That the Seahawks held out 22 starters or key players for Saturday night’s preseason game against Denver obviously puts a huge asterisk on the result — a 30-3 Broncos win.
Among those 22 were the team’s top two quarterbacks — Russell Wilson and Geno Smith — meaning Seattle had to go with Alex McGough and Sean Mannion.
Denver used most of its starters for the first two series, in part to give Teddy Bridgewater a fair shot in his quarterback battle with Drew Lock.
The results were predictable — the Broncos drove for touchdowns the first two times they had the ball against a Seattle defense mostly going with backups, while forcing three turnovers by McGough (two interceptions and a fumble).
That allowed Denver to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
Still, coach Pete Carroll undoubtedly wanted to see more — especially in the second half once deep reserves were playing for both teams. It was the first game in front of fans at Lumen Field since the end of the 2019 season, with 68,027 tickets distributed, though far less in the stands — many of whom likely figured they could have found something better to do with their Saturday night.
Maybe most concerning is that a few players and/or position groups that the Seahawks would like answers from delivered some mixed results.
• Presumptive starting left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was beaten off the line and across the field by speedy Denver receiver Jerry Juedy for a 35-yard gain on a fourth-and-5 play to set up Denver’s first touchdown. Witherspoon was somewhat intriguingly put back in the game for the final series of the first half.
• The battle for the final receiving spots took an unfortunate hit when third-year player John Ursua was carted off the field with a knee injury late in the first half after making a team-high three catches for 34 yards to that point — no receiver ended up with more. That was one of two significant knee injuries in the first half as linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven was carted off after the opening kickoff. …
• The Seahawks also learned there is a pretty big gap between their top two QBs and McGough, who along with two interceptions and a lost fumble also threw another pass that appeared as it could have been a pick-six but was dropped. Mannion was not much better driving Seattle to a lone field goal on five second-half possessions, none of which got closer than Denver’s 22. The good news is Russell Wilson is still on this team, and that backup Geno Smith is recovered from a concussion suffered last week — Smith threw some passes during pregame warm-ups.
• The Seahawks were called for nine penalties to zero for Denver (a late penalty on the Broncos was officially wiped out as offsetting). Five were on backup tight end Dom Wood-Anderson. A false start on rookie offensive lineman Greg Eiland before a fourth down play with 2:09 left brought some pretty hefty boos from the few fans left, as did the sack of Mannion on the next play.
• In what might have been the most futile moment of the night, Seattle had a second-and-one at its own 25 in the fourth quarter and then ran it twice and railed to get a yard. Seattle decided to go for it, and again failed to get a yard, turning the ball over on downs and leaving the Broncos a short field that led to a final Denver score. All were runs by undrafted free agent rookie Josh Johnson.
• And while the nature of the lineups makes it hard to reach much into anything, it’s worth remembering that in the Super Bowl years the Seahawks routinely won preseason games in routs, which was often viewed as a sign of the strength of the overall roster. So far in this preseason, in which Seattle has been outscored 50-10 with just one touchdown in eight quarters that obviously has not been the case.
Not that there wasn’t some good through all the gloom:
• Second-year running back DeeJay Dallas, who scored Seattle’s only TD last week, is emerging as the star of the preseason. Dallas returned two kickoffs for 73 yards, with a long of 45, in making a significant bid for that job, and also had three receptions for 27 yards. Dallas also had a partial block of a punt in the third quarter.
• Defensive end Rasheem Green continued a nice preseason with a sack and a forced fumble, and now has a sack in each game.
• Second-year linebacker Jordyn Brooks had seven tackles and appeared to have pretty good coverage on tight end Eric Saubert on a play in the second quarter, when a perfect Bridgewater pass resulted in a completion anyway, to the 1-yard-line.
• Veteran Nick Bellore, ostensibly the team’s starting fullback, was forced to play linebacker significantly due to the injury to Burr-Kirven and overall lack of depth at that spot and responded with five including a four-yard tackle for a loss in the fourth quarter. Bellore has 12 career starts at linebacker and while he has played that spot regularly in practice the last few weeks he suddenly looks as if he may actually be needed there.
• And in maybe the best news, there is just one preseason game left, next Saturday against the Chargers at Lumen Field at 7 p.m.