Russell Wilson opened his NFL career last week with a terrific statistical performance. His encore was even more impressive as he piled up the gaudy stats in a more repeatable and professional way. Sure, he scrambled some, and made a few great throws out of the pocket, but his percentage of throws made within the system was far higher this week. He is getting more comfortable and showcasing all the skills that make him possibly the most talented drafted Seahawks quarterback in franchise history (Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn and Matt Hasselbeck were not drafted by the Seahawks). Watching Wilson play is fun. Every throw seems destined for completion. Every run makes the defense look slow and silly. Points follow him around like groupies, begging to be scored. There is a greatness in him that excited many of us when he was selected. No quarterback so short has a ceiling so high. He will start for the Seahawks. He will lead the team to championships. Every other player from the Seahawks 2012 draft class could falter, and this draft may go down as one of the franchise’s best when Wilson fulfills his potential.
Matt Flynn had a tough game. He finished with a completion percentage below 50%, a yards per attempt just over two, and fewer yards passing that Wilson did rushing. There were no touchdown passes or touchdown drives. The team settled for three field goals, and trailed by one point at halftime, despite forcing three turnovers.
Scenarios like this are what got me into blogging. Superficial analysis will lead many to suggest Wilson clearly needs to get a chance to start in the third pre-season game. His stats are better, he “looked” better, the team scored more with him in the game. The primary excuse given to Flynn will be that he has faced tougher competition, and so many will use that as yet another reason we “need” to see Wilson start this week. Whoever starts the third game needs to be the starter in week one of the regular season. The starter will play into the third quarter, and then will get very little time in the last game. Starting receivers Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin have had barely any live snaps with the quarterbacks through camp, and have zero game time with them. They are almost certain to play some this week. A coach aiming to put his team in position to start strong is utilizing that third game as a preparation tool, not an evaluation tool.
If Carroll decides to start Wilson this coming Friday, he should also name him starter. We have passed the point of competition, and are nearing indecision. If we reach that point, the coach deserves more scrutiny and evaluation than the quarterbacks.
There are a number of reasons I expect Carroll to announce Flynn as the starter for the next game and regular season. Flynn has been taking starter snaps since the first pre-season game. He is being put in the best position to succeed come week one. He earned that position early in camp with superior play and preparedness. The coaching staff continues to speak publicly about Wilson’s learning curve with the “verbage” and reading NFL defenses in order to make the right checks. He’s light years ahead of where most rookies would be in his situation, but still is not at Flynn’s level. Then, there’s the nuances to the game performances.
Terrell Owens played his first game and was a zero. As in, zero catches in five targets. He dropped what should have been a certain 46-yard touchdown pass from Flynn in the second quarter. If he makes that one catch, Flynn would have exited the game with passer rating of 120.1. It appeared that every one of the incompletions to Owens was due to his unfamiliarity with the offense. There was an early hot read that he failed to recognize. There was what would have been a great back-shoulder throw down the right sideline near the end zone that he raced right on by. These were important plays, drive-sustaining plays, scoring plays. It is why Carroll said after the game that it was going to be hard to evaluate the quarterbacks.
Flynn was not perfect. His throw to Charly Martin in the flat on a third down play was ill-advised and could have been picked. He did not look confident in the pocket when pressure was being applied, and took more sacks that could have been avoided if he got rid of the ball earlier. There are no rose-colored glasses here. Flynn needs to play better. He also needs to start.
Now, let’s talk a little Owens. I continue to feel like I’ve got a friend I love who is dating someone I know is bad for them. I can see what my friend sees in this person, but I know it is going to end badly. Owens is not a rookie. He is only two weeks in this system, but a veteran like him should not have five mistakes in five targets. That would improve with time, but I guarantee you a player like Baldwin or Ben Obomanu could walk onto another team and not make mistakes like that two weeks later. Owens is a physical marvel, but the mental side of things continues to be highly suspect. The plus side is that he is a unique target on this team that was open if he made the right reads. There were not a lot of open receivers for Flynn to hit. That is why Owens is here, and that is why he still remains in the mix to make the team despite a disaster of a game.
No other receiver distinguished himself. Deon Butler had a fine game, but nothing impressive. Anthony McCoy was the biggest standout for making a great catch down the field for 26-yards, and making a few terrific blocks.
Speaking of blocking, the offensive line had an uneven game. They opened some gorgeous holes for Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin early, but struggled with pass protection. Overall, the line cleared the way for 228 yards rushing and a 5.2 average per carry. That’s nothing to scoff at. Nice game for Tyrell Sutton, who will not be with the team or the practice squad, but hopefully this helps him catch on somewhere. Kregg Lumpkin continues to make a case for a roster spot. I have no idea how they can afford to keep him, unless it is at the expense of Leon Washington.
The offensive line yielded two sacks and five quarterback hits. It would have been worse if Wilson was not the escape artist he is. Even so, the Seahawks came into Denver last pre-season and gave up five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. They could not run the offense. This was a great measuring stick to show the improvement there.
It should also be noted that the Broncos defense did not surrender a third down conversion last week against the Bears (0-11). The Seahawks finished 10-18 this week (2-8 in the first half, 8-10 in the second half).
The defense. This was a perfect pre-season game for this defense. There were some glowing moments, and some clear areas that can be worked on. In the end, they held Peyton Manning to a 55.8 rating. Manning was up to his old hurry-up tricks, and was picking apart the defense on a few occasions. He was picked off twice, though, and did not throw a touchdown pass.
No area needs more attention than the pass rush. Defenses are not blitzing or scheming for pass pressure in the pre-season, so it a great time to evaluate individual pass rush talent. Seattle is not shining in this area so far. Bruce Irvin had a few moments, but was not exactly a headache for the Broncos. Chris Clemons was no better. The defensive line in the second half was more impressive in applying pressure with a very good game from Jaye Howard, another strong performance from Greg Scruggs and some good moments from Pierre Allen and Pep Levingston. Maybe they should all start next week! Being able to apply pass pressure without blitzing is what can make this defense absolutely dominant. The early signs are not promising. Fans may need to settle for a really, really good defense instead of an elite one.
K.J. Wright continues to have a fantastic training camp and pre-season. He had an interception, and had a hand in Jeron Johnson’s forced fumble when he literally shoved Johnson into the hole to help stop the runner. This guy is primed for a great season.
The run defense was strong, as always. Denver finishes with 38 yards on 15 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. We have become so spoiled with this aspect of the defense that Willis McGahee’s 13-yard run stood out in my memory as “big” run. The other Broncos runners combined for less than that…in total.
Seattle played with an edge throughout, most notably from their offensive line. How many teams say that? There were a number of stupid penalties after the play was dead, but nobody watching the game–or more importantly, playing in the game–could walk away thinking the Seahawks are pushovers. Push the Seahawks, and expect to be pushed back. Seattle may even start the pushing.
There was a lot of progress to celebrate last night across the board, and a few key areas to improve on. It is a short week with a game on Friday, so expect the starting quarterback announcement to happen either tomorrow or Tuesday. No matter which player is your favorite, the great news is there are two quarterbacks in Seattle worth being excited about.