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Video breakdown: 4 Seahawks who excelled in preseason loss vs Vikings

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Another week, another contest coming down to the final play. Or so I believe the proverb goes.

On Thursday evening, the Seattle Seahawks fell to the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 18-11 in their second exhibition game of 2016. While a multitude of poorly-timed sacks contributed to awful clock management in the final two minutes, Seattle was in position to win the game with a touchdown and conversion, even in the final seconds. May we raise our drinks to Blair Walsh for missing yet another field goal wide left to make that scenario even possible. Cheers, friends.

While there was plenty of bad accompanying some solid play, in this piece we’re going to focus on the players who didn’t just show up, but showed up. Let’s get to it.

Kelcie McCray

John Schneider is the architect of 31 other teams’ nightmares. We scoffed when he initially traded a 5th rounder to Kansas City for McCray early in 2015. Well look who’s laughing now. When Kam Chancellor has missed time, Kelcie has stepped up and stepped on opponents’ throats.

McCray doesn’t play with much pizzazz, but showcases consistent impact on both defense and special teams. Originally brought in as a core special-teamer, he has shown enough to warrant looks at free safety, which has opened up an avenue for Tyvis Powell to stick as a strong safety.

After valiantly fighting through an early screen pass, McCray almost picked off a ball late in the first quarter:

On a 3rd and 7 from near midfield, Shaun Hill stands in the pocket in the midst of a surrounding four-man rush. Hill fires the ball downfield but underthrows Charles Johnson. The receiver likely wouldn’t have made the catch anyways, but McCray closes quickly and undercuts the throw for an almost-interception. Kelcie has been close to splash plays like this several times during his stint on the Seahawks, so expect things to start lining up his way a bit more in 2016.

McCray looked good last night and I don’t imagine that will stop anytime soon.

Jarran Reed

A couple months ago I wrote a piece detailing why I thought that Reed could be the steal of the draft. He hasn’t proven me right yet, but damn if he didn’t try his hardest last night.

The mammoth from Alabama by way of EMCC (Go Lions) was an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. I saw him get put on skates one time by an opposing lineman, but the rest of his snaps looked to be dominant, many of which occurred against Minnesota’s first-team offensive line. Take this play for example:

Jerrick McKinnon, the SPARQ-gawd, takes a handoff out of the gun on the 20-yard line. Reed gets under the center’s pads and easily pushes him three yards into the backfield. When McKinnon tries to cut between the engaged duo and the left guard, Reed disengages from the block, drags him down easily, and shows us the money.

Run-stuffing defensive tackles generally don’t garner a ton of attention but this guy pops off of the tape. He made several big stops against the run that were impossible not to notice. If Reed can build upon this throughout the season, Seahawks fans will be forgetting about Brandon Mebane in a hurry.

(I’m kidding, Bane. We will cherish your belly rolls for all of eternity.)

Frank Clark

If there was an NFL Preseason Hall of Fame, I could make a case for Clark’s induction after only one and a half cycles through the exhibition period. The second year man out of Michigan has a nonstop motor, which was on display yet again on Thursday:

On a 3rd and short, the Vikings run to the right side, away from Clark. The left tackle blocks Tony McDaniel on the inside, leaving Clark unblocked and free to track down the tailback from the backside of the play. This prevents a first down, as the hole is open for the back to squeeze through.

Clark also had Seattle’s lone sack of the game:

Rushing from the right end, Clark begins to bull-rush the left tackle before dipping around the edge. The quarterback steps up in the pocket, but has nowhere to go due to interior push from the Big Amigo (who had a surprisingly solid impact in the game last night). Clark is right there waiting when the quarterback tries to escape backwards, with open arms.

While it will be interesting to see if Clark can finally locate some consistency when going against starting-caliber players, his dominance of the 2’s and 3’s cannot go unnoticed or unappreciated. He has tremendous upside and will continue to pick up the nuances of his position from Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Expect his numbers to climb and climb and many a quarterback to fall and fall.

Troymaine Pope

What the hell is up with these running backs? Last preseason, Thomas Rawls ran rampant over unsuspecting defenses like a crazed rhinoceros. Christine Michael has been enlightened and cuts like a rejuvenated hyena.

The latest running back sensation appeared to us in the form of Troymaine Pope, the man who scored the winning conversion in Kansas City last week. After ceding a ton of snaps to George Farmer, Pope took over against Minnesota, running for 86 yards on 10 carries and scoring Seattle’s lone touchdown. While that scoring run demonstrated impressive patience, this run is an even better indicator of Pope’s ability to take what the defense gives him:

Pope receives the handoff out of the gun and immediately recognizes that there is no hole to run through in the box. He feints a cut downfield outside of the in-line tight end, completely fooling the defender. He then proceeds to hit the edge for a gain of around seven on what could have easily been a loss of yardage. His patience and shiftiness were truly impressive on this play.

He also can be decisive when running downhill. Pope hits the hole hard on this run:

Again out of the gun, Pope takes the carry, identifies a hole opened by the right tackle Terry Poole, and goes for it. He bursts into the second level for a huge gain before being taken down by the cornerback.

While nobody had really considered the possibility before, Pope could be a dark horse to make the roster. I doubt Alex Collins gets pushed off, but Pope could steal a spot on the depth chart or maybe sneak onto the practice squad.

Regardless of what happens, he showcased impressive qualities and stepped up in the 4th quarter. It’s easy to say that Pope was running against the backups’ backups on the Vikings defense, but he can only play against the eleven men on the field. And he looked damn good when he did.

Other Thoughts

–It’s pretty crazy how good Justin Britt looks at center. He seems to be having trouble with protection calls, but his blocking in and of itself looks solid. If he can finally stick at a position along this line, that would be huge.

–I mentioned it earlier, but Christine Michael looks unbelievable. He’s getting low when running behind the tackles (another feather in Britt’s cap) and he’s even switching the ball into his left hand mid-run. *Siren emojis* Rawls looks to be the bell-cow for this offense, but Michael looks too good to keep off of the field.

–Russell Wilson ran himself into some sacks tonight. He wasn’t as decisive as we’ve gotten used to and I think a lot of that is due to Minnesota’s defense being legit. They have playmakers at every level and it showed on Thursday. Russell will get better as he acclimates to the new offensive line and when his playmakers get open. Even when they don’t get open though…

–…They’re always open. Russell’s deep throw to Lockett was absolutely perfect. He was covered well and the ball was put literally right over No-E’s shoulder into the bread basket. It was a great job by Tyler of holding onto the ball when a big hit came.

–Kenny Lawler and Antwan Goodley both looked pretty good. I don’t really see either of them beating out Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams, but it’s fun to have competition and depth to this extent.

–Trevone Boykin is such an interesting player. He looks great at times and makes unbelievable throws but then sometimes just can’t get it done. Even though he dug the hole that the Seahawks were in by way of a pick six to Marcus Sherels, he put them back in a position to win the game. The deep throw to McEvoy that resulted in pass interference was placed really well. He almost threw a touchdown to tie/win the game to McEvoy in the back right corner of the end zone that the tight end just couldn’t hold onto. I don’t think Boykin is bad by any means and he will continue to get better.

–Jake Heaps doesn’t look like he has a remote chance at challenging for the backup job. Only a veteran signing could do that.

–Seattle moves on next week to face the Cowboys. We’ll see how their defensive line fares in the trenches against the best offensive line in the NFL. I’m also ready to see Dak Prescott throw to a healthy Dez Bryant against Sherm. It should be fun. Go Hawks.