Hello friends. Thursday evening marked the end of the NFL preseason and decided the final position battles raging on every league roster. The Seattle Seahawks prevailed in an ugly-turned-turbo matchup against the Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole.
Poor fundamentals plagued many a player and led to poor execution by both offenses. Defense is much easier when facing third-string attacks, leading to many linemen, linebackers and defensive backs looking pretty good throughout the course of the contest.
But that is mostly secondary at this point.
I am here to take you on a journey. What type of journey, you ask? A journey into the mind of John Schneider to perform what may be the most elaborate Seattle-based heist known to internet commenters: Hawkception.
Yes indeed, we are going to descend the levels of the one of the NFL’s greatest minds and pick the lock containing the crown jewel of the Seahawks’ preseason. Are you willing to be the Joseph Gordon-Levitt to my Leonardo DiCaprio? We’ll find out. Let us begin our trek into the first level of the Schneiz.
Level One: Bobby Wagner
We’re going to linger near the surface momentarily. Wagner has looked great this preseason. After playing a chunk of 2015 with an injury that obviously hindered his play, Bobby seems to be in midseason form while hunting down and stopping running backs in their tracks. His tackling seems to be as fundamentally sound as it’s ever been:
The running back receives the handoff out of a single back formation and cuts to his right. Wagner recognizes the cutback and shuffles to his left, avoiding reaching linemen. He meets the back a yard away from the first down marker and plants. The back is overturned immediately by a textbook tackle.
It’s easy to forget how impactful a player Wagner is when healthy. Never forget his reception of an MVP vote from Tony Dungy after the 2014 season. Let’s get some more, eh Bobby?
Let us now turn things upside down and descend a level into the second string.
Level Two: Brock Coyle
No, this isn’t a list entirely commending linebackers. It just so happens that Mr. Coyle looked damn good on Thursday, making plays in both the running and passing game. It’s easy to forget how important the depth he provides can be. An extremely underrated player, Coyle’s presence was felt against Oakland:
The ball is snapped while Coyle is still barking out signals to the defense. The back runs out of the backfield and puts on a shifty move before crossing to the right side of the field. Coyle displays fluid hips allowing him to instantly move with the back in any direction. He sticks to his man like glue and allows the catch before making an immediate tackle. His situational awareness is on display here as well, allowing a short reception on third-and-long.
Coyle ended up sniffing out multiple runs as well, penetrating into the backfield on a regular basis.
The entire Coyle family was on fire on Thursday:
Yep. His mom became friends with Marshawn Lynch. That needs its own feature piece as well.
It’s a good thing too, as we’re going to need to channel our own inner Beast Mode to move further and into the third level of Schneider.
We need to go deeper.
Level Three: Kache Palacio
Okay, maybe this is a list purely consisting of linebackers. But that doesn’t matter at this point! We’ve almost traversed the entire mentality of John Schneider. What better way to classify his deepest and most pure inclinations than praising an undrafted free agent that nobody knew about until the preseason finale?
While he did have a couple of rookie moments, Palacio popped off of the screen on Thursday, making several impressive plays, including this:
On a first down just inside of Seattle territory, Connor Cook baffles us all with another dump-off to a running back. Palacio is not confused in the least, flying from his man towards the ball-carrier. Despite being pushed from behind, he brings the back down while ripping the ball downwards and out of the Raider’s possession. And if that isn’t enough, he recovers his own forced fumble.
While it is a long shot for Palacio to make the roster, the Cougar didn’t hurt his chances on Thursday and definitely increased his probability of a practice squad bid, barring a team claims him on waivers. Regardless, he definitely made the Seahawks’ front office notice his play.
It’s time to escape, friends.
And we’ve done it. Hawkception. We have extracted the most impressive player from Seattle’s preseason. Who could it be?
The Pinnacle: Troymaine Pope
Who else? Pope has been the most consistently impressive, high-volume player throughout Seattle’s entire preseason not named Christine Michael. After not receiving much opportunity against the Cowboys, he reminded us Thursday of the reasons why he belongs on an NFL roster. The impressive burst and above-average decision-making he showcased against the Vikings was on display in Oakland.
While he hadn’t previously shown a knack for running people over or breaking tackles, Thursday changed that:
After receiving the handoff, Pope flies between the tackles before meeting a defensive lineman two yards beyond the line of scrimmage. His momentum never regresses as he bulldozes onward. Joey Hunt adds a friendly push as more Raiders join the pile in transit. While it seems that the run has stopped just short of the sticks, one final effort propels the ball past the marker for an eight-yard gain.
Brock Huard mentioned on the broadcast that Pope has the best burst in the running back room. I don’t know if he has CMike beat, but damn can he hit the hole hard. Keep an eye on Oakland’s #40 on this run:
A nice block by Kenny Lawler on the right side of the formation opens up a crease that Pope bolts through. Unfortunately for #40, he can’t react fast enough to even turn his head as quickly as Pope runs past him, despite good position to make a play on an inside or outside cut. Pope turns outside in the second level, running past the poor, unsuspecting safety who can only halt the gain at 33 yards by employing the use of a horse-collar tackle.
I know what many of you are thinking. These are third-string defenses that Pope is running against. Well, he can only trample over the eleven men that are across the line from him. It’s not his fault that Seattle’s running back depth chart is stacked, resulting in fewer opportunities. When he’s on the field, he shines, and that’s all that matters.
Pope is balanced right on the edge of the roster bubble.
Alex Collins put a lot of good play on tape at Arkansas, but he hasn’t looked to be in the same stratosphere as Pope over the last few weeks. The Seattle front office obviously has the best idea of how things should and will shake out, but at this point, I would take Pope over Collins. Role assignment would be tricky due to the group already in place on the roster, but a talented player with an undrafted free agent mindset like this is never bad to have around:
Collins could be a lot better than what we’ve seen. If Pope ends up being waived, I would understand. But that doesn’t mean that I’d be happy about it.
In any case, I hope my ‘maine man Pope is free to live out his dream and roam the field for an NFL team during 2016, be it with the Seahawks or not. He deserves it.
And I think John Schneider knows that.
–Keenan Lambert and Kam Chancellor getting to play alongside each other was really excellent to see. Lambert made a ton of tackles on special teams and looked alright on defense as well. Though he won’t make the roster, it was all very cool to observe.
–DeAndre Elliott made some really nice plays before being carted off. The practice squad would be a nice place for him.
–I’m bummed that Kasen Williams didn’t play yet again. He likely won’t make the roster, but he’ll hopefully clear waivers so we can put him on the practice squad.
–The WR5 battle is pretty nuts. It could be any one of three or four guys and nobody outside of Seattle’s front office has any clue really.
–Ryan Robinson’s pick six was awesome, courtesy of a pressure by Eric Pinkins. Robinson continued to display great awareness, batting another ball down mid-rush.
–The regular season is essentially here. This isn’t a dream, folks.
Prepare yourselves for some legitimately high-octane, heart-pounding, smash-mouth Seahawks football in just over a week. Let’s get to work.