The 2018 NFL Draft class for the Seattle Seahawks made their debut on Thursday night, with mostly positive results.
All nine members of the Seahawks’ draft class played a part in the team’s preseason Week 1 game, with Rasheem Green and Tre Flowers starting, while Alex McGough played the entire second half.
With Seattle in a transitional period, contributions from the rookie class will be imperative if the Seahawks are to remain a playoff contender in 2018. Although preseason results mean nothing, there’s always something to be learned from individual player performances. A tremendous debut and a concerning exit highlight the group’s first game:
The team’s first round pick was the second running back in the game for Seattle, coming in behind starter Chris Carson. Penny’s first carry went for a loss of one, as he was blown up in the backfield with nowhere to go. However, two of Penny’s finest moments came at the end of the team’s opening drive.
On a first-and-ten from the Indianapolis Colts’ 11-yard line, Penny took the handoff and bounced outside to the left, getting down to Indianapolis’ 5-yard line before being pushed out. On the next play, Penny missed his target on the initial strike in pass protection but was able to recover well enough for Wilson to evade the defender, moving right and finding Nick Vannett for the touchdown.
TOUCHDOWN #Seahawks! Russell Wilson uses his mobility to get outside the pocket and finds Nick Vannett for the score. Great ball placement!pic.twitter.com/U02JA8zuo3— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) August 10, 2018
Following the touchdown, Penny would gain more than four yards on a carry just once, a seven yard slash. The rookie ended the game with just 16 yards on eight carries, a stat line more disappointing than his actual performance.
The third round selection out of USC was undoubtedly the star of the night for the Seahawks. In total, Green finished with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles and three quarterback hits. Green’s first sack came with excellent hand usage and dip on the edge; the second came rushing from the inside, where he again won with his hands.
While the production is great, how Green got his sacks is the most encouraging part. The technical side of his game is where Green needs to develop most, and winning with his hands on the way to what is essentially two sacks is a terrific sign for his development.
However, the other area needing the most improvement — strength at the point of attack — was still lacking on Thursday night. Green was ran at on multiple occasions and was too easily washed out of the play. Overall, a promising performance from the day two selection.
Dissly was the second tight end to enter the game, behind a surprisingly spry Vannett. Unsurprisingly, Dissly’s biggest impact came as a blocker. He was technically sound all night long and will see a large number of snaps throughout the season on the back of his blocking ability alone.
As a receiver, Dissly caught two passes, both in the second half after McGough entered the game. Dissly looked comfortable finding space underneath, as McGough got the ball out on time and delivered a couple accurate throws to his fellow rookie. Solid as a blocker and a safe option underneath is what we can expect from Dissly as a rookie, and he got off to a good start on Thursday night.
With K.J. Wright nursing a groin injury, Griffin entered with the defense to begin the second series. From there, Griffin was, well, everywhere. Finishing with nine tackles, including one for a loss, Griffin had a mostly positive game. Carroll spoke glowingly of him in his post game press conference, with the caveat that he wants to watch the film to see if Griffin knew what he was doing or if he was simply flying around the field.
There were two moments that stand out negatively in Griffin’s debut. The first was an easy completion over the middle for Andrew Luck to Jack Doyle, where Griffin was late to react covering the hook/curl zone. That zone is the WILL linebacker’s primary responsibility in Seattle’s defense against the pass and anticipation is key to playing it correctly.
The second was a Phillip Walker quarterback-keeper, in which Griffin crashed down, failed to remain square and was shaken by Walker. However, like Green, those are minor negatives in a largely great debut.
Flowers got the start for the Seahawks, with Byron Maxwell still dealing with a groin injury. Overall, the converted safety had a good first game at cornerback with two promising moments. The first ended with Flowers being flagged for pass interference, as his excellent coverage was nullified by just-too-early contact. In his post game press conference, Carroll echoed that statement, saying he didn’t need to make contact when he did.
The second came on an endzone shot where he stayed step-for-step with Deon Cain — only failing to get his head around in what was otherwise a great rep. Flowers stayed on top on everything, allowing a couple completions in front of him. In his first game as a cornerback, Flowers displayed the length and physical tools that make him such an appealing prospect, with a couple bumps along the way.
The incumbent Jon Ryan and Dickson split duties throughout the game, with both punting three times. Dickson’s net average was 47.3 yards per punt, a touch higher than Ryan at 44. His longest, 61 yards, again beat out Ryan’s, a 53-yard punt. Perhaps most interestingly, Dickson was used on the ensuing kickoff following Joey Ivie’s fumble recovery touchdown, drop kicking a ball between the three deep returners and the blockers up field.
Although expected to compete at right tackle, Jamarco Jones’ debut was strictly at left tackle. Following Isaiah Battle’s injury, Willie Beavers entered the game at right tackle with Jones sticking on the left.
Prior to being carted off, Jones was steady on the edge, albeit against second and third string defenders. Following the game, Carroll announced Jones’ x-rays returned negative, however he has a “legit” ankle sprain.
With a depleted group of edge rushers, Martin saw a considerable amount of snaps at defensive end. He was fantastic rushing the passer, coming off the ball with a tremendous first step and burst. Although he ended with just the half sack shared with Green, Martin pressured the Colts’ quarterbacks throughout the game and looks ready to be a part of the rotation immediately as a rookie.
As a run defender, Martin was rarely ran towards at the point of attack, but remained disciplined on the backside, not allowing for cutbacks.
McGough played the entire second half following a Wilson-led opening drive and three drives from Austin Davis. There were moments of sloppiness from McGough — taking a sack unnecessarily, throwing behind his receiver, lucky to not be intercepted and being slow to check down — but overall it was a good performance from a quarterback who has struggled in camp. He threw the ball accurately and for the most part, he was releasing it on time. With Seattle mixing in a few read-options with the mobile McGough, he consistently made the correct read and took his lone carry for seven yards.
Brian Schottenheimer deserves credit for McGough’s safe performance. With Wilson and Davis under center in the first half, the Seahawks used an extra tight end or running back on 12 of 26 plays; in the second half, that number shrank to just five of 27 plays. They spread the offense out considerably more for McGough, making it easier on a quarterback who has struggled to adapt to a pro offense.
Seattle’s 2018 draft class and the rest of the roster will be off until Sunday, when they return to practice ahead of preseason Week 2 in L.A. next Saturday, against the Chargers.