1. The process with Russell Wilson looked good, the execution was a little off
This is the preseason, afterall, and the results don't really matter. What I'm looking for in these games is solid process from the offense, and I think that despite a tepid, worrisome stat line, Seattle did fine in the passing game in getting what they wanted. Wilson's final line was 9 of 15 for 78 yards and a 73.8 rating -- obviously nothing to write home about -- but just per the eye-test, I thought he looked solid out there.
He hit on a few throws on third downs, one to Doug Baldwin and one to Tyler Lockett, and the process for two other close misses (one to Jermaine Kearse, a tough ball that skipped off his hands right at the sideline, another to Doug Baldwin up the seam that was batted down by a defender) was good. Protection held up. The routes worked. Wilson timed them right. Wilson will hit that deep out to Kearse nine times out of ten, and on the Baldwin miss up the seam, Seattle got what they wanted -- a one-on-one with Doug -- but the defender simply made a great play.
There was one more throw that Wilson would want back -- a third down crossing route at the sticks that he threw behind Doug Baldwin just before getting hit. The process on that play was fine too, they got the look they wanted by crossing Doug and Jimmy -- Doug was open, and Wilson will normally hit that throw, so overall I didn't come away worried.
While he had a few close misses, Russell also had a few very nice throws mixed in. He hit Jimmy Graham with a beauty of a back-shoulder throw up the seam in the 2nd Quarter -- the ball came out before Graham or the defender, Ron Parker, had turned, and Graham caught it in stride for a big gain. Look for a lot of that this year as the Seahawks look to exploit matchups.
Overall, considering a major focal point of Seattle's offense -- the read option keeper -- has more or less been off the table these first two games, I have been fine with what Wilson's done out there. Look for Wilson to put up significantly better numbers next week in San Diego.
2. Justin Britt, Garry Gilliam made a case
I think that Justin Britt looked more natural at left guard than he does at right tackle, and Garry Gilliam held up nicely at right tackle, especially considering he was trying to block Justin Houston for close to a half (Houston played 28 snaps, had zero tackles, no sacks). Houston got the better of Gilliam one play, forcing Russell Wilson to scramble, but otherwise the former tight end looked pretty smooth in his kick step and locked horns with defensive ends a few times, displaying good leverage and ballast on the edge.
Britt talked about how everything at guard happens so much quicker, and the former state champion wrestler looked confident in his new spot. Britt's arms are on the shorter side for a tackle anyway, so the fit may make more sense going forward.
For both players, and for the offensive line in general, pass protection was an improvement over PSW1 against the Broncos, but the run game has yet to really show up. The offensive line isn't creating a ton of push up front -- something that Pete Carroll lamented in his post-game presser -- and this is a concern. However, as noted above, this is a bare-bones, stripped down version of Seattle's full run package, and doesn't include the foundation of the read-option at this point. Which is smart. No point in having Wilson keep too many on that at this point.
Going forward, it wouldn't surprise me if the Seahawks name their starting group this week as Russell Okung - Justin Britt - Drew Nowak - J.R. Sweezy - Garry Gilliam. Nowak is the big question mark, of course, and a lot depends on whether the Seahawks can convince Evan Mathis to sign, but that would be my guess as the roster stands right now.
3. Ronald Martin could make this roster, and I like DeShawn Shead at corner
One of the standout players from last week's game was safety Dion Bailey, and Bailey again showed up in places with big hits and tenacious play. However, I was definitely also intrigued with what I saw from another up and coming defensive back, rookie Ronald Martin. Martin was a captain for LSU last year, went undrafted, but has drawn praise from Pete Carroll in Kam Chancellor's absence.
"He's just looked really comfortable in the position he's been in," Carroll said on Thursday. "He's very much at ease, he's a terrific athlete. He's got really good all-around athleticism, good feel for the ball. He had a pick during practice that was just like the one that got away from him in the game (Martin almost picked off a ball last week but bobbled it as he fell out of bounds). An overthrow like that and unfortunately he didn't get it. He looks the part back there. He had a couple nice plays on the perimeters and tackles. I've been real pleased with what he's shown so far and we're going to give him a shot."
Martin had a blitz-sack off the edge late in the 3rd Quarter that was a questionable foul at best, then followed that play up with this:
Nothing terribly special, of course, but good recognition and pursuit, and a strong finish. Keep an eye on Martin over the next two weeks, because he could sneak onto this roster.
It would also help his case if the team sees DeShawn Shead as more of a cornerback than a safety. Shead, who gave up a touchdown in coverage to Peyton Manning and Virgil Green last week, moved to corner this week to help with some of the depth issues the team is facing (Sherman, Burley, Blackmon, Simon, Seisay, and Wade all sat with various minor injuries). And, I thought he looked good there.
I've made this observation almost a year ago to date as well, but it feels to me like Shead is a better cornerback than a safety at this point. I don't have the team's practice footage or the All-22, so it's tough to really make that determination, but I thought that he held his own on the outside in this game, particularly in the first defensive series, where he broke up two passes in coverage. At 6'1, 225, he's got great size for the position, and as long as he doesn't get himself into trouble by lunging or over-reaching at the press, he has the speed to play the outside.
Of course, Seattle has some numbers at cornerback already, so it may be a moot point. With Tharold Simon coming back next week, plus Burley, Blackmon, Sherman, Seisay, and Cary Williams and Tye Smith all in the mix, the Seahawks may not need Shead at corner in the first place.
Regardless, I do think his play last night helped his case, because the ability to play both safety and cornerback is valuable.
4. Tyler Lockett is good
You already knew this. It's getting almost trite to even talk about. However, Lockett again looked great out there, even getting himself more involved in the offensive passing game this week. He finished with 3 catches for 43 yards and looked smooth in his routes, solid in his catches, and quick in his returns.
5. K.J. Wright had a great game
I've called K.J. Wright the "screen whisperer" in the past for his uncanny ability to sniff out screen plays, but this one from last night might honestly be the best example I've ever seen of that.
Wright goes unblocked as he shoots through the line on a blitz, but notice that even though he has an apparently open lane straight to the quarterback, he instead veers to his left sharply to chase down Jamaal Charles, who doesn't yet even have the football.
Screen plays are designed to dupe lesser mortals into thinking they've got a free shot on the quarterback, only to have the quarterback dump the ball off right before the free-rusher arrives. In other words, the offense wants to draw as many defenders past the line of scrimmage as possible, which in turn makes it easier to rip off a long catch-and-run.
Well, long-story-short, K.J. isn't having any of that shit.
Wright sees this coming when Charles doesn't pick him up on the blitz, and instead of continuing his blitz toward the QB, he breaks off and hauls ass after Charles. Great play, great recognition, great everything.
6. More good and bad from Christine Michael
I continue to be torn when it comes to Christine Michael, as I'm sure many of you are. It always seems to be one step forward with a nice play or series of plays, then two steps back, where he'll fumble or otherwise show the inconsistency that's dogged him in two seasons thus far. Last night, Michael again made a few mistakes that will make it hard for the coaching staff to trust him during the regular season. The primary concern came in the 3rd quarter, when R.J. Archer and the offensive line blocked left for him but Michael just stood there in pass pro, apparently unsure of or unaware of the play call. This was a concern. But, as long as we're pointing out the bad, I think it's only fair to highlight the good.
I'll focus in on his pass-pro, because that's a big deal for a back in this offense. It's also an area that many have surmised is keeping him out of regular season action.
This play from the 2nd Quarter has been shared sufficiently, but was a great example of a bone-jarring (breaking, in fact) chip block by a running back. Marshawn Lynch is excellent on these types of chips, so it was good to see Michael get in on that action.
(This was the play where Wilson missed Doug Baldwin on a crosser -- by throwing behind him a little bit.)
Michael also had some pretty great blitz pickups and protections when the offensive line slid to one side or another.
Below, Michael chips on the outside linebacker that has disengaged from this Garry Gilliam block and broken back inside, and Michael's shoulder to shoulder hit takes him out of the action.
This allows R.J. Archer to complete a pass to Tyler Lockett. As an aside, later this week I'm going to break down the route-concept seen above, which the Seahawks used at least three times with success this week.
The next play, Seattle finds themselves in a 3rd and 5 situation. Michael picks up a blitz going through the A-gap (for some reason, Jeanpierre doesn't see it even though he's not blocking anyone).
Michael doesn't stonewall it, exactly, but he does enough to allow Archer to get the throw off. He hits Norwood on a slant route. The protection is vital here because it's a relatively slow-developing route combo with Luke Willson.
The third example, on the very next play, shows Michael pick up a blitzter once again. He's in the right spot, he's got great form, and the blitzer doesn't even bother finishing, because he knows he's been picked up and is too late.
Archer hits Kasen Williams on a comeback.
So. Not a huge deal, but three straight plays in pass pro for Christine Michael where he did his job well. That has to be encouraging for the staff, despite a few hiccups elsewhere.
More on the game this week.