By Danny O’Neil
It has been two years since Seattle lost a preseason game, and it’s only two weeks until the regular season will be under way.
Before we continue that countdown, though, let’s count up the lessons from Friday’s preseason game in Green Bay, which is as close as Seattle will get to a dress rehearsal.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked three times and threw two interceptions in Friday’s preseason game against the Packers. (AP)
Three things we learned:
1. Russell Wilson is not infallible.
Friday’s game at Green Bay was clearly the least impressive of any of Wilson’s seven preseason games as a Seahawk, but that’s as much a compliment to his performance in the other six as it is a criticism of the most recent one.
Wilson was picked off twice, but neither was necessarily the result of poor judgment. The first resulted from a pass tipped at the line, while the second one could have resulted from a miscommunication with wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
But still, the second quarter was perhaps Wilson’s poorest period of football in any game as a Seahawk. After going 6 for 6 passing in the first quarter for 90 yards, Wilson was 4 for 9 for 20 yards and two picks in the second period.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to panic or invoke a silly phrase that includes the word slump, but it certainly was uncharacteristic.
2. Backup running back is more than a conversation; it’s a competition.
Rookie Christine Michael showed some giddy-up on that 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but that was only his second-most impressive play in Green Bay. He single-handedly caught a pass out of the backfield and turned it into a 25-yard gain.
Not only did Robert Turbin look a little less explosive when he got the ball, but he failed on a blitz pickup of Clay Matthews, resulting in one of the Packers’ three sacks of Wilson. The fact that a running back – alone – was assigned to block one of the league’s top pass rushers is evidence that the scheme was as much to blame as execution on that sack, but there’s going to be a pretty fierce competition to see who gets more carries this season: Turbin or Michael.
3. Seattle still has a tendency to play flag football.
Penalties are becoming a punch line for Seattle this preseason, only it’s Pete Carroll’s team that’s the butt of the joke. The Seahawks were assessed 14 penalties against Green Bay, matching their highest single-game total from the regular season last year.
Three of those penalties were assessed to right guard J.R. Sweezy, but he’s not the only problem up front. Seattle has been flagged for 43 penalties in three preseason games if you include the nine that were declined, and 14 of those penalties have been against offensive linemen, six of whom have been flagged for two or more this preseason.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Can Seattle afford to cut Tony McDaniel?
Certainly didn’t look like it Friday night as he tipped a pass, consistently got a nice push off the line and disrupted Green Bay’s running game. McDaniel, who’s in his eighth year, was an improvement over the early-down play of either third-round pick Jordan Hill or fifth-round choice Jesse Williams.
That said, it’s not McDaniel’s ability that has been a question, but his consistency at practice and his ability to stay on the field. After missing the first two preseason games because of a sore groin, this is still an important week for McDaniel, but cutting costs by leaving McDaniel off the team might be rash given how good he looked in Green Bay.
2. How could Stephen Williams not make this roster?
No, he doesn’t look like someone who’s going to excel on special teams. No, he’s not the most physical player on the team. But all he has done in three preseason games is catch three touchdowns on completions of more than 35 yards.
Being a professional deep threat should be enough to earn Williams a spot on this team especially considering the status of Percy Harvin, who was expected to be such a big-play threat for this team. Williams has six catches for 186 yards in three preseason games, which is triple the receiving yardage of anyone else on the team.
3. What to make of Seattle’s pass rush?
This was a point of emphasis in the offseason, and through three preseason games the Seahawks have 10 sacks, tied for seventh-most in the league. Now, the encouraging fact is that Seattle has pressured opponents without the help of Chris Clemons, who’s coming off knee surgery, nor Cliff Avril, who has sat out the past three preseason games.
The discouraging news: There’s no indication Clemons will be ready for the start of the regular season, and the fact Avril has yet to play after missing much of the offseason conditioning program with a foot injury means there’s no ability to develop any familiarity up front in Seattle’s pass rush.