The Seahawks moved training camp from the Virginia Mason Athletic Center to Lumen Field on Friday evening for their annual mock game. In a format that featured starters going against backups, the blue team, which for most of the game featured the starters, came out on top 20-17 over the green team, though the winning drive for the blue team was actually orchestrated by Drew Lock and the No. 2 offense.
Other than a couple of injuries, it was a positive day of work as players, and especially rookies, got to go through a simulation of what game day is like at Lumen Field.
"This was great for us," Carroll said. "It was really good to get in the situation. We really tried to own the opportunity to be in the stadium, get prepared for a game, and all that kind of stuff. Our guys used our imagination quite well to get that done, so we gained something tonight which was really good. We also saw that we were sloppy with penalties. That kind of got in the way of a smooth night, but we saw a ton of stuff."
Here are six observations from Friday night's scrimmage:
1. As should be the case, the starting offense and defense looked strong.
The format of Friday's scrimmage featured the No. 1 offense going against the No. 2 defense, while the No. 2 offense squared off with the starting defense. Also mixed in throughout the evening were series with the No. 3 offense facing the No. 3 defense. And as one might expect in that format, the starters got the better of the backups throughout the night.
The game started with the No. 2 offense getting one first down before having to punt, then the Geno Smith-led offense followed with a 90-yard touchdown drive, which was highlighted by long completions to DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, then capped off by a 2-yard DeeJay Dallas run.
Overall, the starting offense had three scoring drives, the other two of which ended on field goals, and one that lasted just one play, with Kenny McIntosh fumbling, though he was initially ruled down before the call was "overturned" after review (more on that further down in the story). Smith finished his day 10 for 15 for 171 yards, and one of those incompletions hit off the hands of DK Metcalf, though Metcalf redeemed himself with a long third-down reception on the very next play to extend the opening drive that ended with a touchdown.
"I thought they were sharp," Carroll said. "The first drive was really good. Geno (Smith) was in total command. Guys protected him pretty well. He moved well and had a nice night."
The No. 1 defense, meanwhile, allowed just a single field goal, forcing two punts and getting a takeaway on the other three possessions it was on the field.
"We saw some pretty good pressure from the defense and really some pretty good run plays too, I thought for the most part, particularly from the first group," Carroll said.
2. Boye Mafe backed up his coach's praise.
On Thursday, Carroll said second-year outside linebacker Boye Mafe “appears to be the most improved guy from last year” a week into training camp, and a day later Mafe backed up that high praise with another strong performance.
Boye Mafe, who has been disruptive throughout camp, drew a holding call after beating rookie guard Anthony Bradford a play that almost surely would have been a sack if not for the hold. Mafe, working with the starting defense with Darrell Taylor sidelined by a shoulder injury, later forced a turnover with a strip sack, getting past a blocker on the edge before reaching out and poking the ball away from Drew Lock, with Uchenna Nwosu picking up the loose ball.
"It's like night and day," Carroll said of Mafe's Year 2 growth. "He'll be the first to tell you when you get a chance, you ask him about what he sees now and what he knows now about playing the game compared to where he was a year ago at this time, it's just so different. He's putting together some really good stuff in terms of his pass rush. He's getting a game of his own, a style, the things that he's working on. He's a good run defender, he's really tough and runs really well. So he's doing everything well right now. We have a chance for a number of our players who played last year in their first year to really grow this time around as they come back as sophomores. It's going to help us. Think of the tackles, Kenny (Walker III), all the guys who helped us last year. They're just seeing the game much differently, and that could be a big boost for us."
While he didn't hit Lock, Mafe admitted the forced fumble was accidental, as quarterbacks are off limits to contact, though like a basketball player defending a blocked shot, he noted he got all ball. But regardless of his intent on that play, it was still another good performance in a camp full of them.
"The biggest thing I noticed myself, that the game has slowed down for me," Mafe said. "We spent a lot of offseason watching film, watching the ball, knowing situations, knowing what's going on in the game, so I can slow the game down for myself. I felt like that was the biggest thing for me last year is that I was playing a little frantic. Now I'm starting to get the comfortability and understanding what I have to do out there and be comfortable in my own skin."
