Paxton Lynch and Jazz Ferguson made redemptive first impressions, Marquise Blair looked like he could be Seattle’s next great safety, Ken Norton Jr. showed signs of how he is going to fabricate a pass rush and the special teams covered all of the bases.
Those were the top takeaways as Seattle beat Denver 22-14 in the preseason opener Thursday.
While Geno Smith and D.K. Metcalf came up short in the first half, the 6-7 Lynch and 6-5 Ferguson both stood tall in the second. They connected on four passes, including a short touchdown, as the underdogs made strong opening cases for roster spots.
Lynch completed 11 of 15 passes and also ran for a score as he rallied the Hawks against the team that traded up with Seattle to draft him in 2016 and let him go two years later.
Albeit against third-stringers, Lynch looked better than Geno Smith, who hit just 3 of 9 passes in the first half. Smith was set to have a cyst removed from a knee today — a procedure that will keep him out for up to 10 days, possibly out of the Minnesota game on Aug. 18.
Ferguson, a UDFA who is still trying to mature after a failed college career and bad start in Seattle (he reported overweight), continued his strong summer.
He outplayed hyped second-round pick Metcalf, who missed a couple of deep balls and said he felt like he was chasing the speed of the game the entire time. Pete Carroll wasn’t disappointed though, saying Metcalf was “just a hair from spectacular. … He got behind them, just like we are hoping, and he’s a big threat.”
Ferguson was the bigger threat vs. Denver though. After scoring twice in the scrimmage last weekend, he set up two scores against Denver, on receptions of 25 and 22 yards, and then scored on a 6-yard catch where he managed to lean for the pylon.
“He did a really good job showing up,” Carroll said. “It’s what he’s been doing in practice, and he came through in a big way.”
Fellow rookie John Ursua looked good, too, and he and Ferguson seemed to take the early lead for the last spot or two in the receiving corps.
Another rookie, Blair, had a promising debut that made him look like he could be the next enforcer in Seattle’s storied safety pantheon. He was victimized a couple of times, including a poor decision on a late QB rush that resulted in a 24-yard gain for Denver and a penalty for a faulty hit. But he made enough positive plays to make everyone think he has a bright future once he figures it all out.
“They’re going to have to look out for him,” Carroll said. “He’s a heckuva player.”
Blair was in on Norton’s blitz packages, which featured a handful of defensive backs. The best of those was DeShawn Shead‘s safety sack and Akeem King‘s hit that forced a late interception by Jamar Taylor.
“I thought Kenny called a really nice game for the opener to give our guys a chance,” Carroll said. “We want to see who the blitzers are … so he gave them a lot of shots, and it was good. We sent a little bit of everyone tonight.”
We can expect a lot more from the linebackers once Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks are playing together. Carroll, who blitzes less than two-thirds of the NFL, knows his pass rush will need the help this season.
The standard rush was as lacking as expected early in the game. Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo are the two best healthy rushers, and they played the entire game — each notching a sack and a couple of QB hits. But they did most of their damage in the second half, against second- and third-stringers.
“I thought that Jacob Martin gave really good heat on his side,” Carroll said, “and Mingo at times, too. I thought that the edge guys were effective, but we’re just getting started there.”
“The thing I like the most was the statement the special teams made — that they want to be something,” Carroll said. “The effort on the coverage was just fantastic and they had a blast. … To be able to send that message the first time out was really fun.”
The biggest negatives to the night were George Fant‘s sprained right ankle and the 15 penalties.
“The penalties were really a mess,” Carroll said. “The sloppy hands on offense showed we need a lot of work. But we can clean all that stuff up. So the penalties gotta go.”
Carroll called Fant’s injury “legit,” which is typically Pete Speak for “He is going to be out at least a few weeks.” Tough news for Fant, who suffered a torn ACL in August 2017. It means Jamarco Jones becomes the swing tackle for now, and we’ll see more of him after Duane Brown and the starters finish their quarter or so of work against Minnesota next week.