Seattle Seahawks: Complete Report Card for Preseason Week 2 Loss
While last week's win in San Diego was full of positives, this weekend carried a bit of a different tune.
Pete Carroll got up to the podium during his postgame presser and announced that there were few bright spots in this game, appearing to be generally disappointed with the performance.
Preseason grades are based on the play of all units. How did the team grade out in Week 2?
For the second week in a row, the quarterbacking was solid. Tarvaris Jackson played the first half, and Charlie Whitehurst played all but the last drive of the game, Josh Portis coming out for mop-up duty once the game was out of hand.
Jackson showed a better rhythm in Week 2, but he was continually running for his life or on his back due to poor pass protection—more on that later. He made a nice throw down the seam on the first play of the game that was dropped by Golden Tate; a deep out to Mike Williams in the red zone on the fourth drive is another notable, solid throw.
He continued to show his athleticism, evading pressure—breaking a Jared Allen sack early—and scrambling for a few first downs.
However, Jackson still was unable to get anything completed down the field. He threw one deep ball to Sidney Rice out of bounds, and an outside-the-red-zone throw into the end zone towards Rice was almost picked by the safety.
The throw should have gone to Williams, who was on the outside of Rice with single coverage.
The tipped-pass interception appeared a bit behind Tate, and Jackson struggled with accuracy on a few other throws. However, he appeared to play a bit better than in Week 1; 11-of-21 with an interception and another one dropped is another performance that shouldn't be counted against him per se but leaves something to be desired.
Whitehurst shined with the second unit for the second week in a row, but as Carroll noted, "It’s really two different halves, in the way that they were able to play, and the guys that were in the game. It was much harder early on. Our matchups weren’t there."
Carroll did admit that Whitehurst's play was one of the few bright spots.
Whitehurst was 14-of-19, though Carroll went as far as to say he could have been 18-of-19 during the postgame. Whitehurst looked confident and decisive on three-step drops, was poised on rollouts, handled pressure well and generally made smart decisions.
On his touchdown pass, he handled the low snap, evaded pressure, scrambled with his head up and made a nice throw to the back of the end zone. It's worth noting that Whitehurst needed 19 attempts to throw for 97 yards, partly a product of the play-calling.
Portis was an uninspiring 2-of-9 for 14 yards, and he took a sack, but four rushes for 46 yards displayed his elite athleticism.
While the offense is struggling to create points thus far in the preseason—the first-team offense hasn't gotten into the end zone—the quarterback play is not one of the low points through the first two games, in my opinion.
The trend from Week 1 continued, notably Whitehurst's very solid play, and the position looks to be improving as a whole. What happens if Whitehurst "outplays" Jackson again next week? Does he see first-team reps before the regular season?
Running Back and Fullback
The Seahawks running game improved marginally from Week 1, yards per carry increasing about 0.5 yards to 3.7 per (without quarterback scrambles). Also, the backs continued to be serviceable receivers out of the backfield.
For the second week in a row, Leon Washington looked fast and elusive, squeezing through holes and making people miss with his first cut. Game 2 provided even more evidence to suggest he will be a larger part of the offense this season.
Marshawn Lynch had a day to forget carrying the ball—three rushes for two yards. His noteworthy play came as a receiver, used on a screen that was stopped by a nice tackle and serving as an outlet in the flat early in the game.
Justin Forsett underwhelmed in his first action of the season with seven carries for eight yards, though four of those carries came inside the 2-yard line. His inability to score on the goal line stood out, though it wasn't all his fault. He had a few receptions on check-downs, and a screen his way was blown apart.
Backup running back Thomas Clayton had an OK game, averaging 3.6 yards per on seven carries, a week after he busted a fourth-quarter touchdown run. New signee Vai Taua had two runs for 15 yards and ran tough on both carries.
Michael Robinson had an eight-yard run up the gut on 4th-and-1 and a reception on a short completion in the flat. He has been decent at the fullback spot.
A player who surprised was fullback Dorson Boyce, notably as an effective safety valve out of the backfield with three catches for 16 yards and two first downs. Boyce registered no college stats but had a solid showing at Jake Locker's private workout before the draft.
He's a project who is perhaps shooting for the practice squad at this point.
The running game left a bit to be desired, but the backs aren't deserving of all of the blame. Taua and Boyce were nice bonuses, but 14 rushes for 36 yards from the top three backs isn't going to cut it.
In Week 1, this was one of the most impressive groups on the roster—in Week 2, not as much.
