SEATTLE – There were a couple of red flags in Saturday’s Seahawks exhibition game.
Those were just for replay reviews, though.
There were too many yellow flags for coach Pete Carroll’s taste as Seattle was penalized twice as often as Minnesota.
August is no time to draw conclusions in the NFL, but halfway through Seattle’s exhibition schedule it’s time to take inventory:
Three things we learned
1. Charlie Whitehurst is a more decisive quarterback this season.
It’s true that he’s playing against second-unit defenses while Tarvaris Jackson faces the starters, but it’s equally clear that Whitehurst’s decision-making has been quicker in his second preseason as a Seahawk. He has completed more than 70 percent of his passes and currently ranks No. 11 in passer rating out of all NFL quarterbacks.
2. There’s a reason coach Pete Carroll kept Josh Pinkard around.
The second-year safety has that playmaker’s knack, which he showed knocking loose a fourth-quarter fumble that gave Seattle a chance at a last-minute comeback. Pinkard suffered three knee surgeries in six years at USC, but he was always someone Carroll regarded very highly for his ability to make something happen.
3. Just how essential Red Bryant is to Seattle’s defense.
It’s impossible to overstate the significance of the big man’s presence as the right defensive end. Bryant suffered a season-ending knee injury halfway through the Seahawks’ seventh game last season. Up until that injury, Seattle was holding opponents to 82.5 yards rushing per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Starting with the second half of the game Bryant was injured, opponents ran for 130.2 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Bryant made his exhibition debut Saturday night, and in the first half the Vikings ran for 28 yards, averaging 2.8 per carry. Minnesota averaged 6.7 yards per carry in the second half.
Three things we’re trying to figure out
1. What is it going to take to get Golden Tate going?
The Seahawks are doing everything they can to jump-start his second season. He was the first Seattle player to touch the ball Saturday, returning the opening kickoff, and he was the intended target on the Seahawks’ first play from scrimmage, but he couldn’t hold on to the football on a seam route. The real problem came on the ball that hit him in the hands later in the first period, deflecting up in the air and into the arms of a Minnesota cornerback who returned it 64 yards for a touchdown.
2. How did Seattle fail to score in the first half?
The Seahawks had first-and-goal at the Minnesota 2, and four consecutive carries by Justin Forsett gained a total of about 4 feet and a turnover on downs. It was a disappointment for a line that starts three players weighing 319 pounds or more.
3. Just how is Seattle going to protect the passer?
Seattle’s pass protection has been like jumbo shrimp: an oxymoron. That’s not altogether surprising given the fact that none of Seattle’s five first-string linemen had ever started a regular-season game together, but it was kind of shocking to see just how often – and how hard – Jackson was hit during the two quarters he played Saturday.