Preseason Recap: Seahawks vs. Titans

Oh, man.

We FINALLY got to see some Seahawk football! This is the only thing other than the sight of Sean Kramer drunkenly walking into a harem of very convincing cross dressers that could put a perma-grin on my face like this. I’m ecstatic. The Seahawk fan in me doesn’t want to stop raving about the second half of preseason football from Russell Wilson, or the pick-six to start the game off the way we’re all hoping to see every game start. But apparently, I was brought onto this site to take my fan hat off, or at least cock it to the side a little bit, and do some kind of analysis. So, here’s what I saw in week one:

The Seahawks looked exactly like they’re supposed to look: like a young team in the first week of preseason. There were some things they showed us to be excited about, but mostly things that need to be worked on. This is normal at this stage of the preseason. Overall, the starting units played well, especially the strengths of the team, which are the secondary, interior defensive line, and the running game. Pass protection, red-zone offense, and mid-level pass defense still appear to be a concern, at this stage in the preseason. — I keep saying ‘at this stage’ because it’s important to remember that it is very early on, and it’s hard to tell much from a week one preseason game — Here’s a position-by-position glimpse at how these Seahawks looked Saturday night.

Quarterback:

Matt Flynn gave us a glimpse of how accurate he can be, starting the game off eight for eight in pass attempts, before getting surprised by some heads up defensive work by a Titans linebacker, resulting in an interception. The pick was the kind of play you expect to see from a quarterback who’s started two games in the NFL. We’re going to have to be patient as Flynn develops into an NFL starter. He showed a good grasp of the offense, even with the limited play selection he had to work with. If nothing else, he showed us that he can do just about everything Tarvaris Jackson can, as the plays he ran were very similar to the kinds of plays we saw last year. I truly believe that Flynn has been brought in to play this kind of role at the quarterback position. Flynn impressed me the most on an intermediate curl route, where he anticipated the receiver’s break, and put his throw right on the money just as the receiver came out of his break for a first down. Matt moved decently in the pocket, even though he took a couple of sacks. He might not be what you would call ‘fleet of foot’, but he can slide and seems to be able to feel pressure closing around him as he’s scanning the field. Flynn also is quicker to read through his progressions than Jackson was. One play, he made three different reads before dumping the ball off to the running back in the flat. All-in-all, I saw pretty much what I expected to see out of Flynn. I expect his amount of five-step drops to be increased in week two.

Russell Wilson did some very impressive things in his half at quarterback. It seemed like he was working with a completely different playbook from Flynn, and he got to display all the things we heard he could excel at. He showed tremendous speed and agility when leaving the pocket, taking off on three plays, including an eye-popping 32-yard run on a naked bootleg to seal the victory for the Hawks. He has a lightning fast release on the run, and delivers an accurate ball. Wilson is definitely a rookie, which he showed on the red-zone interception he put right in the hands of a defender in underneath coverage, and on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards that he threw too short and too far to the inside of the field. Edwards made a tremendous adjustment and play on the ball to save the play and score the touchdown. Wilson will need to learn that these are throws he could get away with at the college level, but they won’t work against starting NFL defenses. One thing that’s been clear, however, throughout Wilson’s time in college and short time with Seattle, and that is that he’s a quick study. I doubt he makes the same mistakes a second time.

Overall, both quarterbacks turned in solid performances for what they’re going to be asked to do in this offense. Wilson had more ‘flashy’ plays than Flynn, but was given more opportunities to do so. Going forward, look for Flynn’s workload to increase, as his grasp of the first-unit offense expands. Look for Wilson to spend more time sitting in the pocket, versus rolling to the right as he did on 80% of his dropbacks.

Running Back:

This was the position I was hoping to get ‘wowed’ from the most going into this game, and I did some warm fuzzies from what I saw. Robert Turbin shows quickness and acceleration at a level I didn’t expect from a runner with his style. His burst lets him be patient as the holes develop in front of him, knowing that he has the acceleration to get through it and up into the next level. He’s not as hard to bring down as Lynch, and isn’t as good at escaping trouble as Marshawn is, but there’s a lot of upside to look forward to as a back-up. Leon Washington continued to show his value as a change of pace back, using his speed to get into the second level of the defense. Kregg Lumpkin and Tyrell Sutton did little to impress me, but they had limited opportunities. I think the team carries the obvious three halfbacks this year, with Michael Robinson as the only fullback.

Wide Receiver:

Baldwin, Owens, Lockette, and Rice all sat out the game, giving the rest of the receivers a golden opportunity to shine. Other than a few bright moments, they did not. Braylon Edwards showed up best, turning a horrible throw from Russell Wilson into a touchdown, adjusting to the underthrown ball, wrestling it away from the defender in one-on-one coverage. Golden Tate and Deon Butler found spots underneath in zones to settle into, and caught the balls that were thrown to them. After week one, Charlie Martin looks like the kind of player you would want on the practice squad, but will be ineligible, as this would be his fourth year on a practice squad. The NFL rules only allow for three years. If Seattle carries six receivers, and Terrell Owens has a good preseason, Ben Obomanu and Ricardo Lockette could be on the outside looking in.

Tight End:

It was encouraging to see Zach Miller get used in a pass receiving role. Finally, we get to see the big guy get out there and catch a couple passes. My excitement was quickly doused after he notched another concussion in the first half. Kellen Winslow didn’t play, but Anthony McCoy stepped in, and does what Anthony McCoy does: dropped a third down pass to keep a drive alive. Flynn hit him right on the numbers, and it skipped off his hands. Haven’t we seen enough from McCoy to know that he can’t cut it? I realize his value is as a blocking tight end, but if the Seahawks are going to keep insisting that he gets the ball thrown his way, I’m sending them my Radio Shack bill this year for each remote control replacement I require. Paul Allen can afford it far easier than I can. Sean McGrath made a couple nice plays. He could be a guy to watch the rest of the preseason.

