Take a deep breath, Seattle Seahawks fans, and remind yourself that Carlos Dunlap was wearing shorts and a bucket hat, Bobby Wagner had on a black stocking cap, and Jamal Adams was in sneakers.
Chris Carson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were spectators, too, along with most of the first-string offensive line. Most importantly, Russell Wilson never left the sideline, either, unless you count the coin toss. Wilson often stalked the sideline with the intensity of a starter, but it was just a mental challenge. He might as well have been in a leisure suit, so ironclad was Pete Carroll’s commitment to keeping his primary meal ticket out of harm’s way.
Like it or not, this is the NFL’s modus operandi these days. The vast majority of teams have decided it’s preferable to stumble and bumble in preseason games rather than to risk injury to front-liners, or to showcase prime-time formations and go-to plays to opponents.
Which is why the Seahawks’ second-straight lopsided exhibition defeat, 30-3 to the Denver Broncos on Saturday night, must be taken with industrial-strength grains of salt. That’s not to excuse the poor play, only to put it in a perspective that precludes outright panic and/or despair.
Oh, it was ghastly all right, a hide-your-eyes performance by the Seahawks that would have had fans gauging their eyes out.
If it wasn’t all so meaningless, or at least insignificant, in the big picture.
Preseason games are inherently of little predictive value, and you can multiply that by multitudes this year, when the Seahawks for the most part have decided to join the trend of withholding the services of the vast majority of starters. At least until Preseason Week 3, when Carroll indicated that most of the starters will get a taste of game action in advance of the opener.
“This format for us was different than we’ve ever done before,” Carroll said. “We’ve done something different and it hasn’t been a lot of fun and games, the way we’re playing. But Week Three is a big deal for us. And we’ll go back to a lot of the other guys that haven’t played in the first two games to prepare them for Game One of the regular season. That’s been the plan all along.”
The result Saturday might not have been aesthetically pleasing to the 68,027 on hand, the first live crowd for a Seahawks game at Lumen Field since it was still named CenturyLink Field on Dec. 29, 2019, a game most memorable for Jacob Hollister being stranded on the 1-yard line in an agonizing loss to the 49ers.
Or to anyone else who saw it via any television or streaming device.
But the biggest lament should not be the 0-2 record, or the fact that the Seahawks have lost those two games by a combined 50-10 score, but rather the two times the dreaded cart had to be driven onto the field to haul off Seahawks players with knee injuries. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven was hurt on the opening kickoff – a kneel-down in the end zone by the returner – and receiver John Ursua suffered his injury in the second quarter. A downcast Carroll characterized both injuries as “serious” after the game.
That said, Carroll was not and should not be pleased with much of what he saw, particularly in the first half. And it’s very fair to wonder if the poor play of the reserves presages a depth problem for the Seahawks, who have very little margin for error in what figures to be a fierce battle for supremacy in their division.
“Well, two weeks in a row of playing football where the lessons are hard and they’re obvious,” Carroll said. “We have to take away the things that we can grow from and learn from. We’d like to be having fun winning football games and all that but that’s not what’s happening right now.”
It was a laundry list of the kind of mistakes that drive Carroll batty, especially three turnovers by the starter at quarterback, Alex McGough (a fumble and two interceptions). They gave a up a huge 35-yard pass play by Teddy Bridgewater to Jerry Jeudy on fourth-and-five that set up Denver’s first TD; they were called for some crippling penalties. And did I mention the injuries?
If you’re looking for good tidings to take away from this game, you must start with running back DeeJay Dallas, who is clearly Seattle’s MVP of the preseason. After a strong game in Las Vegas, Dallas was a special-teams demon Saturday, with two dynamic kickoff returns and a blocked punt.
Rasheem Green had a sack and forced fumble. Linebacker Jordyn Brooks showed some tackling prowess on a night when the Seahawks’ tackling was often subpar. Ursua had three catches before the injury. Nick Bellore had five tackles at linebacker, a position he hasn’t played for awhile. And punter Michael Dickson was his usual booming self.
But mostly, with one preseason game left to play, the Seahawks shall, by both necessity and design, remain a mystery shrouded in an enigma when they head into the season opener against Indianapolis, three weeks from Sunday.
The much-anticipated revamped offense of new coordinator Shane Waldron has been barely showcased. And without Wilson at the helm, whatever clues that emerge are largely irrelevant anyway.
We won’t know how the O-line will jell, or whether the secondary will hold up when other teams are throwing out their ‘A’ team, too.
The looming uncertainty of left tackle Duane Brown’s “hold-in,” and whether he’ll be back to play in the opener, is going to assume increasing importance as the season nears. I think it’s fair to say that what we’ve seen in two games has only reinforced the absolutely vital importance for the Seahawks to figure out a way to get Brown back in the fold.
Now that’s something tangible and meaningful to fret about. The ugly final score Saturday might be dispiriting, if not downright embarrassing. But I’m going to save the deep concern for games that matter and the players who will dictate the success or failure of this Seahawks season.