SEATTLE – Even with the heightened expectations greeting the Seahawks this season, it’s hard to have expected much more from them through two exhibition games.
They are 2-0, outscoring the Chargers and Broncos by a combined 71-20, outgaining them by a combined 700-521.
A potentially stiffer test figures to come Friday night when the Seahawks play at Green Bay in their third exhibition game, which is typically the one in which the starters play the longest.
Before looking ahead, though, let’s take another look back at what we learned in the 40-10 win over Denver on Saturday night.
1. Jermaine Kearse is a keeper.
Inside the team, there’s been little question for a while now that Kearse was going to make the final roster.
And anyone on the outside who still doubted – those who may have fixated on his status as a free agent or focused on the struggles he sometimes had at Washington with drops – had to be won over by his performance Saturday, when he caught his second TD pass of the exhibition season and also returned a kickoff 107 yards for another score.
Maybe it’s the eye surgery he had during the offseason that he says has allowed him to see more clearly on the field than he had previously. Or maybe it’s just a young, talented player coming into his own. Whatever the reasons, at this point it’s obvious that Kearse is not only making the team but is likely to be a key part of the receiving rotation and special teams.
2. Penalties are still an issue.
The biggest statistical flaw for Seattle so far has been penalties – Seattle was flagged 15 times against Denver, and 12 were accepted for a total of 107 yards. Seattle also had eight penalties in the opener against San Diego, showing that what was a problem a year ago – recall that the Seahawks were called for the seventh-most penalties per game in 2012 – has yet to be fixed.
“We just have to get better there,” coach Pete Carroll said afterward. “It’s lousy to play football like that. I don’t like it at all.”
And as Carroll said, making the problem more vexing is that it was a number of different players who were flagged, including many veterans – Seattle was called for eight in the first half when it was mostly starters and other regulars who were in the game. Seattle was called for seven penalties on offense, five on special teams and three on defense.
Asked if it was simply a matter of the players getting up to regular season speed, Carroll said: “I wish it was that easy. I don’t think it’s that easy.”
3. Pass rush is a work in progress.
A quick glance at the stats, which show Seattle with eight sacks to just one for its opponents, may make you think the Seahawks are right where they want to be in this area.
But a closer look reveals that none of those sacks came against the two starting QBs Seattle has played, San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Denver’s Peyton Manning (and for what it’s worth, those two went a combined 16-22 for 208 yards against Seattle).
Exhibition stats can be tricky to judge since teams aren’t really gameplanning and are using lots of different personnel.
Manning is also obviously good at avoiding sacks, though that’s also sort of the point – the Seahawks won’t be playing against Charlie Whitehurst and Brock Osweiler once the regular season begins.
It’s also hard, though, to really judge Seattle’s pass rush yet since some of the players who are being counted on to play key roles in that effort – notably Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin – have yet to suit up.
It’s easy to assume it will get better once those guys get healthy and return. But it remains unclear exactly when Clemons will be available, and while Avril returned to practice this week, he has yet to do any full-contact team work. And Irvin is going to miss the first four games no matter what due to his suspension for PED use.
Seattle began the game Saturday with free agent rookie Benson Mayowa at end and newly-acquired O’Brien Schofield at the LEO/rush end spot, obviously not what anybody would have envisioned a few months ago.
Getting their front-line defensive line guys healthy and ready is maybe the biggest task for the Seahawks between now and the start of the regular season Sept. 8 at Carolina.