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Clayton’s Observations: What went right and wrong in Seahawks’ opener

The Seahawks signed QB Russell Wilson to a four-year extension Monday. (AP)

The Seahawks’ 27-24 season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos was predictable in several ways.

What We Learned: Rookie class will determine Seahawks’ success

Six players playing their first NFL regular-season game had 25 or more snaps, while Dion Jordan, Earl Thomas and J.R. Sweezy all played even though they each had less than a week of practice coming into the game.

Opening in the mile high altitude on an 84-degree day was another factor. Players struggled with their stamina.

Pete Carroll said the Seahawks didn’t play well enough to win. Let’s break down what went right and what went wrong.

• Some of the biggest problems were on defense. With rookies Tre Flowers and Shaquem Griffin starting and second-year undrafted middle linebacker Austin Calitro getting 33 snaps in his first regular-season game, there were going to be communication gaps and mistakes. Missed tackles and confusion on coverage allowed Broncos quarterback Case Keenum to throw for 329 yards. Keenum mostly threw quicker, shorter passes in a smart game plan that kept him relatively clean of hits and pressures.

• The worries about the pass rush were confirmed. The Seahawks are without their two best pass-rushers from a season ago: Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. And with Dion Jordan only getting 15 snaps, the Seahawks had just one sack (by Frank Clark) and three quarterback pressures.

• Earl Thomas’ return at free safety was a big boost. He made a key interception to end the Broncos’ second drive, and despite having no training camp, he was on the field for 64 snaps, making five tackles and two passes defensed. His game wasn’t perfect but it offered hope for the future. Plus, Bradley McDougald had a great game at strong safety, snagging two interceptions and making five tackles.

• Flowers had an encouraging start at cornerback. The former safety was particularly good in his tackling on running plays. He shows the potential of being a long-term starter for this franchise at corner.

• Despite the changes of schemes and philosophies, the offense looked too much like last year’s. Russell Wilson threw 33 passes and Seattle ran the ball only 16 times, with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny getting seven each. Carson was good with 51 yards but needs to get twice that number of carries. Penny, however, couldn’t get going and had only 8 yards on seven carries.

• The offensive line’s blocking wasn’t good. Wilson was sacked six times and forced to scramble a good portion of the day – though three of the sacks could be credited to Wilson. Germain Ifedi struggled and Sweezy didn’t have a great day. Wisely, the Seahawks had tight ends Nick Vannett and Will Dissly to help the tackles with blocking. Vannett had 35 snaps while Dissly had 33.

• Dissly was one of the stars of the day with three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. He reminds you of former Seahawks tight end Zach Miller, who could block, catch and get downfield.

• The Seahawks figure to lose Doug Baldwin for about a month with his second-degree MCL tear. That’s going to be a blow. The Seahawks don’t have a slot receiver who can win battles against cornerbacks in the middle of the field like Baldwin. The loss of another Pro Bowler really hurts the offense.

• Wilson made some uncharacteristic bad decisions that led to a couple of interceptions and lost yardage. It seemed as though Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller knew where to run when Wilson made his patented scramble moves. Despite that, Wilson was able to hit a big touchdown pass that gave the Seahawks the lead briefly in the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks have a lot of work ahead to tighten up things before next Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Notebook: Carroll on injuries, disputed TD | Moore on Seahawks’ loss

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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