So, I figure you can find a play-by-play recap just about anywhere so when I went back and rewatched the game I didn't do so with an eye for telling you exactly what happened. Instead, I wanted to focus on position groups and individual players and how they fared. I'll break it down for you this way.
I really like the group we have in the backfield. Marshawn Lynch didn't play but I sort of forget this because the combination of Leon Washington, Justin Forsett, Michael Robinson, Thomas Clayton, and Vai Taua has been impressive. Leon is that one-cut and go type of shifty runner that has potential to get a lot of carries in this zone running scheme. Washington had a great heads-up play on a badly thrown and deflected pass by Charlie Whitehurst that he took for 30 odd yards downfield on a third down. Sometimes the ball just bounces your way, and it was sweet revenge (well, not that sweet considering it was preseason this time for us) for this play last season against the Raiders where Michael Bush grabbed a deflected pass and ran it for a huge gain. Good to see luck back on our side for one night anyway.
Forsett has looked good running between the tackles, consistently breaks tackles and is dangerous on swing passes and screens. This was displayed last night when he grabbed a screen pass from Tarvaris Jackson with one hand and ran it for 19 yards and a first down. This play came on a 3rd and 15 in the Seahawks first drive -- a drive that started with two no-gains on runs, then a James Carpenter false start to put them in a bad situation.
The fact that the Seahawks successfully ran a screen play was a triumph in itself, but the timing was very important. It kept the drive going, kept the offense on the field, and helped them find some rhythm. If they had gone three and out there it could have been a game-changing and confidence killing type of situation, but they made it happen, so that was good to see.
Michael Robinson looks good. He's significantly bigger than last year but doesn't appear to have lost a step. He also caught a screen pass out of the backfield on a 3rd down in the first quarter (same drive) and picked up some great yards after the catch for 15 yards and first down.
Thomas Clayton has been impressive. He averaged almost 4 yards a carry last night and on a third quarter, 14-play drive, I believe he carried the ball eight times and helped the Seahawks chew up over eight minutes on the clock. Like I said last night -- running helps you protect a lead, keep the defense off the field, and wears down your opponent. I like Clayton because he's versatile and runs very hard. I don't think they keep him over Justin Forsett though.
Vai Taua had a good game running the ball too. He runs with a little different style than Clayton I think. He's more apt to let the play develop and let the blockers do their job in front of him. I saw on Taua display patience behind the line, waiting for the hole to open up. He doesn't run as explosively but he runs behind his pads and follows his lead blocker well. I really like Taua but doubt he has a spot on the roster. He might be a practice squad candidate.
The offensive line. I was glad to see the o-line offer Tarvaris Jackson some protection. He was able to complete some passes, lets plays develop, and move the ball down the field. Carpenter got significant action and looked good. He played well into the fourth quarter so it was nice to see them giving him some game reps -- that experience will be needed for a big guy like James. I think he'll get better as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable in the scheme (and on the right).
I didn't watch the o-line super closely but the Hawks ran the ball fairly well and gave our quarterbacks time so overall I'd say they improved. The second team offensive line has been dominating second team defenses all preseason and last night wasn't any different. It's nice to know that you have functional backups.
Cut blocking is a big part of this scheme, and it will take a little getting used to. When I've gone back and rewatched some of the Hawks preseason games, I've noticed that on more than a few occasions, the pressure on Tarvaris Jackson comes because of missed cut blocks. When you think of cut blocks you typically would think of rushing plays downfield but I've noticed the Hawks employing them in pass protection as well -- for instance, both tackles will just try and cut the defensive ends off the snap. If the defensive end plays it slow and stays upright, he then has an offensive tackle laying on the ground in front of him and a clear line to the quarterback. This type of thing is probably new to some of our personnel so I'd encourage you to be patient with it as they figure out the nuances needed.
This cut-blocking thing is not all bad though, and you can see players catching on -- on one play in particular in the fourth quarter, the second/third team o-line opened up a gigantic hole for Vai Taua to run through and into the endzone, and it was made possible by three well-placed cut blocks. See below:
You can see Paul McQuistan, the left guard, just laying down a TEXTBOOK cut-block downfield, flipping the linebacker practically on his head. But the hole is opened up beautifully in the backfield by LT William Robinson and TE Dominique Byrd laying down effective blocks as well. Overall, this is the type of execution you hope for when you draw up plays. Taua went through the hole hard and was untouched into the endzone.
In general though, the Seahawks did a good job of mitigating the issues on the offensive line by successfully employing pressure-beating plays. Rollouts, bootlegs, screens. Tarvaris and Charlie looked good on these plays and Whitehurst in particular made some impressive throws on bootlegs to keep drives going.
The Seahawks receivers have looked good as well. Though it wasn't an ideal situation by any stretch to have these guys starting, but Kris Durham and Golden Tate sort of helped me forget that Mike Williams and Sidney Rice were on the sideline in street clothes. Durham looked the part and though his stat-line said 1 reception for 9 yards, he also had a nice deep dig on a rollout pass from Tarvaris Jackson that went for 26 yards but was called back for something I can't remember. Either way, he looks smooth out there, and has displayed good hands. On his one official reception, he used all of his 6'6 frame to go up for a high pass in the redzone and came down on the one-yard line. Having this type of big target is likely what John Schneider envisioned when he drafted Durham.
