Old bugaboos return, plus positional observations

Minnesota logoSome of the age-old bugaboos showed up in the home opener as the Seahawks committed penalties, gave up sacks and surrendered big chunks of yardage in the short passing game.

They committed 12 infractions, costing them 111 yards. It’s to be expected in preseason games, with lots of young guys shuttling in and out, so not a real big deal. And let’s remember: The Hawks led the league in flags in both Super Bowl seasons.

Sacks were a big problem early last year, with Wilson being taken down more than four times a game through the first eight. On Thursday, the Vikings got him four times — mostly due to him holding the ball too long or getting caught by blitzes.

Wilson took the blame for two of the sacks, and Pete Carroll said the offense did not react to Wilson’s blitz pickup call on another.

On defense, the Hawks ran into the same problem that has plagued them for most of Carroll’s tenure: short passes. Veteran QB Shaun Hill picked them apart with his running backs and tight ends in the first half, hitting 11 of 17 passes for 127 yards and leading the Vikings to a touchdown.

Here’s a look at what else we saw, by position:

QUARTERBACK: Trevone Boykin showed his rookieness, taking sacks and throwing a pick-six. But he also showed some of that Wilson magic, escaping and making plays, nearly pulling off the comeback. It is pretty clear that the coaches view Boykin as the better backup option over Jake Heaps, who played one series before giving way to Boykin again.

RUNNING BACK: After figuring out his footing on the home field, Christine Michael looked good again. He dashed his way to 55 yards on 10 carries. The other standout was Troymaine Pope, the little jitterbug who brought some energy to the offense in the fourth quarter. He rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries, including a 27-yard run and a 4-yard score. Alex Collins did not have a great game, missing a block, dropping a pass and not showing much speed, but he certainly showed his tackle-breaking ability two or three times.

WIDE RECEIVER: Among the backups, Antawn Goodley was the standout. He led the team with five catches for 65 yards and was a key figure in the last-gasp drive. Kenny Lawler caught three passes, but he also dropped one on third down and looked too slow. Tanner McEvoy was inconsistent, dropping another pass and committing a key penalty. But he also drew a PI call to keep the Hawks in it until the end. Looks like that fifth spot is going to go down to the fourth game.

TIGHT END: The big story here is what could be a high ankle sprain for rookie Nick Vannett, who came down awkwardly after a nice catch in the third quarter. If Vannett joins Jimmy Graham on the sideline, it would ruin the great depth the Hawks have here and make Brandon Williams even more important. The Hawks have used Williams in the passing game a lot, but with little results. He just doesn’t seem to be a very good receiving option, but he is a good blocker and very active on special teams.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The first unit played pretty well overall, especially in the running game. The interior three seem to be coming together. As expected, Bradley Sowell had some problems with Everson Griffen (10.5 sacks last season), and Carroll called out Garry Gilliam for having some issues as well. But Carroll made it clear the line was not to blame for the four sacks. He also said they still have work to do to figure out their tackle situation. That means J’Marcus Webb almost certainly will get his chance at right tackle, assuming he is healthy. Ideally, the Hawks would have their starters nailed down by next week, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Jarran Reed was excellent against the run, although he banged up his ankle again. The Hawks sent out a nickel rush package that included Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh. It looks like it could be pretty effective. Tony McDaniel already looks like he should make the team. Just off the street (or river), he was making plays like he did during his two Super Bowl seasons. The Hawks got good looks at Justin Hamilton, Quinton Jefferson and Ryan Robinson, who played a lot with the first-team back seven. They were all very active, swarming to the ball.

LINEBACKER: The first group gave up a bunch of catches to backs and tight ends over the middle. Bobby Wagner led the team with eight tackles, but many of them were downfield. Rookie Kache Palacio showed up on some plays in the fourth quarter, but otherwise this group didn’t seem to have any standouts.

SECONDARY: The Vikings don’t have very good receivers, which made it easier for this group to stand out. Kelcie McCray and DeShawn Shead looked particularly good. The coaches clearly favor Tharold Simon as the No. 4 corner, but Tye Smith looks like the better player every time we see him.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Jon Ryan booted the heck out of the ball again. He averaged 46 yards on six kicks, with a long of 66. And he received high-fives after making a sideline catch of an opposing punt. New long snapper Nolan Frese messed up a couple of snaps — one of which caused Steven Hauschka to come up short on a 53-yard field goal. The calls for Clint Gresham’s return have already begun.


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