For me, the biggest of a handful of surprises coming out of the Seahawks’ flawed-but-functional 12-10 win over Miami in the season-opener was the emergence of center Justin Britt.
Manning his third position in three seasons, I suspected he was a guy fighting just to sustain his career. But I now think he’s got the potential to be one of the best in the league at his position.
Yeah, I know. I didn’t expect to be saying that, but I’m serious.
Many of the usual suspects had strong games in the dramatic win:
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Russell Wilson limped the team down the field to the game-winning touchdown, with a sprained ankle and both lower extremities mummified in black tape.
Surely, in years to come, it will be remembered as a Willis Reed-type performance, his clutch play made more dramatic by the compound displaced fractures of every limb.
In reality, his performance was gritty enough to lodge in fans’ memories without embellishment.
Also, receiver Doug Baldwin continued his string of sure-handed performances, and most of the customary defensive stars played at the expected level of assault-and-battery intensity.
But a few made more of a display in the season-opener than could have been expected.
Slot cornerback Jeremy Lane had a huge game, playing with great anticipation and physicality.
A sure-tackler, Lane looks as if he could turn into one of the best of the Boomer-come-lately corners that have played among the traditional secondary core of Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Rookie Jarran Reed also looked to be a full-grown man at nose tackle, not only capable of plugging the run, but with a knack for knocking down passes, doing so twice against the Dolphins.
Cassius Marsh didn’t win the starting job at strong-side linebacker during the preseason, but he was among the most impactful special-teams members and pass rushers. He blew pass coverage on a big Dolphins play, but on the whole, he took a step toward becoming a certifiable defensive force.
Second-year defensive end Frank Clark had a sack and some hurries along with three tackles. A nice complement to ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, Clark is going to give opponents another fierce pass rusher to contend with.
At his Monday press conference, coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that Britt had done an admirable job handling the communication up front with the rest of the linemen.
But it went beyond that. The second-round draft pick in 2014 started at right tackle as a rookie, and was kicked over to left guard last season — playing unconvincingly at both positions.
When he was moved to center, it seemed the last desperate act to finding the best utility for a massive, strong man who just wasn’t finding the right niche.
But in the preseason, his play hinted that he had found a home. He seems to have embraced the center position and its complexities, understanding blocking schemes and defensive threats.
And there’s the absurd challenges of having to block beasts like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, etc., lined up so close you can smell what they had for their pregame meal.
Against Miami, the tasks were significant, but for the most part, Britt was dealing with the protection calls and the snaps, and then firing out low and knocking guys off the line.
At times, when pulling out in some power-action plays, and getting on a linebacker, or doubling with guard Mark Glowinski and then scraping to the next level, Britt looked like a young Max Unger.
At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Britt always has been strong, but now he’s looking so much more sure-footed and nimble.
There were a few surprises on the negative side against Miami, too. Five-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas missed a couple tackles and was involved in some shaky coverages, in a performance that seemed completely uncharacteristic.
And second-year receiver Tyler Lockett was targeted eight times but made only three catches, also not what we’ve come to expect.
As a whole, the offensive line had a difficult day against the talented Miami front.
But Britt really showed what he could do, and if he keeps it up, he will have a surprise breakout season for the Seahawks.