I'll probably toss in another post later this week that breaks down the DVR more exactingly, but here's the off the cuff version:
General post-game musings:
Sometimes people talk about teams that are built for the regular season or built for the playoffs. The Seahawks are both, but more than any other team in the NFL, they are built to dominate the preseason. Very few teams have a backup QB as good as Tjack, or backup RBs like Michael and Ware. Our backup defenders would start on a lot of teams. It's not very fair. Russell Wilson played into the 2nd quarter and couldn't manage any scoring, but the Seahawks finished with 31 points anyway.
Seattle's first unit looked awful. On defense, it seemed like we were consistently giving up 5 yards a carry- right up the middle of our defense too. Our starter pass rush was just as ineffective, and our secondary looked ordinary. San Diego was a 7-9 team last season, and wasn't even good by 7-9 standards. They looked like a 5-11 team out there tonight, yet the Seahawks were so ineffective we actually made their starters look relatively non-horrible. The Chargers were on pace for just over 300 yards of offense at halftime, which is well below the NFL median, and they had twice the yardage Seattle had. It was not pretty.
The Chargers, btw, look an awful lot like the 2009 Seahawks. An aging, once proud QB in a slow decline, and a roster full of finesse players who were overdrafted. I feel sorry for their fans.
In fairness, we were missing Clemons, Irvin, AND Avril tonight, so our starting pass rush outside was basically a skeleton crew. Pete used this game as a chance to experiment with Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan as LEO types. I'm a fan of both players as linebackers, and they have the speed to edge rush somewhat, but they just didn't look the part out there and against pre-season pass protection (which is notoriously weak) that is not a good sign. Morgan improved as the game went on, but even he looked like a poor man's Nick Reed. I wasn't expecting much, and I was still underwhelmed. Schofield was pretty quiet, but when I did notice him it was because he did something good.
Players who stood out (good and bad):
Russell Wilson didn't do much, but looked fine doing it. Wilson hates throwing borderline passes, and I think that might explain our "WRs can't get open" problem as much as anything. We saw a lot of that tonight, where Wilson would scan an area of the field for a very long time without changing reads. He was clearly waiting for a receiver to get just a little more open, and they usually didn't.
Brady Quinn manages the pocket very well, and moves with more quickness than I expected. He wasn't a bad decision-maker tonight, either. But unfortunately, he just flat out sucks at throwing a football. He had some issues throwing the football behind or over receivers, and he showed some pretty flawed mechanics too- he kind of holds the ball a little too long during his release which has a pull-down effect. It's a bit like Raul Ibanez's patented lawn dart, though not nearly as hilarious.
Even on Quinn's best throw- a TD pass to a wide open Jermaine Kearse- he kind of sling-shotted the throw and put a ton of mustard on it. Kearse was WIDE open, it was a situation that clearly called for a touch pass, yet Quinn's poor mechanics resulted in a very hot throw which would be dropped by even average WRs maybe 25% of the time. Kearse caught the pass effortlessly. Before this year, that would have been an unlikely occurrence.
Tarvaris Jackson is a streaky QB- always has been and probably always will be. He's had huge games before. But tonight might have been his best yet. He did a terrific job managing the pocket, extending plays with his feet, zipping in tight throws, and completing two gorgeous deep bombs to Stephen Williams. If this were the 2nd preseason game and not the first, I'd be tempted to declare the QB competition over. Jackson already had pole position for the #2 QB job, and he added a couple laps to his lead tonight.
Christine Michael wasn't quite the megastar I was expecting tonight, but I really liked how he maximized his meager yardage in the first half when the run blocking wasn't really there. He turned a couple of 2 yard losses into no gains, and a few no gains into 2-3 yarders. He's really good at knowing when to dive for that extra couple yards. He's obviously a very special athlete, but just as importantly he's smart and well coached. He'd eventually show us the real Christine Michael in the second half, teleporting through walls for big gains, and even after a slow start, he still finished with 5.6 yards per carry; and it wasn't like he was a change of pace guy tonight either. I continue to be geeked about Christine Michael.
Marshawn Lynch looked like he was having fun on the sidelines, but I stole a few looks of nervousness on his face. It's the ultimate compliment for Michael. Lynch probably has nothing to worry about today, but next season might be a different story. Marshawn Lynch is monitoring the situation very closely.
Spencer Ware did well too, tallying 4.6 yards per carry including an impressive red zone touchdown. I have to say though, as good as Ware was, I was expecting even more. We didn't see much "beast mode" out of him tonight, and at LSU he could rival or even exceed Marshawn Lynch's physicality. If he was breaking tackles like he did at LSU, tonight would have been a bloodbath for Seattle's running game.
Stephen Williams stepped up tonight. After failing to make a tough but manageable sideline catch in the first half, Williams rebounded in a big way by holding down two gorgeous deep throws from T-Jack. He very well might have assured himself a roster spot with tonight's performance alone (it wouldn't have taken much). I don't know if Williams will be good enough to make Sidney Rice expendable next year, but if not, so what? Just him being out there and adding the threat of a 50 yard bomb at any time will help our offense out and open up the short yardage plays we live off of.
Jermaine Kearse had the only two receptions of consequence in the first half, and nearly had a 3rd on a crazy circus catch attempt. If nothing else, it is clear that Kearse has confidence right now, and like always has a special knack for getting open.
Perez Ashford, a slot WR out of Northern Illinois, was one of my favorite pre-draft team visit players this Spring (Seattle had something like 40 "official visits" with draftable players, among those invited were DE Ty Powell, LB Craig Wilkins, LB John Lotulelei, WR Perez Ashford, and RB Christine Michael). Seattle ended up getting Ashford after the draft, and while I think he has virtually zero chance of making the 53 man this preseason, he played very well tonight (including some stand out special teams plays) and is well on his way to earning a practice squad spot. He isn't some raw "project" WR either- his college tape impresses. It looks like Kearse has gone from UDFA to #4/#5 WR already. Ashford is starting to look like a strong candidate to be the next such success story.
Per Hawkblogger, Steven Hauschka is regularly nailing 57 yarders in practices. Tonight, he came perhaps as little as two inches short of making a 61 yarder. I agree with Hawkblogger- the decisions to choose punts over 50 yard field goals last season had everything to do with Pete and nothing to do with Hauschka.
I guess we now know why Derrick Coleman was getting all the fullback reps in practice. Tonight he looked like Real Robinson reborn. Remember too that Robinson started out as a great special teams player, and Coleman added a terrific special teams tackle in addition to everything else. Already, he looks like a lock for at least the practice squad, if he's even PS safe.
Remember when Frank Omiyale had to start against Dallas (vs DeMarcus Ware) and we thought we were completely screwed? And then Omiyale shut down Ware with a shockingly strong performance? That's basically how I'd describe Alvin Bailey at left tackle tonight. I didn't watch him every snap, but it seemed like he was never giving up pressures and was consistently winning his battles, even with lateral quickness that is below average by left tackle standards. He uses his arms and hands very well, works his ass off, and anchors very well. I'll probably have a OL/DL post sometime later after I rewatch the DVR forty times to get more accurate info, but Bailey looked pretty good out there when I watched him.
Cooper Helfet had a rough night, at least one drop that I remember. Though he also had a diving catch for 23 yards, so I guess that kind of balances things out somewhat.
Luke Willson got some targets, but I wasn't that enthralled by him at Rice and he still seems like a fringe roster guy to me. That said, he has special traits and gives the best interviews on the team outside of Russell Wilson. He's not a guy the team should discard lightly. But if he ends up having a big season ever, much less soon, I'd be surprised. He had a drop tonight (IIRC) and didn't really create a ton of separation even with his size and speed. I think Willson is going to be one of those players who flips the switch on very suddenly and unexpectedly. Maybe that is next week or maybe that's in 2015 or maybe it's never.
First, let me re-iterate something that's important for context here:
Only a small handful of NFL teams can stitch together five non-sucky offensive lineman in regular season play. Good offensive lineman are not that common, and you need a lot of them. And that's during the regular season. In the preseason, you have guys that are way, way worse than even that level, who often have virtually no NFL experience, nor any kind of continuity with their teammates. Many of them are destined for the CFL if they are lucky, and during the NFL preseason games they are rotated in and out every few plays with pretty much zero potential for continuity or chemistry with their fellow sub-par teammates. Seattle's line is very deep and therefore a bit of an exception, but most preseason offensive lines have the stopping power of wet tissue paper.
Seattle's preseason pass rush last year looked surprisingly potent. Guys like Corderro Law, Korey Toomer, and Winston Guy were terrors on blitzes. But Pete's no dummy, and he isn't easily fooled. Law and Toomer didn't even make the team, and Guy only made it from a lack of competition deep on the roster at safety. Go back a few years before that and you have cautionary tales like Nick Reed. You get the idea. Those who think the preseason is meaningless are clueless (without the preseason, Matt Flynn is our starting QB right now, etc.), but in regards to pass rush, yeah, it's really really really close to meaningless.
So with that caveat in place... holy shit did Jaye Howard look good tonight. Geno Atkins-lite. I think he had five or six splash plays or earned pressures. Against both the pass AND the run(!). He was dominant in a way that I haven't seen from an interior lineman here since Brandon Mebane in 2008.
Howard was considered a disappointment at Florida before his first and only season with Dan Quinn (then the Gator's new DC fresh out of Seattle). Howard put up 5.5 sacks and looked the part as a pass rusher. He was drafted by Seattle after that season, separated from Quinn, and summarily disappointed during his rookie season. It wasn't until the final weeks that he even cracked the active portion of our roster. Now he's back with Quinn, added 15 pounds of good weight, and just like that good reviews for his play flowed out of training camp.
And now tonight, he's out there just making play after play at a position where 2 splash plays in a game is pretty good. He's handling the run a million times better than before, and hasn't lost a thing as a pass rusher. And though he was said to be moving to the 5-tech, he played tonight almost exclusively at DT, and looked amazing doing it. Again, the pre-season caveat looms large for pass rushers, but man, we need this so badly. Please keep it up, Jaye Howard.
