SAN DIEGO – Tarvaris Jackson was brought in, largely due to his familiarity with new offensive coordinator’s Darrell Bevell’s offense. Those were about the only two things familiar with one another on offensive side of the ball for Seattle, as the newly-formed offense struggled to find any consistency in their pre-season opening 17-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Head Coach Pete Carroll brought in Bevell and highly touted offensive line coach, Tom Cable to alter the make-up of his offense into one that relied more on running and ball control passing. There were signs of the plan taking shape as the entirely new offensive line opened some big holes for the Seahawks running backs. Free agent Thomas Clayton led the team with 47 yards rushing, but Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch each enjoyed at least one run over 10 yards. The inexperience and unfamiliarity was obvious, though, as a number of drives were stalled due to false start and holding penalties. New right tackle James Carpenter was chief among the culprits, as was new left guard Robert Gallery. Gallery is supposed to be the veteran leader, so he will likely get an earful from Cable.
The Seahawks opening drive was promising. Jackson handed off to Lynch a couple of times, and the running back gained a first down behind left tackle Russell Okung and Gallery. After an incompletion, Jackson threw a nifty screen pass to Forsett for a 15-yard gain. Sidney Rice introduced himself to Seahawks fans with a leaping snag of a high throw from Jackson 20 yards downfield. A few more runs got the team inside the Chargers 20-yard-line before a Carpenter holding penalty backed them up. Jackson and Golden Tate could not quite connect on a 3rd down pass, and the team settled for three points.
Seattle’s defense did not hold the lead for long. The defense looked noticeably more aggressive than last season, with big cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner jamming receivers at the line while an active front seven made life difficult for the Chargers’ line. Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers was simply too good on the first series, connecting on a handful of impressive throws, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to newly re-signed receiver Malcolm Floyd.
The score stayed that way through halftime, before San Diego took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 70 yards for another touchdown. Both teams were well into their third-string by that point. Rookie QB Josh Portis showed off some fast feet with a couple of scrambles, but also fumbled and threw an interception.
Charlie Whitehurst subbed for Jackson after the first series and led the team to a couple of field goals. One was more a credit to Seattle’s defense as rookie CB Byron Maxwell picked off a pass deep in Charger territory. The Seahawks secondary nearly caused another couple of turnovers as safety Kam Chancellor separated RB Ryan Mathews from the ball before the Chargers recovered and S/CB Josh Pinkard had another pick called back due to an illegal contact penalty on rookie CB Richard Sherman.
Carroll was happy with the performance, “We obviously showed some rust out there. That’s to be expected. But, there was a lot to like, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
Carroll called out the play of linebackers Leroy Hill, David Hawthorne and undrafted rookie Mike Morgan, “Mike’s a guy we knew from [USC], and he made a couple nice tackles on special teams and filled his gaps real nice for his first game.”
Cable was not as effusive in his praise of the offensive line, “We were pretty sloppy out there. Nobody wants to hear excuses about these guys not playing together or a short off-season. We need to get it done, period.”
Carroll said he was not too concerned about the offense yet, and expects them to “crank it up” in the coming weeks. He pointed to the short stint by the first-string and the fair number of players that were held out as precaution (including starting WR Mike Williams) as reasons a slow start was not unexpected. Exiting this game without any serious injuries was more important to Carroll at this point.
The Seahawks now have nine days until their first home game of the pre-season against the Minnesota Vikings. Jackson, Rice and Bevell all have reasons to want that to be a better offensive performance.