The eye of the Tiger...Whitehurst had a solid homecoming in San Diego.
The Seahawks opened the 2011 preseason with a 24-17 victory in San Diego, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit with solid play from the second and third units. However, the result is not the primary focus; there is more concern about Russell Okung's ankle injury and what to expect from the team going forward.
As the first game after an unusual preseason, this was not expected to be a clean game. The focus was on watching the team's energy and execution, as well as learning which depth players have potential going forward. Here are five impressions from Game 1.
Justin Forsett didn't address what gave Leon Washington the opportunity for more time last night. That said, Washington appears to be in line for a larger role in the offense
I liked how they used him. He converted a third and one on a run up the gut early; they gave him the ball on a draw on third and long; he was also involved in the screen game.
His one yard touchdown run in the third quarter was a solid way to cap off the night. Washington showed he is an undersized but complete back—especially as a third back.
Washington appeared fully healthy and more like the player he was in New York. I enjoyed seeing the team use him in a variety of ways, especially in the screen game and as an inside runner, not just for speed on the edge.
While his role in the offense will be tempered with an active Forsett, Washington showed he could be a main part of this attack. I'm looking forward to watching how this undersized duo is used together in the coming games.
Expect to see this reaction a lot in 2011...
One of the most impressive changes on defense is the new size and physicality in the secondary; in particular, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor stood out.
Kelly Jennings proved early in this game he can run, but he hasn't improved his playmaking skills; Mike Tolbert also skied right over top of Jennings into the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
On the contrary, Browner jumped through the screen. He made multiple plays on the ball with one pass defensed, flashing his extreme length and physicality. While both plays were possibly interference, Browner's overly physical play is something that has been a focus in practice as he needs to refine his technique. His first game in a Seahawks uniform left sizable impression.
Chancellor didn't flash in pass defense, but he made two very strong plays in run defense early in the game; a tackle for a loss as he stopped a cutback attempt dead in the backfield, the other play coming down the line, stopping the play for a short gain. Chancellor looked more confident on the field and he could be the hammer in the secondary.
Both players were under the microscope going in and neither disappointed. Browner should continue to push for more playing time. I still would like to see him start over Jennings, even more so than I did going into the game. Chancellor also appears ready to start.
The defensive line had three sacks and a fumble recovery against San Diego.
None of the players who collected those stats were on the Seahawks' active roster in 2010.
Jimmy Wilkerson had a sack and a quarterback hit; Jameson Konz moved back to the defensive side of the ball this preseason and found himself on top of the quarterback; rookie Pierre Allen had a thunderous strip-sack and fellow rookie Pep Levingston fell on the ball.
Add in three passes defensed by new Seahawks lineman--one each for Alan Branch, A.J. Schable and Levingston-- and it's clear the defensive line has new players who can contribute.
We're a long way from the final roster, but what was thought to be one of Seattle's weakest groups heading into free agency appeared to play stronger as the game went on; a bright spot of last night's game.
Allen and Levingston were not the only rookies around the ball; in fact, Seattle's rookie class showed some promise last night.
John Moffit and James Carpenter played into the third quarter; Carpenter had one play where he was pushed straight into the backfield while in pass protection, but was otherwise solid. John Moffitt pulled across the line and led the way for Washington's touchdown run.
As the game went on, Doug Baldwin impressed. He led the team in catches and appears to play with attitude. He showed strong hands and could definitely be a contributor on this receiving corps.
Chris Carter almost made a highlight reel catch on a pretty throw down the numbers from by Charlie Whitehurst--practice squad player Patrick Williams did make a highlight reel catch. Ricardo Lockette had one catch. Of the three, Baldwin was the clear winner.
K.J. Wright led the team in tackles and showed his versatility; he made a nice play on a screen pass and was once lined up on the outside in coverage. Malcolm Smith also made a strong stop in the backfield.
Safety Jeron Johnson was perhaps the most impressive rookie in the secondary, breaking up two passes and registering a tackle for loss; he was physical and often near the ball. Mark LeGree and Byron Maxwell combined for a big pass breakup and undrafted rookie Jesse Hoffman broke up a pass near the goal line. Richard Sherman didn't register a stat.
Including Allen and Levingston, the rookies flashed promise in their first game. The next game will obviously provide much needed evidence to back up what we saw in San Diego, but there is reason to believe a handful of rookies could be on the field consistently in 2011.
On the whole, the quarterbacks played a solid game; the play got better as the game went on against second and third-string defenders.
Jackson looked a bit rusty and the team struggled to get open--Williams and Rice among those not active-- in the few series he played, but he showed athleticism on multiple occasions and looked like a quarterback who was going through his progressions. However, he didn't show much to be impressed by through the air. An underwhelming start to his career as a Seahawk, but not necessarily a check mark against him.
Whitehurst, on the other had, saw considerable time in the second and third quarters and grew more comfortable as the game went on. Obviously, he was not playing against the San Diego first team, but he looked confident at times and made a couple very strong throws—his nicest throw of the night was nearly hauled in by Chris Carter, a missed challenge in the end.
He also made a nice throw to Dominique Byrd down the numbers—using his eyes to move the safety—but it should be noted his throwing motion looked very loopy in this case.
There is still reason for concern as "check-down Charlie" was in full effect at times, most notably on a third and long inside the red zone. Instead of looking into the end zone or even towards the first down marker, his almost immediate instinct was a swing pass into the flat for a minimal gain. At least in real time, that was a disappointing play. In the end, completing 14 of 20 passes with no turnovers should be considered a solid showing.
Equally as impressive was rookie Josh Portis. Granted he was playing against the third team, Portis overcame a horrible start to really flash his potential; a strong arm, poise in the pocket and a visible knowledge of the quarterback position stood out.
Oh, not to mention the guy is an athlete. His cross-body touchdown pass to Anthony McCoy showed his potential; he escaped a broken pocket and tucked the ball to run right, only to bring the ball back up and zip it to McCoy in the back of the end zone (see for yourself in the video). Portis is far from a finished product, but it's clear he is an exciting project to watch.
I am trying not to look too much into this game, especially as Jackson's snaps were with a first team that lost Okung early and generally needed to gain its rhythm.
That said, Whitehurst looked like a quarterback who wants to compete for a starting job; he was far from perfect, but when comfortable he made things happen—ditto for Portis. The first game of the preseason showed the Seahawks may not be as weak at the quarterback spot as initially perceived.
Jackson was anointed the starter before he took a snap because of his knowledge of the offense; Schneider and Carroll have faith that Seattle is a place Jackson can grow, and thrive. But this situation should be assessed one game at a time. If Thursday night is a sign of things to come, the case for an eventual competition at the position—including for the backup spot—will grow stronger.