Jordan Hill had a couple splash plays of his own. Basically, he was exactly what you'd expect if you watched him at Penn State. I am starting to view Hill as more of a pass rusher than a well rounded player though. He's got a great swim move but the interior of our line had some major issues against the run tonight while he was out there. Again, I'll have a post up sometime later this week that goes into more detail in the trenches, but my suspicion is that Hill was among the run defense minuses.
Red Bryant looked far more nimble than he did at the end of last season. He looked like the 2011 version.
Malcolm Smith is a good blitzer, but he's not a SAM/LEO. Just way too small and he has no talent for escaping pass blocks.
Mike Morgan had some very nice tackles tonight and as the game went on he seemed to get more comfortable as a LEO type pass rusher. Still, he just didn't look the part to me, and this was against preseason competition that made guys like Nick Reed and Corderro Law look like studs. If he's struggling to look just okay, then I imagine he'd get shutdown in the real games. I'm a big Mike Morgan fan as a LB. I hope he gets a chance to compete there because I doubt he makes it as just a LEO/SAM type.
Allen Bradford started in place of Bobby Wagner and looked very good doing it, filling gaps and chasing down tackles. This guy is a starting NFL linebacker, if not for us then for someone else. He was very impressive in flashes in his only preseason game last year (Oakland). Keep in mind too that Bradford has barely played linebacker since high school, and yet he looks far more natural and instinctive for the position than college starters like John Lotulelei despite Bradford having far less experience. As Pete Carroll is constantly reminding us, Bradford was an all-american recruit as a linebacker out of high school. When Pete works overtime to massage the message politician style, that's a very good sign for whichever player he's complimenting at that time. I get the sense that Pete is rooting for Bradford to make it, even if most fans won't notice him.
John Lotulelei has the same "meh" instincts and intangibles at linebacker that he had at Nevada (UNLV), and I thought the broadcast crew focused on him way too much, even crediting him for a stuff that was actually to the credit of Mike Morgan. Thing about Lotuleilei though, is that he is a downhill enforcer with nice size/speed who can burst through small spaces. He really does have the athletic talent of a pro-bowler if coached up, and in the meantime he could be a nice blitzer and a terrific special teamer. I think he ends up stealing Heath Farwell's job (even though Farwell himself had a pretty good night). If Pete is sending out pro-Bradford signals, John Schneider and the media have made it clear that Lotulelei is their man. Right now both look like pretty good bets to make it. Of course, you also have Smith, Morgan, Farwell, and Wilkins in the mix too. And these are just the backups! Seattle is going to be parting with some talent at LB.
Michael Bennett was kind of invisible tonight, though when I did notice him it was for good reasons. Maybe he was secretly awesome, but I'd need to look deeper at the DVR to know for sure.
Craig Wilkins had a nice play or two. I get the sense he's playing for the practice squad though.
Byron Maxwell outshined Walter Thurmond tonight. How about that.
Benson Mayowa, who I'd never heard of before tonight, notched 1.5 sacks and was very hard to block all night long. If this were a regular season game, I'd be beyond stoked. But something about the way he created pressure seemed "fringe" to me, athletically. He worked for pressures, but never had a moment of pure unbridled physical dominance the way that Jaye Howard kept doing over and over. He does have natural pass rush talent, though, and looked far more natural in the role than Morgan or Smith. He's probably just another Nick Reed, but he's worth keeping an eye on, just in case.
Ty Powell had a nice pressure and at times looks the part, but had a quiet night overall.
Winston Guy got beat for a long reception, though his coverage was decent (great throw by Charger QB Brad Sorensen) and he punctuated his recovery with an especially violent looking pull down tackle. Still, Guy needs to step up his game to a higher level if Seattle is going to justify a spot on him, especially now that Kam Chancellor has gotten his big contract extension.
I didn't know who Kyle Nelson was before tonight, but now I feel sorry for him.
Lot's of 12's showed up. Their cheers were maybe half as loud as the home crowd. Impressive.
Charlie Whitehurst is still Charlie Whitehurst.
The refs made some terrible calls against us in the first half, but hey, preseason.
As much as the Chargers first string offense gashed Seattle with the run, the 2nd team unit was so terrible that it was more than enough to swing the results. Despite a great start running the ball, San Diego finished with just 2.7 yards per carry for the game overall (Seattle had 4.4).
Brad Sorenson, a late prospect QB for a tiny school (Southern Utah) had two games up on youtube before the 2013 draft, and he was unspeakably horrible in both of them. I had no idea why he was getting draft hype. Well, tonight he was actually pretty awesome. He checked multiple reads, was elusive in the pocket, extended plays, made great decisions, and threw with incredible touch and accuracy. Seattle's 2nd string defense is no joke, either. Sorensen finished with a 70% completion rate, 8.4 yards per attempt, and 1 TD against no interceptions. Basically, Russell Wilson numbers. That's about as good a debut as you could ever hope for when you are a 6th round rookie who played his college football in the middle of nowhere.