Tyler Lockett had already returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns this preseason, so the third-round pick out of Kansas State really didn't have much to prove in his fourth preseason game with the Seahawks. But Lockett saved one more long touchdown for the finale, catching a 63-yard pass from Russell Wilson for the first score in an eventual 31-21 Seattle victory.
Afterward, Lockett broke out a dance called the "Chicken Noodle Soup," a move that wasn't as well received as his moves on the field.
"He's going to be fined for that," receiver Doug Baldwin joked while Lockett explained the dance. "Embarrassment to the wideouts, embarrassment to his family."
Lockett explained that he never did the celebratory dance in high school, to which Baldwin quickly added, "And he'll never do it again."
Yet for as good as Lockett was in a brief appearance Thursday, he might not have been the best rookie on the field thanks to the way defensive end Frank Clark dominated Oakland's overmatched backup linemen. The play of those two standout rookies leads our five takeaways from the Seahawks' final preseason game:
1. Lockett and Clark are the real deal.
The biggest takeaway from the Seahawks' first preseason game was the play of their top two draft picks, and Clark and Lockett also provided some of the biggest highlights in the final week of the preseason. Lockett, who had a 103-yard kickoff return in the first game and a 67-yard punt return last week, added a long touchdown catch to his preseason, hauling in a 63-yarder from Russell Wilson on Seattle's first offensive series. Unlike last week's zigzagging punt return, there wasn't anything fancy to Lockett's latest touchdown, just pure speed on display. Lockett also had a nice sliding 14-yard catch on a low throw on Seattle's next possession.
"There are a lot of things I still need to work on, but for the most part I think I am starting to get the hang of playing in the NFL and getting better each and every week," Lockett said. "Being able to continue to be a listener, go to school, listen to Doug (Baldwin) and the other veterans, and to continue to do what I've been doing."
Clark, meanwhile, did what he has been doing all preseason, finding ways to get into the backfield from both end and defensive tackle positions, looking equally good as a pass-rusher and against the run. Most notably, Clark had a sack in the end zone that Jordan Hill recovered for a touchdown. Like the rest of Seattle's defense, Clark was playing against Raiders backups, and it was pretty evident all night that Clark against a backup line is not a fair matchup. Like Lockett, Clark is keeping a humble attitude despite early success.
"I'm a rookie still, and there's a lot of learning to be done still," he said. "It's only my first year, it's only my first four games playing professional football, and there's a lot of room to grow."
What is perhaps most significant about a big game from Clark and Lockett was that it wasn't just one big game. They have consistently stood out throughout the preseason, which should be very encouraging to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who noted after the first game that the key for a rookie coming off a good performance is to show that they can back it up.
"They really did just that," Carroll said. "Obviously, the amount of plays that (Lockett) touched the ball and what he did when he had the ball in his hands was enormous. It just added to all of the information that we've been gathering. He's as hard working of a guy as we have in the program. I've been extraordinarily impressed with his consistency and his work ethic. Just like the guys we love that are on our team. Frank has done everything we've asked him, he's worked really hard, and been very flashy. He's learned a lot and it doesn't look like anything's too big for him. They've made great strides throughout. They're going to definitely help us."
2. This defense is deep.
Yes, the Raiders were playing backups too, but the Seahawks defense, with all of their starters aside from Dion Bailey sitting out, looked dominant in the first half when the No. 2 unit was on the field. The secondary did give up a few plays, but the run defense was great and the pass rush relentless. Most encouraging is that a number of players stood out, not just one or two.
Clark was probably the most noticeable player, but Jordan Hill was almost as difficult to block, Cassius Marsh continued to look very quick, and all of the linebackers had their moments, particularly Eric Pinkins, who is making it look more and more like his move from defensive back to strongside linebacker could pay dividends both for the Seahawks and for his career.
At one point in the second quarter after Hill's touchdown gave the Seahawks 17-0 lead, the Seahawks had a 158-6 advantage in yardage. Most significant to Carroll is that there has been no drop-off this preseason in effort and intensity when starters leave the game.
"These guys have played really well throughout the camp, and they played really hard," Carroll said. "The thing I like most about what we're seeing is everybody from top to bottom is playing really aggressive, tough, determined football and you can't tell the difference in the play style whether the 1s or the 3s are out there. That's something we're proud of, and that's good leadership by the guys in the locker room bringing their pups along, and getting them in the right frame of line and scheme-wise as well. It's been a good summer for all of those guys."
3. The O-Line might be set, but it still's coming together.
Don't take that as an indictment on the line's play, but rather the fact that the Seahawks are making sure the current starting five, which has only been together for a few weeks, has as much time as possible to get comfortable. Last week, Garry Gilliam played the entire game at right tackle after the rest of the starters left the game in the third quarter. And this week, when Wilson and some of the starters made a one-series cameo, part of the starting line stayed on the field. Left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy, the two starters returning to their same position from last year, played just one series, but the three other starters, Gilliam, Drew Nowak and Justin Britt, who moved from tackle to guard, all played an extra series.
"Just to give them work," Carroll said. "They needed time on the field."
After the starters left, the Seahawks got their last chance to evaluate the depth, and particularly the rookie class of Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli, before they have to make final roster decisions.
"It was a good night for us to watch the offensive line play," Carroll said. "We ran the ball a lot tonight, and they got a ton of work, particularly the young guys, and we'll be able to learn a lot from this film in that regard."
4. The running backs made the most of a big opportunity.
With Marshawn Lynch being held out and with Robert Turbin sidelined by a high-ankle sprain, Thursday's game was a big chance for the rest of Seattle's running backs to show what they can do, and all three performed well. Presuming Turbin isn't available for the opener, another back besides Lynch will be asked to contribute when the regular season begins, and Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls and Rod Smith all looked capable of doing so. Michael had 39 yards on eight carries, all in the first half, while Rawls led all rushers with 87 yards on 11 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown. Smith didn't get as many chances, but ran hard gaining 20 yards on four carries.
Overall, the Seahawks rushed for 224 yards on 31 carries, including 75 from quarterback/receiver B.J. Daniels, good for an average of 7.2 yards per carry.
"Christine did a nice job early, he got on the edge a couple of times and really showed that burst that we love about him," Carroll said. "It was a really good night for Thomas, I think he had 80-something yards tonight, and that's kind of the night we've been looking for, to see if he had a spark to him. I thought he did a really nice job for us, and Rod (Smith) continues to do well, too. It's a nice competitive group right there."
5. Russell Wilson's day was short but successful.
It would be silly to think that Russell Wilson had suddenly regressed after three impressive seasons just because he and the offense had been a bit off in a few preseason games, but even so, there had been plenty of concern about the first-team offense after it failed to produce a touchdown in 12 possessions heading into Thursday's game. Wilson and the starters weren't expected to play long in this game, and that stint became even shorter than expected, not because of another three-and-out, but rather because on Seattle's second play from scrimmage, Wilson hit Lockett for a 63-yard score. And with that, Wilson's night was over with a stat line of 1-for-1 for 63 yards and a score, good for a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Did that play mean much in the long run? Doubtful. After all, Wilson has remained confident in himself and the offense throughout the preseason. But ending the preseason on a positive note can't be a bad thing for Wilson. Even better, he connected with one of his new targets, perhaps a sign of what's to come for Lockett, who has been an explosive playmaker throughout the preseason.
The Seahawks took to CenturyLink Field for their last 2015 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders and finished victoriously.