The Morning After: Swagger Returns In Intimidating 31-21 Seahawks Victory Over The Raiders

Ask any Seahawks coach the most important thing they look for in a player and they will all say the same thing. Consistency is the hallmark of a professional, and a goal that can never fully be reached. Each player is asked to succeed, and then repeat that success over and over again. Tyler Lockett and Frank Clark have used their considerable talents to demonstrate an almost Atari-like dominance of their foes this preseason. A franchise that has developed a reputation for shrewd drafting appears to have struck gold again.


It seems almost fitting that a player who has so many talents has earned a nickname about what he does not have. Guys in the Seahawks receiver room refer to Lockett as “No-E,” to differentiate him from fellow receiver Ricardo Lockette. That is about the only thing missing from his game. All he has done this preseason is score in three of the four games, average 78.3 yards per touchdown and 29.2 yards every time he touches the football.
He finished the preseason averaging 37.4 yards per kick return, 26.3 yards per punt return and 21.5 yards per reception. I hoped before the preseason started that Lockett could reach a ceiling of being like Arizona’s John Brown. That now seems like a limiting comparison. His touchdown reception on the Seahawks second play from scrimmage demonstrated just how advanced and gifted he is. 
His release off the line was so sudden and shifty that the Raiders corner was left lurching and got so off balance that he started stumbling. Then Lockett’s speed kicked in and he nearly reached superhero velocity racing away from the Raiders secondary. Too E-Z for No-E. 
Lockett has done what most would have considered impossible four weeks ago; he has earned the right to share top billing with Jimmy Graham as impactful additions to this offense. Do not look for fantasy football numbers. He still plays for the run-centric Seahawks, but he is already a factor defensive coordinators will have to account for on Sundays.

Frank the Tank

Oh boy. The brakes just fell off the Frank Clark hype train. Not since Cortez Kennedy have I seen such a physically dominant preseason from a Seahawks draft pick. What that means, I cannot say, but it is a very good thing. Clark was not just consistent from game-to-game, but from play-to-play. 
Nobody effectively blocked him. He dominated in the run game and as a pass rusher. He excelled on the edge and inside. Clark may mimic the positions that Michael Bennett plays, but the two players are quite different in how they get their results.
Bennett is about quickness, smarts, and technique. Clark is about strength, quickness, and strength. He’s really strong. Searching the memory banks for comparisons came up with James Harrison initially. The problem is Harrison is two inches shorts and 40 lbs lighter, depending on which site you reference. From an intimidation and skill similarity perspective, they are are pretty decent match.
Players like Neil Smith, John Randle, Dexter Manley, and former Seahawk Phillip Daniels come to mind as well. All rank among the top 100 in sacks for their career. The most outlandish comparison is Bruce Smith. Yep, that Bruce Smith. The one who ranks #1 in career sacks with 200.0. These can fairly be criticized as ridiculous comparisons for a player who totalled 1.0 sack in the preseason. Anyone who watched him play in each game knows Clark is something special. The only question is how special.

Youth movement

Clark and Lockett easily earn the right to be talked about in the same breath as Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and Golden Tate as draft picks who demonstrated Pro Bowl potential early on. No pick in the past two years clearly claimed that type of projection after a single preseason.
Mark Glowinski joines those players as a 2015 pick who is showing starter potential. He played his best game of the preseason, and looks like he could be ready to see productive game action this year. 
That draft class is combining with players from the 2013 and 2014 rookie classes to form a promising group of young players the Seahawks will need to grow-up quickly in order to replace more expensive veteran talent in the coming years.
Cassius Marsh was overshadowed by Clark, but deserves recognition for an excellent preseason, especially against the run. Marsh flashed his speed off the edge last night in creating pass pressure multiple times, but it was his play defending the run that has been his most consistent asset. He and Clark appear to be friends. That could be a fun pair to watch grow up together, unless you are an opposing quarterback.
Kevin Pierre-Louis looked strong reading the run game and getting off blocks, but still missed a few tackles. His ceiling remains high.
Tharold Simon looks like a starter. He can’t catch a pass that hits his hands apparently, but he can cover pretty darn well and is an above-average run supporter at the corner position. It feels inevitable that he will force his way into the starting lineup.
Dion Bailey will be a decent starter if Kam Chancellor does not show up, but will be a fantastic third safety if he does. Giving someone like Bailey the freedom to roam knowing he has All-Pro safeties behind him sounds like a big play waiting to happen. 
Garry Gilliam and Justin Britt are already starters, as are Luke Willson and Jordan Hill. That is a lot of young talent to be excited about. It did not feel like that after last preseason.

