In a scrimmage the Seahawks tried to treat as the third preseason game — typically viewed as a dress rehearsal for the regular season — Russell Wilson appeared in midseason form.
In a mock game Wednesday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, Wilson led the offense to touchdowns on three of five drives going against the No. 2 defense, throwing touchdowns to DK Metcalf (27 yards) and Jacob Hollister (16 yards) while completing 11 of 16 passes in what was officially a 23-7 victory for the starters against the backups.
The touchdown to Metcalf capped a lightning-fast two-minute drill near the end of the first half in which the Seahawks moved 88 yards in five plays — all Wilson completions (two to Greg Olsen and one each to Metcalf, David Moore and Travis Homer).
“Russ threw the ball real nice,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said later in a Zoom interview with media members. “Guys made some nice plays. … It was a good day of throwing the ball around.”
While that was nice to see, to use Carroll’s description, the Seahawks don’t really need any affirmation about Wilson.
The bigger revelation for Carroll came on the other side of the ball and a defense that largely had its way with the backup offense.
The starters got about 30 plays and when the entire starting unit was on the field it did not allow a point, with two drives ending in turnovers — each interceptions by Marquise Blair on passes by rookie quarterback Anthony Gordon out of Washington State (the first a grab of a pass deflected by Shaquill Griffin).
The starting defense forced three punts and two turnovers in its first five drives before recently-acquired quarterback Danny Etling led a scoring drive against what was a mix of starting defenders and backups.
And that was without the services of safety Jamal Adams, who was held out after cutting his finger while trying to cut strawberries earlier this week, Carroll said. Adams wore a protective wrap on the hand in practice Tuesday before being held out Wednesday with an injury Carroll said is “a very minor situation.”
That helped open the door for a big day by Blair, a second-year defensive back being used as the nickel corner (he also got some time at safety).
Carroll said the maturation of players such as Blair and the addition of Adams, Bruce Irvin and Quinton Dunbar means, “We are faster. We seem to be more athletic.”
Each was a goal for the Seahawks in the offseason after a 2019 campaign when the Seahawks had the worst defense since Carroll’s first year in 2010, allowing 24.9 points a game, 22nd in the NFL.
“There is an energy about this group,” Carroll said. “They are really excited about playing together. … We’ve had an injection of spirit and leadership and playmaking from Bruce and Jamal coming in, and I’m anxious to see the effect Quinton Dunbar can have also just to add to what we already have.
“We really feel like we’ve boosted this group. We have very high expectations that we are going to play a lot of good football.”
Blair emerging as the nickel “has been a noticeable change,” Carroll said, saying Blair has “elevated the nickel spot,” a position the Seahawks used less than any team in the NFL last year after struggling to find one worthy of putting on the field in place of a linebacker.
Griffin said Blair’s two picks Wednesday were the continuation of what has been a strong training camp making the move to nickel.
“He’s comfortable,” Griffin said in a Zoom interview. “Last year, he was kind of going with the flow. He was a rookie. He was learning. Now he’s playing more like a vet. You can feel it when he’s out there with us. He’s showing up and he’s making the plays that we’re expecting him to make.”
Scrimmages against a backup offense, of course, only prove so much.
And the mock game also was as much about getting used to the unique settings NFL teams will encounter this season playing in empty stadiums.
The Seahawks also held a mock game at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, but that one was cut short following a head/neck injury to Branden Jackson.
But this time the Seahawks got the full game in.
They again piped in crowd noise, though this time changing the volume levels depending on situations to try to mimic the feel of a real game.
It was also a more intense affair than Saturday, with players in full uniform and allowed to go full contact throughout, including some tackling to the ground.
“I’m glad we really put our pads on each other,” Griffin said. “It was time to bring people down and kind of get the feel for it (tackling).”
If the overall play of the defense was the highlight to Carroll it wasn’t the only one. Here is more of what stood out:
- There were no official rushing stats kept and media is limited in what it can report, but Carlos Hyde got the bulk of the work with the No. 1 offense and ripped off several big runs and also had a short touchdown plunge. “I thought Carlos Hyde looked really good again,” Carroll said. “He seems to just continue to be right on the mark. He’s in there to be able to be a big factor for us.”
- What Carroll called the play of the day came in the final moments — a diving 13-yard touchdown grab by former University of Washington standout Aaron Fuller on a pass from Etling, who was recently claimed off waivers from the Falcons. Fuller made the grab in between starters Griffin and Quandre Diggs. “Was a terrific throw and catch,’’ Carroll said. It was Fuller’s only catch. But he had three in the mock game Saturday. “He’s had a couple of good outings,’’ Carroll said. “He’s been doing fine in practice, too, but he has really come through in both game-like situations. That’s a pretty good statement.’’
- Rivaling Fuller’s catch in wow value was a play turned in by undrafted free agent rookie tight end Tyler Mabry from Maryland, who took a short pass from Etling and leapt over Diggs en route to a 9-yard gain. The play set up the touchdown to Fuller a few plays later. “Pretty exciting moment,” Carroll said. “I happen to really love that play when a guy recognizes the opportunity because you have to think about how fast that happens to pull that off. And he landed it too, which was good.”