NFL Preseason Week 2 Roundup: Lacy Still Has Everything to Prove with Seahawks
The preseason is about opportunities, and seizing them. But when the opposite happens to a former star player and he fails, there can be a thunderous thud.
And thunderous thuds are mostly what Eddie Lacy has become known for recently.
The Seattle Seahawks running back had a chance to fire his shot Friday night. Lacy started for the first-team offense with Thomas Rawls out, and he mostly fizzled. Lacy was outplayed by rookie Chris Carson and San Francisco 49ers castoff Mike Davis. He's now recorded just 30 yards on 10 preseason carries, which could have Seattle leaning in Rawls' direction if he can ever stay healthy.
The Seahawks hoped Lacy could reinvent himself physically when they signed him and somehow unlock the Rookie of the Year form that's surely still inside him somewhere. But that guy might be gone forever, and Lacy could plummet to become a secondary option in the backfield at best.
Lacy's struggles Friday were offset by the rise of a young Seahawks wide receiver. And then later on more pain came for the Seahawks, but this time it wasn't from a poor performance. No, this kind of pain is worse, and it required a cart.
Eddie Lacy Is Still Lumbering and Plodding
The Seahawks signed Lacy to an affordable one-year contract, which is something we can say about most running backs who aren't at the top tier of their position. And being a human lottery ticket is inevitable when you played only five games the previous season, as Lacy did in 2016.
He's battled weight and injury issues, but Friday was Lacy's chance to re-establish himself in a battle for snaps in the Seahawks' backfield with Rawls sitting out. And he responded by producing a big ol' cloud of dust.
That's what Lacy has generally done throughout his career. But the difference between him now and Lacy at his best is that before he'd often create the cloud and then emerge from it to keep charging forward for more yards while pinballing off defenders. That's the Lacy we knew during his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, when he ran for 1,100-plus yards in back-to-back years.
Now he lumbers, and that powerful acceleration is more sporadic. We saw that against the Vikings when the 27-year-old ran for only 20 yards on his six carries. That's a per-carry average of 3.3 yards. Meanwhile, Chris Carson averaged 4.5 yards for the Seahawks while breaking off a 13-yard run, and Mike Davis posted 37 yards on six carries.
The Seahawks have two oft-injured running backs atop their depth chart. But Rawls' ceiling is much higher, as Lacy is quickly fading to become the change-of-pace or short-yardage option.
Kasen Williams Won't Stop Filling Highlight Reels
Can Kasen Williams have a meteoric rise to become an early-season contributor for the Seahawks in 2017? No, probably not, but the preseason isn't always about being an immediate megastar.
For many, the preseason is about making sure your name plate doesn't tumble into a bin sometime in August. And Williams has likely taken care of that concern already.
The undrafted free agent in 2015 spent most of the past two seasons on Seattle's practice squad. But he always hovered around, and now he has pounced on an opportunity in the preseason.
His sizzling August started in Week 1 with four receptions for 119 yards. His deep burst and acrobatics to make difficult catches were on full display then, and Williams put on a show again Friday night. A 27-yard catch against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter helped to set up a touchdown several plays later. A touchdown that Williams caught in spectacular fashion after elevating to secure a fade thrown to the back of the end zone.
Williams still faces a steep climb up the depth chart to carve out a meaningful role in the Seahawks offense. He still won't be pushing aside Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson or Tyler Lockett, though Jermaine Kearse might be vulnerable after his lowly 46.1 catch rate in 2016.
But at the least, Williams should have a chance to claw his way up that depth chart as the season progresses. And that alone is a preseason victory.
Stefon Diggs Is Ready for a Third-Year Kaboom
Stefon Diggs has the talent to erupt in 2017 if everything breaks his way.
That's if he stays healthy, as the Vikings wide receiver has missed six games over his first two NFL seasons. And if quarterback Sam Bradford can develop better consistency as a deep thrower. And more importantly, if the Vikings' offensive line additions solve a problem that was crippling in 2016 and give Bradford time to throw deep at all.
If those three boxes are checked, we could see Diggs soaring.
He came close to reaching another stratosphere in 2016, finishing with 903 receiving yards even while missing three games. And Friday he showcased his precision route running again, reminding us why there's still untapped potential in the 23-year-old.
