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Updates from Week 4
"He's earned it. He won the job." Those were Pete Carroll’s words just moments after the final preseason game, acknowledging Geno Smith as the Week 1 starter. Anyone who watched the Dallas game knew Smith was the choice, although it was more about Drew Lock losing the job than Smith winning it. Smith started and played one drive, completing 3-of-6 passes for 43 yards. While he didn’t find the end zone, he protected the ball, which is much more than can be said for Lock. The former Bronco played most of the game and completed 13-of-24 passes (54% completion) for 171 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Smith acknowledged his conservative nature and focus on ball security made the difference. "The number one way to lose games in the NFL is not protecting the football," Smith said. "Earlier in my career, I had some issues with that. I learned very quickly that the quarterback's main job is to protect the football as well as scoring points, being dynamic and all those things. I really think when I came here, that I turned the corner in terms of protection of the football.” Lock took the news well, “As a competitor, you're always disappointed, and I was disappointed. … But now it's my job to have his back and be the best teammate I can be and come out every day and find ways to make this team better and to make myself better."
Rashaad Penny tested positive for Covid-19 last week and couldn’t play in the preseason finale. With Ken Walker III out indefinitely following hernia surgery, it gave Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas a chance to shine playing against Dallas’ backup defenders. Homer started the game and got the touches on the opening drive, but he stayed in the rotation after Geno Smith, Tyler Lockett, and other Week 1 starters rested. Homer didn’t look good, rushing for only 5 yards on three carries (1.7 yards per rush). Dallas looked much better, racking up 75 yards on 13 carries (5.8 per rush) and a touchdown to put the Seahawks ahead 20-10 early in the third quarter. Darwin Thompson finished the game with 23 yards on seven carries but faces long odds to make the 53-man roster.
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett remain among the best receiving duos in the league, but the summer did little to calm fears the quarterback situation could hamper their productivity. Metcalf didn’t play against the Cowboys in the preseason finale, but Lockett did. He starred on the first drive, catching two passes for 35 yards from Geno Smith. He’s in midseason form. Unfortunately, the rest of the receiving corps is problematic. Marquise Goodwin looked like a potential vertical asset early in camp but has missed time with yet another soft tissue injury. Freddie Swain came into the summer as the presumptive No. 3 but struggled and probably doesn’t even make the final roster. Dee Eskridge was hurt most of August; he’s been injured nearly his entire NFL career. This leaves rookies Dareke Young and Bo Melton. While they probably make the team, they’ve each dropped a lot of passes in camp.
As we noted last week, the tight end room is talented, and those expecting Noah Fant to be on the field most of the time are likely to be disappointed. Fant has been fine in his first camp with Seattle, but Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson have also looked good in their own ways.
Will the Seahawks be able to rush the passer? Only three players on last year’s defense had more than two sacks, and two of them – Rasheem Green (6.5) and Carlos Dunlap (8.0) – are gone. Darrell Taylor (6.5 sacks) returns, but no one else is a proven commodity. The team needs huge seasons from newcomers Shelby Harris, Uchenna Nwosu, and rookie Boye Mafe. In the secondary, rookies Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen have been more erratic of late than they were at the start of camp, but they both showed enough to project as future starters.
Freddie Swain will return punts for the Seahawks. Veteran DeeJay Dallas could handle the bulk of kickoff returns, but head coach Pete Carroll might use special teams as an opportunity to get rookie Ken Walker III III involved once he’s fully healthy.
Updates from Week 3
The second preseason game was supposed to refine the ongoing quarterback competition further, but things didn’t go according to plan. Drew Lock missed the game after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week. Geno Smith had an opportunity to extend his slim lead against Lock with a strong showing against the Bears but regressed instead. Smith played the entire first half and completed just 10-of-18 passes for 112 yards with no touchdowns and two sacks. In seven drives, the team punted five times, missed a field goal, and ran out of time at the end of the half. Zero points in seven tries will not make anyone feel good about the state of the offense. Presumably, Lock will get a long look as the starter in the third preseason game and could supplant veteran Smith. But that’s a story for next week.
Neither Ken Walker III nor Rashaad Penny suited up against the Bears, which gave DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer run with the starters. Homer racked up 48 yards on six touches (8.0 yards per touch), and Dallas notched 67 yards on nine touches (7.4 yards per touch). Walker is out indefinitely after undergoing a surgical procedure to deal with a hernia. Coach Carroll is hoping he’ll be back for Week 1: “We’ve just got to make sure that he’s okay by the opener. That’s what we’re shooting for.” Penny returned to practice this week after missing a few days with a mild groin issue. Given his alarming injury history, it’s encouraging he returned quickly and was re-inserted into the starting role.
Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf each played three snaps against the Bears but weren’t targeted. Dee Eskridge and Marquise Goodwin missed the game with ongoing injuries, leaving mainly roster longshots and special teamers on the field. Outside of a 41-yarder by Penny Hart, the receivers were unimpressive. Coach Carroll expressed frustration after the game. “We have to catch the ball better in general,” Carroll said. “Guys that are trying to make this club have got to catch the football for us and make our plays. It happened a little bit to Geno again, a couple balls that could have been caught. The first third down (to Swain) was a beautiful read, protection and play. We’ve got to make the catch.”
Noah Fant played 15 snaps against the Bears and was targeted just once on ten routes. Colby Parkinson (10 snaps) and Will Dissly (7 snaps) also played with the starters in the first half. Fant’s performance (1 catch for a 3-yard loss) is hard to gauge given how poorly Geno Smith played, but he remains the team’s best chance at creating mismatches against linebackers.
Jason Myers wasn’t stellar last year, and even though the Seahawks didn’t bring in any competition for him this year, maybe they should have. Myers missed on a 47-yard field goal attempt against the Bears and might be on a short leash compared to other incumbent kickers.
The defense gave up 27 points to a Bears offense most expect to struggle in the regular season, and the problems were widespread, including too many missed tackles and penalties. Coach Carroll rarely speaks negatively about his players to the press but was critical of the poor tackling. “I have to check on the tacklers. The guys that are missing. I think that’s the most important thing to me right now; I wanna see who’s missing tackles, and uh, fix that problem. I don’t think it’s an epidemic. It looked a little like that last week. We’ve got to clean some stuff up with some guys, and you know, if they don’t get it right, then they won’t be able to be here, and we’ll get guys that can.” Safety Marquise Blair is atop the watch list, missing four tackles in the game and generally being overmatched throughout camp.
Left guard Damien Lewis sprained his ankle in Preseason Week Two against Chicago. It was a scary moment as another player rolled up on him. Lewis had to ride the cart from the field. X-rays were negative, but there is no timetable for his return. Phil Haynes will sub in the early season if Lewis cannot go. Rookie first-rounder Charles Cross (Mississippi State) had a tough night, recording five penalties (four false starts). The Seahawks have an exciting group but carry a low grade in the early season.
Updates from Week 2
Although Drew Lock outperformed Geno Smith in the scrimmage last Saturday, head coach Pete Carroll reiterated Smith remained in the lead. He followed that up by naming Smith the starter for this weekend’s tilt against Pittsburgh. Perhaps more importantly, The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar characterized the quarterback play as underwhelming. “Seattle’s defensive backs have had more pass breakups than Pete Carroll can remember seeing in his 13 years as head coach. And I’m confident that’s not because Seattle’s current secondary is the Legion of Boom 2.0. Geno Smith and Drew Lock aren’t consistently operating at a high level.” Smith played the entire first half against the Steelers, completing 10-of-15 passes for 101 yards (6.7 yards per attempt). By and large, the offense floundered until the final drive of the half, when Smith led them 61 yards and capped it off with a 2-yard touchdown run. Lock also played five drives and completed 11-of-15 passes for 102 yards with two touchdown passes. He looked great until the end of the game when he lost a fumble on a sack when the game was tied 25-25. “I could have handled that better,” said Lock. “Could have flipped the protection, could have played it hot. As a quarterback, you’re always able to fix those things.” All eyes are on whether Coach Carroll opts to give Lock the start in the next preseason game, but for now, the quarterback battle feels like it’s on more even footing than it seemed a week ago.
Rashaad Penny has a slight groin injury, which kept him out of the Steelers preseason opener but isn’t a long-term worry. Coach Carroll is known for hyperbolic praise of his players, but it’s still notable how excited he is with Ken Walker III’s progress over the last few weeks. “I’m surprised he’s so well-rounded. A runner, he’s blocking, again, I think I mentioned it the other day, but his pass protection stuff, he just turned the page. I mean, he was not very good in college as a pass protector, and we didn’t know.” Four tailbacks carried the ball against Pittsburgh, with DeeJay Dallas leading the way with 73 yards on ten carries. “Every running back ran well,” Carroll said. “They all had good numbers. That shows you the guys up front really did a good job.”
Tyler Lockett has had a quiet but productive camp but reminded everyone he’s still a difference maker in red-zone drills on Wednesday. He caught three of four touchdowns from Smith and Lock during team sessions. DK Metcalf, Lockett, Freddie Swain, Marquise Goodwin, and Dee Eskridge all sat against Pittsburgh, allowing the backups plenty of run. Rookies Bo Melton (2 catches for 47 yards) and Dareke Young (4 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown) flashed, but it’s unlikely both can make the final roster.
Noah Fant caught two of three targets for 20 yards before calling it a day against the Steelers. Will Dissly was inactive, and No. 3 Colby Parkinson struggled. The position has more questions than answers, outside of Fant, who should see a higher snap count this year than he did as a Denver Bronco.
