Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks preseason loss at MIN: Russell Wilson, starters sharp, two key rookies injured

For starters, that’ll work.

For top rookies, there’s real concern.

For DeShawn Shead? Welcome back.

Russell Wilson made his preseason debut Sunday night and led two effective drives by the starting offense against Minnesota’s talented starting defense. Wilson completed six of nine passes for 82 yards (a passer rating of 95.6) in two drives. The second one ended with a field goal by Jason Myers.

Shead celebrated the second game of his second go-round with Seattle by intercepting a pass in the second quarter. He showed his reconstructed knee that led to his exit from the Seahawks in early 2018 is all the way back to strength on his 88-yard sprint for a touchdown.

Those were Seattle’s high points in a 25-19 loss at Minnesota in its second preseason game.

“I thought the ones, we did a really good job with tempo. We were in and out of the huddle. Guys were making plays,” Wilson said.

“I thought we moved the ball down the field against a very good defense, obviously, in the Vikings.”

The biggest negative of the night was a significant one: Rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf, a star this spring and summer, needs knee surgery.

Coach Pete Carroll said following the game Metcalf is scheduled to have surgery on his knee Tuesday, and that doctors have a clear idea what to fix, though Carroll would not specify the injury late Sunday. The Seahawks are optimistic Metcalf, who missed most of his last college season at Mississippi with a neck injury before Seattle drafted the physical marvel in the second round in April, can make a relatively quick recovery.

“Disappointed for him, because he is off to a fantastic start,” Carroll said. “But I don’t think this is going to derail him for long.

“But he does have to get some work done.”

Plus, rookie safety Marquise Blair, a candidate to start this season, was carted off the field early in the fourth quarter with a back injury. Carroll said Blair, the second-round draft choice who debuted so impressively last week in the preseason opener, had back spasms. So that doesn’t sound as serious as Metcalf’s injury.

That leaves Seattle’s top three rookie draft choices now injured: First-round pick L.J. Collier is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain.

Running back Chris Carson, left tackle Duane Brown, right guard D.J. Fluker and wide receiver Tyler Lockett joined Wilson in playing after sitting out last week’s preseason opener healthy. The starting offense gained 116 yards on 17 plays over two drives. The second one was a 12-play, 60-yard march to the field goal. Seattle’s starters gained five first downs, went 2 for 4 on third down and punted once.

Most encouraging: The starting line’s pass protection was solid. Center Justin Britt and his four linemates picked up Vikings’ blitzes, such as by star safety Harrison Smith in the second quarter. And they controlled Minnesota’s front four that was without starting tackles Shamar Stephen and Linval Joseph.

Pass-protection issues this time last year was why Seattle led the NFL in rushing attempts en route to becoming the top running game in the NFL. Wilson threw it fewer times than any other full-time starting quarterback in the league, and still had his most efficient season passing of his career with 35 touchdowns and a career-high passer rating of 110.9.

“The offensive line protected really well, especially on the third and long that we hit down the field,” Wilson said of his 33-yard pass to late-breaking Jaron Brown to the Vikings 19.

That set up the first of four field goals by Jason Myers.

Wilson lamented throwing low and outside to Carson, who was free in the left flat on third and 6 at the Minnesota 15. Myers kicked a 33-yard field on the next play.

“There’s some things I can clean up,” Wilson said. “If I hit him there, he may score. ...

“I thought we did a really good job picking (up Minnesota’s blitzes and stunts). A lot of those we checked out of some stuff, because of the looks and what we were doing.

“I thought we did a really good job on offense.”

On defense, most of those starters also played the first two drives. The safety pairing again was Bradley McDougald at strong safety and Tedric Thompson at free. Seattle stayed in base defense for the first six plays, with linebackers Cody Barton, who started in the middle because All-Pro Bobby Wagner is not yet back from knee therapy two weeks ago, flanked by Mychal Kendricks and Austin Calitro (for resting 30-year-old K.J. Wright).

On the seventh play, Minnesota’s third and 2, Jamar Taylor was the new nickel defensive back. The seventh-year veteran and full-time starter for Cleveland in 2016 and ‘17 earned that role by being the best cover man in training-camp practices this month.

Taylor was late getting over to Brandon Zylstra on the Minnesota wide receiver’s inside-then-outside route at the goal line late in the third quarter. The 4-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Sloter put the Seahawks behind 17-13.

The Seahawks used six defensive backs, dime, about a half-dozen times in the first half. That continues a trend defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. started in the latter half of last season. Taylor was the fifth defensive back and Shead the sixth.

Shead’s place on the team shouldn’t be in much doubt, not with the speed he’s shown in his return, his experience playing every position in Seattle’s secondary and being a special-teams captain for this team three years ago. Plus, coach Pete Carroll loves his former undrafted rookie decathlete from Portland State for coming up through his Seahawks system the long way to become a Super Bowl winner.

