The Seattle Seahawks kicked off the 2017 season with a tight, frustrating 17-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers. An incredible and valiant performance by Seattle’s defense was marred by a choppy offense and some questionable officiating. Despite the general negativity around the game from a Seahawks perspective, they got out of week one healthy and with some positive takeaways.
The expected, the unexpected, the mind-boggling and the wildly frustrating make up this week’s post-game observations:
Two happy returns
Both Tyler Lockett and Earl Thomas were making their return from leg injuries suffered last December, and both looked like the players we’re accustomed to seeing.
Right out of the gate, Lockett took the game’s opening kick 43 yards to Seattle’s 39-yard line. He looked as dynamic, and more importantly as fluid, as he did before the injury. Lockett’s ability to change direction without losing any speed is a trait reserved for some of the league’s best playmakers, and it appears he still has that ability following a broken leg.
Thomas on the other hand was breaking on balls and flying to the football like he never missed a snap. Thomas’s game-changing ability is predicated on split-second decisions and reactions, and there wasn’t a hint of hesitation in his game today. After mentioning retirement in December following his injury, there isn’t a sliver of doubt in his mind on the football field and that’s a damn happy sight.
A sack on the game’s first play by Nick Perry was a good indicator of what was to come. Russell Wilson was rarely afforded a clean pocket over the course of four quarters, with pressure coming often from the interior via Mike Daniels, and from the outside via Perry.
Left tackle Rees Odhiambo got beat several times, getting bullied and out-physicaled by Perry on the outside. It’s going to be a long season for Odhiambo if he’s going to struggle against physical pass rushers. On the schedule: DeForest Buckner, Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones all twice, as well as Olivier Vernon, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Kerrigan, Vinny Curry and Calais Campbell. All edge rushers that can, and will, repeatedly force Odhiambo right back into Wilson’s lap.
Going to go out on a limb here and predict Matt Tobin’s first start for week seven, against the New York Giants.
Here’s something we knew heading into today’s game: Jeremy Lane has to play better, and play smarter, if he’s going to be in Seattle in 2018. Here’s how Lane’s first drive went: flagged for pass interference, flagged for personal foul, ejected for throwing a punch. The Seahawks have never been able to rely on Lane over 16 games for that reason, and he’s off to a terrible start in 2017. Lane’s foolish ejection put Seattle’s secondary in a tough position, but they responded admirably.
Shaquill Griffin immediately became Aaron Rodgers’ target, allowing two completions and getting flagged for holding on the next drive. Griffin’s mentality is perfect to play and succeed as a rookie cornerback; he’s fearless, doesn’t get rattled and is confident attacking the football. He had two good, competitive pass breakups deep down the sideline, and he kept everything in front of him. It was a trial-by-fire debut for the rookie, but he has all the makings of a great Seahawk cornerback.
Justin Coleman stepped into Lane’s vacated nickel cornerback role and held his own. Like Griffin, Coleman was targeted by Rodgers often but he battled, and I think he gives Seattle options at cornerback moving forward.
From Green Bay’s first offensive drive, you could tell the Seahawks had a clear plan to combat the pace with which the Packers play with. Rotation was huge, with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Jarran Reed, Sheldon Richardson, Nazair Jones, Frank Clark and David Bass all playing snaps in the opening drive. Throughout the game Marcus Smith worked his way into the defensive line as well.
On early downs, Clark and Bass would be lined up at the defensive end spots, before Avril and Bennett would come in on third down. Whether this is an indicator of the plan moving forward or was just to combat the Packers’ pace will be interesting to follow, because it was effective. Throughout the first three quarters the Seattle defense had constant pressure and went into halftime with four sacks.
The deadly pass rush of Clark-Richardson-Bennett-Avril didn’t get much time together, but Avril did pick up a sack on a third-and-ten in that grouping after Richardson and Bennett collapsed the pocket.
All in all, the Seahawks used heavy rotation to keep everyone fresh, and found success by running stunts often to create pressure inside, before the game caught up to them in the fourth quarter. It would be unfair to expect the Seattle’s defensive line to keep up that level through four quarters against Rodgers and Green Bay, but even still they produced one of the best efforts I can remember from this defense.
Chris Carson, starting running back
It’s clear now that Carson is the team’s best running back, right? There’s an argument to be made for Thomas Rawls, but like the old scouting adage goes; health is a skill. Rawls hasn’t played a full season since high school, and won’t in 2017 after missing week one with a high ankle sprain.
When Eddie Lacy was at his peak, he was initiating contact in the open field and was surprisingly nimble for his size. There was a couple carries today when Lacy would hunt contact, which makes me believe he’s at a good weight and is comfortable. But the short-area burst he once possessed is gone. There was a notable difference when Lacy would get a carry, seemingly getting to the line of scrimmage full seconds after Carson would have.
If Rawls can get healthy, it will give the Seahawks a couple really good options in the backfield. But next week, it’s worth giving Carson a full workload and seeing what he can do with it.
How good was Seattle’s special teams today? Footballs were exploding off of Jon Ryan’s foot, who finished with an average of 45.8 yards per punt and a long of 59 yards.
Neiko Thorpe looked every bit the invaluable special teamer that he is, downing Ryan’s first punt inside the five, getting downfield to make the tackle on Ryan’s second, and forcing a fair catch at the five on the third. Newcomer D.J. Alexander made plays on special teams as well, and it looks like the Seahawks are going to get a really strong season out of their third phase.
Odds and Ends
- The passing game as a whole was quiet and never really got started, but Paul Richardson got in his patented one great catch a game. The way he uses his long, stringbean frame to attack the football and meet it at its highest point consistently impresses me. With Jermaine Kearse gone, Richardson is going to have a chance to really shine, and will have a great opportunity to next week against the 49ers.
- After much was made of the SAM linebacker competition heading into 2016, Mike Morgan played ten snaps in week one and didn’t average a whole lot more than that in the following 15 games. The snap counts haven’t been made available for today’s game yet, but I think Terence Garvin at least doubled that figure. His play was a lot like his play in preseason; popping up every now and then, good for a splash play once a game. I doubt we’ll see a whole lot more base defense from Seattle this season compared to last, but it seems like the Seahawks have more options at linebacker than they did a year ago.
Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks aren’t one to dwell on a loss, and they certainly won’t after today. Held tough in Lambeau Field against one of the league’s best teams, the attention will now move to the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at home.