Seahawks have more questions than answers after third exhibition game
Will the running game improve? Where is John Carlson? What happened to Charlie Whitehurst after the first exhibition game?
Seattle Times staff reporter
The third exhibition game is as close as NFL teams come to a dress rehearsal, but Seattle's 24-13 loss in Minnesota on Saturday night produced more questions than conclusions about the Seahawks' readiness for this season.
And while Earl Thomas was the runaway success of the evening, it wasn't exactly a revelation that Seattle's rookie safety is a playmaker. He was the 14th overall pick in the draft for a reason.
So what are the other lessons to be drawn from Saturday's game, and what still must be figured out as Seattle prepares to cut its roster to 75 players by Tuesday and down to 53 on Saturday?
I. Three things
1. This running game is going nowhere fast. Julius Jones started the exhibition opener and gained 13 yards on five carries in the first quarter. Justin Forsett started the second game and ran for 4 yards on four carries in the opening period. Leon Washington began the game at running back Saturday and gained 16 yards on six carries in the first quarter.
What's that tell you? Doesn't matter who's running the ball for Seattle, it's going to be slow going.
2. Of the three running backs who have started for Seattle, Jones has been the least impressive. Through three exhibition games, he hasn't gained more than 6 yards on any rush. And outside of a 10-yard reception in which he hurdled a defender in the red zone against Green Bay, he hasn't made a memorable play.
3. Mike Williams might be this team's most dangerous split end. In three exhibition games, Seattle has four receptions that gained more than 40 yards. Williams has been responsible for two of them. His 42-yard reception in the third quarter in Minnesota showed what a threat he is to run after the catch, and his size and strength make him a unique threat among Seattle's wide receivers.
II. Three things we don't know
1. Is tight end John Carlson becoming the invisible man, or is Seattle just playing possum? He caught one pass for 6 yards Saturday, bringing his exhibition totals to two catches in three games for 12 yards. Not exactly what everyone expected after all the talk about how often Seattle would use a two-tight-end set.
Chris Baker — Seattle's big-bodied blocking tight end — hasn't played the past two games because of a sore hamstring. Also, the Seahawks could be preventing regular-season opponents from getting a sneak peek at their plans for Carlson. If not, the early projections for Carlson's productivity were greatly overblown.
2. Will Seattle's offense carry its big-play penchant into the regular season? Seattle had three passes gain more than 40 yards in Minnesota. The Seahawks only had six passes of 40 or more yards in 16 regular-season games last season, and one of those was a 42-yard completion Jon Ryan pulled off on a fake punt.
3. Are Seattle's takeaways masking a real problem for its defense? The Seahawks have faced 10 possessions against an opponent's starting quarterback so far this month. They have forced a punt just once, and that was Saturday in Brett Favre's final series for Minnesota. Before that, Seattle had allowed four touchdowns to starting quarterbacks, intercepted two passes, recovered one fumble and forced a turnover on downs. It's possible those turnovers have helped cover up some of the real defensive deficiencies in Seattle.
III. Three things we're trying to figure out
1. Will Charlie Whitehurst correct a downward spiral in which his three exhibition performances have gotten successively worse? Yes, he made a nice pass to Golden Tate for a 41-yard gain in the fourth quarter at Minnesota, but he followed that up with three passes that were increasingly awful, culminating in his fourth interception of this August that was such a poor decision that two Vikings were vying to pick it off.
2. Are Seattle's early-game struggles a sign of things to come for the offense? Seattle has had eight first-quarter possessions this month and gone three-and-out three times. The Seahawks have gained a total of eight first downs in the opening period and scored just once in the opening period.
3. How exactly did Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane manage to move Bryant McKinnie — the Vikings' Pro Bowl tackle — 3 yards backward on a fourth-and-two play in the first half? It was a seriously impressive feat of strength, and it was the biggest reason Adrian Peterson was stuffed for no gain, finishing off an impressive goal-line stand by the Seahawks.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
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