The 12th Man Makes Its Debut
Consider me late to the party, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened on Saturday. You had the upstart Seattle Seahawks, just now starting to come into their own as a legitimate contender in the NFC and beyond, measuring themselves up (apparently) against the Denver Broncos.
The once-in-a-decade quarterback talent against the diminutive underdog. He who set the record for rookie touchdown passes with 26, against the only quarterback to tie it since.
While the Broncos had little in the way of validation as a contender to gain, they had plenty to lose and the Seahawks were more than happy to take it. Youth was served, and in a big way.
Sure it was just a preseason game, but it had all the hallmarks of regular season outing at Century Link: the crowd was deafening, the defense physical and the bounces were all in Seattle’s favor. They stumbled out of the gate, much like they did for parts of last season, and the defense did just enough to keep them in the game.
Then the dam broke. The offense started to sustain some pressure, the defense was forcing turnovers and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the final score does much to suggest otherwise, the Seahawks were much less dominant in this game than they were in San Diego in week 1 of the preseason.
It’s going to be moderately more difficult to find the three Seahawks who made the largest mark on this game or management’s personnel decisions, but hey, this is my job or something, right?
TE Sean McGrath
I have a difficult time sharing some people’s (Hawkblogger, in particular) affection for Sean McGrath, but his performance on Saturday did wonders for their cause — whatever it may be.
Playing in nearly a third of the team’s offensive snaps, 19 according to ProFootballFocus, McGrath’s mark on the game wasn’t as large as one would hope it would be, but let’s not split hairs.
Darrell Bevell, who is still looking for a receiving option at tight end due to Miller’s lisfranc injury and McCoy being on the IR, tried his best to make Willson a featured part of this offense through the earlier parts of this game.
He looked largely out of place and was a complete non-factor, failing to reel in the one pass sent in his direction.
With his struggles came McGraths opportunities.
On the very first drive of the game, subbing in for Willson, McGrath helped the Seahawks move deep into Broncos territory with a 23-yard reception. He displayed great awareness and balance as he stumbled awkwardly through and between Broncos defenders to secure a new set of downs, and an easier finish to a long drive.
His next and final catch, this one in the second quarter, resulted in a Seahawks touchdown.
Small sample size, sure, but I’m cautiously optimistic that McGrath gave us a glimpse of what he can offer this offense.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in Seattle, and you can thank Jesse Williams for that.
Here we are watching the Seahawks be dominant in nearly every phase of the football game, and Williams decides to – I’d even go so far as to say he DARES to – be so bold as to play poorly. Hell, poorly is an understatement.
Of all the Seahawks’ later-round picks in their 2013 draft class, few drew as much hype as Williams. Concerns surrounding his knee and lower-body strength were the only things that kept him from being taken in the first round, according to some.
For that reason, many 12s, myself included, were all too stoked to see him get snagged in the fifth round.
So far, the results have been a little underwhelming. In San Diego, Williams was largely invincible, but I let it slide due to the fact that for much of the night he was drawing a lot of attention from the Chargers offensive line.
In Seattle, he was just plain awful.
Conventional statistics are enough to make one think Williams wasn’t even playing, as he drew blanks across the board. Luckily for me I’ve got ProFootballFocus’ grading system to help quantify how truly awful he was, as they graded his performance as the lowest on the entire Seahawks defense at -2.0 on the night.
1. Jermaine Kearse
Amazing what one offseason and eye surgery can do for a receiver. Take Jermaine Kearse for example. His contributions last year were almost exclusively on special teams, be it in the preseason or otherwise. To this point, Kearse is making it perfectly clear he can offer considerably more than that.
Offensively Kearse’s performance in Seattle was no better than the one he had in San Diego. As a matter of fact, you could make the case for it having been even worse, if you really wanted to be mean. Where Kearse made his largest impact was in special teams, as he solidified his spot in the open competition for the honor of returning kicks.
He only had one kick to return, and oh how he returned it.
Starting seven yards deep in his own end zone, Kearse defied conventional wisdom and ran the ball out with a full head of steam. It didn’t take much in the way of moves, but a few cuts later and Kearse was starting to see daylight on the left sideline.
With a thundering stiff-arm he put the kicker in his place and strolled jauntily into the end-zone. It really was that simple.
What made this 107-yard return look so easy was the straight away speed and decisiveness with which Kearse runs. I already felt that he’d earned an increased role in this offense, but after a return like that I almost feel guilty for counting him out as more than a tackler or blocker on special teams.
Luckily for the Seahawks, it’s Pete Carroll who got to decide both.