By Danny O’Neil
SAN DIEGO – Seattle still has three more preseason games before it must answer the question of who will be on the 53-man roster, but Thursday’s opener did teach us a few things about not only what to expect, but what is still very much in doubt.
Three things we learned:
1. Tarvaris Jackson is going to be this team’s backup quarterback.
Sure, Brady Quinn was the first quarterback off the bench Thursday, replacing Russell Wilson beginning with Seattle’s third possession, but remember that Jackson took the first snap last training camp with the Seahawks’ first-team offense for all the good it did him in the quarterback competition against Wilson and Matt Flynn.
Jackson has six years of experience playing for Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator, and Jackson’s first two completions in San Diego each gained more than 40 yards and reminded you of how well he can throw the ball when he’s not playing through a torn pectoral muscle like he did in his final nine and a half games in 2011.
Quinn didn’t play poorly in the preseason opener, but Jackson was pretty much perfect.
2. Stephen Williams has everyone’s attention.
Percy Harvin’s injury will open up a job for one of these receivers, and Williams made a pretty compelling case why it should be him as he caught two of the three passes thrown his way for 83 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t just the statistics, but the size that stood out. See, he’s 6 foot 5, which makes him a different type of player than anyone else Seattle throws the ball to.
“He has the dimensions that we love in that kind of receiver,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We don’t want all our receivers like that, but we love having a big guy and we’ve had a lot of success with that over the years. To see him vying for that kind of spot is darn exciting.”
3. Seattle is as good – and deep – as advertised at cornerback.
Chargers starting quarterback Philip Rivers may have completed five of the six passes on San Diego’s first possession, but none of those were to a player being defended by either Brandon Browner or Richard Sherman.
And for all the attention that has been paid to Walter Thurmond’s performance over the offseason and through the first two weeks of training camp, it was Byron Maxwell who really stood out Thursday. He’s physical and relentless and the way he broke on the ball to pick off Charlie Whitehurst’s throw to Robert Meachem in the second quarter made you wonder how many teams in this league Maxwell would be starting for.
The only bad news: Maxwell twisted his ankle later in the game, and staying healthy has been a challenge for him.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Just what to make of Christine Michael’s debut?
He was productive, logging 89 yards on 16 carries, but the majority of that came in the second half when Seattle was playing against the nether regions of the Chargers’ defensive depth chart. No doubt about how hard Michael ran on Thursday, and he showed he was willing to go headfirst into the briar patch of the defense, but he also got a little overly ornate, especially with that spin move.
The next two games will provide a better idea of how he’ll fare against the upper rungs of an opposing defense.
2. When are we going to see Seattle’s improved pass rush?
That wasn’t evident in the first half as three of the Seahawks’ four sacks came in the final two quarters when the reserves were in the game. Now, some of that’s understandable as Cliff Avril didn’t play after missing more than a week with a sore hamstring, linebacker Bruce Irvin was out because of a sore groin and Chris Clemons is still coming back from knee surgery.
But at the same time, defensive tackles Michael Bennett and Jordan Hill were acquired for their interior pass-rush ability and Seattle was unable to make Chargers starting quarterback Philip Rivers uncomfortable in the one possession he played.
3. How serious is James Carpenter’s foot injury?
He didn’t play in Thursday’s exhibition game, which is hardly shocking after he missed the final three days of practice last week. But he hasn’t been seen on the practice field, either. Carroll said Carpenter suffered a foot injury that was similar to one he had in college, and it was responding to treatment.
Remains to be seen if this is going to be yet another injury that slows Carpenter’s development, and while the Seahawks aren’t depending upon him to be ready to start at left guard, there’s no doubt that his unique power at 340 pounds could really elevate the level of play from this offensive line.