Diggs piled up 64 yards on four catches, all in just the three drives before the Vikings' first-team offense sat down for the night. The highlight was a 39-yard deep connection that helped to set up a field goal.
He's still growing as a receiver at his young age. But Diggs' fundamental skill base is impressive early on, and it should propel him forward fast.
He has an advanced mind and can identify the nuanced details of route running, which Diggs learned from Keenan McCardell at Maryland. He can always be trusted to make difficult catches, too, and has dropped just four catchable passes over two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.
Dalvin Cook Is About to Leave a Lot of Bruises on Defenders Around the NFL
Watching Dalvin Cook run is painful, and not in a bad way. He can make you feel actual pain as pads clash and he keeps on trucking.
Tackling the Vikings rookie running back doesn't look like an enjoyable experience. It wasn't throughout his time dominating for Florida State when Cook averaged 4.19 yards after contact, per PFF. Or when he ran for 1,600-plus yards in two straight seasons.
And containing him didn't look like much fun for the Seahawks either. Seattle fielded as the seventh-best run defense in 2016, and Friday they were thrashed by Cook, who finished with 40 yards on seven carries (5.7 yards per carry).
There was one sequence when he bulldozed ahead up the middle for a 15-yard gain, and then on the next play bounced to the outside for nine yards. He also added a 10-yard catch, because of course Cook is quite capable in that department too (488 receiving yards in 2016).
Cook has Offensive Rookie of the Year potential. But more critically for the Vikings, he has the ability to bring back the brand of offensive football that's made them successful in the past. They thrive with a rushing attack that can punch opposing defenses in the gut repeatedly, and Cook is already leaving plenty of bruises.
George Fant's Injury Could Be a Major Blow to Seahawks Offensive Line
The Seahawks were already going to have a shaky offensive line in 2017, and their starting left tackle leaving a preseason game on a cart and in an inflatable cast didn't help.
That was the scene after George Fant was the victim of some friendly fire. Fant was engaged with a block when fellow offensive lineman Justin Britt fell and rolled onto his leg.
The 6'5", 322-pound former college basketball player crumpled to the ground with an ACL injury that head coach Pete Carroll said will require surgery, per ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia.
Football can be cruel, and this injury feels especially evil. Just days ago, Carroll was praising Fant's physical transformation, according to Kapadia, and he seemed to be excited about the young tackle's development. Now the Seahawks will be without a core piece of an offensive line that had plenty of questions looming to begin with.
With Fant out indefinitely, the solution might be to move Luke Joeckel over to tackle. Joeckel has experience at left tackle, though he was roasted often while with the Jacksonville Jaguars and is better suited at guard. Alternatively, the Seahawks could turn to Rees Odhiambo or Oday Aboushi.
But there aren't many encouraging options beyond Fant, and quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 40-plus times in four straight seasons.
Other News from Around the League
What's that? You're still hungry for more football since there was only one game Friday? Well, here's a quick look at a couple of other headlines from around the league...
Blake Bortles has almost reached the end of his lengthy rope
Blake Bortles shouldn't be starting games for any NFL team. And he definitely shouldn't be the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback any longer, because three years of mediocrity is long enough.
It's fine to have patience with your young starting quarterback. But that quarterback has thrown 51 interceptions in three seasons, and his mechanics were still off-kilter Thursday night when he averaged only five yards per attempt. The Bortles experiment needs to end soon, or else the Jaguars risk wasting an otherwise talented roster.
And it seems they're open to moving on from Bortles, as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Friday the job is "wide open." That means we now live in a world where Chad Henne could replace two failed Jaguars first-round quarterbacks.
Derek Rivers suffers season-ending injury
The New England Patriots didn't have many picks to make in the 2017 draft. But the first player they selected may have been poised to play a significant role right away, and now he's gone for the season.
Defensive end Derek Rivers suffered a knee injury during a joint practice with the Houston Texans. Tests later revealed the worst: He tore his ACL and sprained his LCL, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, and is likely out for the season.
It's a blow to a defensive line that was already thinned out by the retirement of Rob Ninkovich and the departure of Chris Long during free agency. The Patriots are suddenly relying on Trey Flowers and the underwhelming Kony Ealy as their primary pass-rush sources at defensive end.