Clayton’s observations: WR, RT and RB battles are shaking out for Seahawks
Aug 27, 2018, 1:32 PM
Unlike a handful of teams, the Seahawks treated their third preseason game Friday like a dress rehearsal.
Starters went into the third quarter. The speed of the exhibition game resembled the regular season. Players were flying around the field. It was a good test.
League-wide, this has been the most unusual preseason I can remember. The Los Angeles Rams’ offense didn’t use it starters. Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Joe Flacco and other quarterbacks were barely on the field. The Chicago Bears sat 16 starters in their Week 3 game.
What’s become clear is the four-game exhibition system is no longer effective. The league needs to shorten the preseason to maybe two exhibitions. Nevertheless, the Seahawks used their preseason the normal way and they answered several questions. Let’s take a look.
• The six top receivers earned their roster spots. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are the starters. Brandon Marshall, Jaron Brown and David Moore locked up their jobs in the two weeks of training camp practice and the first two preseason games. Moore and Brown especially made big catches in practices and in games, plus both are special teams contributors. Marcus Johnson looks as though he locked up the sixth spot last Friday. He made a sensational catch, has great speed and can also help out on special teams. That leaves Amara Darboh on the outside looking in for the 53-man roster.
• The Seahawks may have to keep five running backs due to injuries. It’s been a few years since the Seahawks had a back who started more than seven games. On Friday, they were without J.D. McKissic (foot) and Rashaad Penny (finger), and Mike Davis had an injury scare but was able to return to the game. Though it might be a strain on the roster to keep five running backs along with a fullback, the Seahawks should not leave themselves short of backs. If they keep four, odds might favor two backs getting injured in any given week, and then the Seahawks would be scrambling to find another off the street. Keeping five makes sense.
• George Fant has emerged as Germain Ifedi’s main challenger at right tackle. Ifedi did enough to be the starter entering the season, but Fant looked great moving from left tackle to right tackle. His basketball skills allowed him to have the footwork and leverage to hold up well on pass blocks. He didn’t have many difficulties doing everything differently in making the transition. The more he learns, the better the coaches might feel if they have to use a quick hook on Ifedi should he struggle with pass blocking and penalties. Still, it’s important that Ifedi stays at right tackle so the Seahawks can have some continuity on the line.
• The knee scope to linebacker K.J. Wright could be a major blow to the defense. Wright might have to miss the opener against the Denver Broncos, and the defense needs his leadership and play-making ability. Plus, with Earl Thomas still holding out, the Seahawks’ defense would be minus seven Pro Bowl defenders from last year. If Wright is out, rookie Shaquem Griffin could be in the starting lineup in Denver.
• The Seahawks’ defense needs to tighten things up on third down. San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins exposed Seattle’s problems with defending quick passes in the middle of the field over the last two weeks.
• Alex McGough continues to make a strong bid to be the backup quarterback. Even though the rookie made a couple of horrible throws when he came into Friday’s game and was only 5 for 14 passing, his five completions went for 140 yards. He shows great elusiveness when pressured, his arm is strong enough, and he bought enough time to get a Hail Mary completion inside the 5.
• Erik Walden is intriguing in the pass rush. Signed just the week before, the linebacker’s two late sacks make him a candidate to be a veteran roster inclusion. He had 11 sacks for the Colts just two years ago.