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Preseason Week 1 Game Recap: SEA @ PIT

August 14, 2022 8:24PM PT

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In our Preseason Game Recap series, we’ll be looking at the major takeaways from each Preseason game, with a particular focus on rookies and fringe roster players. Additionally, each week we’ll be covering the ongoing QB competition, as this remains perhaps the most important battle going into the season.

The QB Competition Remains Undecided

This battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock will likely remain close throughout the remainder of the Preseason games and this game did little to move the needle in either direction.

Geno started the game with two rough possessions, neither of which resulted in a score, and looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable running the offense. Geno often bailed from a clean pocket when his downfield reads weren’t available and failed at extending any plays. His first drive ended with sack (presumably a coverage sack) where he didn’t like anything downfield despite good protection. However, Geno’s 3rd and 4th drives fared better. On the 3rd drive, he showed restraint in not forcing any throws downfield when they weren’t open and instead found Homer wide open in the flat for a checkdown for 19 yards. Though, his conservative play bore consequences later in the drive when he didn’t even attempt to go for a 1st down on 3rd and 12 and instead checked down to Parkinson underneath. Geno’s best drive of the day came right before the half in a two-minute drill, including a brilliant pass down the seam against Cover 2 to Cade Johnson before running in a TD off play action at the goal line. Overall, Geno showed what we already knew - accuracy and a penchant for making safe decisions, but without much willingness to throw downfield (though his passes to Johnson and Fant, which wasn’t complete because Fant didn’t get two feet inbounds, were well-placed).

Lock looked much better to start the 2nd half with a hot read to Melton in the flat where he gained significant Yards After Catch (YAC). Lock then showed off his live arm, firing a dart down the seam to Parkinson in the end zone, but just a millisecond too late as Parkinson has the ball jarred loose by a safety coming over. Then, Lock showed patience and restraint not forcing anything downfield on 3rd down and instead finding Young on a crossing route for a first down despite pressure coming from the right side. Lock capped off this brilliant start with a great timing route on a short hitch route to Young for a TD. On his second drive, Lock showed what we were all afraid of - a terrible decision with pressure in his face on a duck over the middle that was almost intercepted. Lock then leads another TD drive, with more willingness to check down and a strike to Young over the middle. He even shows good mobility and accuracy throwing on the run on the 2PT conversion attempt, finding a wide-open Homer in the end zone. More inconsistency from Lock was on display as Lock grossly overthrew a WR downfield on 3rd and long to end his 4th drive. Lock’s worst drive came in a game-winning situation after Mafe athletically was able to sack Pickett on 4th down, giving the Seahawks possession near midfield. From what we were able to gather from the post-game press conference, Lock’s strip sack was due to a lack of awareness at the line and incorrectly assigning pass protection. Overall, Lock showed flashes of why his arm is much better than Geno’s at times and how his erratic accuracy could cost the Seahawks games.

The final stats from both QBs looked nearly identical and both QBs had their fair share of puts and takes. Both showed fairly good, safe decision-making while neither showed much willingness to push the ball downfield.

The Revamped O-Line Looks Great So Far

The Seahawks rushed 26 times for a 6.1 YPC. While we’d like to think our backup RBs (Homer, Dallas, Thompson) could be superstars, the efficient day on the ground was the result of stellar run blocking. The right side of the OL routinely got excellent push off the line and was often 4-5 yards downfield by the time the RB crossed the LOS. Particularly, Lucas looked like his concerns over run blocking were overblown and Curhan looked like a mauler from his RG position later in the game. Additionally, though the Seahawks gave up 3 sacks, pass protection was excellent all game with mostly clean pockets for both quarterbacks. As mentioned earlier, Geno’s sack was likely a coverage sack and Lock’s strip sack was a result of a bad protection call. Lock's other sack came on a blitz and was not picked up correctly by the TEs. PFF assigned just 1 pressure, a hurry, to the Seahawks OL and Cross gave up 0 pressures in 23 pass blocking snaps. There’s a lot to be excited about, especially since the Seahawks may start two rookie Tackles going into the season, but we need to temper expectations as neither Tackle faced elite competition (Heyward and Watt did not play).

Standout Rookie CBs Had a Rough Outing

There was a lot to be excited about with Sidney Jones and Artie Burns sitting out this game due to injury, as Woolen and Bryant have routinely flashed in camp. However, the two rookies both had “welcome to the NFL” moments. Woolen routinely took bad tackling angles and gave up two catches while attempting to undercut the receiver. Bryant allowed a touchdown in the back of the end zone to, an admittedly talented, rookie WR George Pickens, showing that cornerback length does matter in some situations. Bryant didn’t have air-tight coverage on Pickens on the route, but ended up next to him when the ball arrived and uncharacteristically was unable to get his head around to make a better play on the ball and instead tried to play through the hands of the WR. It’s notable that Bryant took significant snaps at nickel later in the game and looked comfortable in the position. Though the two rookies had a tough time in their first outing, there’s still reason to believe their actions in practice will eventually translate to in-game performances.

Mafe and Robinson Look Like Formidable Depth Pieces

While we all have hope that Darrell Taylor will blossom into an elite pass rusher this season, the depth behind Taylor and Nwosu was questionable at OLB. And though Mafe and Robinson were rushing against presumably 3rd string Steelers Tackles, there was a lot to like about their performances. Robinson reportedly came into camp leaner and it showed with his burst off the snap, including a snap where he showed good speed and bend forcing an early throw from Rudolphs which resulted in a batted pass by Myles Adams (who himself had a fantastic game, including a crucial TFL on 3rd and 1). Likewise, Mafe showed good burst off the edge and decent technique and ended the game with two sacks, including a sack on 4th down to set the Seahawks up with great field possession with a chance to take the lead late in the 4th quarter. Even if Mafe cannot become an every-down starter in his rookie season, there’s a lot to like about his pass rush ability and Robinson looks like he’s going to transition well into a 3-4 OLB.

What We Are Watching For Next

The QB competition remains the most important (and interesting) position battle and we’ll see if Geno or Lock can distinguish themselves from the other. One way they could separate themselves is by showing willingness and ability to push the ball downfield in a consistent manner. Additionally, especially for Lock, continuing to make good decisions and protecting the ball will be paramount. Plus, neither have played in live games with Tyler or DK, so finding the QB that can get the ball to Seattle’s two best offensive players will be important.

We’ll also like to see if the revamped OL can continue to perform at a high level even against superior competition. We’ll likely see starting pass rushers play in some capacity going forward. The floor and ceiling for the offense will be a lot higher if the Seahawks can somehow field an average or above-average offensive line throughout the season.

The tackling was atrocious today, especially with Brooks, Diggs, and Adams not playing, so we’ll see if that changes with the starters. Additionally, while we want to continue giving Woolen and Bryant snaps on defense to develop, it will be interesting to see if the pass coverage is more consistent with either/both Burns and Jones playing at CB.

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