First game shows Drew Lock’s upside

In the first game of the post-Wilson era, Drew Lock showed he probably will end up the starting quarterback and the Seahawks’ top rookies all showed early evidence that they will live up to the promise of draft day.

We think the Hawks could win eight or nine games, depending on the quarterback play, and the rest of the team sure seems capable of backing that projection.

Now we just need to see what Lock can do against starting defenses.

In a 32-25 loss in Pittsburgh, Lock showed more arm strength, zip, mobility and decisiveness than Geno Smith. Yes, he was facing the Steelers’ reserve defenders and lost the ball on a blitz sack late in the game, but he clearly looked like the more explosive quarterback.

We all know what Smith can and cannot do. He is an average QB who won’t make a lot of big plays either way and can’t rally to win close games. Lock has the same history of turning the ball over – as he did at the end of this first preseason game – but he also has more upside.

The key will be finding the guy who can rally the offense from behind. Pete Carroll knows this.  

“As it turned out, for both guys that was a good outing because they had a lot of pressure on them to have to get things done,’’ Carroll said. “We’re coming from behind and drives to go ahead and all that kind of stuff. I’m anxious to see how it looks when we break it down. But those were the kind of options we were looking forward to to see how the guys were doing.’’

A start Thursday against Chicago should solidify Lock as the starter for the Monday night opener Sept. 12 against his old team, Denver, and Seattle’s old QB, Russell Wilson. You know Lock wants nothing more than to get a shot to beat Wilson and the Broncos.

As for the rest of the preseason opener, it had the usual allotment of missed tackles and rookie errors, but there was a lot to like. Let’s look at it by position.

Quarterback: Smith was not bad, leading Seattle to 10 points in the first half and playing mistake-free football. But he does not have the same arm or legs as Lock. Lock took the blame for the late sack that ruined Seattle’s chance to leave Pittsburgh a winner. “I could have handled that better,’’ Lock said. “Could have flipped the (protection), could have played a hot (read receiver). As a quarterback, you’re always able to fix those things and I’ll always take it on the chest, and I could have been better there.’’

Running back: Ken Walker looks like an ace do-it-all back. Rashaad Penny missed this game with a groin injury, and Walker showed he should be the starter even if Penny gets healthy. We all know Penny won’t be available for the full season anyway, so Walker will play a lot. … DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer both got a lot of action after Walker’s brief appearance and showed how savvy they have become as backups. The depth at this position looks solid, whether Penny is part of it or not.

Wide receiver: The bad news here is that Dee Eskridge seems like he could be another Penny, headed toward “injury bust” status. If so, the competition is on for the fourth and fifth spots behind Freddie Swain. The two rookies both had good moments against Pittsburgh’s backups.

Tight end: Noah Fant showed well in his first game, making a couple of catches. If Will Dissly can play up to his big paycheck and the 6-7 Colby Parkinson finally looms large on short third downs and in the red zone, this could be a strong position.

Offensive line: It was a good start for this unit, which figures to only get better as rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas learn their spots. Jake Curhan is a nice fallback at right tackle who also saw time at right guard. The Hawks ran the ball well (159 yard, 6.1 average) – something they need to do from Game 1 on this season. “Both the young tackles did a nice job and got some good stuff done,’’ Carroll said. “Guys in front blocked really well and protected really well.’’ … Interestingly, Ray Roberts said on the TV broadcast that the Hawks are having Cross and Lucas play partly the two-point style they did in college and partly three-point stances – slowly transitioning them in a comfortable way, it appears.

Pass rush: Second-round pick Boye Mafe showed he should be a great addition to the pass rush. He tallied two sacks, including a fourth-down sack in the fourth quarter, and forced a fumble.

Linebacker: It was disappointing night for Cody Barton, who missed tackles (along with most of the rest of the defense) and had a late hit out of bounds. Jordyn Brooks figures to steady this unit once the season begins.

Cornerback: Fifth-rounder Tariq Woolen has been the talk of camp, and he showed why with his speed and sticky coverage against Pittsburgh. He gave up a TD on an apparent mental mistake, but the sky sure seems to be the limit for the tall, speedy corner. Woolen and fellow rookie Coby Bryant (fourth round) seem like they could be the starting corners for Seattle pretty quickly – and for a few years. Bryant gave up a TD pass too, but he had tight coverage as George Pickens barely toe-tapped in bounds for the score. … Justin Coleman had a rough return to Seattle, giving up a 25-yard play that set up Pittsburgh’s first TD. Bryant played a lot of slot, which means Coleman and Ugo Amadi are on the bubble.

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