The Seattle Seahawks ended the first half of the “meaningful” preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers up 16-3. Here’s a breakdown of the early defensive play from the starters and what we can learn from Saturday night.
L.A.’s first play saw Jarran Reed dash into the backfield and disrupt Austin Ekeler run, tackled by Mychal Kendricks. It’s a mouthful of bittersweet justice every time Reed looks like the Hawks’ best lineman, knowing what the first six weeks will look like.
Seattle rushed early, sending a cornerback blitz via Jamar Taylor on the second play. Tyrod Taylor completed his pass to Ekeler for a 5 yard gain.
Taylor complete his next pass for a three yard gain, but Bradley McDougald made the tackle short of the first down.
Recap: 8 yards, zero first downs.
Observations: It was a quality first defensive drive, forcing a quick three and out underneath a collapsing pocket. Multiple Seahawks swarmed to the ball every time, which was fortunate because the first attempted tackle missed on all three plays.
Jacob Martin put some heavy pressure on the first play of the second drive, forcing Taylor out scrambling for the first time and a short gain.
The Chargers followed up with their second rush for no gain, this time courtesy of Poona Ford. Get your hyPoons ready.
Taylor got beat bad on the third play. Seattle’s Jamar Taylor, not Tyrod. Hunter Henry gained 10 yards on Taylor’s miss.
Martin made Tyrod Taylor nervous on his blindside, but Taylor escaped out to the right for a 20 yard run. He looked very early-Russell-esque as Ford and Reed looked rather slow in comparison.
Next play: Ekeler two yard run.
It’s now 2nd and 8 at the Seahawks’ 45, and things took a turn for the 2017/18 memories. 11 yard pass to the middle of the field, easily missing Bobby Wagner’s zone coverage. Seattle started - and continued - large stretches of last season with problems giving up chunk yards underneath.
Taylor tried to find the same spot on the following play, but missed his receiver.
A two yard run up the middle set up the first real contest for eyes-on Shaquill Griffin. And an interesting contest it was. Griffin played the ball extremely well for a 3rd and 8 deflection and what would have killed the drive, but he was called for holding earlier in the play. It was your prototypical, could-be-couldn’t-be jersey tug (albeit with both hands) that left the Seahawks shaking their heads.
What was encouraging to me was how well Griffin played the actual ball, after the initial questionable contact. He had a much better play on it than Mike Williams, who had been enjoying a very good drive thus far. The actual deflection was crisp, clean, and textbook.
Nonetheless, 1st down Chargers.
Chop-block on the next play, which was absolutely and in no way a makeup call because that doesn’t exist at higher level sports, effectively killed the drive for the Chargers anyway.
L.A. almost converted a 2nd and 20 by once again exploiting the middle of the field, but Wagner stopped the ball five yards short.
Chargers ball, 3rd and 5, on the Seattle 22 yard line.
And so our young hero found himself once again, on a thin place between irrelevance and stardom, staring down the greatest backup quarterback in 2019, with the eyes of
millions thousands a couple dozen dudes on their iPhones wondering how Shaquill Griffin might handle the ensuing pressure:
Finally got the chance to watch the #Seahawks game and this play stood out to me from Shaquill Griffin:— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) August 26, 2019
- Great balance
- Good hip drop to turn
- Jarred his shoulder in between him and the WR to create leverage to break up the pass.
Great snap. pic.twitter.com/kzEkh8rHIq
At’ll do, Shaq. At’ll do.
The drive ended in a 40 yard field goal.
Recap: Twelve plays, 58 yards, four first downs (one by penalty).
Observations: Jacob Martin is my second favorite player on the defense this year, and if his name was something more Poona-like he’d be my favorite. Other than that, three observations from this drive:
1. I don’t really care to see Taylor beat out DeShawn Shead - or better yet Ugo Amadi - for very long. He didn’t flash anything that seemed worthy of covering up the times he was out of place or getting beat.
2. Griffin is steadily finding his former (future?) self, even if PFF is still in the business of dishing out useless information. Like how a team’s #1 CB is performing like a team’s #1 CB
Shaquill Griffin has an overall grade of 73.3 this preseason, ranking first among CBs on the #Seahawks.— PFF SEA Seahawks (@PFF_Seahawks) August 25, 2019
3. A Kendricks/LB zone observation is coming after the 3rd drive.
Ekeler showed he actually really is pretty good, starting off with a nine yard run. If you didn’t know his name last year, you should this year.
The Seahawks followed suit with some truly terrible deep coverage on the deep cross to the far right side, but Ekeler was overthrown miserably by Taylor. Now this plays in to something we need to talk about at the end of this drive, but here’s Matty Brown’s thoughts for the time being:
Austin Ekeler being that wide open in 3x2 empty would be on a linebacker, looked like K.J. Wright, or more likely preseason game planning, NOT Tedric Thompson. It was cover 3 and weak hook would match #3's banana route. But they appeared to be pure spot drop because preseason.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) August 25, 2019
Tre Flowers and Griffin made pretty good back-to-back tackles for four yards apiece.
On 2nd and 6, Seattle sent a double linebacker blitz with Kendricks and Wagner that found Tyrod on the ground for a 12 yard sack. Kendricks got the actual first QB hit but Wagner slipped through the line untouched and destroyed the RB block.
So here’s the deal. On situations like 3rd and 18, the Seahawks need to play slightly less soft than they have been showing since, oh I don’t know, that 3rd and 14 that ended their season last December. Taylor found Ekeler for a 17 yard game, marking the second time that the Chargers were a step from converting an extremely low-percentage 3rd down in three possessions.
On 4th and 1 the ball was fumbled and the day was saved. Or something.
Recap: Seven plays, 20 yards, one first down.
Observations: John Fraley’s piece on this subject is well-timed, and should be well worth keeping our eyes on over the coming weeks. Mychal Kendricks actually looked inconsistent at times in coverage. At least one significant gain (15+ yards) was his fault. I thought the missed opportunity to Ekeler was on Kendricks; Matty thought maybe KJ Wright. But he did have some great coverage moments, notably the 3rd and 3 he stopped short of the first down in the second quarter.
Kendricks did look really, really good rushing the passer, so the SAM linebacker spot and how much Carroll wants guys rushing this season will be fascinating moving forward. Kendricks turned in 11 sacks from 2013-15, but was not brought in to sack the QB. Now that the pressure on opposing quarterbacks needs to come from somewhere, these might be just the guys to do it.
The only question at this point will be what’s the trade-off by sending the LBs more often, in a scheme where they were already a bottom-10 team in defensive yards per play - what’s this going to do to their overall numbers? How much can a bend-but-don’t-break defense realistically bend consistently? There were a few items we took away from the defensive starters’ time on the field on Saturday night, but pressing questions are still to be answered—and will be when the regular season kicks off.