Mike Williams made a strong, cross-body catch that survived a challenge on a 17-yard out to the 2-yard line. That was his only catch.
Sidney Rice had five balls thrown his way but was unable to do anything in the red zone or downfield; he also dropped a catchable, low pass from Jackson. For all we've heard about his jaw-dropping plays in camp, an underwhelming debut.
Golden Tate struggled from the opening kickoff. He dropped the previously mentioned pass and could have reeled in the off-target pass from Jackson on the pick-six. Carroll said after the game he pulled Tate to keep the frustration from growing before inserting him back into the game. Tate had his chances, but this was a very disappointing effort.
Doug Baldwin continued to impress, showing solid hands and savvy route-running, and even touched the ball on an end-around—a play similar to a Jacoby Ford end-around from Tom Cable's days in Oakland. At this point, it's worth wondering if he is going to cut into Tate's touches.
Kris Durham saw his first action as a pro and made a few nice grabs—notably on a 14-yard catch by the sideline, on which Whitehurst made a nice throw low and away off a play-action rollout.
However, Durham was unable to come through on Whitehurst's final drive, unable to track a downfield throw on third down, and he failed to fight through a possible pass interference and dropped the ball on the fourth-down slant. Carroll noted postgame that Durham was gassed, to give the last two plays a bit of context.
Patrick Williams had a poor game—four targets and zero catches. He tripped on a 3rd-and-long play where Whitehurst got rocked while making a solid throw; Williams would have caught it if he remained upright. He also had a crucial drop on Whitehurst's final drive. This could be the dagger for his roster chances.
Isaiah Stanback, Ricardo Lockette and Chris Carter had zero targets each. As a whole, a very underwhelming performance.
Tight end is proving to be one of the team's deepest groups. John Carlson could be out for an extended period if his labrum issue proves to be significant; based on Game 2, the backups are ready to pick up the slack.
Anthony McCoy had a touchdown catch for the second straight game and converted all four targets into receptions. Two weeks in a row, he's shown an ability to get open in the back of the end zone on a broken play. McCoy was primarily tagged as a blocker, but he's been a very pleasant surprise as a receiver.
Dominique Byrd proved to be a favorite target of Charlie Whitehurst for the second week in a row, with six targets and four receptions.
His 14-yard catch came on a short throw off a play-action rollout; he got the first down with yards after the catch. Through two games, Byrd has proven he may be legitimate depth behind John Carlson. With Cameron Morrah on the PUP list and Carlson hurting, Byrd could prove to be a valuable backup.
Zach Miller had an OK game. He made an easy reception early, coming across the formation with the play-action and running open in the flat for the first down; on his other target, Jackson was absolutely dumped in the backfield, and the throw was nowhere near where it should be.
The issue with Miller was his inconsistent blocking, which is supposed to be one of his strengths given the familiarity with Cable's scheme. He notably whiffed on the second- and third-down runs by Justin Forsett on the goal line but led the way on the Baldwin end-around.
The tight ends had nine receptions compared to the receivers' 10. As highlighted earlier in the offseason, this unit was expected to be a major part of the offense before they signed Miller. It's unlikely they keep five tight ends on the active roster, and their depth here is a good problem to have.
Heading into the game, one of the main themes to watch was whether the first-team offensive line could tighten up its play, as practice the past few weeks has been filled with penalties and lackluster play.
On the whole, the first-team line really struggled. It didn't allow a sack, but Jackson was hit and harassed constantly (10 quarterback hits for Minnesota); penalties were also an issue. For the second week in a row, Seattle looked overwhelmed up front—notably, missing assignments and generally unprepared for blitzes from the edge.
On the very first possession, Tyler Polumbus let Jared Allen come clean off the edge—Jackson shed the sack. The absence of Russell Okung was apparent early.
The Vikings consistently won the line of scrimmage in the running game—both sides of the line had breakdowns on multiple occasions—and false starts continued to be an issue.
The second-team line provided better pass protection—granted, against the second unit—and gave Whitehurst more time to throw.
They opened a few holes in the running game, especially towards the end of the game. For the second week in a row, they generally looked more composed than the first unit. The comparison is a young first unit versus a "veteran" second unit—Minnesota dialed back its pressure in the second half.
Given that this is an extremely young unit that's been together for about three weeks, its struggles are not necessarily unexpected.
Game 2 gave no reason to change that opinion. If the struggles continue, do the Seahawks attempt to insert a veteran to help stabilize the line for the time being?
The defensive line played solid early on but had less solid play from the second and third units than in Game 1. They did, however, begin to mix their fronts with the first unit, playing more standard 4-3 in the second half.
