The Morning After: Magic Makes Welcome Return In Seahawks 17-16 Victory Over Chiefs
Long before Trevone Boykin, Tanner McEvoy, and Troymaine Pope combined to give the Seahawks a stunning last second win over the Chiefs, something remarkable happened. Seattle was in the midst of lackluster performance, with little to cheer about, and yet, there the Seahawks stars were, crowding the edge of the sideline and cheering on the young players as if their season hung in the balance. Kam Chancellor, the missing man just one preseason prior, was in the middle of it all. Something is different. The players have said it. The coaches have said it. We got our first chance to bear witness to it. Pity the league that must face a Seahawks squad that is already this intense, enthusiastic and energized.
Offensive line stars
Preseason football is not only difficult to watch in most cases, but it is difficult to evaluate. The first two games, especially, feature 37 players who will not even be on the roster and barely any time for the starters. It is easy to overreact to good or bad play from players who are very unlikely to determine the course of the season.
The thing that mattered most in this game was how the starting offensive line played. Remember, it was just a season ago that the team entered the first preseason game with Justin Britt at right tackle and Alvin Bailey at left guard, and exited the game with Justin Britt at left guard and Garry Gilliam at right tackle. It was a disastrous performance in pass protection that forced Tom Cable and the coaching staff to reshuffle the deck. That became a sign of things to come as the line struggled mightily for much of the season.
We can only hope that this game has similar predictive powers. The starting Seahawks offensive line gets nearly a perfect grade from me after the first game. Pass blocking was more than adequate, and the interior run blocking was superb. The strength of this line are the two young starting guards, Mark Glowinski and Germain Ifedi.
The savory truth revealing itself from this game is that Justin Britt may be transforming from liability to lion.
Those three players were gashing the Chiefs interior line that featured Dontario Poe. Britt was blocking his man ten yards downfield in some cases. Russell Wilson said after the game that this was as good as the offense has looked at this point in the preseason since he has been here. He is right. The story is that the offense is shining with the help of the line, instead of in spite of it.
It would absolutely be an overreaction to declare the line fixed. It would also be an underreaction to dismiss what they did as just a preseason game against a Chiefs team that was sitting some starters. Anyone who saw this team play last year knows the line was more than capable of looking terrible against just about anyone. This was an encouraging first step that the team can build on.
Christine Michael makes fantasy owners cringe
Pete Carroll said after the game that he is looking forward to the 1-2 punch that Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls can form during the year. Michael has been earning that opportunity with the way he has practiced and looked fantastic in his short stint in yesterdays game. Fantasy football fans may be wringing their hands at what that means for Rawls’ draft value. Seahawks fans should be raising their hands in celebration.
Michael is not the bruising runner that Seattle was accustomed to with Marshawn Lynch. He is a dasher and a gasher. One run yesterday saw him bounce it to the outside when the hole was closed and outrun Chiefs defenders to the edge for a 6 or 7 yard gain. It was a play, despite all his legendary skills, that Lynch could never make. They are different runners, with different strengths.
Michael did most of his damage behind the interior line, finding creases to burst through. He appeared ready to take it the distance multiple times. Four of his seven carries went for 8 yards or more. Michael has tantalized with his potential since being drafted. He very well may on the cusp of adding his explosiveness to an already potent offense.
Trevone Boykin shows grit
Anyone who watched Trevone Boykin play before his final two drives likely screamed at their television for very different reasons than why they screamed on his final drive. The rookie quarterback was erratic and off target much of the time, and his receivers did not help him or Jake Heaps much.
It was disappointing given the strides Boykin had taken in the past week of practice. The Seahawks did something unconventional when they pulled Boykin to let Heaps play for a few series and then brought Boykin back in. Bucking convention worked once again for Seattle as Boykin led a dizzying rally in the final three minutes to turn a 16-6 deficit into a 17-16 victory.
