Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Sep 3, 2012

Or footnotes: First-round draft choice Bruce Irvin picked a good time to end his preseason big-play drought, and his performance against the Raiders bodes well as the Seahawks prepare for their opener.

And that’s why they selected Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick in April’s NFL Draft.

After not registering a tackle, let alone a sack, in the Seahawks’ first three preseason games, the rush-end from West Virginia went off in Thursday night’s 21-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders that slapped an exclamation point on an unbeaten preseason.

And Irvin was the bold-faced period that underlined the point of exclamation.

In addition to collecting one sack and sharing another, Irvin also forced a fumble on a punt return in the first quarter that was recovered by rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wager to get the rout rolling.

“I just thank the football Gods for seeing that I’ve been busting my tail in practice every day,” Irvin said after the game in the Seahawks’ locker room at CenturyLink Field. “Those Gods are always watching. They watch you, and they watch when you take a play off.

“I think it starts in practice. I had a real good practice Tuesday. I had like four or five sacks in practice. So I feel as if you get a sack in practice it will carry over to the game. And it did.”

Irvin has been a blur of a rusher since first stepping upon the practice field for the rookie minicamp in May. But it didn’t carry over to the game until the preseason finale. He still needs to develop some countermoves to go with all that speed and relentlessness, but that will come.

“I’m comfortable now,” he said. “Those first couple games, I didn’t know what to expect. Those were my first NFL games. It was different. But I settled in the past two weeks and just kept busting my butt and it paid off for me.”

Just as the Seahawks’ belief in Irvin’s ample, but raw, talents on draft day are paying off.

With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Raiders and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Cardinals in Arizona:    

What worked
One. Matt Flynn. How would the free-agent acquisition react to rookie Russell Wilson being named the starting quarterback? Just fine, thank you.

After sitting out the game against the Chiefs in Kansas City to rest a sore elbow, and then having coach Pete Carroll name Wilson the starter two days later, Flynn fashioned a 125.0 passer rating against the Raiders by completing 11 of 13 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought that Matt Flynn did a nice job,” Carroll said. “He managed the team really well. It was great to get him back in there.”

Two. Jeron Johnson. Again. The second-year safety, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year, started against the Raiders because Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor has a hip injury that has caused the coaches to monitor his reps in practice and snaps in the games as a precautionary move.

Johnson responded with three tackles, including one where he teamed with end Chris Clemons for a 3-yard loss on the Raiders’ first series and another where he stopped the back for a 1-yard gain on a third-and-2 play just before the half. Johnson finished the preseason with 15 tackles, which led the team.

Three. The defense. Again. They held the Raiders to 101 yards and five first downs, and Oakland didn’t score until the final 15 seconds of the game.

The defense limited the four preseason opponents to 44 points, fewest in the league. And in the 10-point victory over the Titans, the 20-point win over the Broncos, the 30-point win over the Chiefs and 18-point win over the Raiders, the defense allowed an average of 248 yards, which ranked third in the league.  

What needs work
One. Production from the wide receivers. The coaches were mixing and matching wide-outs in the preseason to try and find the right combination of hands. They also played without slot receiver Doug Baldwin, last year’s leading receiver who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. They got limited snaps from flanker Sidney Rice, who had surgery on both shoulders this offseason; and the versatile Ben Obomanu, who has been bothered by a pinched nerve in his neck.

But the other three wide-outs who remain on the 53-man roster – Charly Martin (five for 40 yards), Braylon Edwards (three for 83) and Golden Tate (three for 27) – combined for 11 receptions and 150 yards.

This situation should improve – and needs to improve – once they get the right hands in their proper places.

Two. Marshawn Lynch’s back. Last year’s leading rusher carried only five times during the preseason, and sat out the last two games because of back spasms. It allowed rookie Robert Turbin to show he could carry the load (93 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the Chiefs) and Kregg Lumpkin to earn a roster spot (71 yards on 20 carries against the Raiders).

But the preferred regular-season scenario is for Turbin to spell Lynch.

Three. Irvin’s angle of pursuit. Picking a nit, but …

He could have had a couple more big plays, but just missed getting the ball carrier with lunges while in hot pursuit. Calculating where the runner is heading and how best to head him off is one of those decisions that needs to be made instinctively, and instantly. Stop and think, and he’s gone. Irvin wasn’t guilty of that in being a quarter-of-a-step late while chasing players who are faster than him. It’s the angle that matters, and the NFL game moves faster – even in the preseason – than anything Irvin saw at West Virginia.

Like the big plays he did deliver against the Raiders, those he almost got also will come with time.