The Seahawks allowed 2.8 yards per rush in the first half, and Raheem Brock sacked Donovan McNabb once. Brock was a menace pressuring the quarterback the entire first half—two quarterback hits in addition to his sack. Was he motivated by Carroll's prank?
Unfortunately, the Seahawks were mostly unable to create pressure from the interior.
Alan Branch batted down a pass for the second week in a row. His combination of size and balance is noticeable in the middle; he could be an asset against the screen game.
Red Bryant was relatively quiet stats-wise in his return, but he broke up a pass on a screen play; his size and athleticism is a general plus for this defense. The Vikings also didn't go in his direction often.
His presence was notable on the sideline as well; he played enforcer after a Vikings late hit, shoving the Vikings defender.
Junior Siavii played a good portion of the game and was decent at the point of attack, at times providing a push; Jimmy Wilkerson has shown versatility and a strong motor through two games. Both look to be solid depth.
Maurice Fountain was signed before the game—a member of the practice squad at the end of 2010—and was all over the field in the second half, registering a tackle for loss and providing constant pressure. He was the most pleasant surprise of the second half in my opinion.
Pep Levingston registered two tackles—the second game in a row he has produced.
One player who failed to get anything of note going was Dexter Davis. He must produce in the next game if he wants to remain on this team. Kentwan Balmer registered a tackle in limited action and is another 2010 Seahawk that must produce if he wants to remain on the roster.
Jameson Konz failed to see the field; Pierre Allen, who had a strip sack in the first game, did not dress.
This group needs more production, but it turned in a respectable effort.
Linebacker play was all over the place, but there were definitely promising moments throughout the game.
David Hawthorne played solidly enough and had a decent game tackling.
Leroy Hill made two tackles on Adrian Peterson in the first quarter—on his first tackle, he body-slammed Peterson in the end zone. He also saw time on the strong side as the Seahawks are experimenting with Aaron Curry on the weak side. Hill appeared reawakened by the 12th man.
Curry had a confusing game. After being talked up on the radio by both Carroll and Gus Bradley, all Curry had to show for himself was a fumble recovery on a punt—a play that was blown dead and later overturned—zero tackles and some containment errors.
His less-than-shining moment came when he ripped off and heaved a Vikings helmet downfield for a 15-yard penalty. Bradley had notably praised Curry's consistency and growth, which was not apparent against the Vikings.
Malcolm Smith forced a fumble and looked very solid in underneath pass coverage; he also made some containment errors and was unable to tackle a scrambling quarterback, behind the line, on multiple occasions. On the whole, his speed is impressive, and Smith looks the part of a 53-man roster player.
K.J. Wright saw less time at middle linebacker and didn't have quite the game he had in Week 1. Matt McCoy saw some time as the middle linebacker and didn't appear to provide an upgrade. Wright will find his niche in this defense and make plays.
Rookie Michael Morgan was all over the field but blew some assignments. His athleticism stood out, and he is a player who could contribute down the line—definitely a candidate for the practice squad. If he could have chased down Tristan Davis on the 35-yard touchdown run at the end of the game, this unit could have had a higher grade.
This is a unit that is beginning to gain clarity, as Game 2 saw a couple players distinguish themselves from the rest.
Kelly Jennings was supposed to be a scratch but ended up dressing late and starting. He made one nice play in run support but was otherwise picked on as usual. Brandon Browner made his first notable error of the preseason, bouncing off Toby Gerhart and allowing a first down late in the first half.
Otherwise, Browner was solid in coverage and later made up for his error with a savvy ankle tackle in run support.
When will the Seahawks finally give him a chance to start opposite Marcus Trufant? Get the guy first-team reps when the games don't count. Carroll compared Browner's size to Mel Blount earlier in camp, and they need to experiment with his skill set.
Trufant got outmatched by rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph on a third-down throw but made the tackle. Otherwise, he was quiet.
Richard Sherman was thrown at often; at times he was right there but was also caught trailing in coverage on a couple of occasions. Notably, Sherman needs to work on turning his head and locating the ball—Devin Aromashodu made a great adjustment on a ball Sherman was late to adjust on.
Byron Maxwell had solid coverage on a stop-and-go route later in the game but otherwise did little of note.
Earl Thomas stopped Adrian Peterson on a third-down screen early—his only stat.
Jeron Johnson continued to be around the ball and saw time in the nickel package; he's continuing his push to make the final roster. As a result, Mark LeGree saw considerably less time, and he may be in danger of not making the 53-man roster.
