I made a day trip from NYC to Charlotte and back to catch the Week 1 game. I'm exhausted and sleep-deprived but who cares, we are 1-0 and the NFL is back and I'm pretty d*rn charged up about that. As you guys know by now, I am neither a competent writer nor a credible scout, so here is some writing about the scouting I did from the stands of BoA (Beatdown on Arrival) stadium yesterday. Organized chronologically at first and then randomly after that:
- My plane had at least 5 people wearing Hawks gear. An early Sunday morning flight from New York to Charlotte had 5 Seahawks fans on it. Awesome. East Coast travel is funny to me as a son of the Great Northwest; the flight from NYC to Charlotte takes about 90 minutes.
- So, the Panthers play at Bank of America stadium. It's cool because the stadium is directly in downtown Charlotte. Imagine dropping the Clink right on top of Westlake Center. It's NOT cool because Charlotte is a weird little city. Even on gameday hardly anything was open, everything was a Cheesecake Factory-type chain, and their liquor laws are bananapants stupid (HAPPY HOUR IS ILLEGAL).
- In-stadium experience is pretty cool. It's a comfortable place to watch a game. I ended up wearing a Seahawks hat and didn't get a word of trash talk or so much as a foul look from anyone. Easygoing folks, these Charlottans. The sightlines at BOA are good, not great, because of the shallow grade of the stands. At the Clink, it's all about verticality with 70,000 fans hanging directly over the field. Here, the cheap seats are lower in altitude but further from the action. Is this boring? Sorry. The point is that CenturyLink Field is the perfect football venue. It is.
- I got to my seat just as the teams were finishing warmups and trotting back into the locker rooms. The last Seahawk off the field was Richard Sherman, who stopped at the corner of the field and turned around. He stood there for a few moments breathing deeply and staring across the field, basically just drinking in the energy and atmosphere of gameday. He pounded his chest, slapped his helmet, and sprinted into the tunnel to join his teammates. If there was any doubt: Sherman absolutely lives for this shit.
- Cool seeing our 2013 captains out there. The C looks good on Wilson. (I am visible in this photo)
- Hauschka thumped the opening kickoff and it clanged audibly off of one of the uprights. He wasn't joking about upping his leg strength. Really impressed with what he accomplished over the offseason.
- Thurmond looked like a starting shutdown CB. He is the most fundamentally impressive CB on our roster to my eye. I don't think he's more effective or more valuable than Browner or Sherman, but he's a classic at the position. The Hawks moved him inside to the slot in 3 and 4 WR sets with Byron Maxwell taking over at RCB. Never change, cornerback depth. Winfield who?
- Sherm should have had that pick. He read the route, baited Newton by trailing the route and pounced. I would be terrified of throwing in Sherman's direction. If his man is open, is he really open? Or does Sherman just want you to think he's open? Man. He'll get his.
- Kam had a nice pass breakup that arrived a millisecond too early. Clear PI, but a punishing SS with those kind of ball skills is pretty amazing.
- Carolina's first punt was a beauty, with an insane bounce at the 5 that dropped gently into the arms of a Panther at the 3. If that ball goes through the back of the endzone, don't be surprised if the Seahawks drive the field and score on their opening possession.
- But it didn't, and they didn't. Luke Willson got an earful after his illegal shift. This goes for most QBs, but I think the worst place for Russell Wilson is backed up into his own end zone. He clearly couldn't see anything on his throwaway. He can't escape out the back of the pocket nor can he drop deep enough to find his favored throwing lanes. For this reason, I don't mind Tate bringing most of those balls back from the 5. A bad bounce that pins us back there is particularly bad news for this team.
- Baldwin is a new man, which is to say he's back to his old self. I like the Bobby Engram comparison but even Bobby couldn't move like Fresh. His release is INSANE. IN-SANE. Read this next sentence in the voice of Cris Collinsworth: Kids, if you want to learn the right way to play wide receiver, watch number 89 Doug Baldwin and the way he gets off the line of scrimmage and into his route. He is going to be open ALL SEASON LONG. Every down.
- Zach Miller looked 100% to me. Wilson found him right up the seam in one of his best throws from the pocket, and without Miller on the field to help the offensive line with Carolina's front 7 I'm not sure we score any points at all.
- Wilson and Bevell were attached at the hip all day, with Tate and T-Bird frequently joining them to add their 2 cents. The Separation is in the Collaboration.
- Another chemistry/sideline observation: I think Bobby Wagner is Robert Turbin's only friend in the world. Turbo broke that nice cutback near the end of the game and went to celebrate with the sideline, and Wagner is the only one who even came close to slapping him five. Weird.
- I believe Wilson was tipping his snap count for most of the game. The Panthers were keying on something he was doing and getting perfect, inhuman jumps on nearly every down.
- I don't need to tell you that Steve Smith is crafty, but Steve Smith is crafty. The fans love him, he loves being a Panther, and he plays with a rare degree of savvy. Fun to watch. Frustrating, but dagnabbit you have to admire play that good. F*ck your zone.
- Cam Newton's talent is being wasted at this point. I don't understand what the Panthers are trying to do on offense.
- I mentioned this on Twitter, but Panthers' CB Josh Thomas got torched on back-to-back plays by Stephen Williams and Jermaine Kearse. I thought Williams made a nice effort on his drop. Wilson's throw was GORGEOUS in person. Tha Swilla will get another shot. But yeah, love the recognition and willingness to go for the killshot by the Hawks coaching staff there. Guarantee you as soon as Bevell saw the defensive alignment on the 2nd down call, he muttered "oh shit, touchdown" to himself. Watch Wilson's body language in that highlight clip, too. He NEEDED that touchdown. He had to have it. Good stuff.
- You know that feeling in your chest when you're standing close to a loud bass speaker? Jon Ryan's punts were doing that to me yesterday. Shockwave.
- The dark jerseys were hurtin' the Hawks in that heat. It really was nasty out there. Kudos to the Seahawks' conditioning and toughness. I didn't see anybody go down with a cramp.
- ET was all over the place. Kam had a quiet game.
- ET is Carroll's pride and joy. It's as Ann as the nose on plain's face.
- I thought our defensive line looked great. I didn't get a look at the pass rushing ends but I did see Benny and Obie winning on a number of downs. Newton has a nice pocket presence and stepped away from several sure sacks.
- Greg Olsen is a problem. We're lucky he had a couple of drops because we didn't have an answer.
- Free Christine Michael! (Against a team with a weaker front 7.)
I'm sure there are a few other thoughts dimly sputtering around inside my braincase so I'll drop those in the comments if and when they occur to me. Go hawks.
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