August 27, 2012
The Seattle Seahawks entered the preseason with plenty of room for optimism following an aggressive free agency period. The Seahawks went out and acquired the second biggest name on the quarterback market when they inked Matt Flynn to a three year deal worth $19.5 million with $10 million of that guaranteed cash. Head coach Pete Carroll had to be pleased with possibly finding his new starting quarterback for this season and beyond following the inconsistent play of Tarvaris Jackson a season ago.
During the draft, the Seahawks raised the eyebrows of plenty of other decision makers around the league with the selection of Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick. Many had Irvin tabbed as a late first round pick at best, with many draft beatniks tabbing him for the second round. Seattle then took Russell Wilson, a quarterback from Wisconsin, in the third round, further crowding the Seahawks depth chart at quarterback.
The team had to suffer through another off field misstep by running back Marshawn Lynch, who was arrested for DUI in July. He may eventually face a suspension but for the time being, he’s managed to avoid the wrath of Commissioner Roger Goodell. The team cut receiver Mike Williams and added the duo of Braylon Edwards, a major disappointment last season in San Francisco, and Terrell Owens, who at 38, didn’t even play in the league last season after recovering from knee surgery.
Three preseason games in and with the regular season looming, the roster has been turned on its collective ear. It’s safe to say that if you don’t know up from down or who’s in from who’s out in the Pacific Northwest, you aren’t alone. It’s safe to say that the winds of change have started blowing through the Puget Sound area and with more cuts looming by Friday at 9 p.m., things may not be finished.
Let’s take a look at what’s transpired so far with the major changes in Seattle as the team attempts to return to the postseason.
Quarterback Flux: When Flynn was signed to his contract, it was expected he would be the starter with Tarvaris Jackson playing the role of the backup. The drafting of Wilson cluttered things and made it unclear exactly what Seattle had planned. Flynn was number one on the depth chart entering camp and got the start in the first two preseason contests. Wilson was the number two quarterback in the first two games as the team and coaching staff opted to see what the new quarterbacks to the roster could do since they were already familiar with what Jackson brought to the table.
Flynn was good, but not great, in his first two games and the decision was made to give Wilson the start in the third preseason clash, which came Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The thought process was to see what Wilson could do against the starters of a NFL defense, since his gaudy numbers came against the backups and scrubs that will soon be unemployed. As it turned out, perhaps the backups were a better test than the Chiefs’ starting crew.
Wilson was 13 of 18 passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns while adding two rushes for an additional 58 yards. The Seahawks scored on their first six possessions en route to a 44-14 blowout victory. Jackson took over in a mop up role, completing three of five passes for all of a yard. Flynn was held out of the contest completely. The Seahawks were in position to score on their seventh drive, but Steven Hauschka missed a 51 yard field goal attempt.
On Sunday, the team made their choices at quarterback. Wilson was named the starter for week one by Carroll, with Flynn holding the number two role. The team then dealt Jackson to the Buffalo Bills for a late round draft choice. In the corresponding domino fall, the Bills released Vince Young, who was solid in week two of preseason but awful in Saturday’s 38-7 thumping by Pittsburgh.
Receivers Abound: The Seahawks cut ties with the disappointing Mike Williams, who caught 65 balls in 2010 but slumped to just 18 receptions a year ago. The team said farewell to John Carlson, who signed with the Vikings but added Kellen Winslow Jr. via a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Adding a second pass catching tight end with questionable blocking skills (having Zach Miller on the roster already via a large free agent deal a year ago) was a strange move by Seattle to say the least.
The team added Edwards, who caught 15 passes for 181 yards and no scores for San Francisco last season. He was injury prone, playing in only nine games, starting five, for the 49ers. Rather than worry about paying him any more cash, San Francisco let him walk, choosing instead to get Mario Manningham via free agency from the Giants, drafting A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois in the first round and signing Randy Moss to a one year deal despite him not playing in the NFL last season after three teams in 2010.
Seemingly eager to counter San Francisco’s signing of an out of work, out of the league veteran, Seattle went and signed Owens after he had an impressive workout that included running the 40 yard dash in under 4.5 seconds at age 38. Owens signed for the veteran’s minimum, which translated to just under a million dollars for one year. The problem was that just because he signed a deal, Owens wasn’t guaranteed to make the team.
As it turned out, he didn’t even survive the first round of cuts. The Seahawks waived Owens on Sunday as the team made the league required cutdown from 90 players to 75. Owens made two catches for 41 yards in Friday’s game against the Chiefs, including a nice grab along the sideline for 40 yards, but failed to make enough plays to impress. He dropped a wide open touchdown pass from Matt Flynn against Denver, and went without a catch in that game despite being targeted five times.
While Owens is gone, Edwards still is with the team. He caught a 32 yard pass on his two targets for the night and reports out of Seattle say that he has stepped up his game. There was no chance that Seattle would keep both Owens and Edwards as they are both stretch the field type of receivers with no real value on special teams or anywhere else. In the end, Edwards age (29 to Owens’ 38) and attitude (Owens is known to get an attitude when plays don’t go in his direction) sealed his fate.
Special Teams Looking Sharp: Seattle has looked good on special teams so far in the preseason. Steven Hauschka is eight of nine on field goal attempts, with his lone miss a 51 yard attempt Friday against the Chiefs. The team was burned for an 85 yard punt return for a score by Darrius Reynaud of Tennessee in the opener but rebounded to clamp down on opposing return games in the last two games. Tony Carter of the Broncos lost 4 yards on his lone punt return, while Devon Wylie picked up 10 yards on his runback Friday.
Seattle has gotten good production out of kick returns so far as well. Leon Washington is averaging 16 yards on four punt returns and Golden Tate busted a 92 yard return for a score against the Chiefs Friday night. The team is also averaging 24 yards per kick return so far this year. Jon Ryan has been decent punting the ball so far, averaging 43.9 yards per punt and putting four of his ten boots inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.
The Seahawks play their preseason finale on Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field. Wilson will get the start at quarterback in an effort to get him some more repetitions since he has now all of one preseason start in the NFL in his career. Flynn’s pride was hurt when the decision was announced but he is enough of a professional to not let it impact his status as a team player.
Will the Seahawks contend for the NFC West division title? It seems unlikely that the team can supplant the San Francisco 49ers at this point in time but as the saying goes, that’s why you play the games. The Seahawks seem improved, at least at this point in the season but the team needs to perform at the same high level once the regular season gets underway to be taken seriously.