Josh Pinkard made a huge play, forcing a fumble near the goal line for a touchback. One knock against him—for the second week in a row, he whiffed in the backfield on a run blitz.
Kam Chancellor again made a nice tackle in the backfield on a run blitz where he mistimed the snap and got a poor jump—an impressive play. He is continuing to prove that he will be a run enforcer.
Atari Bigby saw time with the second unit and was part of the nickel package. On the whole, he was underwhelming and notably missed the tackle before Pinkard saved the play.
This group has a bunch of playmakers. The question is can they make enough plays to offset the growing pains?
Special teams got off to a horrendous start.
On the opening kickoff, Golden Tate received the ball about seven yards deep in the end zone. He came out looking unusually scared with the ball. It's because he saw the group of six Vikings coming his way, three of which would come in for the tackle. Hopefully, this game serves as a good learning experience for him.
Sherman and Tate had three returns for five yards combined. Neither has shown anything close to Leon Washington's capabilities. However, Sherman made a solid tackle inside the 15 on the kickoff to start the second half.
Matt McCoy made a nice play downfield on a punt and was also credited with a forced fumble, which Jeron Johnson was in on as well.
Still, kick coverage is lacking, and the team needs to find the right players. Byron Maxwell continues to show high effort on punt coverage but has been unable to make plays.
Pinkard and Johnson are two more to watch on special teams. Seattle needs a sleeper to step up, perhaps defensive back Ron Parker—who had an aggressive pass breakup in the fourth quarter—or Michael Morgan.
Jeff Reed didn't get much of an attempt to prove anything.
Seattle needs to make sure it is comfortable with its kicker and put points on the board so it can work on kick coverage. This unit is still a work in progress, but the forced turnover was a positive.
4 Thoughts and a Final Grade
1. Pete Carroll justified the four straight running plays on the goal line as a preseason-driven move, a series to see if the offensive line could push its way through a Vikings front that won the line of scrimmage battle in the first half. It was a shot at boosting their confidence.
I understand the logic, especially given that it's the preseason; however, I would've liked to have seen them put the ball in Tarvaris Jackson's hands once. Either call the fade to one of their three 6'4"-plus receivers or a rollout to give Jackson the opportunity to throw a touchdown or an incomplete pass—perhaps run in for a score.
I'd like to see the Seahawks open up the playbook a bit in Game 3.
2. You have to wonder if Carroll was expecting Charlie Whitehurst to look as solid as he has thus far. Whitehurst has said all the right things, but he's playing like a guy who's ticked off with the situation and wants to change it.
His low yards per attempt—97 yards on 19 tries—is more a product of the play-calling and his receivers not helping him on his few deeper throws.
Carroll mentioned in the postgame presser that they need to give Jackson the opportunity to play well. He showed last year he will stick to his guns, as he never benched Matt Hasselbeck. I'd be surprised if he benched Jackson before he has a fair chance.
3. On a 1st-and-15, backed up defending at their own 18 versus a shotgun three-wide set, the Seahawks came out in what appeared to be a "46"-type formation.
Siavii was a head up on the center—Branch and Wilkerson in the three-tech position. Brock and Curry were split wide of the offensive line as standup rushers on either side. Hawthorne was playing behind Branch, Hill behind Brock. Curry was alone on his side, Chancellor his "help."
Branch and Siavii crashed into the backfield—forcing Peterson to re-route—and Wilkerson twisted across the backside. The play was forced towards Hawthorne, waiting to clean up the play with Wilkerson.
When the Seahawks added Branch, I thought they found the final piece they needed to potentially build this wrinkle into the scheme. I'm hoping we see it evolve throughout the preseason. Does Bryant or Brandon Mebane enter the equation?
4. Leroy Hill had the following to say after the game about Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright: “Talent. Talent. Smarts. Quickness. I think they brought a great group of guys in here. The future linebackers are right here now in this locker room for the Seahawks. They’re going to make a lot of plays. They’re going to do their job. They’re going to perform well."
Hill's mind appears to be right, and he seems focused on helping this unit get its game tight.
Final Grade: C+
The loss cemented the grade, but the game was within reach until the final minutes. The performance of Charlie Whitehurst, steady-ish running game, strong play by the tight ends and generally solid play of the defense—which gave up six points to McNabb and the first team in just under a half—kept this grade respectable.
However, the team needs to have a strong week of practice to iron out the kinks on the offensive first team, and the receivers need to help out the quarterbacks.