There aren't many defensive highlights when you give up 32 points, even in a preseason game. But defensive tackle Poona Ford was a bright spot. Team reporter Maliik Obee explained: “Ford was the Seahawks' best interior defender Saturday, making several plays in run support and pressuring Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph several times. In Seattle's new 3-4 base defensive look, Ford showcased his versatility as a run-stopper and pass-rusher.” Last week, we highlighted strong camp performances from rookie cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen, but they were exposed against the Steelers. Both gave up huge downfield plays (to Gunner Olszewski and George Pickens, respectively), reminding everyone that practice reps do not equate to in-game aptitude.
Rookie Ken Walker III has been splitting kickoff return reps with incumbent DeeJay Dallas this offseason. Pete Carroll is one of the few coaches in the league who has no qualms about playing important offensive or defensive players on special teams. Still, Carroll is also an old-school coach who prizes ball security and reliability on special teams more than nearly anyone else in the league (which is saying something), so it's a bit early to assume that Walker will manage to play a significant role on special teams once the regular season kicks off.
Updates from Week 1
The Seahawks are one of only a few NFL franchises with quarterback uncertainty entering the preseason, although the first week-plus of camp points in veteran Geno Smith’s direction. Smith received most of the first-team reps, although Drew Lock did work intermittently with the 1s toward the end of the week. Head coach Pete Carroll acknowledged the obvious in the early days of camp: “Geno is in the lead. He’s ahead, and he ain’t looking back,” Carroll said. “He’s going for it. Drew is not going to take a back seat. Something is going to happen.” A few days later, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was less definitive, telling reporters: “We have a plan that we’ll keep in-house.” Adding to the confusion, Lock handily outplayed Smith in a mock game on Saturday. Lock completed 19-of-27 passes with a touchdown with the second-team offense against the first-team defense. Smith completed 11-of-20 passes with no touchdowns despite being up against the second-team defense with the offensive starters.
Rashaad Penny is the unquestioned No. 1 tailback, at least for now. He’s gotten the most reps with the starters, while rookie Ken Walker III is primarily handling the No. 2 role. Penny was given a veteran day off last Wednesday, and Walker stepped into the starting offense and looked explosive, running with confidence. Walker also showed off in Saturday’s mock game. Backups Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas have also flashed, particularly when getting rare time with the starters in practice. Penny understands the opportunity in front of him and the tenuous nature of his role if he can’t finally stay healthy. “Now that I’m feeling healthy and feeling at my best, I can’t wait to actually take off this year,” said Penny. “Having all these guys in the running back room competing, I feel like it’s the same thing as my rookie year. These guys are really hungry to take reps away, and I’m hungry to do the same thing. But it’s all out of love and competition, and that’s really what it’s about.”
DK Metcalf sat in the first few days of training camp while his agent and the front office negotiated a new contract. Fortunately, both sides settled quickly, and the star receiver agreed to a three-year, $72 million extension. The $24 million per year average puts him right up there with the Eagles' A.J. Brown for the highest-paid receivers in the league. As expected, everyone from coach Carroll to GM Schneider to Metcalf smiled after the deal was finalized. “Coming from Oxford, Mississippi, all the way over here to Seattle is a long journey,” Metcalf said. “It really hasn’t hit me until now that I’ll have the opportunity to help so many people back home and help my family. Just thinking about when I broke my neck (in college), and I was told I wasn’t going to be able to play football again. This moment happening, it’s just all a blessing.” Metcalf was dominant in the mock game on Saturday; the only risk to his having another great year is the quarterback uncertainty. His long-time running mate Tyler Lockett is having a quiet camp but looks every bit the fluid, dynamic vertical threat he’s always been when the quarterbacks get him the ball. Veteran Marquise Goodwin is known for his Olympic-caliber speed, inconsistency, and injuries throughout his career. Through two weeks in Seattle, Goodwin is staking a claim to a rotational role, perhaps as the No. 3, while Dee Eskridge misses time with a hamstring injury.
Noah Fant is the clear No. 1 and will have an important role as a safety valve, particularly in the middle of the field. But Coach Carroll wants us to believe the depth chart is laden with talent, even if their career numbers leave something to be desired. "These guys can all play; they all bring special talents," Carroll said. “One of the bigger surprises is that Colby Parkinson is just better. He's just better. He's physically rounded his body out. He's been working really hard on his strength stuff, but now it's become part of his movement and his power coming off the line of scrimmage. He's blocking well.”
The cornerbacks have been the strongest performers in early camp, partly due to the quarterback room being below league standards. Regardless of the quality of competition, starters Artie Burns and Sidney Jones are playing aggressively and making splash plays nearly every practice. While it’s early, it looks like the front office hit on its pair of late-round rookies, too. Coby Bryant won more than his fair share of one-on-one battles, including matchups against DK Metcalf, and Tariq Woolen is getting first-team reps in recent padded practices. Veteran Justin Coleman is entrenched at the nickel-back position. Star safety Jamal Adams broke his finger and will eventually require surgery, but he’s opted to play through the injury this season and will wear a cast on his hand all year. Adams returned to practice after two days and looks none the worse for wear. Adams lined up as a weakside linebacker in the mock game on Saturday, which suits his attacking style.