Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that his team's preseason finale was "a chance to finish the preseason on a good note," something he wanted to see his team do after a pair of lopsided losses in its previous two games.
Yes, the Seahawks rested most of their starters in the first two game, and on Saturday they again rested many of their top players, particularly on offense, but regardless of who played, Carroll was hoping to see more out of his team in its final tune-up before the regular season.
"We didn't like the first couple (of preseason games)," Carroll said Friday. "So we're looking to make a better statement about where we are.
And a day after Carroll said those words, his team did just that in a 27-0 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers that saw significant improvements take place on both sides of the ball.
Here are seven rapid reactions from Saturday night's win at Lumen Field:
1. Marquise Blair, still a playmaker.
Saturday's game marked the first game action for Marquise Blair since the third-year defensive back tore his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and Blair, who got the start at safety, made the most out of his brief appearance. On his way to winning the nickel corner job last year, Blair had a knack for making big plays throughout training camp, and early in Saturday's game, he showed he still has that same knack post-ACL injury, getting into the backfield just behind a blitzing Cody Barton, who hammered Chase Daniel for a third-down sack and forced fumble that Blair caught before racing 17 yards to the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
It was the perfect tone-setting play for a defense that pitched a shutout in its final game of the preseason.
2. Cody Barton had an impressive preseason.
As mentioned above, Barton set up Blair's touchdown with a well-executed blitz and a hard hit on Daniel, and it was just latest big play in a preseason full of them for Barton. In limited playing time at linebacker over this past two years, Barton hasn't been used as a blitzer often, but he's shown this preseason that rushing the passer can be a part of this game, recording two sacks, to go along with nine tackles, in Seattle's first preseason game, then the sack and forced fumble on Saturday. Barton also had a tackle for loss on a running play, and had five tackles playing only in the first half.
3. Alex Collins made a statement.
The Seahawks have a good competition going on at running back behind starter Chris Carson, both in terms of players battling for their spot on the depth chart, and also just fighting to make the team at a position where only four or five players will make the 53-man roster.
Through two preseason games, DeeJay Dallas has been the standout, both with some nice plays on offense, most notably a 43-yard touchdown reception, and also with his play on special teams. On Saturday, however, it was Alex Collins' turn to shine. A 2016 fourth-round pick of the Seahawks who went on to play for Baltimore, Collins returned to Seattle last season, then re-signed this offseason, and his play against the Chargers showed he is definitely a player capable of helping Seattle's offense.
In addition to rushing for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown, Collins was also Seattle's leading receiver with 52 yards on seven receptions. Since returning to the Seahawks last year, and particularly this summer in training camp, Collins has looked faster, more nimble and more decisive than he was when he began his career, and all of those traits were on display against the Chargers.
4. Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson are dangerous rushing off the edge.
The Seahawks again rested veteran edge rushers Carlson Dunlap II and Benson Mayowa, but they still had plenty of pass rush coming off of the edges thanks to Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson, who have both been bright spots throughout camp and the preseason.
Taylor, who missed his entire rookie season with a leg injury, had his best game yet in the hybrid strongside linebacker/defensive end role, recording 1.5 sacks, four tackles, two quarterback hits and a pass defensed on a tipped ball on fourth down to get a turnover on downs. Robinson also had a sack, looked strong in run defense, and had multiple pressures.
When the Seahawks have everyone available in the regular season, the pass rush should be very deep and talented.
5. Dee Eskridge flashed some potential.
Dee Eskridge, Seattle's top pick in the 2021 draft, opened training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list and missed the first two preseason games, but he was on the field on Saturday, albeit on a limited snap count. And while Eskridge didn't play a lot, the second-round pick showed off some of the speed and playmaking ability that the Seahawks hope will be a big part of their offense.
Eskridge's first touch was a handoff on a fly sweep, and rush that saw him use his speed to get a pretty easy 9 yards before being run out of bounds. Later on that same first-quarter drive, which ended with a Collins touchdown run, Eskridge easily got open in the middle of the field and hauled in a Smith pass for a 19-yard grab.
It was only two touches, but it was enough to give fans a glimpse of the kind of playmaker Eskridge could be this year and beyond.
6. The Seahawks have a quality No. 2 quarterback in Geno Smith.
Fans didn't get to see it with no preseason games last year, but in his second year in Seattle, Geno Smith had a very strong camp and stood out in Seattle's mock games, but as is always the case with Russell Wilson's backups, Smith didn't get to do much in the regular season.
A concussion early in Seattle's preseason opener kept Smith from showing anything in the past two games, but playing the entire first half on Saturday, the veteran quarterback showed that the Seahawks have a very solid No. 2 option behind Wilson.
Playing without DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Chris Carson and most of the starting offensive line, Smith was still 11 for 15 for 90 yards in his two quarters of action, and he also displayed very good pocket awareness and movement to avoid pressure, including on a pair of scrambles that netted 20 yards.
7. Michael Dickson is a dang magician.
The game was all but over when punter Michael Dickson took the field one final time, but he went ahead and gave the Seahawks one last memorable play in the game's final seconds. Trying to hit a punt that wouldn't be returned, Dickson hit a low, line-drive punt away from the returner, and despite the ball's low trajectory, it stopped dead just short of the goal line, then receiver Aaron Fuller dove a batted the ball back to keep it from going into the end zone, giving Dickson a 55-yard punt to the 2-yard line.
Seriously, just look at this thing: