SEATTLE — This wasn’t what about 50,000 Seahawks fans who waited 600 days to attend a home game again came to see.
It wasn’t close to what coach Pete Carroll had said he wanted those folks to get from his players Saturday night.
It was uglier than I-5 at rush hour.
Yes, the Seahawks’ reserves have played poorly through much of two preseason games. And, yes, it’s far to wonder how the team can possibly be assessing how the installation of first-time play caller Shane Waldron’s new offense is going.
Well, Carroll is deciding the starters’ progress with new offense is happening enough in training-camp practices.
Plus, Carroll doesn’t want the rest of the NFL getting to see on preseason game films all that’s new with the Seahawks’ quicker, run-based, shorter pass-routes offense.
So they, and we, get: Denver 30, Seattle 3.
They get Russell Wilson again on the sidelines, with eight other starters on offense. They get veteran backup quarterback Geno Smith concussed last week behind a rookie, Plan D left tackle, then out of this second preseason game against the Broncos. They get reserve quarterback Alex McGough turning over the ball three times in the first half.
For the second consecutive Seahawks Saturday night, it was bad.
How bad? It was Denver 17, Seattle 0 with three Seahawks turnovers and four injuries before halftime.
Total score through two preseason games: Opponents 50, Seahawks 10.
Worse, the motorized cart came onto the field twice in the first half. First it took Ben Burr-Kirven from the field, after Seattle’s linebacker and special-teams mainstay injured his knee on the opening kickoff — that was a touchback.
In the second quarter, reserve wide receiver John Ursua left on the cart after what appeared to be another serious knee injury.
So far this preseason is a stark, maybe comforting reminder for Seattle:
Man, how fortunate are the Seahawks to have Wilson at quarterback when the games are real?
But, again, Wilson, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and most of the starters haven’t played a down. Two dozen Seahawks, almost all of them veteran starters, haven’t played.
All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, who signed his record $70 million extension days earlier, spent his Saturday night on the sideline wearing a cap and sneakers on the sidelines, trying to get the crowd roaring by yelling and waving a towel.
They may not play next Saturday, either, in Seattle’s third and final game of the preseason at home against the Los Angeles Chargers.
So far this preseason is a stark, maybe comforting reminder for Seattle:
Man, how fortunate are the Seahawks Wilson at quarterback when the games are real?
The Seahawks had just two starters on offense playing Saturday: left guard Damien Lewis and center Kyle Fuller. The rest of the offensive line starting against the Broncos: Jake Curhan at right tackle, Phil Haynes at right guard and rookie Stone Forysthe again at left tackle.
That’s why Wilson didn’t start, again. Carroll is taking this month’s training-camp practices as the starters’ installation of first-time Waldron’s new offense, and preparation for the opener Sept. 12 at Indianapolis.
Seattle had six of 11 starters on defense play Saturday night: cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Tre Flowers (Flowers has been starting the last two weeks while D.J. Reed has been out with a strained groin); defensive tackle Al Woods; defensive end Rahseem Green; and linebackers Darrell Taylor and Jordyn Brooks.
In all, eight of the 22 starters on offense and defense began Saturday night’s game. It was five (four on defense) in the preseason opener at Las Vegas last weekend, a 20-7 loss to the Raiders.
Saturday was an especially tough challenge for the defense that got more reserve while Denver stayed with offensive starters as the first half went on. The Broncos are trying to decide on a starting quarterback between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. So for the second consecutive preseason game they played their starters longer than is becoming the NFL norm in August.
Denver and Bridgewater had 103 yards and seven points against Seattle’s increasingly reserve defense in the first quarter. Those points came after McGough scrambled right and threw a third-down pass straight to Denver safety Justin Simmons, who was standing on the right sideline 4 yards in front of intended receiver Cody Thompson.
Lock entered in the second quarter and the Seahawks allowed just 54 yards — but 10 more points. Three of those points, a field goal to end the half, came off McGough took a 20-yard sack and lost a fumble. That ruined a drive with the only tempo and rhythm Seattle’s offense had in two preseason games.
McGough should have committed a third turnover of his first half for a touchdown with 2 minutes left in it. Denver’s cornerback Michael Ojemudia jumped a quick out route and had both hands on McGough’s mistake pass with no one between him and the 70 yards to the opposite goal line. But Ojemudia dropped the ball, so Seattle stayed down only 14-0.
But on the next play, four Broncos chased a back-pedaling McGough on what was to be a screen pass to running back Rashaad Penny. McGough threw it to Denver defensive tackle DeShawn Williams.
MANNION BEGINS WELL
Former Rams backup and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion replaced McGough for Seattle’s first possession of the second half. He completed his first three passes, to running back Alex Collins for 10 yards, to former Sumner High School star Connor Wedington for 10 yards and to Cade Johnson for 14.
Running back DeeJay Dallas then took a short pass from Mannion and ran 16 yards. But the drive stalled on three consecutive incomplete passes.
Jason Myers then kicked a 40-yard field goal to make the score Denver 20, Seattle 3.
CORNERBACK COMPETITION CONTINUES
Witherspoon, the former 49ers starter Seattle signed for one year and $4 million guaranteed this spring, on the left and Flowers on the right started for the second consecutive game.
Flowers made a tackle immediately after a catch short of the line to gain on third down in the second quarter.
The Seahawks put rookie cornerback and fourth-round pick Tre Brown in against Bridgewater and Denver’s starters on the second possession. Brown replaced Witherspoon.
A NEW ROLE FOR DALLAS?
Travis Homer, D.J. Reed and 2020 rookie Freddie Swain rotated as the team’s primary kickoff returners last season.
Dallas showed how much he wanted that job in 2021.
The second-year running back and former University of Miami wide receiver burst through the left side of Denver’s kickoff-coverage team down the left sideline for a 45-yard return to the Broncos’ 49-yard line after the game’s first score. After Denver’s second touchdown of the half, Dallas made a cut up the middle for a 28-yard return.
Collins returned the Broncos’ kickoff in the third quarter after their field goal that made it 20-0. That kickoff was a touchback.
Through two preseason games, Dallas has been Seattle’s most explosive player with the ball in his hands — and off of them. Last weekend he took a pass in the flat, made one defender miss and ran for a 43-yard touchdown reception for the team’s only score in Las Vegas.
In the third quarter Saturday he broke through the middle of Denver’s line and the Broncos’ up back to partially block a punt by Sam Martin.
As difficult as it is to discern the Seahawks’ new scheme, a two-play sequence late in the first half exemplified how Carroll hired Waldron to make the offense more diverse and unpredictable.
Seattle had second and 4 at the Denver 36-yard line. McGough handed off to Collins for a 1-yard gain. Third and 3, a passing down in the NFL and for the 2020 Seahawks, Waldron had McGough hand off to Collins again on another inside zone-read run. He got the first down.
That’s what Waldron is in Seattle to do: have the run and use it more when needed, to keep defenses guessing and eventually getting the second safety up closer to the line of scrimmage. That is to set up DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for bigger plays deep against more single-high coverage, as Seattle saw in the first half of last season.
Having no answer to defenses putting two safeties deep in coverage the last six weeks of the year ultimately ruined Seattle’s offense and 2020 season.
Of course, it won’t always work.
After second and 1 in the fourth quarter Waldron called three runs in a row. Undrafted rookie Josh Johnson got stopped for no gain all three times, for a turnover on downs at Seattle’s own 25.
Denver converted that into another touchdown, Brett Rypien to Shaun Beyer on an 11-yard pass with 5:04 left. That made it 30-3.
Defensive tackle Al Woods made consecutive plays at the goal line that suggested he could be a key offseason signing in his return from opting out of last season for COVID-19 concerns and the birth of his daughter.
Playing against the Broncos’ starting offensive line in the second quarter, the 34-year-old, 11-year veteran mauled his blocker and slammed into the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage on consecutive plays from the 1-yard line. The second time, Denver runner Javonte Williams fumbled the ball. But his teammate, left guard Dalton Risner, recovered the loose ball across the goal line for a Broncos touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Woods was showing off his rancher strength. He’s a third-generation rancher on the 100-plus-acre farm he owns in his native Louisiana.
*Jordyn Brooks made consecutive tackles in the open field to drop receivers immediately after catches short of the line to gain in the first quarter. Sure tackling in space is key for a strongside linebacker. That’s what the team’s first-round pick in 2020 is playing, replacing the unsigned K.J. Wright.
*Rasheem Green continued his strong month. The fourth-year defensive end, playing outside more than last year when they team tried him some as a hybrid tackle inside, had a sack on third down near midfield and forced a fumble by Lock in the second quarter. Lock recovered, but Denver punted.
*Ursua had three catches for 34 yards before he left with the serious-looking knee injury. The team’s seventh-round choice in 2019 Seattle traded back into that draft to get has been fighting Thompson, Aaron Fuller and others for a final roster spot at wide receiver.
*Michael Dickson is in regular-season form. He had a 61-yard punt in the fourth quarter. Last week in Las Vegas he had a 62-yard punt.
This story was originally published by The News Tribune.
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