RENTON — Reading much into scheme in the NFL preseason can be risky.
With winning or losing unimportant teams often try things just to try things.
But after the Seahawks had success with a few blitzes in the preseason opener Thursday against Denver — one resulting in a safety by DeShawn Shead — it was tempting to wonder if Seattle will blitz more this year, especially with the defensive ends and their ability to get consistent pressure considered one of the team’s biggest question marks (and particularly until Ziggy Ansah proves he’s healthy).
Seattle has never been one of the bigger blitzing teams in the NFL during the Pete Carroll era and last year was no exception as the Seahawks brought more than four pass rushers on 24.6 percent of plays last year, 10th-least in the league according to FootballOutsiders.com.
Carroll was predictably noncommittal after the Denver game when asked about the blitzes in that game saying only “we want to see who the blitzers are and we trying to figure that out. He (defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.) gave them a lot of shots and it was good.”
On Thursday, Norton likewise said to not necessarily read a ton into what happened against Denver.
“Well, it worked well,’’ he said. “I think trying to find out the personality of the team, trying to really figure out what we do best. It’s only one game in so there’s still a few games left in the preseason. There is a lot of evaluation left to go.”
But one veteran who expects the Seahawks to blitz more often is linebacker K.J. Wright.
“I think so,’’ he said “What I think we are going to do more is blitz on first and second down and not just third downs. We know guys are going to pass on second and nine — let’s come after them. Let’s just mix it up a little bit. I think you are going to see some good stuff from us this year.
“… You’ve got to throw them a curveball. You just want to catch teams off guard, the element of surprise. We’ve got to do it.’’
Given Carroll’s history — and his general philosophy of preferring to make teams have to work their way down the field on the idea that they’ll eventually make a mistake — the Seahawks aren’t likely to suddenly throw caution to the wind every play.
And just about any team’s preference is to be so good with a four-man rush that blitzing isn’t necessary.
But a team that is continuing to remake its defense from the Legion of Boom days may have to be a little more creative this year to get the same kind of results.
Here’s more of what we learned at Seahawks practice Thursday.
HOW THE NICKEL TURNS
It’s no secret the nickel or slot cornerback position may be the most uncertain and competitive on the team with four players still appearing as viable options — Akeem King, Kalan Reed, Jamar Taylor and Ugo Amadi.
King, Reed and Taylor have all gotten reps with the first team defense this week.
King has been the primary starter at nickel so far but Carroll said a few day ago that Reed had earned the right to get significant time with the ones this week. And Taylor, who has 41 starts in a career that dates to 2013, has been a consistent standout the last few practices. He broke up a pass to DK Metcalf during a red-zone period Thursday.
Amadi has mostly been used at safety of late but has been used at times as a nickel, and if he makes the team will undoubtedly be considered a player who could help at both safety and corner.
Norton said after practice the plan was for a lot of rotating at the nickel spot this week to give each a fair shot.
“It’s just important because everybody needs their plays, they need their plays to get better and we need plays to evaluate, so it’s important that we get as many looks as possible,’’ Norton said.
King and Taylor also can play on the outside — Reed hasn’t done that as much — and that versatility could help each make the team.
Norton said the team is a long way from making any calls, though.
“It’s about the games,’’ he said. “I think practice is one thing, but making plays, and working, and communicating, and covering the good guys in the games is what it comes down to.”
THOMPSON HANGING ON TO FREE SAFETY SPOT
The excitement over rookie safety Marquise Blair, which only heightened after his performance against Denver, has had many assuming it’s just a matter of time until he emerges as a starter.
But that time isn’t yet as the Seahawks continue to go with the same starting tandem they have since the start of training camp — Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson.
Those two again were the starters Thursday with the lineups appearing to be fairly set for this week’s game against Minnesota.
Blair worked with the No. 2 unit, typically with Lano Hill.
Both Blair and Hill are listed as strong safeties. But safety designations appear to matter less than ever with the Seattle defense now that Earl Thomas is gone.
The Seahawks used a single-high safety look with Thomas as the free safety often during his nine years with the team — that scheme became a foundation of the defense
But the Seahawks may not use as much of that look now that Thomas is gone. And with McDougald having ample experience as both a strong and free safety they can also use their safeties pretty interchangeably.
DeShawn Shead has also gotten some work at safety with the second unit, though Blair-Hill seemed the most usual tandem Thursday.
With Hill back this week to join with Blair on the second team, the third-team safeties have typically been Shalom Luani and Amadi.
The team narrowed the field somewhat this week by waiving veteran Marwin Evans. The only other safety on the roster is undrafted rookie free agent Jalen Harvey who has been sidelined with an injury
But seven is enough to make the safety spot among the most competitive on the roster.
TACKLE DEPTH AN ISSUE ON OFFENSIVE LINE?
Seattle’s depth at offensive tackle is getting tested this week with George Fant out with an ankle injury that may take a few weeks to recover from and Jamarco Jones also out the last two days (it’s unclear the issue with Jones).
That has had Elijah Nkansah backing up at left tackle this week and veteran Marcus Martin at right tackle.
Martin is one of the more interesting players in camp. It seems as if few consider him as having much of a chance to make the team, in part because he hasn’t played since 2016. But he has 24 career starts, most at center but also some at guard and tackle, and he has played all over the line in camp (he’s officially listed as a guard).
Rookie Phil Haynes also remains on the PUP list and at this point might stay there for a while and Jordan Simmons has been out.
If injuries continue to pile up, Martin’s experience and versatility might prove tempting.
BARRETT GETS A FEW SNAPS
Recently signed QB J.T. Barrett got a handful of snaps in team sessions, the first he has received since joining the Seahawks over the weekend, with Geno Smith remaining sidelined.
Barrett’s first pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and almost picked off by Austin Calitro.
The Seahawks have said they’d like to try to get Barrett into the game at Minnesota if Smith can’t play.