Five thoughts on the Seahawks' preseason debut
Five thoughts on the Seahawks' 27-17 victory over Tennessee in their preseason opener:
1. Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson are making the Seahawks less likely to need Tarvaris Jackson as insurance. Flynn had a solid debut operating as the starter. He played the entire first half, playing with and against a mix of starters and reserves. He completed 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards. He threw one interception, which came via an incredible play by Tennessee linebacker Colin McCarthy. The only Flynn pass that hit the turf was a drop from tight end Anthony McCoy. Flynn only led the Seahawks offense to one score in the first half, a field goal on the team's opening drive. With the running game working early, without most of his big-play receivers, Flynn just took what the defense gave him, and while you want to see what he can do throwing downfield at some point, this was a nice first step. His poise and accuracy are impressive. He held onto the ball too long twice and was sacked, but he's still experimenting with his new team.
Wilson played the entire second half against with and against reserves and roster hopefuls, and he was often spectacular with a few mistakes mixed in, including an awful poor throw in the red zone that resulted in an interception. Wilson completed 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards with one touchdown. He also ran three times for 59 yards and scored a touchdown on a 32-yard run in the fourth quarter. The 2012 third-round pick is an electric talent, and surely, you want a glimpse of what he can do playing with the first team.
It's just one preseason game, but Flynn and Wilson came across as stable and dependable. They reflected a lot of what they've shown during training camp. The quarterback competition is far from settled, but now you can be certain it's a battle of intriguing talents and not one of poor options. And while keeping Jackson is a luxury that the Seahawks can afford, Flynn and Wilson left me with an even stronger feeling that the Seahawks are just going to move on with their new quarterbacks and keep Josh Portis as the No. 3 QB. If Flynn can continue to prove he's a capable starter, and Wilson continues to show his promise, the Seahawks have an ideal QB situation without Jackson, who didn't play Saturday.
The three-man quarterback competition really looks like a two-man battle with a third guy lingering in the background just in case something goes wrong.
2. The defense looks as good as we expected, but pass rush still a work in progress. Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner returned an interception for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. That's how it started for a Seahawks defense expected to be great this season. The D looked dominant while the first unit was in, and during the entire first half, the starters and key reserves on the second unit allowed just one field goal to the Titans. Cornerback Richard Sherman had an interception, too. Even rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who has missed some practice time to due injury, looked good and showed the kind of speed the Seahawks sought to improve their defense.
The only thing to nitpick: The pass rush was still missing. It was a small sample size, and the Titans went to their quick game early, but the Seahawks didn't record a sack while their primary players were in. For the game, they only had one sack, a joint effort from Pierre Allen and rookie Greg Scruggs, who was very impressive.
Nevertheless, I still think the Seahawks will be better upfront at pressuring the quarterback. Defensive tackle Jason Jones was a bright spot; he was all over the place. Chris Clemons looks primed to have a great year, and Red Bryant, who is mostly a run-stuffing specialist, seems quicker. And Bruce Irvin's talent is undeniable, even though he didn't impact this exhibition game much.
3. Early on, the offensive line imposed its will in the run game. After the first drive, running the football was a struggle -- at least until Wilson went all Michael Vick on the Titans. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll seemed mildly irritated by that. But he was happy with the way the game started. The starting O-line, which was only in for two series, opened some huge holes and allowed Leon Washington (Marshawn Lynch didn't play) to get going. The Seahawks held the ball for nine minutes and 17 seconds on their 15-play opening drive for a field goal. That's the kind of offensive football Carroll wants to play.
For the game, the Seahawks had 135 rushing yards on 27 carries. Wilson ran for 59 of those yards. The running backs combined for 76 yards on 24 carries (3.2 yards per carry). They need more consistency, and the way Tom Cable coaches the O-line, he won't let the fact that the reserves played most of the game be an excuse. As you saw last season, O-line depth is important. But for a first game, the fabulous start was an encouraging sign that the Seahawks will be able to carry over the strong running game that they established in the second half of last season.
4. Braylon Edwards can give the Seahawks something, but can he limit the boneheaded plays? Edwards caught a spectacular leaping 39-yard touchdown pass from Wilson on a 50/50 ball. He led the Seahawks receivers with two receptions for 51 yards. He played mostly in the second half against scrubs, but dynamic playmaking is dynamic playmaking. Then again, Edwards also had some boneheaded plays, including an unnecessary penalty near the end of a Wilson scramble.
It's a crazy thought considering how concerned I am about maintaining the Seahawks' great locker-room chemistry, but I'm starting to think there might be both room and a need for Edwards and Terrell Owens on this team. We'll see how the preseason progresses, but certainly, if Edwards wants to be a part of this thing, it's not a question of whether he's good enough. It's a question of whether he'll play smart enough. And then there's the larger issue of how the Seahawks could include Edwards and Owens on this team knowing that neither has contributed much to special teams in their NFL careers.
It's probably unlikely that both will make the team, but if Edwards keeps making big plays, he'll make a strong case for himself.
5. One non-Seahawks thought: Jake Locker is inching closer to beating out Matt Hasselbeck. It was great to see Locker and Hasselbeck in the house. Returning to CenturyLink Field for the first time since he left the Seahawks, Hasselbeck was emotional before the game, and his first action of the season got off to a shaky start with that Browner pick six. He also threw the interception to Sherman, and two turnovers in a half is never a good thing when you're trying to keep a job. But it should be noted that the Browner interception came after the football hit the hands of his receiver, Nate Washington, and was deflected by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. And the second pick was essentially a punt. Hasselbeck was 5 of 9 for 45 yards and two picks, but his performance wasn't as bad as that indicates.
Locker got off to a slow start, but then he played well. He finished 7 of 13 for 80 yards. He didn't play against starters, but Locker was better on this day. That quarterback competition will go as long as it can go, but Locker is gaining momentum. I think he's going to win this battle.
OK, those are a few of my impressions. The floor is yours to add to this list. What did you see that needs to be highlighted?