Now, for some new (old) issues for the Seahawks:
No, not just pass protection and their offensive line.
Pointing blame at Russell Wilson.
Coach Pete Carroll said “a couple” of the four sacks the Seahawks’ starting offense allowed in the first half of Thursday’s 18-11 loss to Minnesota in the second preseason game came because the quarterback held onto the ball too long.
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“We were raggedy,” Carroll said of a half so ugly for Seattle that the best thing to say about it was it was only Aug. 18.
“I know everyone’s looking at the sack numbers and everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, what’s that mean?’ We got (receivers) covered up a couple times, we’ve got to get the ball out. Throw the ball away and get rid of it so we don’t take the big (losses).
“Russ could do a better job to help us there when we get stuck. … We need to get the ball out and stay quicker, like we want to.”
That was the formula over the latter half of last season, when Wilson became the first 4,000-yard passer in Seahawks history despite his line allowing 31 sacks over the first seven games.
Thursday, he and the starting offense regressed.
It took Trevone Boykin’s second rally in as many preseason games to tie the game at 11 in the fourth quarter. The undrafted rookie quarterback strengthened his case for the No. 2 job behind Wilson by leading a 65-yard drive to a touchdown, then leaping recklessly across the goal line over a defender for the two-point conversion that made it 11-8. Then Steven Hauschka kicked a 49-yard field goal with just under six minutes left to tie the game.
But then, in the face of a free blitzer running at him, Boykin threw a pass into the flat directly into the arms of Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels. Sherels ran 53 yards the other way for the pick-six with 1:23 left, the winning score.
The Seahawks trailed 11-0 at halftime, and by that same score going into the fourth quarter. The Vikings outgained them 200 yards to 106 in the first half.
Seattle’s starting offense managed those 106 yards on 29 plays, an underwhelming average of 3.7 yards per snap. The Seahawks punted four times on five drives. The other drive ended when the Vikings stuffed rookie running back Alex Collins up the middle for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 41 in the first quarter.
“Obviously, we never want Russell to get hit. We take pride in that,” new center Justin Britt said.
Or, as left tackle Bradley Sowell said: “Thank goodness it happened in the preseason.”
Of the four sacks, Wilson noticeably held onto the ball an extra-long time on two of them. New left tackle Sowell thought Wilson had already thrown the ball on a play deep in Seattle’s own end in the first quarter. The quarterback still had the ball, though, and Sowell’s man, Minnesota star end Everson Griffen, ran in free to dump Wilson for a 10-yard loss.
Another other sack came when the Vikings blitzed a linebacker off Seattle’s right edge, inside Gilliam. Collins took a fake handoff, then missed the blitz pickup as Wilson got dumped again.
Sowell is playing left tackle and Gilliam right tackle — where he started all last season — since last week’s knee sprain sustained by J’Marcus Webb. Webb, signed as a free agent from Oakland this spring to a two-year contract with $2.75 million guaranteed, had been the starting right tackle from May’s minicamps until Aug. 10.
Carroll echoed Gilliam in saying he’s optimistic about his offensive line, and that if Wilson gets the ball out more quickly the pass-protection issues will work itself out.
The most alarming play was Wilson’s and the starting offense’s last one. On third-and-long and trying to get a two-minute drill going, Wilson ran around while right tackle Garry Gilliam let his Viking defender go. In fact, Gilliam didn’t hit anyone on the play. Blitzing safety Andrew Sendejo hit Wilson 18 yards behind the line, crumpling the invaluable legs of Seattle’s $87.6 million quarterback beneath his body weight and into the turf.
You could almost feel the home stadium gasp.
“Just got to be sharper,” Gilliam said. “Obviously, we have stuff to work on. But I’m excited for the future of our offensive line and our offense.”
The offensive line, with the potential of new starters in four of the five positions, has allowed four sacks on 30 drop backs so far this preseason.
Wilson finished 5 for 11 passing for 77 yards. Three of his passes were dropped, by Collins and tight ends Brandon Williams and Luke Willson.
Carroll said Wednesday he wanted to see his starting offensive and defensive line control the line of scrimmage better in this exhibition than last week’s.
Seattle did in the running game.
Christine Michael continued to make huge strides filling in as lead running back while Thomas Rawls works back from his broken ankle suffered last December. Michael rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and showed not only sharp cutbacks but a better awareness than in his previous seasons.
“Just getting in my playbook, knowing my craft,” Michael said of the better cutbacks.
Seattle’s former second-round pick, whom the team traded away to Dallas last September before bringing him back after Rawls got hurt, has 99 yards on 17 carries through two preseason games.
That’s 5.8 yards per rush, better than Rawls’ NFL-best 5.6 yards per carry last season.
Through two preseason games, the Seahawks’ starting offense has played six drives and produced 167 yards on 39 plays (4.3 yards per play) with 11 first downs, one interception, one turnover on downs — and zero points.
The starting defense mixed in reserves more than the offense did. It included Mike Morgan, back from a quick trip to Philadelphia to see a specialist for a groin issue, at strong side linebacker. Rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed was the defensive tackle with Jordan Hill. Jeremy Lane starting at left cornerback, then moved to nickel inside again with DeShawn Shead outside when Seattle went to five defensive backs.
Those starters allowed Minnesota: eight points and 166 yards on 29 plays (5.7 yards per play). The Vikings were 3 for 7 on third downs. Seattle’s starters again did not force a turnover, and its pass rush did not pressure Minnesota’s Shaun Hill with four- and occasionally five-man rushes.
Hill started as Vikings’ starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sat out. Minnesota officials said that was a “coach’s decision.”
Through two games, the Seahawks’ starting defense has allowed 215 yards on 37 plays (5.8 yards/play), 13 first downs on six drives — and 15 points.
The Vikings’ eight points on the “starting” defense came Thursday when Bennett plus All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were on the Seahawks’ sideline.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle