The NFL preseason is an interesting thing; simultaneously meaningful and meaningless. There is disparate intensity, with some guys using every ounce of their being to fight for their dream for at least another week and others just getting practice reps in. You've got guys trying to impress individually while playing within a scheme manned by guys playing new positions with teammates they've never had. Dudes are thinking so hard about doing things correctly that the simple things crumble, resulting in an absurd amount of dropped passes, bad, throws, and missed assignments. And the refs are out there just trying to figure things out themselves, calling penalties you won't see during the regular season.
All of this makes any attempt at insight a challenge as the success of a given play is reliant on a lot of different moving parts thrown together by an engineer that's still trying to see how the pieces fit. As such, gameflow rarely informs the narrative during these exhibition games, so here are a few of the things I noticed in tonight's game between the Seahawks and the Chiefs.
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Preseason football is still, at its core, one of the greatest concentrations of size, power, and athleticism our country has to offer. It's also like watching a bunch of toddlers try to do stuff. But there were some who toddled better than others. Take Brandon Mebane, for instance. Mebane has, by all appearances, returned as the same broad-bellied interior force he was before his injury. On one early play, Mebane bullied his way into the Chiefs backfield to sack Alex Smith. The takedown was accompanied by an appropriately lewd dance so, you know, all systems go over here.
The Seahawks are blessed with a number of really deep, talented position groups but perhaps none more so than the defensive linemen. And among this group, there is probably no one better at their job than Michael Bennett. There are times when Bennett seems absolutely unblockable. I saw it at training camp and I saw it again tonight. He's more disruptive than a hyperactive first grader and that disruption opens up opportunities for the rest of Seattle's ferocious front seven. Bennett spent the majority of his brief night behind the Kansas City line of scrimmage, getting penetration with regularity and chasing down ballcarriers on a number of plays. Bennett finished his short outing with four tackles, a sack, and what would have been two QB hits if the official hadn't incorrectly flagged him for roughing the passer.
The best player from last week's game, Frank Clark, wasn't expected to play tonight after spending most of the week dealing with an ankle injury. Nevertheless, he found himself out there for about 15 plays and while he wasn't the Cloverfield monster he was against Denver, it was good to see Seattle's top rookie back on the field.
KJ Wright might be the most underrated player on this team. For all of the (very deserved) love that Bobby Wagner receives, KJ Wright is a Panzer tank that moves like a Porsche and hits like a Peterbilt. Wright played most of the first half, finishing with a team-high six tackles, two of which were for a loss. On one play, he tracked Jamaal Charles on a pre-snap motion play, weaving his way through the ruckus along the line of scrimmage at the snap to hunt Charles to the ground on a screen play. I don't know how many other 6'4", 255 lb guys on the planet are capable of doing what he did on that play but I'm guessing there ain't more than ten.
The other linebacker that stood out to me was Kevin Pierre-Louis, who matched Wright's six tackles and looked like a man who was hungry to be playing football again.
Behind the linebackers, the secondary was a shadow of its shadow's former self. With 11 rostered DBs sitting this one out, the Legion of Boom became the Region of Whom and provided an opportunity for a lot of guys to see meaningful snaps they wouldn't have if Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor had been out there.
Of those guys, I thought Dion Bailey was one that looked good playing safety. Bailey plays with the same paradoxical hint of controlled recklessness that Chancellor does. Currently, that doesn't mean much beyond the team having another potential sternum-breaker in their secondary but that changes a little more with every day he shows out while Kam isn't present.
Steve Terrell also showed some good physicality, breaking up a pass to Jeremy Maclin at the goal line by leveling a shoulder into the Chiefs receiver at the moment the ball reached his hands. Maclin would rectify things with a TD a few plays laterbut Terrell's play showed good instincts, timing, and impact.
Bobby Wagner had a pick-six. When you watch the replay, it's kind of amazing that Wagner hasn't pick-sixed Alex Smith a half dozen times by now.
Tye Smith is a cornerback that Seahawks fans have a lot of reasons to get excited about. He has been very sticky in coverage and changes direction in lock-step with the receivers he guards. He does, however, still have some things to work on, as rookies do. One one play in particular, it appeared that he neglected to follow his man in motion, causing him to scramble to catch up. He then neglected to attack the outside shoulder of the lead blocker, electing instead to duck inside the blocker and allow the ball carrier to get to the edge. It's a small thing and will probably be corrected pretty easily, but it was still a thing.
Ronald Martin is another Seahawk hopeful worth keeping an eye on. To put it simply, he plays like a real mean sonuvabitch. He had three tackles, including an impressive TFL, and was incorrectly flagged for roughing the passer on a blitz. In all, he left his imprint on this game and, I'm sure, the coaches as well. He's got a legit shot at making this team and, considering the defensive roster, that's saying something.
On offense, the hottest scrutiny has been directed towards Seattle's potlatch offensive line, and with good reason. Seattle's O-linemen have been more interchangeable than Duggar children BUT they came into this game thinking they may have found a combo that works. This involved moving former wrestler and right tackle Justin Britt to left guard, and moving former tight end Garry Gilliam to right tackle, so, uh, that's the best O-line I guess.
They were okay. Gilliam looked big and athletic and also very much like a dude that's still learning his position. That said, he more than held his own, stifling the NFL's reigning sack leader Justin Houston. He admittedly still needs to work on staying low when engaging the pass rusher but he has the body and adaptibility to give the team hope that he's worthy of a starting spot there. Britt, for his part, looked good at guard, where he gets to be a little bit more of a mauler. Still, with so many guys playing new positions, it's gonna take awhile for the communication and cohesion to develop.
That fledgling network was exposed a handful of times as there was a lot of pressure on Seahawks QBs and RBs in this one. The thing to keep in mind is that most O-lines look pretty shitty in August. It's a unit that requires time to meld so I'm not TOOOOOOOOOO concerned okay I'm a little concerned. They'll be better next week.
The other positional group with as many questions as answers is the receiving corps but to be honest, I thought they looked the best of anyone. Doug Baldwin was the best receiver out there in this one, getting loose underneath a number of times and finishing with four catches for 28 yards. On the surface that may not look like much but in an offense that will rely heavily on "broken" plays, the ability to get open is crucial.
The 1A to Baldwin's 1 tonight was the Monstar Jimmy Graham. He is awesome in all of the opposite ways Baldwin is. The best thing about Graham is that he doesn't actually have to be open to be successful and Russell Wilson has never had that. Russell Wilson has had the greatest first three years of any quarterback in NFL history and he hasn't had Jimmy Graham yet. Three catches for 39 yards on three targets for the big fella.
Tyler Lockett is just, I mean, how else do you want me to say it? The kid is fucking rad. After doing his best Dante Hall impression last week, he channeled his inner Antonio Brown in this one, turning defenders around like dogs with itchy tails, turning his three targets into three catches for 42 yards. I know he's supposed to wait his turn on offense but dude just keeps cutting in line.
Converted QB BJ Daniels had five passes hit his hands. He turned those into three catches for 19 yards. He also muffed a punt with 15 yards of open field ahead of him. I like Daniels a lot- he's an otherworldly athlete- but he didn't do himself any favors tonight.
The backfield saw a lot of carries in this one, which is encouraging. They consistently had to dodge tacklers in the backfield though, which was less so. As a result, it's difficult to accurately judge the RBs' performances but here's what I saw. Robert Turbin is still steady as they come. He picks up blitzes, gets the yards that are there, has good hands; he's dependable. In this one, however, he never had a chance to get going. His six carries amounted to four yards.
Christine Michael is the exact opposite of Turbin, explosive down to his molecules and unreliable as hell. If Seahawks fans are honest with themselves, Michael is the one we'd all like to see carry the post-Marshawn torch but first he has to prove he won't drop it. His stat line wasn't much more impressive than Turbin's (10 carries, 27 yards) but he certainly looked more impressive. Even on his short runs, it's obvious that C-Mike just moves differently. He ran like a guy trying to earn a job tonight and destroyed Dee Ford in the process, knocking the Chiefs linebacker out of the game with a rib injury on a devastating blitz pick up. I still think the RB2 gig is Turbin's to lose but Michael closed the gap tonight.
Thomas Rawls had four carries for an aggressive 20 yards but dropped an easy screen pass that had the potential to turn into big money. Rod Smith had two totes for 21 himself, finding a couple of holes and blasting through them nh in his limited action.
Finally, the quarterbacks. Russell Wilson played the first half and din't get hurt. That's literally the only thing that matters. Officially, he was 9/15 for 78 yards but he flashed a couple of times along the way, including a perfect back shoulder strike to Graham down the seam and breaking off a pass rusher with a slick And1 spin move later on. he also missed a couple of throws, leading Jermaine Kearse too far on an out route and throwing way behind an open Baldwin on a 3rd and 7. And none of it matters.
RJ Archer looked really good. His numbers (9/14, 83 yards) were depressed by three drops but he threw with conviction and accuracy and is making the most of the time that Tarvaris Jackson is missing. Might be interesting to see how competitive the spot for QB2 gets after this one.
Look, no one got hurt and that's a win. The Seahawks aren't a team sorting through a bunch of unknown quantities looking to find a bunch of starters; they're a championship-ready squad looking to fill out their depth chart. This is a hard team to make but it's that way because there are so many fixtures always in place. As long as those fixtures aren't weakened, the Seahawks win in the preseason.
But the Seahawks lost. Technically.
The cigar de jour was one of the Serie RF from la Gloria Cubana, courtesy of Famous Smoke in Pennsylvania. It's a really earthy smoke that smells like pretentious European libraries and pulls easier than most cigars of similar girth. I really recommend it for any time you've got an hour to indulge yourself.