BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Who shined for Seahawks’ offense in preseason finale win over Chargers

Aug 28, 2021, 11:04 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2021, 10:43 am
Seahawks RB Alex Collins...
Alex Collins led the Seahawks in both rushing and receiving yards vs. the Chargers. (Getty)
(Getty)

The Seahawks wrapped up their 2021 preseason on Saturday night, and unlike the first two games, the offense came to play in a 27-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

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The defense obviously made a lot of plays in order to blank the Chargers, but the offense had some great moments. Two players in particular stood out and made their presences known.

A strong case made by Collins, but was it enough?

In the first two weeks of the preseason, the Seahawks’ top player on offense was a running back – DeeJay Dallas.

That was the case in the third preseason game, as well, but instead of it being the second-year back out of Miami, it was Alex Collins who stood out.

Collins didn’t just play like he should make the Seahawks as running back depth behind starter Chris Carson; he made the case that he should be the backup behind Carson.

Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is entering the final year of his rookie deal and appeared to be the No. 2 back behind Carson. But Collins, who’s performed well at training camp, flat out outperformed Penny on Saturday and showed why he could be a valuable asset in Seattle’s offense.

Penny had seven rushes for 24 yards and caught one five-yard pass. Collins, meanwhile, led the Seahawks in both rushing and receiving yards.

Collins tallied 10 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown and also caught seven passes for 52 yards, leading the Seahawks both on the ground and through the air.

Collins regularly made defenders miss and looked very light on his feet and explosive. He played much faster than Penny was and looked dangerous in the open field, making things happen when it looked like he was dead to rights.

Collins is in an interesting spot because he could be either Seattle’s No. 2 running back or find himself cut on Tuesday, which is the NFL’s 53-man roster deadline. There doesn’t seem to be much room in between for him.

While Carson, Dallas and Travis Homer sat and Penny was on the sidelines in the second half, Collins was playing into the fourth quarter, which could mean he was being used to spare the guys who are making the roster ahead of him.

Dallas showed he’s an NFL-caliber kick returner last week, and Homer, when healthy, is an elite special teams player who excels in pass protection. Those two having their special teams prowess and Penny’s status as a first-round pick could make Collins the odd man out, even if he looked like he’s ready for a major role this season against the Chargers.

Top draft pick flashes in limited role

We didn’t get a chance to see Seahawks second-round receiver Dee Eskridge in the first two preseason games as he battled an injured toe for most of training cap, but the rookie suited up for the finale against the Chargers.

While Eskridge didn’t play a ton in the final tuneup game before the regular season, he did enough to make his presence known.

Playing a handful of offensive snaps in the first half with backup quarterback Geno Smith under center, Eskridge got his first NFL touch on a jet sweep, which he ran for a gain of 9 yards. Later in the drive, Eskridge caught a ball from Smith as he escaped the pocket. The 5-foot-9 receiver had to reach up on the run to make the grab, which he did. The end result was a gain of 19, which got the Seahawks into Chargers territory.

Former Seahawks QB Jake Heaps thinks that Eskridge will wind up being Seattle’s No. 3 receiver come Week 1 behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and after Eskridge’s performance on Saturday, it appears Heaps may be right.

Eskridge made more of a splash with his two touches than his main competition for the No. 3 receiver role – Freddie Swain and Penny Hart – made in all three preseason games. His ability to freeze and stretch defenses with his speed and pull down tough catches could make Seattle’s offense all the more dynamic.

“He’s fast, he’s quick, he’s explosive,” head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “His hands are really strong. He has a really good mentality.”

Eskridge’s ability to make things happen with motion, as evidenced by his run on the sweep, adds a wrinkle to the Seahawks’ offense that it hasn’t had in some time. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron used that same look with Eskridge in motion a couple more times but with different play calls.

After the game, Eskridge was asked what makes a player good at running the jet sweep.

“Good? I don’t know,” he said. “Great? Run fast like me.”

Eskridge sure showed off how fast he was on Saturday.

Quick Hits

• Unlike in the first two preseason games, we saw some new looks from the Seahawks’ offense against the Chargers that we are expecting in the regular season. Seattle got the running backs – namely Collins – involved in the passing game, used motion and pre-snap movements, and of course utilized tempo, especially when Smith was in the game. There’s obviously a lot that Seattle didn’t showcase in the preseason, but Saturday’s offensive showing should have fans excited for Week 1 when Russell Wilson and Co. are out on the field in Indianapolis.

• The Seahawks used some two-running back formations throughout the preseason. Regardless of whoever is Carson’s backup, the Seahawks could have some interesting plays under their sleeve with that look.

• Hart had a few nice deep routes but couldn’t connect with Smith. He had one play where he had his guy beat by a step or two but Smith couldn’t complete the pass. It otherwise would have been a touchdown.

• He likely won’t make the roster, but running back Josh Johnson runs hard and had some nice moments late in the game. I’m sure he’s someone the Seahawks are hoping to put on the practice squad after roster cutdowns on Tuesday.

• Speaking of practice squad hopefuls, the Seahawks will have a tough choice to make with wide receiver Cade Johnson. He was one of the team’s biggest-named undrafted free agents after this year’s draft and had been seen as a potential early Day 3 pick in the draft. Seattle is strong at receiver in terms of depth, so will the team carry Johnson or risk losing him on waivers and in the hopes he makes it to the practice squad?

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