LOS ANGELES The starters -- except for the offensive line and rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin -- played just one series.
During and after their stint during the Seahawks’ 48-17 win at the Los Angeles Chargers in their preseason opener, guys gained roster ground. And guys lost it.
Less than three weeks remain before the roster cut-day day from 90 to 53 players for the start of the regular season.
WHO HELPED THEMSELVES (and when you score the second-most points in a preseason game and win by 31, there are plenty):
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▪ Kasen Williams: Before -- and even somewhat including -- Sunday, he was a tease to coaches. A freakishly athletic bull of a wide receiver, 6 feet 1, 219 pounds. But he has yet to distinguish himself the way most former undrafted free agents do to get onto the Seahawks, on special teams. Plus, Williams keeps getting injured at inopportune times, not that any time is opportune to get hurt. He’s only been active for three regular-season games in his first two NFL seasons since signing out of the University of Washington in 2015, but oddly all four playoff games Seattle’s played the last two seasons.
Sunday, Williams made four leaping, twisting, diving catches on jump balls from backup quarterback Trevone Boykin, for 119 yards. He ripped balls away from defensive backs. He went horizontal to grab Boykin’s pass in the second quarter.
He toed the sidelines while twisting to make one grab just outside the goal line, for 29 yards in the third quarter. On that same drive he deftly slowed while a pass was in flight for a 34-yard gain on the second play after halftime. That was when he out-fought Chargers cornerback Michael Davis for the ball as they hit the ground; Davis briefly had the interception but Williams was too strong for him to maintain possession.
Williams’ night was so good, this was perhaps the most mundane of his four fantastic grabs:
His four receptions equaled the number he had in his two Seahawks preseasons combined, before this one.
With Tyler Lockett just getting back from his broken leg in December (he was held out Sunday night) and now Paul Richardson hurt again (more on that in a minute) Williams made up ground in his push to make the 53-man roster for the Sept. 10 opener at Green Bay.
“Wow. What a great night,” Carroll said. “That was really fun to watch. He had three great plays. And then he had a better play with taking the ball away from the defender. He showed what he was all about. That was really impressive.
"I loved his game tonight. He lit up our sidelines. Not because it was one or two, it’s because it was four big substantial plays.”
Williams credits a better diet -- specifically smoothies, fruit and vegetables ones at daily stops this offseason at a juicery shop in Bellevue -- for being a better receiver now than he’s ever been. More on that later, too.
▪ Trevone Boykin: He was as good Sunday as he’d been poor in 12 camp practices before then. Beyond his numbers -- 12 for 15 passing for 189 yards, a touchdown pass on fourth and goal to Kenny Lawler in the second quarter, plus four carries for 31 yards and another first-half TD including a scramble for 23 -- Boykin showed patience he often lacked last preseason, and in the real games he spelled banged up Russell Wilson in 2016. Granted, Seahawks quarterbacks haven’t been accustomed to the time to be patient behind the struggling offensive line in recent seasons. But Sunday Boykin, and all Seahawks QBs, got ample time from the line. Last year’s undrafted rookie free agent calmly stood in, made third and even fourth reads. His 23-yard scramble for a first down was not the usual bailout, run-for-your-life dash by a Seattle quarterback. It was only after every receiving option was covered down the field.
Boykin’s one turnover, his interception in the third quarter, came because college track sprint champion Cyril Grayson outran his pass on a deep post in the third quarter.
"Being year two, it’s more settled down,” Boykin said. “Last year, there were some things -- concepts are the same, we can throw the ball all over the field -- it’s(just) those things that happened before the snap. It’s just a lot of stuff that I have to work on. But I feel like I made a huge leap, a big step. And just try and get better each week and just try and build on this win.”
He’ll get more extended play Friday in the home exhibition against Minnesota.
▪ Chris Carson: The rookie seventh-round draft choice from Oklahoma State was a star of the first 12 training-camp practices. Sunday he ran the same way he did on the practice field: decisively, impressively. He makes one cut and he just goes. He is showing an ability to make quick reads of Seattle’s zone blocking and then heads straight up field -- that was evident on a 10-yard run in the second quarter to set up Blair Walsh’s second field goal.
