The Seahawks opened their preseason with a 22-14 win over Denver Broncos, but as is always the case in the preseason, the final score was less significant than what players were able to show throughout the game.
The Seahawks rested most of their veteran starters, creating a showcase for rookies and younger players, and a lot of those rookies stepped up in their NFL debuts. Those rookie contributions lead our rapid reactions to Seattle’s preseason opener.
1. A lot of rookies stepped up and made big plays.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll referred to the preseason opener as “the game that we dedicate to the rooks,” and for the most part, Seattle’s rookie class was up to the challenge.
While a number of draft picks made plays, it was undrafted rookie Jazz Ferguson who perhaps had the best game among his fellow rookies. Ferguson, who is trying to make his case for one of the final spots at receiver, led the Seahawks with four catches for 54 yards, including Seattle’s first touchdown, a 6-yard grab on which he showed strong hands to out-muscle a defensive back who had tight coverage.
"Jazz Ferguson had a big night tonight," Carroll said postgame. "I thought he did a really good job of showing up. It's what he's been doing in practice. He came through in a big way. It was really obvious that he was out there, they had to change coverage a little bit to take care of him, to keep him from dominating the game. I thought it was a really good first night for him."
When it came to the draft picks, Cody Barton and Marquise Blair, two defensive players from Utah—or the two Utes if you’re a fan of “My Cousin Vinny”—were impressive early, each recording tackles for loss in the first half. Barton had five tackles and looked very good in run defense, while Blair also finished with five tackles, one for a loss, and quarterback hit, as well as a special teams tackle.
Ugo Amadi looked good on special teams both as a returner and in coverage, and also had a quarterback hit that led to an incomplete pass, as well as a pass breakup that was nearly a pick-six.
On offense, in addition to Ferguson, DK Metcalf had one catch for eight yards, and was targeted deep twice by Geno Smith, but was not quite able to haul in either pass. Seventh-round pick John Ursua had only one catch, but it was an impressive one over the middle, which he followed with an open-field move that allowed him to gain 23 yards on third-and-long.
"It was such a huge night of opportunity for so many young guys," Carroll said. "You never know what you're going to get on this first time out. This is the first time we've tackled full speed, live, and that's what we save the games for; to do that. There was no question that our guys were going after it."
2. Paxton Lynch had a good time against his former team.
When Lynch spun then powered his way into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run, the excitement he showed afterward indicated just how much it meant to him, even if it was in the preseason. A year ago, the Broncos cut Lynch two years after making him a first-round pick.
After Geno Smith played the first half, Lynch took over in the second half, and while it’s worth pointing out that Smith was playing against better competition, Lynch certainly made his case for the backup job with a strong performance on Thursday.
Playing the entire second half, Lynch completed 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, giving him a 115.7 passer rating. He also finished with 38 rushing yards on four carries, including the aforementioned touchdown run.
"I thought Paxton Lynch did a really good job," Carroll said. "Paxton handled himself well; good tempo with the game, and ran the ball really well. He's a big unit running, you saw that down by the goal line, that's a fantastic run for a quarterback to score down there. Just in general, he got out there and made some yards with his legs."
3. Special teams play was impressive.
Throughout the offseason, from signing Jason Myers to drafting rookies with strong special teams backgrounds, the Seahawks have made improving their special teams play a priority for 2019. And while it’s just one preseason game, there were some very encouraging early signs for the Seahawks in that phase of the game, particularly on punt and kick coverage.
The strong special teams play began on the first play of the game, with Shaquem Griffin forcing a fumble on kick coverage. The Broncos recovered, but started at their own 15-yard line. On punt coverage, Neiko Thorpe and Barkevious Mingo both had tackles to hold Denver to no return yardage, then Mingo later added a tackle on kick coverage. Amadi also added a solid open-field tackle on kick coverage, and then followed that later with a nice punt return and long return of a free kick following a safety, though both were negated by penalties. And Amadi and Blair got down field quickly on a fourth quarter punt to limit Denver to a short return.
Myers did miss his first kick from 56 yards, but connected from 55 and 43 yards and made both his extra point attempts. Add to that a 34-yard kick return by Keenan Reynolds, and it was solid start for the Seahawks in an area they have emphasized this offseason.
"The thing that I liked the most was the statement that the special teams made," Carroll said. "They want to do something. They want to be something and a big part of this team. The effort on coverage was just fantastic. They had a blast. We know we have good kickers, we know how to place the ball and do all kinds of things. We kicked the ball short tonight in the kickoffs to have to cover them. It worked out great. Just to be able to send that message first time out is really fun."
4. The defensive backs brought some pressure.
DeShawn Shead, who re-signed with Seattle earlier this summer after one season in Detroit, made his mark on the game by blitzing on third down to sack Drew Lock for a safety that gave Seattle a 15-6 lead. And while what takes place in the preseason doesn’t always portend what’s to come in the regular season, it was noteworthy that Shead’s blitz was just one of several to come from the defensive backs. Amadi and Blair both also recorded quarterback hits after blitzing, Amadi’s leading to a rushed pass that went incomplete. Then late in the game, Akeem King recorded a quarterback hit that led to a floated pass, which was intercepted by Jamar Taylor to put the game on ice.
"I thought Kenny (Norton Jr.) called a really nice game for the opener, to give our guys a chance," Carroll said. "We want to see our guys and see who the blitzers are. We're trying to figure that out. So, he gave them a lot of shots and it was good. We sent a little bit of everybody tonight; it was good. Probably my favorite play of the night was DeShawn Shead making the sack in the end zone. It was a great blitz, a great call at the right time, and we hit it right. (Ben) Burr-Kirven did a nice job of setting it up, and DeShawn just hit it perfectly and it was a huge play. It was great to see DeShawn do that."
While the Seahawks used blitzes to get some pressure early, they got it in the more conventional way in the second half, with Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo each recording sacks and two quarterback hits apiece. Mingo getting some pressure is a particularly good sign as the Seahawks work him into a new role as a defensive end after playing him at strongside linebacker last season.
"I thought that Jacob Martin gave really good heat on his side, and Mingo at times, too," Carroll said. "I thought that the edge guys were effective. We're just getting started there."
5. There was definitely some preseason sloppiness.
While there were a lot of positives for the Seahawks in this one, there were also indications that this was indeed a preseason opener, most notably the penalty count.
"The negative, obviously, is the penalty thing," Carroll said,
That was never more evident than one Seattle drive that featured four penalties in five plays between the two teams. The Seahawks finished the day with 15 penalties enforced against them for 131 yards, and they were hardly alone in having issues there, as Denver had 11 penalties for 94 yards.
"The sloppy hands on offense; it showed that we need a lot of work, but we can clean all that stuff up," Carroll said. "The penalties have to go. I liked that we overcame a couple of them, we did a nice job to show it's the next play, and step up, and overcome it, and our guys did that, so it's good for our attitude. We have to clean it up."
- Offensive lineman George Fant left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury that Carroll called "a legit ankle sprain" in his postgame press conference.* Running back Bo Scarbrough suffered a hand injury in the second quarter, but Carroll said X-rays came back negative.
- Quarterback Geno Smith will have a cyst removed in his knee and could be out 10 days, Carroll said.
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' 2019 preseason opener against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field.