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What We Learned: The Seahawks’ rookie class will determine success of this season

Starting his first career NFL game, Seahawks rookie LB Shaquem Griffin struggled Sunday. (AP)

The fact that the Seahawks lost on the road in September is not surprising.

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The defeat in Denver was the seventh straight road game that Seattle has lost in the first month of the season and the Seahawks are now 2-11 (.154) on the road in September under Pete Carroll. In all other road games during his tenure, they are 30-20-1.

But while the result was fairly predictable, there were plenty of significant developments in Seattle’s season-opener. So here’s a list of what we learned:

The rookie class will determine the success of this season.

Seattle has stars. Not as many as four years ago, certainly, but this is by no means a no-name team. Russell Wilson was an MVP candidate until December last season, Earl Thomas is among the best two or three safeties in the league and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright might be the best linebacking tandem in football. But if Seattle is going to make the playoffs this season, it will be because their rookie class – eight of whom are on the active roster – emerge as true difference-makers.

Will Dissly certainly was Sunday, catching three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the first half of his first game. Punter Michael Dickson might have been the single most effective player for Seattle with a net punting average of 58 yards, and Tre Flowers was competent, encouraging even, with the start at right cornerback. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin had a difficult debut, and wound up sharing time with Austin Calitro in the second half while Rasheem Green didn’t manage to affect the passer.

The growth of this rookie class is going to determine whether Seattle will be battling for a playoff spot or fighting to get to .500.

Seattle’s renewed emphasis on the run game was all talk.

The Seahawks rushed the ball 16 times. Seven carries went to starting running back Chris Carson, and another seven went to Rashaad Penny, the team’s first-round pick. Whether the Seahawks should have run the ball more is the operative question, because they certainly were not overwhelmingly effective when they did hand it off Chris Carson’s open-field hurdle of a defensive back notwithstanding.

Seattle averaged 2.2 yards per carry in the second half, and its second-longest rushing gain of the game was 10 yards, which was completely worthless since it came on a third-and-16 in the first quarter. That’s not exactly a rousing endorsement for more runs, but the run game is what Carroll emphasized all offseason and it was largely non-existent in the opener, which was puzzling.

3. Russell Wilson needs to ditch his 180-degree spin.

It has been a signature move for him, not just avoiding countless sacks but leading to huge plays by breaking containment and getting outside the pass rush. But on Sunday, you saw the Broncos change the angle of pursuit, and when Wilson tried to spin out the backdoor of the pocket, he spun into a hit.

Maybe that’s just Von Miller, who is one of the very best defensive players in this league, but it’s also a sign that the next step in Wilson’s development is not becoming more elusive or better at extending plays. He needs to become more decisive and learn the value of avoiding a sack by throwing the ball away. There’s a psychological toll that a sack takes on the offensive linemen, too.

Of the six sacks Seattle suffered, Wilson estimated that three were on him. That’s too many.

Moore: Hawks’ loss creates both hope and skepticism for this season