On the first of Carson’s two touchdown runs, from 1 yard in the second quarter, it looked like no Chargers defender wanted any part of trying to slow his bolt into the end zone.
He has passed 2016 draft choice Alex Collins (six carries, nine yards) for the fourth running-back spot, behind Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise.
Davis has two carries go for no gain, including one called back by tripping penalty on fullback Tre Madden, and one for 1 yard. Carson also had a bit of luck: his carry stopped for no gain, in the third quarter, didn’t count because Los Angeles accepted a clipping penalty on rookie guard Jordan Roos.
"I thought he looked pretty good,” Carroll said of Carson. “He had a substantial run taken away on a penalty. He ran tough down by the goal line. He looked pretty good down there knocking the ball in. I thought a number of guys ran the ball well.
“(Former San Francisco 49er) Mike Davis did a good job, too, (eight carries, 33 yards) and it was good to see. We had good activities with those guys, And like I said, it’s going to take up three more games to figure it all out."
▪ Cyril Grayson: The LSU track champ was playing his first football game since 2011. But it didn’t show. Instead, he showed he is a football player again, and could be this season. He was targeted twice, both by Boykin in the third quarter. The second time, Grayson made a remarkable, soaring catch in the back, right corner of the end zone. Most track guys don’t make that catch. It was originally ruled a touchdown by the apparently impressed officials on the field but overturned on replay review because Grayson just missed getting his second foot down inside the end-zone boundary. No matter. That was a heck of a catch -- for anybody.
▪ Nazair Jones: A large reason Seattle drafted him in the third round this spring is at 6 feet 5 he was disruptive in the pass rush at the University of North Carolina. And not just chasing quarterbacks. That showed up Sunday. Jones jumped while getting blocked at the line and batted Kellen Clemens’ pass in the first half. Fellow defensive lineman Tylor Harris grabbed the free ball out of the air for an interception the Seahawks turned into Walsh’s field goal for a 20-14 lead.
▪ Michael Wilhoite: The Seahawks finally have an experienced linebacker to go with All-Pro Bobby Wagner and Pro Bowl player K.J. Wright. They also finally have a veteran backup at middle linebacker who, should anything happen to Wagner, would be able to maintain NFL-quality play there. And it’s the same guy for both spots. Wilhoite, the former San Francisco 49ers starter, was on the first-team at strongside linebacker to begin the game. Then after Wagner went out following the first drive, Wilhoite moved into the middle. Wilhoite’s violent, well-timed hit on Los Angeles’ Branden Oliver just as Clemens’ pass arrived created the deflection No. 2 strongside linebacker Terence Garvin grabbed out of the air for an interception and return for a touchdown. His 32 snaps were second only to Jones’ 34 for most snaps on defense Sunday.
▪ Blair Walsh: The new kicker who left Minnesota for Seattle as a free agent this offseason for a mental break and change of scenery from all his Vikings misses made all eight of his kicks in his first Seahawks “game.” Those were two field goals -- of 42 and 28 yards -- and six extra points. He signed a one-year, prove-it deal in March. This game didn’t count, and his two field goals were at distances NFL kickers absolutely should make about 99 percent of the time, but Walsh at least hinted how much he may be proving this fall.
WHO HAD A MIXED BAG
▪ The offensive line: Seven guys rotated around the starting unit throughout the first half. The starters were George Fant at left tackle, Luke Jeockel at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Oday Aboushi at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle. Soon after Joeckel went to left tackle, and Rees Odhiambo entered at left guard. Mark Glowinski then replaced Aboushi at right guard.
The line gave Wilson and Boykin notable time to throw and read receivers, as mentioned above. Those seven blockers allowed one sack in 16 drop backs in the first half.
But Carroll said the Seahawks didn’t run the ball well enough. That remains a top priority to get working for the regular season. Seattle had 133 yards on 36 rushes (3.7 yards per carry). But from that take out Boykin’s 23-yard scramble and a 17-yard one by third-string QB Austin Davis; not called running plays but improv rushes. The numbers for called runs were 93 yards on 34 carries. No, 2.7 yards per rush won’t get it done when the games get real.
Eddie Lacy had almost no blocking on two carries in the red zone against the Chargers’ second-team defense. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell got spooked enough about that, on fourth and goal from the 2 early in the second quarter he had Lacy lined up offset to Boykin’s right in shotgun formation, and had Boykin throw to Lawler for the score rather than risk Lacy running behind the line again.