He repeatedly displayed a deft touch on deep passes, and almost connected on a beauty to Paul Richardson for a touchdown. He also flashed his athletic ability on a long, winding scramble across the field to setup a field goal that brought the team to within one score of the Chiefs.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his performance was the grit he showed to fight threw the muck and the mess of his early snaps to find success. That bodes well.
Pass rush and run defense disappoint
Start with the truth that the Seahawks best pass rusher, Michael Bennett, was held out. Add that the defense does not game plan or put in any pressure packages for the preseason. Okay. That was still a pretty sorry performance by the starting defensive line. Chiefs runners were picking up large chunks right up the gut and Chiefs quarterbacks had plenty of time to throw.
The only time the Seahawks started to show any meaningful pass rush was when Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark were facing the second and third string Chiefs line.
Brandin Bryant did not have the pocket pressuring performance I was hoping to see. Jarran Reed was hit and miss in run defense. Mike Morgan and Eric Pinkins did not set the edge well. Even Bobby Wagner got pulled out of position on some play-action. The team finished with zero sacks and zero tackles for loss.
It was not up to the Seahawks standards. Still, if the biggest area of improvement coming out of this game is the Seahawks defense, color me unconcerned.
Players who helped themselves
DE/LB Cassius Marsh
Marsh did not need help to make this roster, but he was a one-man wrecking crew on Saturday, making plays in pass rush, against the run and on special teams.
S Tyvis Powell
Powell had an interception and made some terrific special teams plays. He will push Brandon Browner, Steven Terrell and Tye Smith for roster spots. His play at corner could be a big factor.
QB Trevone Boykin
No better way to make up for a lackluster beginning than with a spectacular finish. Seattle is getting from him what they hoped for. He is still a long way from a viable NFL backup.
C Justin Britt
Everything else could have been terrible and Britt’s performance would still have made it all worth it. Hyperbole? Probably. But the center position has been a disaster since Max Unger left. It was a strength on Saturday. That’s a start.
T Bradley Sowell
Did anyone miss J’Marcus Webb? Sowell started at left tackle, and while he did not face the likes of Justin Houston, he was solid. His rise to starter is looking more and more plausible.
RB Christine Michael
Everyone assumed he was just keeping the seat warm for Thomas Rawls. The team will not be able to keep him off the field if he keeps this up.
WR Tanner McEvoy
It has been an inconsistent camp for the versatile rookie. He followed that up with an inconsistent game. The good news for McEvoy is that his two terrific catches at the end showcased what he can bring with his 6’6″ frame. It is a unique trait. His path to a roster spot is far from simple. This game may help him avoid the cut to 75 players coming soon.
Players who took a step back
LB Eric Pinkins
Pinkins finished the game with no tackles or assists. He was a non-factor at best, a negative one at worst. Disappointing.
LB Mike Morgan
The team likes to talk about Morgan’s reliability. That’s fine, but he lacks the strength or athletic ability to make uncommon plays. If he is up against a good tight end or lineman, he probably loses that battle in many cases.
G Jahri Evans
Evans was badly beaten on at least one play and did not have much to show for his first game. His starting competition, Ifedi and Glowinski, outplayed him.
DT Brandin Bryant
Bryant faced some double teams and was unable to do much. I had hoped for more.
CB Tharold Simon
Simon got called for pass interference and took a passive route to ball that he may have been able to intercept had he attacked it instead of faded from it. This was not the type of game that forces coaches to reconsider where he is on the depth chart.
The team plays again this Thursday in Seattle. That will be a good test against a stout Vikings defense to see where this offensive line stands. Young players will get plenty of run to make their case for roster spots. The third game is largely dedicated to the starters getting their reps, so now is the time to force the issue.
Something is building with this year’s Seahawks. That enthusiasm from guys like Earl Thomas, Chancellor, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson and others on the sideline was authentic. They have taken over this team identity and are infusing the young players with energy and belief. It was just one game, and a preseason game at that. Players already know this year is different. We are witnessing why.