Seahawks' beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta name their MVPs of the preseason as well as surprises, disappointments and toughest roster calls.
Who were the Seahawks’ MVPs, surprises and disappointments of the preseason?
Beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta give their answers below.
Jenks: Center Drew Nowak. Yes, the offensive line struggled this preseason. And, yes, Nowak is a part of that same offensive line. But think about it: In the preseason, Nowak won the starting center job away from two more experienced players (Patrick Lewis and Lemuel JeanPierre), and he did it after being a defensive lineman last year. That is an impressive accomplishment, and now we can see how he and the rest of the line hold up once the season starts.
Condotta: Running back Marshawn Lynch. Yes, Lynch played just three snaps, all in the first series at San Diego. But it was absence that proved his worth, as coach Pete Carroll and others often talked about the fact that it was hard to accurately judge the offense without Lynch being in there. As for those who played, how about B.J. Daniels, who finished the preseason with the most receptions on the team (seven), the second-best passer rating of four quarterbacks who played (75.0) and the fourth-leading rusher (75 yards on seven carries). Daniels has been one of the more intriguing stories of camp, being used at receiver after spending his first two years at quarterback, the only position he has ever played until this year. His versatility may have earned him a roster spot.
Jenks: Rookie defensive lineman Frank Clark. Clark would probably be the Seahawks’ overall preseason MVP, if we were to extend these imaginary awards another step. Clark looked fast. He looked strong. He sped around offensive tackles around the edge and slipped inside of bigger guards when he lined up inside. Clark showed his versatility and his potential, and he looked like a player who will play a big role on Seattle’s defense this year.
Condotta: DE Michael Bennett. Clark was undeniably spectacular, finishing third on the team with 15 tackles and leading the team with two forced fumbles. A long regular season awaits, but so far he has proven that he may be worth the risk the Seahawks took in drafting him. But here’s another thought — Michael Bennett. Bennett played 64 snaps in the first three games before sitting out the last game. And when he did play, he was just about unstoppable at both end in the base defense and inside in passing situations, answering any question anyone could have had about whether he would be distracted by his unhappiness over his contract.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Jenks: Rookie receiver Tyler Lockett. I know, I know: another bold pick. But Lockett was everything he was made out to be. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He returned a punt for a touchdown. He burned a cornerback for a deep touchdown pass down the sideline. Lockett looks like the real deal, and at this point all the expectations placed on him after the Seahawks drafted him seem fair.
Condotta: Punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka. Lockett is the obvious call and I won’t argue that one. But in an effort to also mention someone else, punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka were each also standouts. Ryan, who will be a free agent after this season, averaged 46.8 yards on 21 punts, downing eight inside the 20. Hauschka was 8-9 on field goals, missing only from 58 yards at San Diego, after which he made a 60-yarder to win the game, while also hitting a 55-yarder against the Raiders.
TOUGHEST ROSTER CALL
Jenks: Cornerbacks. The Seahawks have generally kept five pure cornerbacks on their active roster (DeShawn Shead doesn’t count in my count because he also factors in at safety). We know Richard Sherman will start at left cornerback. And it seems pretty likely that veteran free-agent signing Cary Williams will start on the right side. So that leaves three spots up in the air to be sorted out between veteran Will Blackmon, Marcus Burley, rookie Tye Smith, Mohammed Seisay and Tharold Simon. Simon played a lot last year and should be a near-lock. Smith, a fifth-round pick, has showed some nice progress this training camp, and the Seahawks have been patient with their cornerback draft picks in the past. So if that holds up, that leaves one spot for Blackmon, Burley or Seisay. With Jeremy Lane out at least the first six games while recovering from injury, the Seahawks need a nickel corner, which is how they’ve used Burley and Blackmon this preseason. Both have some previous experience with the Seahawks. However that battle — and all the final cornerback decisions — play out will be fascinating to sort through later.
Condotta: Receiver. It felt like the receiving position only got harder to call Thursday with the performances of Kasen Williams, Daniels and Kevin Smith while Chris Matthews went without a catch. Could Matthews, the Super Bowl hero, actually be in trouble? Consider that Seattle has eight receivers right now. Three are locks — Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse. Ricardo Lockette would also seem pretty close to a lock (his special teams play is vital). That leaves the other four vying for what could be one, two or three spots — Seattle last year kept seven receivers on the roster at the cutdown to 53 and then actually had eight on the roster or the first game against Green Bay. I’ve thought Matthews was pretty close to a lock due to the Super Bowl and Carroll’s strong words about his place on the team in March, when he said the team would go into the season considering him as its big receiver until he showed otherwise. Matthews was challenged by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell early in camp and then hurt his shoulder on special teams in the Denver game. He made just one catch for eight yards in the preseason. Certainly, others did more in the preseason. But the Super Bowl would seem to still speak loudly as does the fact that at 6-5, 218, Matthews offers a physical presence no one else does. As mentioned above, Daniels’ versatility would seem to have him in good shape to get a spot, as well. Does the team then keep one of Smith or Williams? A tough call, no doubt.
Jenks: Defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. McGill, an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina State, entered this preseason with no outside expectations and, frankly, not many fans probably knew his name. But McGill had a solid preseason, and he looked quick inside at defensive tackle. The Seahawks like lateral quickness in some of their defensive tackles, and McGill showed he could do that. Is that enough for him to make the roster? I don’t know. But he had a solid preseason.
Condotta: Center Drew Nowak. Jayson mentioned him as the offensive MVP. I think he also fits here, having gone from a guy few had heard of when camp started to now being tasked with replacing Max Unger, who was considered maybe the team’s most valuable offensive linemen the last few years. Nowak began to show signs of breaking out in the spring. Still, most penciled in Lemuel Jeanpierre as the likely starter when camp began, and might also have figured that if someone else took the job it would be Patrick Lewis. Instead, Nowak got his shot in the second game and held onto it and enters the season now as one of the most intriguing players to watch.
Jenks: Rookie offensive tackle Terry Poole. Poole, a fourth-round pick, struggled during training camp, as the Seahawks moved him between guard and offensive tackle to see where he fit. He settled in at tackle but fell down the depth chart. He played in just the fourth quarter of Thursday’s preseason finale, and at this point he seems like a long shot to make the active roster.
Condotta: The holdout of Kam Chancellor. Who ever would have figured this would still be going on? Carroll seemed to almost have a resignation to him when he talked Thursday night about Chancellor and said nothing has changed. As mystifying as the holdout itself seems is also trying to figure out how it ends gracefully for all involved. For now, the mystery continues. Honorable mention would be the inability of Christine Michael to fully answer all the questions about his place in this team’s future. Michael was erratic throughout, showing all of why the team has always been intrigued by him with the 29-yard run at San Diego, but also fumbling against Denver, missing a block or two and ultimately finishing with an underwhelming 118 yards on 32 carries and no receptions.