Danny Kelly recently invited me to write a regular weekly piece (finally, 'bout time somebody recognized the skillz up in this piece.) I'm still not sure whether I'm more nervous or excited. In my... ahem... almost mid-40s, it's getting harder to tell the two apart.
I think I'm going to call it "Closing the Book." I'll offer a few big picture takeaways from the prior week's game. I'll try to get it up by Wednesday after I've had a chance to--you know--watch the game (all subject to work schedule of course).
As a first installment I'll take a peek back at the preseason and the initial regular season player roster.
Is there a lazier line in sports than the one about how the pre-season is meaningless? The pre-season is data. All data tells you something. It's up to you to figure out what it tells you and what it doesn't. The pre-season is data about the basics. Who runs fast? Who is explosive out of a stance? Who hits hard? That kind of thing. Last pre-season's matchup with the Broncos showed us, for instance, that Seattle was simply in a different athletic class.
So, what did the 2014 pre-season show?
Well, nothing quite so definitive.
1. Less athletic depth and momentary lapses in focus.
One thing that is the direct result of the Super Bowl win is that Seattle's not going to get an opponent's "B" effort. The word is out. You will get embarrassed if you don't come with max effort. On the flip side, Seattle cannot afford to fall into the trap of not matching an opponent's intensity.
The Denver and Oakland games suggest that this team doesn't have last season's athletic depth, but that 's no fatal flaw. Last year's depth really was a bit insane, and we probably don't need to use it as a baseline. Oakland pushed Seattle around on both sides of the line of scrimmage. It's been a while since I've seen that. Still, Seattle is easily one of the most athletically gifted teams in the league. The real question about its athletic depth is whether there are enough quality players to (a) withstand a reasonable amount of injury at a given position, and to (b) run Darrell Bevell's and Dan Quinn's preferred personnel groups. Part (b) concerns me a little more than part (a).
The Denver and Oakland games also open up the disturbing possibility (not probability) that this group could be prone to momentary lapses in focus. Giving credit, Oakland has some promising young athletic talent. Still, I saw the same gap assignment problems I thought we left on the field at Candlestick in 2012. We didn't see those errors from fringe players in the 2013 pre-season. I'm not ready to declare a focus problem, but it's something I'll keep an eye on.
2. Russell Wilson has completed his Jedi training.
Sometimes it's obvious, even in just a handful of pre-season snaps, when a QB takes that step where preparation, vision, awareness and athleticism all start to converge. He has moments where he just kind of toys with a defense. It's a beautiful thing to watch too--unless you are a defensive coordinator. When a QB gets to the place--and Wilson is looking an awful lot like he's there--you can't really do much to mess with him. What you CAN do is mess with everything around him; disrupt his receivers, his protections. You hope to get him on the ground, but short of that you at least want to get him off schedule.
3. Role players determine how far you go.
If defenses must get Wilson off schedule to handle him then the surest route to doing that goes through rookie RT Justin Britt. If he is doing a reasonable impersonation of Giacomini's pass pro by November we're fine. But I fear that may be asking for a minor miracle. Britt still has his training wheels on in pass pro, and he's still a little wobbly.
So, expect the Seahawks to ask TE Zach Miller to suit up as a de facto third OT--again. Consider also that Carroll has talked publicly about Wilson completing 70% of his throws. I don't think Pete throws numbers out into the ether just for something to say. That sounds like a coach who is planning to lean on his short passing game. That potentially takes some of the pressure off Britt.