Finally, something to celebrate for the Seahawks this preseason.
Seattle, which had been outscored 50-10 in their first two preseason games and never held a lead in either, scored two-and-a-half minutes into Saturday’s preseason finale against the Chargers at Lumen Field and never let up, winning 27-0.
“A nice finish to the preseason,’’ said coach Pete Carroll. “A really nice effort.’’
And they did it again playing mostly backups, holding out 23 players, including quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Chris Carson, receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs and linebacker Bobby Wagner, to name a few.
The Chargers did, as well, holding out most of their listed starters, including QB Justin Herbert, making the game about as true of an exhibition contest as there can be.
Veteran Chase Daniel got the start for the Chargers, instead. And Seattle decided to chase after Daniel early, calling a blitz on a third-down play on what was the fifth snap of the game that resulted in the game’s first touchdown — a sack by Cody Barton that forced a fumble that Marquise Blair, in his first game since his ACL injury last September, plucked out of the air and returned 17 yards for a TD with 12:37 to play in the first quarter.
That kick-started what was a dominant night of defense for Seattle as the Chargers never got closer than the Seahawks’ 29.
On the other side of the ball, Geno Smith led two long scoring drives in the first half as the Seahawks took a 17-0 halftime lead.
But more important than the score is how individual players battling for roles or roster spots performed.
Here are some quick thoughts about each position group.
QUARTERBACK: Smith got the start and showed why the team values him as its backup, completing 11 of 15 passes for 90 yards while also running twice for 20 yards in the first half in leading two scoring drives — of 80 and 51 yards. “He’s had a great camp,’’ Carroll said later.
RUNNING BACK: Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny split snaps in the early going. But it was Collins who made the most of them. Collins keyed Seattle’s first-half TD drive with two carries for 13 yards, including the TD on a 5-yard run and also had two receptions for 13 yards. Collins continued to play throughout the second half and finished with 37 yards on 10 carries, but maybe more importantly, had seven receptions on seven targets for 52 yards, showing some added versatility to his game. “I thought he played really well,” Carroll said. “I thought he looked explosive, and you know, he’s got great, great feet.”
Penny, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2018, would seem to be safely on the roster and the Seahawks may mostly have just wanted to see him get some significant work Saturday more than worrying about results. He had 24 yards on seven carries and also was called for a blindside block that helped derail a Seattle drive. But there have been some rumblings the Seahawks could entertain trade offers for him, another reason simply showing he’s healthy might have been as important as anything. Interestingly, after the game Carroll praised every running back who played other than Penny. DeeJay Dallas, who didn’t practice Thursday, was in pads but didn’t play due to a minor injury.
RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Rookie Dee Eskridge saw his first action and showed why the team is excited about his potential, making a leaping grab for a 19-yard reception in the first quarter and also flashing 9 yards on a fly sweep. Penny Hart saw his first action of the preseason after missing two weeks with an ankle injury and appeared open for a possible touchdown in the second quarter on a Smith pass that was overthrown. Hart’s roster spot would seem secure — he’s a key member of special teams. Less certain is whether the Seahawks will keep more than five receivers. Cody Thompson has appeared to have the edge based on a strong camp. He had one catch. Former Husky Aaron Fuller had two catches early on for 19 yards and also made a nice play on the punt team to down a ball at the 3, and could also be in consideration for a roster spot. “Just a phenomenal play,” Carroll said of Fuller’s effort. Gerald Everett and Will Dissly were each officially listed as starters and Everett caught one pass for 2 yards in the first quarter. But each played sparingly.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Undrafted rookie free agent Jake Curhan again got the start at right tackle with the team giving Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi the night off . Maybe even more intriguing, Curhan then shifted to play some left tackle in the second half. Curhan had the team’s highest offensive grade last week from Pro Football Focus and appears to have a legit shot to make the 53-man roster.
Kyle Fuller again got the start at center — Ethan Pocic was in uniform and went through warmups but did not play. For now, Fuller appears to be the starter heading into the season. Carroll implied after the game that both Pocic and Ogbuehi could have played — neither has in the preseason — but that the team just thought it smarter to hold them out.
DEFENSIVE LINE: This was by far the best game of the preseason for second-year end/strongside linebacker Darrell Taylor, who had a solo sack for a loss of 8 yards in the second quarter and then combined on another with Kerry Hyder later in the quarter. Taylor also tipped a pass when the Chargers went for it on fourth down at their own 44 early in the third quarter. Most important, Taylor has had no setbacks with the injury that held him out all of last season, appearing ready to take on the significant role in the defense this season that helped compel Seattle to not re-sign K.J. Wright. Second-year end/linebacker Alton Robinson also had a sack, continuing what has been a solid preseason. Robert Nkemdiche did not play after suffering an injury this week in practice, which further clouds his status for making the roster after he saw no action in the preseason.
LINEBACKER: Nick Bellore showed again that he can more than adequately fill a role as a backup linebacker, making six tackles in the first half alone. Keeping Bellore in a dual role as linebacker and fullback will give the team some needed roster flexibility. Barton also had another nice game with five tackles and a sack in the first half. Rookie undrafted free agent Jon Rhattigan came on late to finish with five tackles in his first action of the preseason. “Gosh I thought he played really nice tonight,” Carroll said. “It was really important for him to show us something.”
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Carroll said this week the cornerback spots remain open, and it was hard to tell at first glance if much happened to solidify or change anything. While a few plays were allowed, the Chargers also didn’t have a gain of longer than 16 yards passing, indicating the corners in general were doing something right.
The Seahawks rotated their cornerback duos with Damarious Randall starting on the left side and Tre Flowers on the right. Ahkello Witherspoon and Gavin Heslop worked as the other pair with D.J. Reed remaining out.
Flowers has been the starter on the right side throughout camp with Reed out, and Witherspoon on the left side and that well could be how Seattle starts the season, pending Reed’s availability. Carroll said this week he considered Randall as still competing for a starting spot.
Newly acquired John Reid saw some time at left corner in the second half. Reid was acquired to fill out the depth with Tre Brown dealing with a knee injury. But Carroll indicated later that Brown’s injury is not overly serious and that “he’ll be ready to go” for the regular-season opener.
Blair got the start at safety in what was his first action of the preseason, having been limited earlier with a sore knee.