The first glimpse of Russell Wilson in 2018 looked pretty much like vintage Russell Wilson of any point from 2012-17 as he easily led the Seahawks down the field in his first — and only — series of Seattle’s preseason opener against the Colts Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
But you would have expected little else from Wilson, who went 4-5 passing for 43 yards and completed a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a nifty 5-yard TD pass to tight end Nick Vannett, escaping the rush to his right, before then taking a seat for the rest of the night.
“It was a perfect start for the offense,” Carroll said, saying the offense “looked strong and right and on point” noting specifically that Wilson usually had a clean pocket from which to work.
What was more of a curiosity was how the team’s bevy of young players would perform in what was for many their first glimpse of any sort of an NFL experience.
That the Colts rallied to win 19-17, snapping the Seahawks’ six-game preseason winning streak, spoke to the uneven nature of much of what followed Wilson’s cameo. Seattle managed just 120 more yards the rest of the game while also committing 12 penalties.
“We kind of lost a little focus in there and all the sudden the penalties went crazy in the second half and kind of marred the chance to win the game,” Carroll said.
Still, the Seahawks had a shot to pull it out after a bizarre touchdown when a bad snap by former Seahawk Mark Glowinski resulted in a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Seattle’s Joey Ivie — who was signed to the team on Monday — with 3:15 left. But the Colts then ran out the clock to put the game away.
Here’s some more of what stood out.
A productive debut for Shaquem Griffin: The fifth-round pick entered the game on defense on the second series at weakside linebacker and was credited with four tackles — two solos and two assists — on four straight plays on that drive.
Griffin played throughout the second half and finished with a team-high nine tackles. Since Griffin is backing up an established starter in K.J. Wright it’s hard to see him winning a starting job now. But his first game appearance only further confirmed the excitement his training camp play has generated.
“He was all over the field,” Carroll said. “He was running and hitting just like he’s been looking in practice. Very encouraged. He is a wonderful kid and he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out and how to play in our scheme and all that. I can’t tell you much until I see the film other than he was very active, like we would hope.”
Said Griffin: “It felt good. Kind of get out there and get your feet wet and kind of get some hits in.”
Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny jump-started the running game: You may have heard that the Seahawks want to revive the running game this season and the first series — the only one for the starters — appeared a step in the right direction as Carson had three carries for 18 yards on the drive, one for 12 and another getting two on a fourth-and-one to keep it alive (hat tip to new right guard D.J. Fluker who appeared to have a good clearing block on Carson’s 12-yarder).
Carson, who had emerged as the starter last season before being hurt against the Colts in the fourth game of the year, is clearly the team’s starting tailback right now with Thursday’s performance also reiterating that point.
“I thought Chris looked really good,” Carroll said of Carson who finished with 26 yards on four carries. “I was really happy to see Chris do some stuff.”
First-round pick Rashaad Penny had just 16 yards on eight carries. But he got six on a run on the first series on the play before the Wilson touchdown pass.
Wilson also gave credit to Penny on the touchdown throw for giving him some time to make the play by keeping Colts’ defensive Anthony Johnson out of his way.
“Rashaad Penny had a really nice block on the touchdown,” Wilson said.
Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin make noise as a rusher: You may also have heard of concerns about the team’s pass rush with prospective starting ends Dion Jordan and Frank Clark continuing to nurse injuries and the status of Jordan particularly problematic as it’s unclear when he will be ready.
It’d go a long way to soothing fears about that if the Seahawks can get production out of rookies Green — a third-round pick out of USC — and Martin (sixth-round from Temple).
And again, early returns showed some promise as Green had sack in the first half and then teamed with Martin on another in the second.
“Rasheem has looked very good in practice and he looks like he has a chance to be a rusher so that was great stuff,” Carroll said of Green, who also was quickly down field to keep the ball alive on the late fumble that turned into a touchdown for Seattle.
Vannett ready to take the next step: Vannett got the start at tight end with Ed Dickson remaining on the Non-Football Injury list, in line to get the biggest role of his three-year Seahawks career.
So far so good as Vannett had not only the touchdown on the first drive but a 15-yard reception on a third-and-16 play that led to Carson’s fourth-down conversion run a snap later.
Vannett also appeared to have a good block on the Penny six-yard run that got the Seahawks to the 5 to set up his own TD reception a play later.
The backup QB battle didn’t go much of anywhere: Austin Davis had some nice moments in leading the Seahawks from their own 27 to the Colts’ 5 on Seattle’s second drive of the game, completing his first four passes for 51 yards.
But on first-and-goal from the 5 he lofted a pass in the end zone straight to Nate Hairston of the Colts. He was then sacked on two straight plays on the next drive.
Rookie Alex McGough played the second half and while he completed some passes he also was sacked twice and none of his 10 completions went for longer than 12 yards.
Flowers impresses at left cornerback: Rookie Tre Flowers, who is making the transition from safety, got the start at right cornerback in the wake of injuries to Byron Maxwell and Neiko Thorpe and played the first half with only a defensive pass interference penalty on T.Y. Hilton in the first quarter as any sort of blemish.
“I can’t wait to see the film,” Carroll said. “He was out there for the entire half playing football and I thought he did well. He had the one penalty with great coverage. He was there and I think he grabbed him when he didn’t have to do it to make the play. But we will be able to really teach from that. And he stayed up on top on a deep ball down in the end zone. Was a pretty good first outing.”
The young safeties were hit and miss: Tedric Thompson got the start at free safety in place of holding out Earl Thomas, working alongside veteran Bradley McDougald at strong safety for the first series, and then for most of the rest of the first half with fellow second-year player Delano Hill.
Thompson finished with three tackles and Carroll said more than any stats is that he said it felt like Thompson was where he needed to be.
“He seemed like he was in great spots and positioning was fine,” Carroll said. “Need to see his tackling and see what happened. I can’t tell you too much about the specifics of it yet.”
Hill, however, had a chance to force a Colts’ punt on the final series but allowed running back Jordan Wilkins to slip away for a three-yard gain and a first down to seal the win.
Injuries hit tackle spot hard: In the biggest negative of the night, backup offensive tackles Isaiah Battle and Jamarco Jones each left with injuries.
Battle, who has been the backup right tackle, departed with a knee injury. Carroll said it was a sprained knee and not as severe as it may have looked.
Jones, a rookie from Ohio State who was the third-team left tackle for Thursday’s game but also had seen increasing time at right tackle in practice this week, was carted off with an ankle injury. Carroll said X-rays for a break were negative but said he had suffered a “legit” sprained ankle which could mean some time on the sidelines for Jones.