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Monday metatarsal musings
After Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson made their debuts for the Seahawks in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans at CenturyLink Field, where does that leave the three-quarterback competition for the starting job in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener?
While Flynn was efficient in completing 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards in the first half, Wilson was often electric in the second half of the 27-17 victory. While Flynn was proficient, Wilson was more productive while throwing for one touchdown and running for another.
Asked about Wilson after the game, coach Pete Carroll said – although it sounded like he was almost wondering aloud – “I am interested to see what he’s going to do next time.”
That would be Saturday night, when the Seahawks play the Broncos in Denver – in what will be the first home game for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Isn’t the next logical step for Wilson to see what he can do against another team’s starting defense?
While he did complete 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards, including a 39-yard TD pass to Braylon Edwards; and run for another 59 yards, with 32 coming on his scoring play; it was against the Titans’ second- and third-defensive units.
So why not see how the rookie from Wisconsin fares against the Denver defense that features the pass-rush tandem of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and a secondary that features 11-time Pro Bowl selection Champ Bailey?
The pressure of the start? That will be totally internal, because of the Mile High-presence of Manning, who signed with the Broncos in March after being released by the Indianapolis Colts and wooed by other teams, including the Seahawks. So the visiting Seahawks and whoever starts at QB will be an all-but-undetectable blip in this situation. But then it would be the same scenario if the Broncos were playing the 1972 Miami Dolphins and their quarterback possessed a composite of the best skills of Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Brett Favre.
Manning-mania in Denver is so rampant – and ramped up – that whoever starts for the Seahawks will be just the other QB for the Broncos’ opponent in the game.
With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked well in the opener against the Titans, and three things that need work this week as the Seahawks prepare for the Broncos and you-know-who:
One. The starting defense. It began with Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner returning a Matt Hasselbeck pass that was tipped by Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas for a touchdown on the first play of the game. But it didn’t end there.
Chris Johnson, the back who surpassed 2,000 rushing yards for the season in the finale against the Seahawks in 2009, was held to 8 yards on five carries. That’s a 1.6-yard average, despite running behind the Pro Bowl left side of tackle Michael Roos and guard Steve Hutchinson.
The Titans also averaged 1.4 yards on their five first-down plays in the first quarter. And cornerback Richard Sherman also had an interception.
The Seahawks defense already is pretty good. They could become special.
Two. Heath Farwell at linebacker. The veteran special-teams standout led the NFL in coverage tackles last season, despite not signing with the Seahawks until mid-October. That’s why he is here. But against the Titans, Farwell showed he also could be there – at middle linebacker, that is.
On a play in the fourth quarter, Farwell poked the ball from the grasp of tight end Taylor Thompson and recovered the fumble. On the Titans’ next possession, he tipped way a first-down pass to wide receiver James Kirkendoll.
So after the game, Farwell was stumping for more snaps at linebacker, right? Hardly.
“We’ve got great linebackers here, so hopefully they won’t need me,” he said.
Hopefully they won’t need me? Farwell smiled and then laughed before adding, “We’re so stacked at linebacker. That’s a good problem to have.”
But Farwell will embrace whatever snaps come his way. “I love the preseason, because I actually get to play linebacker,” he said. “I just want improve out there, fly around and prove to this team and prove to these coaches that I can play linebacker as well, if they need me.”
Three. J.R. Sweezy. He already had wowed the coaches with his transition from college defensive tackle to NFL guard. Saturday night, the rookie from North Carolina State played on the right side and the left side, and if you didn’t know his transitional story you wouldn’t have known this was a baptismal by blowtorch.
“It was fun. It was really fun,” he said after the game. “I think going against such good guys like on our defense really helped me out a lot. I didn’t really see anybody better than them.”
What needs work
One. Interceptions. Each QB threw one, and on the type of plays they would have liked to have back. On Flynn’s pick, the pass was supposed to come off a play-action fake. But the back read blitz, so was not there to handle the play-action portion. On Wilson’s pick at the goal line, as he put it, “I kind of just lofted it up there. It wasn’t a very good throw.”
Two. The expected. Not tolerated, of course, but expected. Those plays that are going to happen in the preseason, especially in the second half of the opener. Like Darius Reynaud’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, where no one had outside contain as he ran untouched up the left sideline. Like the drive to the Titans’ first TD, when they had runs of 7, 7 and 4 yards before Reynaud scored on a 21-yarder.
Three. YAC. That’s yards after catch, and there just weren’t enough of them. Thirteen Seahawks receivers averaged 8.5 yards on 23 receptions, and that includes Edwards’ 39-yarder. Without that, the average dips to 7.1 yards on the other 22 receptions. Of course, the Seahawks played without Doug Baldwin, last year’s leading receiver; Sidney Rice, the expected starter at flanker; future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, who was just signed last week; and tight end Kellen Winslow. All are better-than-average when it comes to YAC.