Offensive Line:

Russell Okung was back, and looked a little rusty, but ultimately looked OK. The left side was getting great push creating running lanes for Turbin and Washington. The right side, with Deuce Lutui filling in for an injured John Moffitt, got blown up on the interior several times in the first few series. Pass protection was decent for most of the game, but the reserve unit got increasingly worse in run blocking. All in all, I was disappointed with this first showing from the line. I realize they’re once again dealing with injuries, and plugging guys in, but they’re going to have to improve, and quick, if this offense is going to have any consistency.

Defensive Line:

Jason Jones gets my vote for player of the game. He showed very good instincts at tracking the ball-carrier down, and good explosion to get there and make the tackle. He is very effective in blowing up the offensive line and getting after it in run defense, and there’s a good chance he’ll rack up a big number in QB sacks and pressures. Bruce Irvin wasn’t featured too heavily, and when he did get in there, showed he still has much to learn about playing defensive end in the NFL. He has to learn how to use his burst and power to shed a blocker before he’ll be able to use that flashing speed. It definitely shows that he’s never been taught the kind of defensive end moves that would free him up or draw a double team. As a whole, there wasn’t much pass rush generated, which allowed for a lot of yardage to be gained in the intermediate range passes against Seattle’s zone defense. Pete Carroll has been enamored with the play of rookie Jaye Howard in camp, and I was hoping to see some flashes, but there wasn’t really a lot to be seen from this backup unit as a whole. If everybody can stay healthy, this will be one scary nasty upfront bunch to try to run on. Even better than last year with the Jason Jones upgrade.

Linebacker:

This is the unit that from gun to gun showed me the least. Rookie Bobby Wagner played the whole game, and seemed to get enveloped by the blockers more than anything. He does have tremendous speed to chase down plays, but needs to be able to feel his way through the blocking in order to be the kind of middle linebacker this defense needs. He’s young and raw, and it shows. Rookie Korey Toomer showed good speed and instincts to get to the ball, but lacked the footwork to do anything about it when he got there. He’ll need work; first-blush reaction is he’s a practice squad guy with upside. Mike Morgan stood out to me as a guy that needs to make this team as a backup, and his special teams ability should be able to help him do that. Same story for Heath Farwell. These are the kind of players that seem to always be able to be around the ball, and have a knack for making plays.

Secondary:

We’re gonna be just fine. This unit is going to be so much fun this year, it’s crazy. One thing is clear: They’re even hungrier for turnovers this year than they were last year. Two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. The starters played very well. As a unit, they are going to struggle at the mid-level zone defense without a consistent pass rush, but you can’t put that on them. Their job is to smash receivers at the line with their corners, and cover downfield with their safeties. Byron Maxwell and Jeron Johnson are two guys I think make the team this year.

Rising stars:

1. Jason Jones: Showed he can be everything Seattle hoped he could be when they signed him. Fast, and with great instincts. He blows up the running game, and is going to be a factor in solidifying the pass rush.

2. Heath Farwell: May have very well earned a spot on the roster from this game alone. He’s always around the ball, got credited for a pass defensed, and stands out when he’s on the field.

3. Russell Wilson: Solid first outing. Needs more work being a pocket quarterback. If he keeps rolling right, defenses will adjust to his game and that could take receivers away from that part of the field or nullify his speed aspect. Still, even with a couple of rookie mistakes, he really stood out as someone who can be a solid backup if he continues to progress.

Need to show me more:

1. Korey Toomer: The guy has good speed and can get to the ball. He showed that on a couple plays last night. But he’s going to need a lot of work at not getting his tackles broken. He’s definitely a project, but I saw flashes of someone who could be a next-level type of producer.

2. Offensive Line: Yes, the whole unit. They did make some great holes for Robert Turbin to run through, but also went the other way, resulting in several tackles for loss and two sacks of Matt Flynn. As the game wore on, and different players were shuffled in, the line played worse and worse.

3. Bruce Irvin: Was he on the field a lot? No. But when he was, he didn’t maximize his opportunities. He has a lot to learn about playing his position at this level. He’s going to be asked to be on the field for about 60% of the defensive snaps from what it sounds like, and he has to learn how to get off blocks to use his speed to chase down the quarterback. He’s a first round pick, and needs to show up like one.

Players I’m completely done with:

Anthony McCoy: The book is written on this guy. Good blocking tight end. Horrible receiving tight end. I just feel like there is somebody we could plug in there who can still block well, but also can catch a cold in the middle of an infirmary.

Jeremy Lane: The rookie led the team in tackles with six, including one for loss. My problem with Lane isn’t his skills; it’s his head. He’s already punched two of his own guys in practice, and nearly picked up a personal foul for another bone-headed move after a shanked punt yesterday. All the talent in the world doesn’t make up for being a knucklehead. Just ask Pacman Jones.

Vai Taua **ALMOST**: Not completely done with this guy, but I needed three, and boy is he close. Showed an incredible knack for whiffing on linebackers, on more than one occasion, resulting in tackles for loss. It was not a good showing for Taua.

All in all, it was a good preseason game. We got to see some good plays from the players we hoped we’d see them from, and the team won the game. There will be a lot to look for in game two, as we see how much the younger players learned from this first exhibition.