Carroll and the entire Seahawks sideline loved Shead in the middle of the second quarter Sunday.

There was no one from here to Milwaukee once Shead caught an errant throw outside from Mannion, whose receiver Chad Beebe stopped his route to create the interception. Shead out-ran every Viking with no one closing on him over the entirety of his 88-yard return for the score. That showed what he told Carroll at Cliff Avril’s retirement party in the spring to get a Seahawks tryout: His surgically repaired knee is fully healhy, and that he is actually faster than before the surgery in January 2017 affected his 2018 with the Detroit Lions.

After Shead reached the end zone to put Seattle ahead 10-3, he went to one knee. The entire Seahawks defense, plus Wilson, joined him to pose for cameras in a group end-zone photo/celebration of his return to prominence in Seattle.

What else I noticed from the second preseason game:

MORE BLITZING, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Seahawks’ search to find effective blitzing schemes—and blitzers—to help the weak and iffy defensive line continued.

Once again, the only pressure the Seahawks got came while blitzing, which Norton did less of Sunday than he did in last week’s preseason opener.

Yet the blitz that worked so well against Denver last week also burned the Seahawks Sunday. A linebacker one was late getting to the quarterback on a 46-yard catch and run for Minnesota to set up its tying touchdown in the second quarter. Shead fell down trying to tackle running back Mike Boone in the open field after the catch.

Then on the touchdown pass, Sean Mannion to tight end Irv Smith Jr., Taylor and rookie outside linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven got blocked while blitzing. No Seahawk was in the middle of the end zone where Smith caught the 3-yard pass on third down a minute before halftime.

Barton and Blair were talking to each other after the play, while hometown icon Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blared over this beautiful new stadium’s speakers to celebrate the Vikings’ touchdown and a 10-10 tie.

DISSLY ALL THE WAY BACK: Will Dissly entered the game on the Seahawks’ firs drive. It was his first game since the former University of Washington defensive tackle ruptured the patellar tendon in his knee last September.

Dissly returning full go less than 11 months after a complicated surgery is the strongest sign yet last season’s surprise pass catcher on top of blocker will be ready when the games get real Sept. 8 against Cincinnati.

PAXTON LYNCH KO’D: Second quarterback Paxton Lynch, who replaced Wilson in the second quarter because Geno Smith was still out from getting a cyst removed from his knee, was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter on a helmet-to-helmet hit while sliding by Minnesota cornerback Holton Hill at the end of a 3-yard scramble in the red zone.

Hill was ejected. Wilson came off the sideline without his helmet and helped his woozy backup to the sideline.

Lynch was in the concussion protocol postgame. He was taken from the Seahawks’ locker room to another area of the stadium for more observation.

J.T. Barrett entered for the play after Lynch exited. The former Ohio State star signed last week after Smith’s procedure threw incomplete to to Ferguson on an underthrown fade route to the end zone on his first play. He scrambled out of a sack on the second play, and the Seahawks got Myers’ fourth field goal to make it 25-19 with 3:12 remaining.

Lynch completed 6 of 15 throws for 67 yards and a passer rating of 54.0. He was fortunate not to have a red-zone throw intercepted when he stared down rookie wide receiver John Ursua in the slot in the second quarter. Minnesota’s linebacker dropped the pass near the goal line.

AMADI SHOWS OUT ON TEAMS: The best way for a rookie to impress Seahawks coaches is with effort and skill on special teams.

Those coaches in film study this week will play and replay perfect punt coverage play by rookie Ugo Amadi in the second half. The safety from Oregon made a quick inside release to split a Vikings double team on him as the outside gunner. The fourth-round pick then sprinted to the returner and laid him out with a perfect shoulder-form tackle immediately upon his catch.

Amadi played free safety in the second half. He was called for holding while giving up a 9-yard catch by Laquon Treadwell for a first down on third and 5 from the Seattle 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. Minnesota scored a touchdown on the next play then got the two-point conversion for a 25-16 lead.

MORE HUSTLE: Coaches will also highlight Joey Hunt for making a play that won’t show up on statistics.

Undrafted rookie receiver Jazz Ferguson made a catch in the third quarter on third down to extend a drive, but then he fumbled. Hunt hustled 15 yards down the field to the loose ball and kept it alive for a Seahawks recovery by recently signed backup tight end Jackson Harris. Hunt’s effort led to a third field goal by Myers that cut Minnesota’s lead to 17-16 entering the final quarter.

“That’s a great football play,” Carroll said of Hunt and Harris getting to the loose ball to save points.

KNOX ALSO CARTED OFF: Reserve guard Demetrius Knox left the game on the back of the cart late in the fourth quarter. Carroll said it was a fairly significant quadriceps injury. That sounds like he could be going on an injured list.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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