During the opening series of his first NFL exhibition start, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Allen Bradford’s head swirled.
On one play, San Diego’s tight end Antonio Gates streaked through Bradford’s zone. Bradford recognized the route concept a tick late and gave up a 20-yard reception to one of the most productive tight ends in history.
That’s nothing to be ashamed about, right?
But Bradford also was slow to step up and fill his run gap when Ryan Mathews ran up the middle untouched for a 9-yard gain on a short-yardage play.
After the opening series Thursday night, things calmed down for Bradford — and his play sped up — helping the former USC tailback finish with a team-high eight tackles in Seattle’s 31-10 win.
“It was way faster out there with the (starters),”
Bradford said. “Even being out there with Kam (Chancellor), I was dropping into my drop, and Kam flew up and made a play before I did. It was just faster, probably because they know and they’re not second-guessing. And that’s something I’ve got to keep working on.”
Bradford was one of a handful of players Seahawks coach Pete Carroll pointed to after the game as young guys who stepped up and played well.
Here’s a look at a few others.
MAYOWA’S A NATURAL
An undrafted rookie out of the University of Idaho, Benson Mayowa turned heads early in training camp with his natural pass-rushing ability.
And that showed up in the game Thursday, when Mayowa finished with 1.5 sacks and three hurries in about two quarters of work.
At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, Mayowa is similar in body type to another talented pass rusher for the Seahawks, leading sack man Chris Clemons. However, what’s been most impressive about Mayowa is how diverse his repertoire of pass-rush moves is for an unproven rookie.
And Mayowa has a good feel for when to use those moves against an offensive tackle, quickly adjusting to how he’s being blocked in order to finish the play and get a sack.
“Benson has got our attention in camp, and it carried over to the game,” Carroll said. “I think we had him for two sacks. He’s very quick off the edge and unusually gifted. He has a motor. He’s tough, and we’re excited about what he might be able to contribute.”
Benson said he’s not done yet; he expects his high-effort play to continue.
“I have to,” he said. “Every day, I’m competing against everybody in this preseason. I’ve got to put my best foot forward every time I go out there when I get the opportunity to.”
WILLIAMS BIG-PLAY THREAT
In his third season, 27-year-old wide receiver Stephen Williams shined against San Diego’s reserves in the second half. He finished with two catches for 83 yards: a 42-yard touchdown reception from Tarvaris Jackson and a 41-yard catch that set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Spencer Ware.
Williams was targeted by Seahawks general manager John Schneider when the Arizona Cardinals released him after he tore his Achilles tendon in August 2012. The Seahawks signed Williams to a futures contract in January.
Schneider liked Williams in 2010 when he was coming out of the University of Toledo, where he finished as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (229) and receiving yards (3,102), along with scoring 23 career touchdowns.
But Williams signed with Arizona as an undrafted rookie, and he struggled to stay healthy. After Williams’ Achilles healed in January, Schneider finally got the player he wanted three years earlier.
Williams has lived up to Schnieder’s expectations. At 6-5 and 208 pounds, he gives the Seahawks the type of big, fast receiver to stretch the field that Carroll likes having in his offense, and he offers some insurance in case veteran receiver Sidney Rice again struggles with injuries.
“His size is great, but his speed is really something that kind of opens your eyes a little bit,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said about Williams. “He gets down the field so fast. That long touchdown he caught, the guy was probably 12 yards off, and he just caught up so quickly. And that’s a threat, because he’s great at stopping and starting, running comebacks and all of that. But also if you can run by a guy, too, that’s a huge threat for us.”
LOTULELEI MAKES MARK
Schneider said after this year’s draft that even though the Seahawks had a need at linebacker and didn’t take one, they could get a few players to sign as undrafted free agents.
John Lotulelei was one of those undrafted linebackers the Seahawks targeted.
How much did they want the UNLV product?
According to Yahoo Sports salary cap specialist Bryan McIntyre, Lotulelei received the largest signing bonus among rookie free agents this year, getting $25,000 up front to sign with the Seahawks.
At 5-11 and 233 pounds — and with modest 4.65-second speed in the 40-yard dash — Lotulelei did not have the physical traits the Seahawks traditionally look for in a linebacker.
However, Lotulelei has shown that he has a great nose for the ball, and he did a nice job on special teams Thursday night. He finished with three solo tackles on defense, plus another tackle on special teams.
STATS AND STUFF
Seattle dominated the field-position battle against San Diego. The Seahawks’ average start for a drive was their 40-yard line. San Diego’s average start for a drive was its 18. The Seahawks finished with six “explosive” plays — those that gained 20 yards or more. Wilson, Jackson and Brady Quinn each had at least one completion of 20 yards or more. The Seahawks were 7-for-13 (54 percent) on third-down efficiency, compared with San Diego’s 4-for-14 (29 percent). The Seahawks finished with eight penalties for 65 yards, including two personal fouls. Seattle committed the sixth-most penalties in the NFL last season, with 110 for 890 yards. The Seahawks had Friday off and will be off Saturday. They will resume training camp practices Sunday.blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks