LAS VEGAS — Seattle’s 20-7 loss to the Raiders in the 2021 preseason opener on Saturday night was mostly forgotten the minute it ended.
Of 22 starters, just five saw action. The Seahawks officially held out 31 players and any Seahawks offense without Russell Wilson, who didn’t play a down, is hardly worth dissecting.
But a few things did stand out. Here are four things we learned:
Offensive line may be hard to judge until the regular season
The Seahawks had just one potential starter on their offensive line who played Saturday — center Kyle Fuller, who is in competition with Ethan Pocic for the starting job.
Starting tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell and guards Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis sat out as the Seahawks gave younger players some work (though Lewis was seen working at center in pregame warmups).
Wilson was unlikely to play much anyway, but the makeshift line, which featured rookies at left tackle (Stone Forsythe) and right tackle (Jake Curhan) undoubtedly persuaded coach Pete Carroll to not even think about putting Wilson on the field.
Fuller getting the start was in part to continue being able to judge where he is in the competition with Pocic, who has been out with a hamstring injury but should be back soon.
Brown is not expected to play throughout the rest of the preseason. But the others should and Seattle needs it to begin getting the continuity working up front. Expect the regular OL, sans Brown, to play some in the next two preseason games.
Still, it was telling that Fuller was the only potential starter who played, as that indicated the Seahawks wanted to see as much of him as they can as they figure out who should be the starting center.
It was also tempting to ask in the wake of the game whether Brown’s leverage had increased. That thought made the rounds on social media the second backup quarterback Geno Smith fell to the turf hard after taking a hit on a corner blitz that gave him a concussion.
But the Seahawks seem dug in on the Brown front and won’t make any decisions based on one game.
Forsythe had his struggles, to be sure — a penalty and the apparent missed assignment on the sack. But the Seahawks expect Jamarco Jones back soon, and they expect that Brown won’t hold out in the regular season. And they expect the line will get better, no matter who is in it.
If Brown really wants to call their bluff, he’ll need more than what happened Saturday night to back him up.
Pass rush may be as good as advertised
This time a year ago, it was hard to tell who would rush the passer for the Seahawks.
Saturday night, the optimistic view was to wonder how the Seahawks might find enough snaps for all the pass rushers they have.
Key veterans such as Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder and Benson Mayowa all sat out, leaving the starting duties as ends to Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier and Darrell Taylor as the strongside linebacker.
The Raiders played starters sparingly, or not at all, so judgments are hard to make.
But the Seahawks got consistent pressure throughout the game, if sometimes frustrated in their ability to finish the job.
But especially in the case of Taylor, some benefit of the doubt has to be given for still shaking off the rust after sitting out all of last season.
Seattle got sacks from Green and Bryan Mone while Alton Robinson helped force an interception with a quarterback hit. Taylor had three tackles but more importantly played 52 snaps and afterward said that he feels 100%.
For now, being available to play is what matters most when it comes to Taylor
As for the line as a whole, some have compared the depth of this line as potentially being the best the Seahawks have had since 2013 — and you may remember how that season ended. There is a lot of work to do to get to that point, but early returns are promising.
Cornerback remains a big question
The perpetually positive Carroll, while admitting that the overall effort wasn’t great since the team lost, singled out only one specific area of the team as not playing well — the cornerbacks.
Ahkello Witherspoon started on the left side alongside Tre Flowers on the right. D.J. Reed, the projected starter on the right side, was out due to an injury.
Witherspoon seemed to play fine — one play on which he appeared to be beaten could also rightly have been argued to be offensive pass interference that wasn’t called.
Flowers was another story. He was beaten twice in the span of five plays on the Raiders’ opening 83-yard drive, including for a 28-yard completion to Zay Jones that converted a third-and-eight, and then later in the first quarter on another third down.
“We didn’t make any plays to stop the third-down attempts,’’ Carroll said of the Seahawks, who gave up 11 of 17 third-down attempts overall and 7 of 10 in the first half. “We have to take a look at that. We did a lot of things to mix it up, and we needed some wins today. We didn’t get much.”
That Reed and Damarious Randall, who has been running with the second team most of training camp at left corner, didn’t play makes it hard to assess the corners too much.
But the brief view we got didn’t quash the idea that corner remains as big of a question mark as any on the team.
Fourth-round pick Tre Brown played 37 snaps and had five tackles but it’s far too early to make conclusions on his play. Gavin Heslop, an undrafted rookie free agent a year ago, played 33 snaps and 12 on special teams, and seems to be getting a long look from the team as a player who could earn a roster spot.
The special teams are good and bad
Punter Michael Dickson was as studly as ever, averaging 48.6 yards per kick and 43.4 net with three downed inside the 20 and a long of 62.
And the coverage teams were solid.
True, kicker Jason Myers had a miss from 50 yards. But we’ll call that no big deal as he’s made 35 in a row in the regular season. So write that one off.
But if the Seahawks were looking for answers in the return game they got mixed results. DeeJay Dallas (two kickoff returns for 55 yards) and Brown (one for 38) were solid. But while John Ursua got three chances on punt returns he didn’t have any official returns, at least once letting what appeared like a returnable kick bounce by him.
Reed, once healthy, will be a consideration as the punt returner. And nothing that happened Saturday indicated the team won’t need him there.