No Russell Wilson. No Bobby Wagner. No DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett or Chris Carson, either.
The most integral components of the Seahawks’ roster didn’t see the field Saturday night.
This is very likely to be the new normal for the NFL preseason, as the leaguewide mindset is that there is little point in risking injury for games that don’t count.
Guess who didn’t seem to care? The crowd at the nearly packed Lumen Field.
This was going to be a column about how the preseason seems practically pointless, and maybe that’s how many of you feel. The third week of the exhibition schedule used to at least resemble something meaningful for the first half, but those days seem done. Nevertheless, tickets still sell, concessions get bought, and most important — the fans still cheer.
At one point in the third quarter Saturday, the Seahawks led the Chargers 17-0 with 12 minutes left in the frame. To your average press-box wag, the ensuing series seemed like the definition of irrelevance. But for the folks in the seats? They still thought it was worth wearing out their larynxes for the defense on third down.
This is something folks didn’t get to do throughout the season last year. Puget Sounders gathering at Lumen Field for a Seahawks game is a Pacific Northwest tradition matched by little else.
The average fan might not care about Sean Mannion’s passer rating when throwing to Darece Roberson. But the dad with his 7-year-old is all the merrier to treat the contest like a playoff game.
It’ll be interesting to see how the preseason evolves in the coming years. Shortening it seems wise from a business perspective, as the NFL gets its 17th game, but the top players completely abstaining from exhibition games is new.
Will fans respond by abstaining from games? It’s possible. There’s a reason the Seahawks didn’t announce Wilson would be sitting until after the game began. But what I saw Saturday was a fan base just happy to be watching pro football live again.
And it’s not like the game was completely absent of intrigue. Perhaps the most compelling storyline was running back Alex Collins emerging as the Seahawks’ potential No. 2 running back. He led the team with 10 carries and racked up 37 yards in the 27-0 win. He added seven catches for a team-high 52 receiving yards.
Rashaad Penny, the former first-round draft pick initially thought to be the No. 2 RB (and he still might be) had seven carries for 24 yards. Did Collins look considerably better? Always hard to tell in a preseason game featuring backups. But it wouldn’t be shocking, based on what we’ve seen so far, if Collins ends up being the primary ball-carrier behind Carson in Week 1.
There was Dee Eskridge, too. The receiver with 4.38 speed was the Seahawks’ first pick in April’s draft (he went 56th overall). He only had one target Saturday, but he turned that into a 19-yard reception.
Again, preseason games just don’t offer much in the way of information. The biggest stories that come out of them are typically injuries. But the rookie made an impression.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Seahawks as the regular-season opener nears is cornerback. D.J. Reed has been banged up for much of training camp but is still expected to start alongside Ahkello Witherspoon once the season begins. And though backup corner Tre Flowers struggled in Week 2, he and Damarious Randall were solid against the Chargers’ backup quarterbacks.
One of the most entertaining moments of Saturday’s game came in the final seconds. On fourth down, Seahawks punter Michael Dickson launched a 55-yard kick than Aaron Fuller downed on the 1-yard line.
It was perfect combination of punting wizardry and hustle, and the crowd gave a deserving cheer.
Most people in this town are ready for the regular-season to begin. Most people are probably the preseason is down to three games, and probably wouldn’t complain if it disappeared altogether.
But there was still joy at Lumen Field. There were still screams and bellows and chants of “Sea-hawks!” in the fourth quarter.
The preseason might seem like a mere formality. But based on the crowd, it looks like it’s here to stay.