And that’s not all…

Some of the players on the bubble definitely helped their cause last night. Jesse Williams was living in the backfield again. He has made it hard to keep him off the roster. This is a big man who can move and is consistently disrupting opposing lines. If you kept him around the last two years with all his challenges, you certainly keep him around to see the payoff.
Right there with him is rookie T.Y. McGill. He made plays in every game. It might be possible to sneak McGill onto the practice squad, but that would be a risky proposition. I am not sure Ahtyba Rubin is a better run defender than McGill. This guy could step in now and play productive snaps for Seattle. The only reason the team would let him slip through their fingers is that keeping five defensive tackles (Brandon Mebane, Rubin, Hill, Williams, McGill) is a bit gluttonous. 
David King does not want to be left out either. He has proven to be a productive pass rusher and a decent run defender. He seems destined for the practice squad.
Eric Pinkins played his best game at linebacker, and should have a solid spot on this roster given his special teams prowess and the hamstring injury to Mike Morgan. 
Tye Smith has been up and down. He has the moxie to be a worthy developmental prospect, but he has trouble sticking with receivers. I did not think he played a great game last night, and he shifted onto the bubble as a result.
Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams are NFL receivers. That much seems pretty clear. Both are promising special teams players as well. Williams, I wrote during my training camp notes, has shown flashes of being a terrific special teams player with his length, speed and athleticism. I see a guy who could retrace Jermaine Kearse’s footsteps, and eventually become a better player than his fellow Husky. Smith is ahead of Williams in his development. He shows special hands and terrific speed. I do not see either player making the roster this year, but both could be on it next year.

Running backs

No position may be more misleading in the preseason than running back. Demetrius Bronson looked like a world beater last year and had people clamoring for him. Vai Taua was a badass when he played. Heck, Christine Michael ran for more yards in his first preseason than he has in his entire NFL career. 
That is part of why I have trouble suppressing an eye roll when I hear all this Thomas Rawls hype. He looks like an NFL back. He runs hard, hits the holes without hesitation, and is a good receiver out of the backfield. He also does not appear special at any one of those things. If finding a solid backup running back gets your juices flowing, Rawls is worth spending some time on. Just be fair to the kid and keep your expectations in check. He will find his way onto an NFL roster, but not this one. At least, not right away.
Christine Michael continued to frustrate folks with his ball carrying mishaps. More people commented on his using the wrong hand to hold the ball than on his ability to reach the corner on those sweeps. He is the only running back on the roster capable of doing that. Marshawn Lynch, as great as he is, does not possess the speed and cornering ability necessary to get to the outside. Robert Turbin definitely does not. Michael, despite all his glaring faults, may well have his most productive year since being drafted.
Rod Smith, by the way, still feels undervalued. I had hoped he would earn more snaps. He can be a starting back from what I saw of him, but it won’t happen here apparently.

Final projections

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Not a lot changed in my roster projections following the game. There is a strong chance the Seahawks will either trade or pick up players from other teams for the 53-man roster. The places where that could happen are offensive line, cornerback, and linebacker.

B.J. Daniels is a special player who gives the team rare flexibility. Part of me really wants to push Lockette off the roster in favor of one of the younger receivers who clearly have more upside as a receivers, but that doesn’t feel like a move the coaches would make this year.

Cornerback, safety, and defensive line have to be the spots causing the most distress. They will be letting go players at each of those positions that they could regret. Ronald Martin is a guy they have to hope they can keep on the practice squad. He would have made the roster in most years. Keenan Lambert played a great game last night and could find himself on the practice squad.

Enough dress rehearsal

The Seahawks have come a long way since their disturbing preseason opener against the Broncos. An offensive line that looked is complete disarray now appears to be finding stability and even upside. The pass protection last night was outstanding, and the run blocking was greatly improved.
People ask why Tom Cable gets a pass when Darrell Bevell gets harassed. It is because of these moments where fans can see a group of players come together and show such clear progress so quickly. Cable is undoubtedly an excellent teacher, even if he does not always stress the points (e.g., pass protection) we may want to see.
There will be some rumbles about why Graham was so quiet during the preseason. Just wait. He is an irrepressible talent. This offense is going to be worthy of all the hype if that offensive line can continue to grow together.
It is time now. It is time for Marshawn Lynch. It is time for Earl Thomas. It is time for Frank Clark to play side-by-side with the likes of Jordan Hill and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. It is time for Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to be the best linebacker trio possibly in the history of this franchise. We can hope it is time for Kam Chancellor. But even if that time is further delayed, it is time for Seahawks football. Rest up. The fun is about to begin. 

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