Too many penalties, too little protection for Seahawks
August is no time to draw conclusions in the NFL, but halfway through Seattle's exhibition schedule it's time to take inventory.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos, 6 p.m.., Ch. 5
There were a couple of red flags in Saturday's exhibition game.
Those were just for replay reviews, though. There were too many yellow flags for coach Pete Carroll's taste as Seattle was penalized twice as often as Minnesota.
August is no time to draw conclusions in the NFL, but halfway through Seattle's exhibition schedule, it's time to take inventory of what we've learned about these Seahawks and what they still must figure out:
Three things we learned
1. Charlie Whitehurst is a more decisive quarterback this season.
It's true that he's playing against second-unit defenses while Tarvaris Jackson faces the starters, but it's equally clear that Whitehurst's decision-making has been quicker in his second preseason as a Seahawk. He has completed more than 70 percent of his passes and currently ranks No. 11 in passer rating out of all NFL quarterbacks.
2. There's a reason coach Pete Carroll kept Josh Pinkard around.
The safety has that playmaker's knack, which he showed knocking loose a fourth-quarter fumble that gave Seattle a chance at a last-minute comeback. Pinkard suffered three season-ending knee surgeries in six years at USC, but he was always someone Carroll regarded very highly for his ability to make something happen. Pinkard started last season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list and ended the year on the practice squad. As a second-year safety, he's playing himself toward a role as the fifth defensive back in Seattle's nickel package.
3. Third-string quarterback Josh Portis needs to learn to slide.
Like, right now. The undrafted rookie from California University in Pennsylvania is quick, no doubt, and he led Seattle with 46 yards rushing amassed in the final 2 minutes, 9 seconds of Saturday's game, but he needs to get out of harm's way in a hurry. If that was a starting NFL defense and not the deep reserves on the field, his clock wouldn't have gotten cleaned so much as crushed. Portis is a very intriguing developmental prospect, not nearly as raw as many expected. Discretion is going to have to become part of his plan, though.
Three things we already knew
1. Red Bryant makes a big difference in the defense.
It's impossible to overstate the significance of the big man's presence as the right defensive end. Bryant suffered a season-ending knee injury halfway through the Seahawks' seventh game last season. Until that injury, Seattle was holding opponents to 82.5 yards rushing per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Starting with the second half of the game Bryant was injured, opponents ran for 130.2 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Bryant made his exhibition debut Saturday night, and in the first half the Vikings ran for 28 yards, averaging 2.8 per carry. Minnesota averaged 6.7 yards per carry in the second half.
2. Seattle's pass protection has been like jumbo shrimp: an oxymoron.
That's not altogether surprising given the fact that none of Seattle's five first-string linemen had ever started a regular-season game together, but it was kind of shocking to see just how often — and how hard — Jackson was hit during the two quarters he played Saturday against Minnesota.
3. Pete Carroll won't be mistaken for Dennis Erickson.
Carroll has close to no tolerance for personal-foul penalties. Seattle's coach was steaming mad after linebacker Aaron Curry not only forcibly removed the helmet of Minnesota guard Ryan Cook, but then tossed it toward the Minnesota sideline. Carroll was not amused, and made it clear to Curry he can't make those kind of volatile indiscretions that could hurt the team's field position.
Three things we're trying to figure out
1. What it's going to take to get Golden Tate going?
The Seahawks are doing everything they can to jump-start his second season. He was the first Seattle player to touch the ball Saturday, returning the opening kickoff, and he was the intended target on the Seahawks' first play from scrimmage, but he couldn't hold on to the football on a seam route. The real problem came on the ball that hit him in the hands later in the first period, deflecting up in the air and into the arms of a Minnesota cornerback who returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. Tate was benched for the next quarter or so, returning to the field only toward the end of the second quarter.
2. How did Seattle fail to score in the first half?
The Seahawks had first-and-goal at the Minnesota 2, and four consecutive carries by Justin Forsett gained a total of about 4 feet and a turnover on downs. It was a disappointment for a line that starts three players weighing 319 pounds or more, and while the pass protection has been understandably ragged to start, gaining 2 yards on four plays should be a given even though starting running back Marshawn Lynch had been given the rest of the night off at that point.
3. How Seattle will find room for all its capable receivers?
Undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin's ability as a slot receiver is going to make it tough to leave him off the regular-season roster even though receiver is one of the deeper positions on Seattle's roster. Backup tight ends Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd have also been very productive at a position where Seattle already has Zach Miller and John Carlson. In the past nine seasons, Seattle has kept a combination of 10 wide receivers and tight ends at the final cut to 53 players only once: 2005. Will the Seahawks be able to find room for that many this year? They might have to.
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