Thoughts vs Denver (Pre-season Game 3)

Dominique Byrd scores a touchdown against Denver's B-team

I’ve not looked at the tape again since initial viewing, mainly because the first half was torture to watch and why would I want to ruin a perfectly acceptable weekend? Even so I wanted to put a few thoughts down based on Seattle’s third pre-season game at Denver on Saturday.

Everything I’ll write here is with the fullest knowledge that this is a NFL pre-season like no other. Rookie’s are under-cooked and facing almost an impossible task to be ready. New coaches and schemes need to incorporated as do a lot of free agents including a new quarterback. However, there were a lot of concerns from this game that I don’t think can be ignored simply because there are several potential excuses.

For starters, the first team offense was horrendously bad. I’ve watched the Cincinnati Bengals offense this summer and couldn’t possibly believe there is another team out there worse than the Bengals. The Seahawks aren’t there yet, but they’re having a good go. The offensive line is a complete mess and it’s not going to be fixed by Russell Okung’s return (if he can stay healthy, and it’s a substantial ‘if’). The Seahawks have pumped so much investment into improving the line, but we’re seeing zero immediate return.

I talked up James Carpenter at Alabama last year long before he received greater national awareness, but he is struggling in a bad way. Denver’s defensive lineman abused him last night and while he will admittedly have easier games in 2011 with greater support, he’s also going to come up against scary-good Pittsburgh and Baltimore, improving pass rushers St. Louis, Philadelphia and Cleveland and not forgetting the occasional stud like Brian Orakpo or DeMarcus Ware. It’s hard to really work out what the team should do. Perhaps consider adding a veteran tackle and red-shirting Carpenter? He’s not ready to start, it’s hurting the team and potentially his development too. Yet the team was banking on an immediate return from that first rounder in April and making such a move would be a big statement.

It’s important to stress that Carpenter is not the only issue here. I thought Chris Spencer had an under rated season in 2010 and I’m still unconvinced by Max Unger as the replacement center. John Moffitt needs to get stronger too – a problem that was highlighted throughout the draft process. Robert Gallery isn’t a miracle worker and can’t accommodate a young line and losing a left tackle on his own, but he has looked far from assured so far. As a collective group, the performance against Denver was shambolic. No pass protection, a very inconsistent performance in the running game and very little hope that this can be addressed sufficiently before September 11th.

Tarvaris Jackson suffered more than anyone through the line’s awful performance, but he’s far from exempt from blame. Too often Jackson was dancing around in the pocket, looking tentative and unsure and adding to the bad protection. He attempted zero runs, possibly with the view to getting things rolling in the pass game, but the opposite occurred. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, he’d jolt from side to side and try to keep the play alive. Eventually you have to either a.) throw the ball to a target or b.) throw it away. I haven’t got access to coaches tape to see whether there was the opportunity to throw, but certainly a couple of times I noticed a receiver creating just enough separation on shorter routes but Jackson held on to the ball.

It seemed like he was caught in the middle-ground throughout. When the pressure came, the eyes went down if he was intending to scramble but instead it was just to dodge pass rushers before the inevitable conclusion. As soon as his eyes go down, he might as well set off. If he’s going to try and stay in the pocket to make passes, then keep your eyes downfield, sense the pressure, step up to avoid the edge and drive down field. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to the play of Jackson.

It’s all well and good having a ‘take what you’re given’ approach but in the first half Jackson had little to take so surely the reaction is to try and use your own inspiration? If he’s not going to run around and try to open things up that way, then he absolutely must take a leaf out of Charlie Whitehurst’s book. When Whitehurst was under pressure in the second half, he sensed the rusher and moved to the right to give himself just enough time to complete a short pass for positive yardage. Not an explosive play, but at least it wasn’t another sack.

I thought the scoring drive against Denver’s back-ups was unsatisfying to watch. Rather than take any solace from a succesful 90-yard drive, I just felt like it was an empty score. I get that it can at least generate some small level of confidence, but in reality a touchdown in that circumstance should be the expectation. Getting six points merely confirmed what should happen against rookie’s and back-ups (the bare minimum) while failure would’ve been a further blow.

The defense wasn’t much better in all honesty. A couple of big plays (Trufant sack, Clemons interception) stick in the mind but big plays surrounding a complete lack of pressure will still equate to defeat. As soon as Denver found it’s groove, Orton had so much time in the pocket. It was a complete contrast to Seattle’s situation in pass protection. Rushing three guys and dropping extra coverage didn’t seem to have any impact in halting Orton, who needs to be pressed to force mistakes because he’s so static. The Seahawks don’t have someone on that defensive line who is a consistent disruptive force. They have a lot of neat and tidy role players, but not someone who scares the living daylights out of the opposition. I’m concerned we’ll be completely reliant on blitzing to create pressure again, which isn’t healthy.

Nevertheless, I think the defense at least offers something if partnered with a serviceable offense. Unfortunately, it’s working with an offense that looks as functional as a teapot made of ice.

The Seahawks benefited a lot last year from great special teams and kick returns and Doug Baldwin’s 105-yard touchdown run proved once again how that can make a one-sided affair pretty close in the end. The new kick off rules take away a huge weapon for the Seahawks and that has to be another concern.

Had this been a regular season game, Denver would’ve blown the Seahawks away. The Broncos are not going to be a good football team in 2011, but they are clearly well ahead of Seattle. There’s still time to make improvements, but I suspect it’ll be several weeks into the season until we see noticable changes in fortune. Maybe they need real football to work this out and get moving? If I had to make a prediction, I think the Seahawks wil be one of those teams that looks a good bet for the #1 pick early on but improves enough from mid-t0-late season to never realistically challenge to be the leagues worst. I do think we’re facing the prospect of a top-ten pick in 2012, however.

Perhaps that’s too specific right now, but this is going to be a season where established teams with returning starters dominate due to the lockout. Team’s in rebuild with new starters, coaches and schemes are going to suffer – and that in my opinion includes the Seahawks.


  1. Brandon Adams

    What??? I thought first-round picks on OL were supposed to fix everything.

    • Rob

      Shall we have a sweepstakes on the week of the regular season were someone touts the possibility of spending another R1 pick on the line? I’ll take week one.

      • Ryan

        No please no. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.

    • Rugby Lock

      Seriously??? No offseason with two rookies, essentially a second year player, and another who doesn’t even have a full season in?? Honestly, what do you expect! This team will be bad until halfway through the season and then you should see the improvement. If we are having this conversation in week 12 or later then your point may have some validity…

      • Rugby Lock

        The other thing to remember is that this roster was just horrendous when PC & JS took over and will take at least another year of rebuilding before we can even start to dream of a winning season. Keep it all in perspective.

  2. Colin

    Petey and John have put their eggs in the get a bigger, younger, offensive line basket, and we are simply going to have to pay the price of that for now. In time, this offensive line has the potential to dominate- but it’s clear now they have little idea what they are doing as a group.

    The play that sticks out in my mind was a handoff to Leon Washington. Moffitt pulled, made a great block, and needed Miller, who pulled as well, to make his block. Well, Zach completely whiffed and Leon was stonewalled at the LOS. Everybody except Zach got their blocks and there was a nice hole, but all for naught. Perfect example of last night. Guys just aren’t on the same page.

    As for Tarvaris, he’s got to do better. He had guys open and needed to step up and make the throws and he couldn’t. When he had time, he had 0 idea what to do. None. Like Josh Portis on his first 2 minute drive.

    And yes, Carpenter was HORRIBLE. Sickeningly bad. Perhaps *if* Russell comes back and is healthy, you put Polumbus at RT and let James sit the bench awhile.

    Pass rush was horrible. OL horrible. T Jack horrible.

    Lord let a miracle happen within two weeks…

    • ba_edwards24

      The most disconcerting thing about Carpenter (gotta come up with a nickname… Not Jimmy Smith? Rolls off the tongue don’t it?!) is that he has absolutely no anchor. Anybody can bull rush him from any angle. That’s a problem because he won’t be able to kick inside after he fails outside.

      I’m of a different opinion regarding Unger. While I agree that I am not positive he is the answer, I am very optimistic that he is. He is great with his hands and has such great range in the second level. If he can just break down a little bit better when walling off those LBs (seems to have a whiff or two each game) he is a good C. Probably not a pro bowler, but certainly better than what Spencer has been for the past 7 years. I’ll be curious to see how he fares against a superb tackle, but we seem to have more 3 on 2s on the inside than most, so it shouldn’t be bad.

      • ba_edwards24

        Didn’t mean to post that one so early. My bad. I also am not super concerned about the defense overall. We are susceptible to 1st down passes, but our run d should be in the top 10 and keep opponents in passing situations where we can unleash our crazy blitzes. Also keep in mind that Clemons was only playing 3 plays per drive last night and hasn’t played all pre season. I’m most concerned about our depth as we have no acceptable replacements if a big goes down in the first 6 weeks (while Cole is on PUP). I expect us to pick up another cast-off on a 1 year deal to help our depth.

  3. akki

    I remember going through all this Carpenter stuff with Chris McIntosh too. McIntosh came from a run-dominant college program and missed most of the preseason holding out, and had no clue how to pass block at first as a consequence. But he did improve throughout the first year, and was turning the corner when he started getting his stingers. However, McIntosh at least had more camp to prepare, wasn’t asked to start immediately, and when he did at least he was playing next to a vet RG who could show him the ropes. Carpenter’s really behind the eight-ball, but personally I would stick with him. I think his learning curve will be faster that way, and I don’t see us suddenly winning a few games we’d otherwise lose if we replace him with Polumbus. And as far as free agent tackles, I think it’s a good rule of thumb that there are never any guys of value out there.

  4. Misfit74

    I concur, Rob.

  5. Frank

    Spot on Rob. I have to say though my concern about our offence has been speed and quickness. We are big and slow at Wr with Rice and Williams. Miller is almost the same guy as well even if he’s a Te, Why would you want such similar players? We need one of our Wr to be able to kill Lbs and safetys in coverage. I like getting bigger as a team, I just belive the Desean Jackson types are the anwser to big slow 3-4 Defences.

  6. Ben H

    Hey Rob I was wondering if you might do a scouting report on this Clinton McDonald we got for Jennings. Apparently he had eight tackles against the Lions in week 1 this pre-season. Might be a good game to check out.

    • Rob

      Hi Ben, I think have access to the game tape. If that’s the case I’ll check it out.

      • Ben H

        Thanks. You do some great work here.

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