. 13
Dec. 14San Francisco1:25 p.m.Ch. 13
Dec. 21at Arizona5:30 p.m.Ch. 5
Dec. 28St. Louis1:25 p.m.Ch. 13

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