DENVER – The Seahawks asked for this. For better or worse.
Oh, they’ve refused to use the “r” word – rebuilding – but they certainly were intent on a reboot, which is a milder way of saying close to the same thing.
This is a team dripping with newness, by virtue of both roster decisions and injuries. New players dot the lineup on both sides of the ball. New coaches are in charge on offense, defense and the offensive line. The holdovers from the Super Bowl years are dwindling rapidly.
Such transition brings with it a certain sense of anticipation, excitement and hope. The unknown can be exhilarating (and frightening). The chic word of the preseason was “juice,” as in, “Coach Pete Carroll is feeling extra juice as he works with all of the Seahawks’ young players.”
But here’s the thing: juice can be sour sometimes. Newness can mean mistakes, and growing pains. Exhilaration can quickly turn to exasperation.
All that was on display Sunday in the Seahawks’ 27-24 loss to the Broncos. You could see glimmers of hope, and possible harbingers of better times. But you could also see, even more vividly, the mistakes, miscalculations and breakdowns that come when you churn your roster so dramatically.
It’s going to be that kind of year, so brace yourself. Russell Wilson pointed to his rookie season, 2012, when a Seahawks team in flux lost a close opener to Arizona (20-16), stood at .500 at the midway point, and then won seven of its last eight to finish 11-5 and make the playoffs.
That team had a nucleus of superstars that would jell into Super Bowl champions the following year. Only five from that team played Sunday, and one, receiver Doug Baldwin, suffered a knee injury and didn’t catch any balls.
Whether another championship nucleus is hiding in plain sight will reveal itself over time. In the interim, we saw many of the deep-seated fears of Seahawks fans reveal themselves.
Wilson was sacked six times, the result of a freakish talent in Denver defensive end Von Miller, some lapses by the Seattle offensive line and some ill-advised scrambles by Wilson, who took the blame for half the sacks.
The running game, such an offseason focus, never got going. The Seahawks made just 16 rushing attempts, with first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny, in particular, bottled up for just eight yards on seven carries.
The defensive front struggled to get pressure on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, landing just one sack, and there were periodic breakdowns in both pass and run coverage at very inopportune times.
Carroll said it was all very easy to clean up. Wilson said if they can come that close to winning in a tough road environment while not at their best, just think of the great things to come.
That’s the right way to look at it from the inside. It’s too early for cynicism or for any panic or abandonment of hope (but check back later). Better to cling, for now, to the breakout game by tight end Will Dissly, the 51-yard touchdown strike from Wilson to Tyler Lockett that certainly exhilarated Carroll (“I don’t know if you can see a more beautiful play than that.”), and pockets of excellence on both sides of the ball.
“Everything is a work in progress with us,” said defensive end Dion Jordan, and that can be a blessing and a curse, depending on how that progress goes.
“I can see the newness of it,” is how Carroll put it. He observed that on defense, “the line of scrimmage was really good for the most part, but there were some spurts where it was not.”
Something similar could be said for the line of scrimmage on offense. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. A maddening inconsistency is the hobgoblin of young and/or transitioning football teams.
Rattling off the positives he saw from the line, veteran center Justin Britt said, “We’re competitive. We’re grinders. We’re smart. We’re fast. We’re physical. We just have to stay true to us.”
The thing is, though, no one quite knows what “us” is yet for the 2018 Seahawks. There is no there, just a vague outline that still must be filled in.
“We’re a really good team,” Britt concluded, “and there’s a lot of really good things that are going to happen in the future.”
That conclusion, while far from guaranteed, is the juice that keeps the Seahawks flowing, even after a season-opening loss.