When I went back and re-watched the game, the one main thing that stuck out to me was that Golden Tate played lights out. People remember his big 43-yard reception downfield but he had 4 other catches and at least two of them were very high degree of difficulty. His first catch came in high and he went up and plucked it out of the air for a first down. Later, he reached down and to his right to grab a ball that came in really low and behind him. These are not easy plays and it was so damn good to see him make them. He also displayed an ability to find the open spot in the zone and he was the bailout on several plays which shows he did a good job of coming back to the ball when a play breaks down.
I really think last night was a statement game for Tate and I'm hoping he can keep that swagger as we go into the regular season. It might just be me, but Tate NEEDS that swagger back. He knows he's a good player, but has yet to prove it to anyone. He showed us glimpses of what he can do last night.
Overall the defense stonewalled the Raiders pretty well. I love that they kept them out of the endzone and I think they did a pretty good job of sticking to their gameplan and philosophy. Keep the ball in front of you. Play within yourself. There weren't many 'big' plays, but it was more of a team effort on the defensive side to discourage and demoralize the Raiders.
The defensive secondary situation is as muddled to me as it was coming into the game. Atari Bigby, Jeron Johnson, Josh Pinkard, and Mark LeGree all played solidly, and no one really was head and shoulders above the rest. My gut would tell me that Jeron Johnson is the real deal, and looks the most natural out there of the group. He's fast and instinctual, and had a nice blitz off the edge where he blasted the running back in the backfield for a loss. He looked good in coverage too, so he's really made a nice case for himself to make the roster. Pinkard and LeGree played well enough to keep their names in the discussion too -- LeGree had a good play in pass coverage on a slot receiver on a 4th and 4 mid fourth quarter - he put pressure on the catch, and the Raiders' receiver McGee missed the ball. Good heads up play from Legree that got Gus Bradley onto the field fist pumping wildly.
I don't envy this front office in the final decisions today but it will be the most interesting group to watch for.
The defensive line depth showed signs of life. Lazarius Levingston looks great from the interior on passing downs. He showed an ability to get into the backfield and collapse the pocket. He has good get-off, violent hands to get off blocks. High-energy.
I am as excited about this as I am surprised. I thought they had drafted him to be a backup five-tech end but he has looked lively rushing the passer from the inside. He was credited with half a sack but he nearly had another one as well when he forced Kyle Boller to throw the ball into the ground as he hit him (see picture above, he's behind Boller).
Next to him, DT David Howard has quietly looked good as well as a penetrating nose tackle type on passing downs. I didn't notice much of DT Clinton McDonald but the Hawks depth a defensive tackle is looking a little less tenuous to me at the moment. That might be a snap judgement based on this game alone, but so be it. Right now, I'm feeling better about it. Levingston and/or McDonald could come in as situational pass rushers from 3-tech/nose tackle position and used in combination with David Howard on passing downs could be interesting.
The secondary did their jobs well enough last night. They kept the Raiders out of the endzone so that was a positive. Richard Sherman looked good. He got a bump pass interference call on one pass play but reached out and deflected the pass as it came in to the receiver. I think the call was correct, but that kind of thing gets overlooked as often as it gets called. The take away was that Sherman used his length and got his head around to break up the pass. Carroll loves these long-limbed guys that narrow throwing lanes for quarterbacks and generally just make outside passes harder to connect on.
Kennard Cox had a couple of nice plays, but I don't see him making the 53. Byron Maxwell didn't look outstanding but I think will still be on the cusp. Browner looked fine. I didn't watch the corners especially closely and without coaches tape its pretty hard to tell what they're doing when they're off screen. The key thing is that they didn't give up many big plays for huge gains, and this was the bane of the Seahawks defense last season.
Aaron Curry had a pretty good first half. On a 3rd and 2 with 1:29 in first quarter, he blew up a run from the weakside linebacker position - shed the lead blocking fullback and stuffed the run in the backfield. The other play that people were complaining about, where he didn't wrap up on Michael Bush, was blatant holding that didn't get called. It's tough to wrap up with the guy blocking you has your arms handcuffed behind your back. Either way, he looked good, and has still been playing from the weakside a lot (if not exclusively) -- something that nobody is really talking about, inexplicably. (Something we'll have a lot more on that very soon - Dukeshire has been putting something together)...
Other than that - Raheem Brock looked good. Dexter Davis got some snaps and didn't really convince me either way whether or not he'll be in the Hawks plans going forward. That's about all I got for now. Obviously, we'll revisit the game throughout the week with more but I wanted to share my initial reactions.
First, you see Hill essentially punching Giacomini in the face after a play had been whistled dead.
Giacomini doesn't appreciate this transgression. He responds by putting Hill on his backside.
You can see Hill's head falling out of the corner of the screen there to the bottom right.
As Mike Mayock would say, "GET OFF ME!"
Anyway, I thought that was funny.
I'll end with a poll -- who has been the Seahawks best RedZone performer in this preseason? Check it out below: