What kind of game Seattle’s preseason opener against Denver was became apparent midway through the third quarter when the Seahawks took the field with Xavier Turner as their running back.
If you’re asking who that is, many of the Seahawks themselves may have wondered the same thing.
Turner signed Wednesday to help out an injury-depleted tailback position. When yet another injury happened — this one to Bo Scarbrough — and with Seattle not wanting to use Chris Carson while limiting Rashaad Penny’s carries, Turner strapped on his helmet and entered the huddle, having never before participated in a practice for Seattle. He ended up leading the Seahawks with 42 yards on 13 carries.
“I just introduced him to the team after the game,” coach Pete Carroll said, which was probably a joke but may not have been.
That’s a long-winded way of saying this game — with Seattle resting 13 listed starters, including quarterback Russell Wilson — shouldn’t be considered as indicative of much of anything in the big picture other than that the Seahawks at least got to celebrate a preseason win after going 0-4 last season.
But the 22-14 victory did leave a few impressions that, if not lasting, will linger at least until Seattle plays again at Minnesota on Aug. 18.
Fant has ‘legit’ ankle sprain while Smith will have surgery to remove cyst
The Seahawks suffered one significant injury as offensive tackle George Fant suffered what Carroll referred to as a ‘legit’ sprain of his right ankle.
If Fant is out any length of time then that could have some implications on both the makeup of the offensive line as well as the tight end position, as Fant is expected to play substantially again this year in an eligible tackle/tight end role.
Scarbrough left with a hand injury but Carroll said X-rays were negative for a break indicating he should not be out long, if at all.
Carroll also said quarterback Geno Smith will have surgery to remove a cyst on his knee on Friday, having said earlier in the week that Smith would play against Denver and then have a medical procedure.
“It’s not a serious injury but it is bothering him,” Carroll said. “It’s something that we think could be 5-7 days, maybe 10 days. That’s possible, we are hoping for that.”
Carroll said the Seahawks may have so sign another quarterback to get through training camp while Smith is out since Seattle only has two others on the roster in Wilson and Paxton Lynch (more on the QB position below).
“We’re already working on that,” Carroll said. “There are options.”
Rookie receiver shines — no, not that one
Highly-hyped rookie receiver DK Metcalf got into the action early with an 8-yard reception on the first series of the game in front of Denver standout corner Chris Harris.
But otherwise, it was a somewhat muted debut as Metcalf could not reel in his other three targets, including one deep pass in the end zone from Smith that went just off his fingertips, as well as another a little earlier down the right sideline.
Carroll said what was more important than Metcalf’s numbers was that Metcalf had gotten separation in the first place to be in position to almost make big plays.
“Just a hair from spectacular,” Carroll said of Metcalf’s night. “He’s made a couple of those catches before. He got a little clicked heels with the guy and almost got the first one and the second one was just off his fingertips. But you could see him — he got behind them just like we are hoping and he’s a big threat.”
Metcalf finished the first half with the one catch for eight yards and watched the second half from the sidelines, getting the kind of treatment given to a player who is assured a substantial role this season.
With Metcalf out in the second half it was left to another rookie — Jazz Ferguson — to turn in a starring role.
A 6-foot-5, 228-pound undrafted rookie free agent, Ferguson picked up where he left off in the mock game last Saturday — when he scored two late touchdowns — to spark the Seattle offense in the second half.
He had catches of 25 and 22 yards to set up two TDs, with Ferguson scoring once on a 6-yard reception when he used his size to shield Denver corner Linden Stephens to make the catch and then leaned to touch the pylon with the ball in his outstretched right hand.
“He did a really good job showing up,” Carroll said. “It’s what he’s been doing in practice and he came through in a big way. It was really obvious that he was out there. They had to change coverage a little bit to take care of him, to keep him from dominating the game.”
There’s a ways to go still, but Ferguson may make it tough to think he could sneak through to the practice squad.
Lynch makes early statement
Carroll has insisted that how the backup QBs perform in preseason games will go a long way toward determining who wins the job.
On this night, every statistical edge went to Lynch, who led two third-quarter scoring drives that put Seattle in control after Denver led 6-3 at the half.
Lynch scored the second Seattle TD in the second half when he powered his way into the end zone from nine yards out plowing through a couple of Broncos defenders on the way.
“That’s a fantastic run for a quarterback to score down there,” Carroll said.
The big caveat is that Lynch got to play against a Denver defense with its deep reserves in the game, while Smith had to play a few series against the likes of starters Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Harris.
But Lynch at least took advantage of his advantage to show some playmaking ability while completing 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards and a 115.7 passer rating and rushing four times for 38 more.
“Thought he did a really good job,” Carroll said. “Handled himself well, good tempo with the game. Ran the ball really well.”
And no, Lynch didn’t seem to care much that he did it against the team that drafted him in the first round in 2016 and then waived him last September, resulting in him being out of football last season.
“I know there was some talk that it was about that,” he said. “… It had nothing to do with that. It was more, to me, I had a lot to prove to myself tonight. It felt like I went out there and did that.”
Smith was 3 of 9 for 58 yards and a passer rating of 56.7.
Seahawks get creative with pressure
It’s becomes obvious through two weeks of training camp that the Seahawks are getting more creative than ever in their defensive looks, knowing they don’t have the same kind of personnel advantage they did in the Legion of Boom days to basically play it straight up most of the time.
Seattle didn’t bother to hide that Thursday, calling safety and corner blitzes a handful of times in an effort to get pressure, with one resulting in one of the game’s big plays — safety DeShawn Shead sacking Denver quarterback Drew Lock in the end zone for a safety in the third quarter.
“Probably my favorite play of the night,” Carroll said.
The blitzes appeared an early sign Carroll may be more willing than ever to blitz, especially until the Seahawks prove they can get a rush out of four-man fronts. Seattle kept up the pressure until the very end — a blitz from corner Akeem King forced a hurried pass from Lock that Jamar Taylor picked off with just over two minutes left that sewed up the win.
“We want to see who the blitzers are and we trying to figure that out,” Carroll said. “He (defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.) gave them a lot of shots and it was good.”
Utah defensive duo more up than down
Linebacker Cody Barton and safety Marquise Blair, each rookies from Utah, each showed some early glimpses of why the Seahawks selected them in the 2019 draft, though each also had an early “welcome to the NFL moment.’’
Barton, playing weakside linebacker much of the first half, got pushed out of the way to clear a big hole for a 50-yard gain by Denver running back Royce Freeman on the first series of the game.
But Barton seemed to find his footing from there and had five tackles in the first half, which ended up tied for the team lead for the game. Barton didn’t play after that with Carroll saying he was on a pitch count since he had not practiced much the last week or so dealing with a groin injury.
Blair, meanwhile, was on the field almost the entire game and tied with Barton and Austin Calitro with five tackles, one that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter that Carroll disputed.
But if that play drew fan and media attention, Carroll’s bigger concern was a play in the second quarter when Blair rushed hard off the edge with the Broncos throwing to the man (Nick Williams) he left open for a 24-yard gain. Carroll said later Blair was not supposed to rush in that situation.
“That was a mistake,” Carroll said, noting that Blair had gambled and won when he broke through to tackle Denver running back Khalfani Muhammad for a loss of one midway through the second quarter, then decided to gamble again and lost.
“He makes one play coming off the edge and then he tried it again and they dumped the ball in the flat,” Carroll said.
But Carroll also pointed out that Blair has missed some significant practice time due to a hamstring injury that first crept up during OTA’s which may have caught up to him on that play. “He’s got a lot to catch up on,” Carroll said.
Blair made his presence felt with a few more big hits in the second half, once called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Carroll protested that Blair had legally led with his shoulder on the hit on Williams. He didn’t win that argument. But Blair, at least, was not disqualified after officials reviewed to see if he should be DQed.
“He showed you that he’s a hitter and it was exciting to see the plays he made,” Carroll said.
Amadi shows up in second half
Another rookie, safety/corner Ugo Amadi, also turned in some nice moments in the second half. In one third-quarter sequence he had a solo tackle on a kickoff, then got pressure on a safety blitz to force an incompletion, and then had a 13-yard return on a punt that was negated due to penalty.
“He was all over the place tonight,” Carroll said of Amadi. “His special teams work covering kicks and stuff was obvious.”
That so few starters played makes it difficult to read much into the overall numbers. But one that stood out to Carroll was Seattle’s penalties — the Seahawks had 11 through three quarters and five in the first half, including three for offensive holding in the span of five plays in the second quarter. Seattle finished with 15 for a loss of 131 yards.
“The penalties were really a mess,” Carroll said. “The sloppy hands on offense showed we need a lot of work. But we can clean all that stuff up. So the penalties got to go. But I liked that we overcame a couple of them.”