LAS VEGAS—Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's overall assessment of his team's play on Saturday night was about what you might expect from a coach whose team just lost 20-7 while being outgained 385 yards to 194.
"What we did tonight was not good enough to win a football game. Really on both sides of the ball we needed to do some things better, particularly on third down—third down was a nightmare for us, particularly on defense, and it made it really hard for us."
But despite the loss and those third-down struggles—the Raiders were 7 for 10 in the first half and 11 for 17 in the game, and did not punt until the third quarter—there were still positives for Seattle to take out of its preseason opener, from DeeJay Dallas' 43-yard touchdown reception from Alex McGough, to Ben Burr-Kirven's 12-tackles, to Cody's Barton's two sacks, to Ryan Neal's interception, to perhaps most notably, the play of Seattle's edge rush group that showed off its depth in this loss.
With a lot of starters and veterans resting, the Seahawks played without defensive ends Carlos Dunlap II, Kerry Hyder Jr., and Benson Mayowa, but even without that group, the defensive ends showed up in a big way, led by Alton Robinson, who had five tackles, several pressures, and quarterback hit that led to Neal's interception. Rasheem Green added a sack and was also in the backfield quite a bit, and even big defensive tackle Bryan Mone got in on the action with a sack on the game's first play from scrimmage.
Second-year defensive end Darrell Taylor flashed his explosiveness on a few occasions, including one rush that caused Nathan Peterman up in the pocket and right into Barton for a third-down sack, but what was more significant about Taylor's game wasn't his production—he was credited with three tackles—but rather just the fact that he was out there getting significant playing time. Taylor, a second-round pick out of Tennessee last year, missed his entire rookie season with a leg injury, but has been a bright spot in camp. The Seahawks have been using him as both a strongside linebacker and defensive end and it appears he'll have a big role in the defense in 2021, so getting in some game action Saturday was important.
"I thought it was a really good night for Alton Robinson and for Darrell Taylor," Carroll said. "Those guys played a lot of football, and we're trying to get them going. Particularly Darrell, we just needed to leave him out there, let him get some ball under his belt. He's had such a good offseason and such a good prep in camp. I don't even know how he played necessarily, I just know he was out there playing football, and that was really important for us.
"You could feel Alton and Rasheem too, and all of those opportunities for Darrell are just going to help us. I don't know who they were rushing against, what level they were, but still our guys just got to play football and they worked hard at it. We gave up one sack… and we had four sacks, so that's a good start in that regard."
Taylor called his first NFL game action, "Electrifying, satisfying, gratifying. Being out there with my teammates and being out in front of a crowd for the first time, it was everything I hoped it would be… It was definitely good to get out there. I think everybody wanted to see me, and I wanted to play. It didn't happen last year, so this year I'm ready to roll and locked and loaded."
As Carroll noted, Saturday night was less about how Taylor played that it was about the work he got in, and after a healthy offseason and training camp, Taylor said he's "exactly where I want to be, learning everything, being able to practice every day, nothing's holding me back."
Taylor said being part of such a deep defensive end group is only making him better as he prepares for his first season on the field.
"That's the best part about being on our defense, the competition level is really high, and it forces you to really compete and really get after it every day, whether it's practice or on the game field, it just forces you to compete and give it everything you've got on every snap," he said.
Robinson, a fifth-round pick out of Syracuse last year, enjoyed not just getting off to a good start in Saturday's game, but having his fellow 2020 draft pick on the field with him as well.
"It was fun just being able to communicate across the line with my dogs over there," Robinson said. "I wish we could have met at the quarterback a couple of times, but soon, coming soon."
Robinson, who made the most of limited playing time last year, recording 4.0 sacks, used his offseason to try to become more of a complete pass-rusher, and Saturday's performance was an encouraging start to his second season.
"Coming out of my rookie season, I wanted to work on my rush angles and just understanding the game more," Robinson said. "I think last year I was kind of running around, just trying to find the ball more than knowing what to expect from offenses and things like that, so I think I got a little bit better there, but they've always work to do."
Robinson's offseason work helped him to be a nuisance in Las Vegas' backfield on Saturday and led to Seattle's only turnover, and was part of an overall strong first performance from a pass-rush unit that was without three of its top players.
"A really good rush by Alton made that (interception) happen," Carroll said. "We were really close to getting a couple other ones too. The rush was formidable but not quite enough in this night tied together with our coverage. It just wasn't connected as well as we wanted it to be."