Thoughts on pre-season week 1

August 13th, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

Wilson has the bigger X-factor, but is he ready to start?

I’ve found the analysis of Seattle’s first pre-season game pretty interesting. I listened to some of Brock and Salk on ESPN 710 today and heard a promo for a different show asking whether the Seahawks quarterback competition was now over. Certainly the tone suggested Flynn had done enough to warrant the job already. After one half of football. This is an opinion I sense is growing among the media… and the fans are starting to buy into it.

My own feeling after Saturday’s victory over Tennessee was that we weren’t really any wiser. It would’ve been ideal for one candidate to really blow the competition out of the water and allow the coaches to make a quick decision. Both Flynn and Wilson showed positives, but there were also negatives. Contrary to what a lot of people assume, I don’t think either did enough to completely eliminate Tarvaris Jackson from the race.

Flynn looked the part at the line of scrimmage. I liked his control, his confidence and as advertised he looked like a guy that had been coached well in Green Bay. Sometimes this can be deceiving because looking part doesn’t necessarily equate to success. His first drive was solid – taking what was on offer before settling for a field goal. At that point I’m sure a lot of fans felt very comfortable and were ready to invest their faith in Flynn winning this job.

However, that drive wasn’t repeated. Flynn had a turnover, blamed by Pete Carroll on a rookie error by the running back failing to sell the play action. He also had two avoidable sacks. Here’s the concern I have. If Seattle’s run game is working, this kind of possession offense based around timing and short passes can function. If the Seahawks are able to get ahead early in games, I can see Flynn growing into a functional game manager. But what if a team successfully takes away the run or develops an early lead?

The Seahawks are going to face some good quarterbacks this year. Before the bye week, Seattle meets Dallas, Green Bay, Carolina, New England and Detroit. There’s every chance they’ll have to keep up in those games (particularly away from Century Link) and won’t be able to just chip away. We could end up seeing games where Seattle dominates time of possession, but loses comfortably. It’s too much to ask a defensive unit to keep things tight against the Green Bay’s, New England’s etc to keep the offense in a game.

I’m not totally against conservative quarterback play, especially if you can provide a great running game and elite defense. I am concerned Flynn will be the type of quarterback who’s permanently second guessing a downfield throw and checking down. In his two starts for Green Bay he didn’t show any evidence of this problem, but in Seattle he won’t be seeing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson in 1v1 coverage. At times on Saturday I sensed he was a little too keen to take an easy 2-3 yards instead of a difficult ten. When he isn’t featuring in a wide open spread offense with multiple talented receivers, can he still make the key plays to keep a defense honest? Can he snap back from play action and take a shot in the same way he can sitting in the gun lofting one down the sideline for Nelson?

That’s the big question mark for me, and it’s why I feel like we need to see more from Flynn in pre-season to make a proper judgement. One game isn’t enough.

Then there’s Russell Wilson, who appears to have some degree of command even for a rookie (if not at Flynn’s level of poise/confidence). When he was flushed out of the pocket on Saturday, he moved around to find a passing lane. He showed he was prepared to take a shot, even if one pass into the endzone flashed rookie judgement and led to a disappointing turnover. Really that one pass prevented a full-on Wilson love-fest this week and it’s perhaps tempered expectations (not a bad thing).

My experience is Seattle’s fans have always preferred safety from the quarterback position. There’s perhaps a little too much fear at times that going away from safe, solid and middling is too much of a risk. How many other franchises would tolerate multiple years of mediocrity without a single first round investment at quarterback for approaching 20 years? I think fans see a risk in starting Wilson ahead of Flynn, even though the difference between the two is a couple of NFL starts. Sure, Flynn has been around the NFL. But Wilson has been a pro through his baseball roots and seems a lot more prepared for this opportunity than most young rookies.

I suspect Wilson is capable of managing in a similar way to Flynn while also providing a bigger upside. He can extend plays in a way Flynn cannot, he can avoid pressure and he appears to have a better arm. As we saw with the 32-yard touchdown run, he will provide the kind of X-factor that will allow Seattle to score cheap points and not rely too much on a ground-and-pound style that merely chips away. In a game where the quarterback has to put quick points on the board – and this will happen – Wilson might be a better bet than Flynn.

Yet there are still things to worry about starting the rookie. Will he look quite as good against a first team NFL offense? If you start the guy and he struggles, how damaging could it be considering the intense pressure that will develop to turn to Flynn? Again you feel obliged to demand more evidence on tape – is this guy truly capable of starting now? Is it worth risking the potential controversy if he does start over a guy the mass media – and most fans – expect to win the job?

And amid all of this discussion, Jackson remains on the roster waiting to see what happens. What if Flynn doesn’t take enough chances to warrant the gig? What if Wilson cannot prove he’s ready to start? Everyone knows what Jackson brings to the table – and quite rightly most people hope the two new guys will offer more. Yet until Jackson is actually cut and taken out of the race, can you rule him out? His position is beneath a guillotine, waiting for the blade to drop. As soon as Flynn or Wilson convince they are worth the start, it probably will drop. But they have to get the job done. And if they don’t, Jackson could win this job without taking a pre-season snap.

For Flynn to win the job he has to prove he’s not captain checkdown. For Wilson to win the job he has to show he’s sufficiently ready to be worth the hassle of starting him over two veterans. For Jackson to keep the job, he maybe just has to hope the other two fail on both counts.┬áThree quarterbacks came into this competition and I don’t think Carroll has been dishonest about this process. Therefore, it seems to me that three quarterbacks remain in this competition and we need to see much more before judging who is going to be the winner. People will pick their favorites and manipulate their arguments to suit. I think we should wait and see what the Denver game brings, because we need to see more from both Flynn and Wilson.

19 Responses to “Thoughts on pre-season week 1”

  1. Nick Andron says:

    Perfectly put, Rob. Once again, you provide the even-keeled analysis needed to cut through the hype. I feel exactly the same – Flynn looked promising, but he’s got to show much more (effectiveness throwing deep, avoiding pressure) to prove that he’s the clear-cut answer at the QB position. I still think he ends up as the starting QB, but what he showed in game 1 wasn’t enough to hand him the job.

    • Glor says:

      Totally agree also, Flynn to NO chances, I loved that Wilson did (even though one was bone headed). I would love to see Wilson with the 1st team next week so we can see how that goes. He had a pretty pourous O-line in front of him, and neigher QB had 25% of our starting offense on the field. How will it look with TO, RICE, Baldwin, Winslow, and Lynch?

      I can’t wait to find out. And I totally agree that Pete still considers this open.

      • Glor says:

        I might add, that after watching this Raiders Cowboy game, wow am I glad we didn’t take a flyer on Pryor.. dude looked absolutely lost out there.

  2. Swamp_fox says:

    I can’t wait to see who wins this QB competition – we actually have 2 promising candidates at the most important position in the game.

    I’m pulling for Wilson to outright win it, but am ok with waiting a few games to see what Flynn can do.

    Best case scenario: Flynn begins the season as starter and performs well, but becomes Wally Pip due to mid-season injury. Wilson makes the most of the opportunities and makes believers of all of us. Then during the off-season we trade Flynn for a 3rd, recognizing he won’t re-sign in 2014 to be a backup.

  3. Keith says:

    For Flynn, or Wilson for that matter, to prove he isn’t “captain checkdown” a WR has to get open. that didn’t happen on Saturday. The Seahawks desperately need their capable receivers to get healthy before we can evaluate the QBs properly.

    This is why I think the practice results are more telling right now. Both QBs have shown a willingness and ability to go down the field with the football in practice. I think it’s telling that the only pass attempted over 15 yard by either QB was the 39 TD to Braylon Edwards, and it was a poorly thrown pass that looked like a punt.

    The Seahawks clearly lost the battle on the outside, and it’s clouding our opinions of the QBs.

    • Rob Staton says:

      That’s the thing though… this WR situation isn’t going to get much better. We can single out receivers, but the fact is unless Rice can stay healthy or TO turns back the clock… Nelson and Jennings aren’t going to be part of this offense. Wilson saw single coverage and made a play in the game and we need to see some of that from Flynn. I don’t agree it was a bad pass from Wilson, for me he took a calculated chance. And it’s OK doing it in practise… but we need to see it in the pressure of a game when snaps count. That’s why we need to see more playing time from both QB’s before we crown a winner.

      • ben-jammin says:

        Kellen Winslow (TE but still) and Baldwin would’ve helped a lot. So would Lynch (though starting o-line did excellent run-blocking and Leon/Turbin did well). I contend the offensive skill positions will look much better with all these pieces back and combined with Tate/Braylon Edwards/Miller/(possibly TO, we’ll see).

        In camp by all accounts I’ve read, Flynn has been the most aggressive down the field. This last week since named starter to 1st game actually got the best of the defense according to Gus Bradley(at least one day).

        The play-calling with a running game and a lead was more conservative with the passing in the 1st quarter. In later 2nd qtr and 2nd half, backup d was dreadful, offensive run and pass blocking was pretty bad. Forced Russell to make more plays with his feet and to play to win a tie game. Reverse circumstances with QB’s and would think Russell would’ve been used more cautiously with lead and Flynn would’ve been used more aggressively to score points.

  4. MJ says:

    Great work Rob.

    I am a little perplexed by many Hawk fans calling the Braylon TD a “poor throw.” Was it a “great” pass? No. Like you stated, it was a calculated risk that NEEDED to be taken. It’s similar to your #3 hitter in baseballswinging for the fences at a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate. Go for it.

    I am sick of the QB playing to “not lose.” Seattle fans are so risk adverse, it’s sickening. If we want to possibly get a wild card bid, maybe win a playoff game, but ultimately be no threat. Then yes, go with the conservative approach. If we want a legit chance to win a SB, we gotta have a QB that “can fill a jock strap.” That doesn’t mean to be reckless or stupid with the ball. But it means going for it when the odds are in your favor. Pull the trigger when you have a chance. I want the QB who goes up to the good looking girl in a bar and goes for it. Over the dude who sits in the corner and technically “didn’t get rejected.”

    I am not saying that Flynn is not that or that Wilson is….This is more of a pining to demand more from our QBs than, “just don’t screw it up.”

  5. ben-jammin says:

    Good write-up Rob, thanks. Been eager to hear through camp and seeing this team on the field what you think about it. Respect your opinion.

    I’m pretty excited about the qb play. Pretty smooth in 1st game (for what that’s worth, at least something) but also been impressed with everything I’m gleaning from camp. I think both of these qb’s have the ability to be aggressive but also the ability to manage games more. Flynn may be slightly more refined but Russell looks to me like he “tilt’s the field” more. Both seem much better suited than TJack to convert on 3rd down and to sustain longer drives. Russell’s mobility and competitiveness are making up for the slight hints of inconsistencies that he has shown in practice that he is actually a rookie, as hard as it is to nail him with that.

    A strong enough showing(s) either way with both of these qb’s could push the competition in their favor. Flynn probably is in the lead but if he stinks up a game and/or Russell dominates, that could change. TJack may not be fired yet, but if the two-headed qb monster plays at the same level they did this last game, he’s a goner. They likely will improve with more weapons back and more snaps. I like TJack and think Carroll does too, but doubt he’d stick around as 3rd qb after being starter last yr. We’ll see.

  6. John says:

    Rob what did you think of our rookies?

    Sweezy even PLAYING is a shock to me and Wagner looked decent. And while Gus didn’t get very creative or try maximizing him, Irvin looked… not-so-promising. He looked slower and hesitant to me. It is preseason so I take everything with a grain of salt but the way PC and co. have been hyping him up I guess I just expected a little more sizzle.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Sweezy really impressed me John purely because he didn’t look out of his depth having switched positions. It’s hard not to get excited about a guy like that who can adapt so quickly. They won’t be able to get him through to the practise squad I suspect, which is maybe what they initially hoped. Irvin looked like a rookie but he has time on his side. Same with Wagner to an extent. Turbin looked solid if not spectacular. I’m very intrigued with the DB Lane.

  7. Colin says:

    I think Tarvaris will stay on this team because of his familiarity and value, but you can’t waste 1st team reps on him. We know what he offers this team, and we need more of Flynn and Wilson. I hope they open the offense up a little bit more in Denver, and it would be nice to see both QB’s get some 1st team work. Flynn has to prove he can make the big plays when the opportunity arises, and Wilson has to show he is ready to run with the big dogs. Charlie Whitehurst did marvelous against 2′s and 3′s….

  8. James says:

    For Russell Wilson to have any chance of earning the starting QB role, he must start this week’s preseason game against Denver. So, today’s announcement will reveal if Pete is truly considering making RW the starter. Based on his past comments, it appears that Pete and John see RW as having far more upside as a playmaker that Flynn. And I don’t see how the Seahawks ever win a Super Bowl without a franchise QB. Flynn’s upside is more wins this year, with a ceiling in coming seasons of 10 wins and maybe a playoff win or two, but no Super Bowls. RW needs a year or two to learn on the job, and he could be the one to carry the Seahawks to a championship. It is difficult to envision Pete being willing to delay the move to RW for a couple of years while Flynn does a workmanlike job. This team will peak in 2-4 seasons, so RW needs to be ready at the same time.

  9. James says:

    I now understand my mistake… I thought Pete was speaking English, but he was actually speaking Petelish, so let’s decipher: “Competing” for a job does not mean competing against another player for a position, but competing against yourself, in that you are being checked against the plan to see if you can do the job that Pete projects (or plans) for you to do.

    Here is competing: you are trying to decide whether to hire Jockey 1 or Jockey 2. You go out and put #1 on Man-o-War, and #2 on Ole Bessie and have they go all-out around the track. Then, the next day, you move #1 to Ole Bessie and #2 to Man-o-War, and compare how they competed on both horses and make your decision. If you have #1 ride Man-o-War both days, and #2 ride Ole Bessie both days, they are not competing against each other, but competing solely against themselves to see if they can perform your plan to have #1 ride Man-o-War and #2 ride Ole Bessie.

    In other words, Flynn and Wilson are not competing against each other for the starting job, they are competing against themselves to see if they can perform to Pete’s secret plan to start Flynn and install Wilson as the #2. Makes perfect sense now that we can understand Pete’s language. If Flynn wins the competition against himself as the #1 against Denver, then he will be the starter. If Wilson wins the competition against himself as the #2, then he will be the backup and T-Jack will be gone. Clues indicate that the plan eventually calls for Wilson to become the starter, but when? Later this year, or next year, or the next? ….Just got to learn to speak the lingo…

  10. Steen says:

    Stop over reacting, it was one game, Flynn has shown the ability to throw down field in regular season games, you know the one’s that count, unlike the glorified practice that is ‘exhibition’ football. This is Flynn’s job even if He is captain checkdown in this next start, too. They aren’t going to start a rookie in year 3, the clock is ticking for PC, he isn’t going to want the (understandable) risk of starting a mistake prone rookie QB.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Firstly, who’s over reacting? Nothing about this article is an over reaction, just a take on this competition. And unless PC is lying, it is a competition, not the shoe-in you suggest. And last time I checked Flynn has two NFL starts and one where he had some relative success lofting passes to Jordy Nelson. It’s not a comprehensive conclusion. Secondly, Carroll’s clock is not ‘ticking’. There’s not this great pressure on PC that starting Flynn over Wilson has become a necessity.

      • Hawksince77 says:

        Point of clarification on Flynn’s throws to Nelson. The one most similar to RW’s to Edwards was on an off-sides, and Flynn knew he had a free play. The one towards the middle of the field was underthrown and Nelson caught it on his hip. Moderately effective CB play would have prevented that completion, perhaps even intercepted it. The third TD pass to Nelson (actually the first in the game) was thrown behind the line of scrimmage on about the 9 yard line. Nelson made a nice move on the CB to score.

        Flynn had one nice long pass that game – hitting James Jones in stride for a big gain.

        That was it. The other TD passes were to Ryan Grant about 2 yards past the line of scrimage that he took 80 yards for a TD, and the other to Driver about 15 yards down field that he took to the house.

        Flynn has never displayed an interest in taking a calculated risk throwing the ball. Contrast that with Stafford – talk about an arm and an attitude! That guy is an NFL QB.

  11. peter says:

    I was surprised by Sweezy and Scruggs. I doubt he, Scruggs, will join the practice squad as well.

    Off topic a bit, but I was trying to figure out if Irvin was lost per se, or just trying to soak it all up, and not blitz, since most teams out of respect to the other team, as well as to keep their schemes secret do not do that all that much in pre-season. Just saying since, he was drafted to be a pass rush ninja, and well, if you aren’t going to send the house against Matt Hasselbeck, then what exactly does a guy like that (Bruce Irvin) do in game during preseason?