3. A big day for Bobo.
The Seahawks have a long history of developing undrafted rookies who end up contributing, whether by making the 53-man roster as rookies, or by first starting out on the practice squad before working their way up. And while it's way too early to know which undrafted rookies, if any, will make the team in 2023, one who has made a good early impression in camp has been Jake Bobo, a receiver out of UCLA.
On Friday, Bobo lead all receivers with seven catches for 76 yards, including a touchdown catch to cap a Drew Lock-led drive at the end of the game to give the blue team the win over the green team.
"He's been very competitive throughout camp," Carroll said. "He had a big day, and I think he had the game-winner at the end. Had a couple third down wins, and did a nice job."
Said Smith, "Bobo has been doing a great job. Ever since minicamp and OTAs, he was a guy that was showing up on tape and making plays consistently. He's a guy that knows his assignment and has a lot of confidence and swag. Everyone around here loves Bobo. We're happy to see him make those plays because he can be a really good player."
4. Don't forget about Artie Burns.
At this time last year, Artie Burns, a 2022 offseason addition, was playing left cornerback for the No. 1 defense and playing well in camp, including some memorable battles with DK Metcalf. An injury unfortunately sidelined Burns in camp, opening the door for Michael Jackson, who seized the opportunity and has been a defensive standout ever since. But while other cornerbacks like Jackson, Tre Brown and rookie Devon Witherspoonhave been getting more attention in camp so far, Burns, who re-signed this summer, has quietly been having another strong camp. And on Friday, Burns was one of the defensive standouts, breaking up three passes, including one in the end zone on a drive that ended in a field goal.
"He's been really solid," Carroll said. "He's been like the veteran guy. He has done a nice job just kind of showing the other guys how things work, making the calls. He's a very good technician. He's playing good football."
5. Pete Carroll had "a blast" running the mock game.
One of the big differences between a real game or even a preseason game compared to a mock game format is that as the head coach, Pete Carroll has the final say on darn near everything. And Carroll would be the first to admit he had a lot of fun with that extra power, occasionally changing the outcome of plays or a spot to get set up a situation he wanted to see play out. A couple of examples included changing a spot to give a first down to keep the No. 2 offense on a field; throwing his red flag to challenge a ruling of a runner being down by contact, then ruling to overturn the call, making it a fumble recovered by the defense (a good chance to practice a sudden change situation; and finally, deciding to decline an offensive penalty that should have negated a long run by third-string quarterback Holton Ahlers. That final one led to a funny moment, with referee Carl Cheffers, after conferring with Carroll, announcing "the penalty has been declined?" with genuine surprise in his voice.
"The commissioner stepped in a couple of times. It's a blast. You can't have more fun coaching than what that is right there. You're just calling everything. It was really fun. It was really good working with a great crew, Carl Cheffers has a great crew. So we worked with those guys in the days they were with is, and they were really flexible and they helped us—other than the fact that they called a lot of penalties—but they helped us keep a really good flow to the game with those little shifts and changes and stuff."
6. That side judge, No. 89, looked familiar.
Speaking of Carl Cheffers' crew, there was one person in stripes, a side judge with No. 89 on his back, who might have looked familiar to anyone who happened to be paying attention to the officiating crew. That's because that side judge was longtime NFL receiver and current NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr, who was with the officiating crew at Thursday's practice and again on Friday for the mock game, presumably for the "NFL's Most Interesting Jobs" segment he does for the network.
Smith's one noteworthy call in the game, perhaps not surprisingly for a former standout receiver, was to call defensive holding on a play that didn't feature a ton of contact.
"I had a little trouble with 89 over there on the side," Carroll joked. "I told him I was going to throw the red flag if he made a call. He made a call, but I couldn't do it. I backed out."
The Seahawks held a practice under the lights at Lumen Field on Friday, August 4, 2023 as part of the Seahawks 2023 Football Fest.