"I’m not that concerned about the combinations right now. I want to see the guys play together,” Carroll said of his O-line. “We tried to keep the first group together as much as we could with the restrictions that we had (such as a play count on Joeckel, who is coming off knee surgery in October with Jacksonville). It’s a process keeping these guys out there.
“I thought protection was very good tonight. We didn’t run the ball as well as we would like to have against them, but we stayed with it, which was good. We have a bunch of runs to evaluate. We’ll see what happens."
▪ Shaquill Griffin: The rookie third-round pick started at right cornerback in his first NFL game, and as expected he stayed there when the rest of the starters departed after one drive. On the fourth play of the game Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers tested Griffin by throwing deep left sideline on a go route to Tyrell Williams. Griffin ran stride for stride with the starting wide receiver and was so close to Williams that Rivers’ slightly underthrown pass banged off Griffin’s back just as the rookie was turning his head back for the ball. That was Rivers’ only miss on six throws on Los Angeles’ opening drive to a touchdown.
That touchdown came when tight end extraordinaire Antonio Gates easily got inside Griffin on an in route from the left. Griffin made no play on Rivers’ simple throw for the 5-yard score.
“He held up,” Carroll said, the coach’s euphemism for “let’s pump the breaks a bit on this guy.”
Carroll said Griffin “had a chance to make a play on Gates down there. His first shot at a Hall of Famer and he didn’t get it done. But but I thought he did OK. He had another little fade ball that was a nice play that he wasn’t in great position on. We’ll see. The fact that he made it through his playing time against some guys that were taking some shots at him, that’s good."
If he begins the season at right corner, Griffin is going to get tested all games long by NFL QBs. Everyone who plays on the side opposite Richard Sherman always does.
One play that coaches were loving Sunday night into Monday as they reviewed the game film: Griffin was on the punt-coverage team for Jon Ryan’s first boot of the preseason. The rookie sprinted diagonally from the right hashmask past the left about 50 yard to be the first Seahawk down on the punt, even beating the gunner to the left side who was much closer to where the ball came down. As Griffin jogged off the field following the play, coaches and teammates came off the sideline to high-five him for that effort.
WHO HURT THEMSELVES
▪ Paul Richardson: Literally. A sprained AC joint in his right shoulder will likely keep the oft-injured wide receiver out into September. Carroll called it a “self-inflicted” injury, when he jumped to catch Wilson’s pass down the left sideline for 23 yards on the first drive. Richardson just can’t stay healthy, and the Seahawks -- for all the excitement they had seeing their zooming second-round pick from 2014 get open and make catches late last season -- can’t count on him. Not yet, anyway.
▪ Eddie Lacy: True, he didn’t have much blocking after he entered with other second-team skill-position guys following the opening drive. But four carries for 10 yards, getting stopped for a loss of one on third and goal from the 1-yard line and not getting the ball on fourth and goal from the 2 on the next play are not what Seattle has in mind for their new, 250-pound masher back this season.
Thomas Rawls has asserted himself as the lead rusher so far. Lacy needs to catch up.
▪ Tedric Thompson: The rookie safety and fourth-round pick was renowned at Colorado for his coverage in the Pac-12. But he’s been hidden and forgotten as a third-team free safety in camp, because Earl Thomas is back as Earl Thomas and former Buccaneers starter Bradley McDougald has been impressive behind him. Thompson got a high-profile chance in the first quarter Sunday, though. On the first play following Garvin’s interception and touchdown, Thompson gave the Chargers back the lead by not reacting nearly quickly enough to wide receiver Travis Benjamin cutting from the left hash mark to right hash mark across midfield, behind Garvin’s shorter zone coverage. Benjamin was in the clear from Carson to Long Beach after he caught Clemens’ pass, then sped past Thompson down the right side to finish a 74-yard score.
I asked Carroll if he wants his safety to come up more aggressively on routes such as those.
“We misplayed the play. I can tell you that,” Carroll said. “We misplayed the play.”
The Seahawks get back on the field Tuesday to practice for Friday’s exhibition against the Vikings at CenturyLink Field.