Gregg Bell on Seahawks' win over Chiefs, Rees Odhiambo's reassuring night and more
Not quite ready yet.
That -- and relief -- were the dominant themes in the Seahawks’ locker room following their third preseason game, a 26-13 victory over Kansas City Friday night.
The third exhibition is usually the final dress rehearsal for the regular season for veteran starters. Most, particularly quarterback Russell Wilson, look ready for the real show.
“It feels great to be out there healthy and moving around, making plays and just having a lot of fun playing football, like I always do,” Wilson said after again showing how well he plays when fully healthy.
The relief of Friday comes from Wilson showing he is far removed from his 2016 season in which he got two injuries in the first three games -- a high-ankle sprain then a sprained knee ligament. He has completed 29 of 41 passes this preseason (71 percent) for 447 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions. That’s good for a passer rating of 130.8.
That’ll do when the games get real, Sept. 10 at Green Bay.
“Yeah, I mean it definitely was tough last year,” Wilson said. “But that was last year, you know. It is part of the journey...
“I am super excited to be obviously back out there and anytime I get to go in between the white lines it is a good day. I am just grateful and I thank God every day that I get to do that.”
The other reason for relief: Rees Odhiambo may have, for now, stabilized the offensive line. His steady performance in 2 1/2 quarters Friday against the starting defense on a team that went 12-4 and reached the AFC playoffs last season means he’s likely to be the left tackle on opening day with George Fant out for the year. That, in turn, allows Seattle to keep Luke Joeckel at left guard, as the coaches have wanted all along.
But not everything is in regular-season form entering three days of practice then the preseason finale Thursday at Oakland.
The starting defense does not look totally regular-season ready. It allowed a double-digit-play scoring drive to begin the game for the third straight week. The Chiefs ran for 26 yards on the game’s first four plays. And 31 of their 69 total net yards rushing came on that 14-play opening drive to a field goal against Seattle’s starters.
“I don’t think we’re where we need to be, to go where we want to go,” Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril said. “There’s a lot of leaky things, but it’s all things that we can fix. We have the personnel and the right guy and the right mindset. It’s just little things like not allowing them to get two or three yards after that first contact.”
Tackling is the biggest fundamental coach Pete Carroll said the defense needs to clean up. But, again, the Seahawks don’t tackle in practices, don’t bring ball carriers to the ground at all. So it’s going to have to be a sharper mindset for the opener at Lambeau Field in two weeks, because the starting defense isn’t likely to make more than a cameo appearance Thursday at Oakland.
“We can do better,” Carroll said. “I thought we saw a couple of things fundamentally that we need to really go to work on and zero in on.”
WHO HELPED THEMSELVES WIN JOBS:
Odhiambo: No one helped himself more than him. A bad start Friday, and it was on to a guy who just arrived on Tuesday (Matt Tobin) and then likely Joeckel, with domino effects beyond that disrupting the entire line on the eve of the regular season.
Now, as the 2016 third-round pick said following Friday’s game, it’s about consistency. Can he do it again, and in a real game in which the defense is far more amped and complicated than Kansas City’s basic sets were?
The Seahawks are going to find out in Green Bay Sept. 10.
Chris Carson: It’s becoming a fait accompli, Carson making the 53-man roster to begin the season as the fourth running back. I’m not the only one who loves how the rookie seventh-(and final-) round pick from Oklahoma State runs: one, well-timed step to cut off his zone blocking and then -- BAM! There he goes, straight up the field for yards instead of hesitation.
He also had a 37-yard catch and run Friday. The run after the grab was, you guessed it, decisive.
Wilson made Carson sound like a future Pro Bowl runner.
"Well, he can do it all,” the QB said. “He can run. Obviously, he can catch the ball really well. He is tough-minded. He always seems to do the right thing. For a rookie, I mean he has been really remarkable.
“I think he is going to have a remarkable year, as well.”
It’s telling that Alex Collins didn’t get a carry Friday. Last year’s draft choice was limited to punt-team duty as an up back, after losing a fumble last week against Minnesota. He appears to be the man at whose expense Carson has made his rise this month. Collins may not be around after final preseason cuts on Sept. 2.
Thomas Rawls has missed the last week with an ankle injury. C.J. Prosise is hurt again (he missed last week with a strained groin). Eddie Lacy, with 14 carries for 51 yards (3.6 yards per carry) in three exhibitions, hasn’t exactly seized the lead job.
Meanwhile, Carson just keeps running decisively. And impressively. He’s also been making plays on special teams, such as his forced fumble on the second-half kickoff last week against Minnesota. That was the first time he’d played on a kicking team since high school, and he did it again Friday.
“Every time I get the chance out here to play in the NFL is a blessing,” Carson said. “I just take in everything. I take everything for what it is. Like I said, I’m just blessed to be out here.”
And the Seahawks appear blessed with a new option at running back.
David Bass: The former Tennessee Titan part-time starter has been making plays in part-time appearances with the starting defense back to the mock game in the first week of training camp in early August. He’s shown the ability to play outside at his listed defensive end and inside at some hybrid tackle, as Pro Bowl end Michael Bennett does so well for the Seahawks on passing downs. There is a void on the defensive line for that versatile, hybrid role with the man the team drafted first this spring to fill it, Malik McDowell, perhaps out all year following his ATV accident in Michigan.
Bass is not just stepping into that void. He’s seizing his chance, as my News Tribune colleague Todd Milles wrote about late Friday. Like Carson, Bass is also making plays on special teams; Bass recovered the fumble Carson forced on the kickoff against the Vikings.
Want to make the Seahawks as a new arrival? Make tackles and plays on special teams. It’s a proven path.
“I like Bass,” Avril said. “He’s been doing great things ever since he got here. He doesn’t say much. He just does the work. Every time he steps on the field, he’s making some sort of play. Whether it’s a turnover or a sack, he’s making some sort of play.
”Hats off to him. And I hope we keep him around.”
Nazair Jones: The rookie third-round pick the team calls “Naz” is about to go from being paralyzed for a period and then having to re-learn how to walk as a teenager because of a rare disease to a prominent role on the Seahawks’ defensive line this season.
He started at defensive tackle next to Ahtyba Rubin on Friday -- and was in on the first three tackles of the game. In earlier preseason games he showed off his 6-foot-5 height in batting down a pass. Seattle often goes eight deep in its defensive-line rotation in the first quarter of games in the regular season. Jones absolutely is one of the best eight D-linemen right now.
The top eight on the defensive line, as I see it: Bennett, Avril, Rubin, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Jones, Bass, Cassius Marsh.
Marsh’s presence on special teams is why he’s been on the team for four years. Quinton Jefferson has to make more plays Thursday at Oakland to make the team. Marcus Smith, the former Philadelphia Eagles’ first-round pick, had a quarterback pressure early in Friday’s game with the starters. Smith was hurt soon after he signed this summer, and has a lot of ground to make up.
J.D. McKissic: Friday showed more why Carroll was praising him the day before for all last year’s waiver pickup from Atlanta can do. But it was something of a mixed bag.
He dropped a kickoff in the end zone early, ruining a return. But he had two receptions for 21 yards and ran seven times for 46 yards, most of that in the fourth quarter when Carroll wanted him to run out the clock to preserve the lead, and he did. The yardage tied Carson for the game high.
The Seahawks have used McKissic as a wide receiver more in practices, but he’s listed as a running back. With as cautious as they may be with Pro Bowl returner Tyler Lockett early in the season coming off his broken leg -- Lockett has yet to play this preseason, though he’s practicing fully -- the coaches seem inclined to keep McKissic as insurance in kick returns and versatility in specified roles in the offense.
Austin Davis: The journeyman veteran and one-time starter for the Rams and Browns went from idle all last season with Denver to not able to hit the side of Seahawks headquarters with throws since signing this offseason and in training camp to a 5-for-5 night with a touchdown and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against the Chiefs. He looked even better replacing No. 2 quarterback Trevone Boykin Friday. Boykin was 0 for 6 with an underthrown interception trying to hit Kasen Williams.
Davis said after the game he brings experience and comfort with all game situations to the backup-QB competition. He also smiled and said his throw to Tanner McEvoy in the fourth quarter “was my first touchdown I’ve had since 2015. So yeah, I’ll take that.”
I asked Carroll about possibility keeping both Boykin, last season’s lone backup to Wilson, and Davis on the regular-season roster.
"It’s a good idea -- if you can do it,” Carroll said of keeping three QBs. “They’re so important, it’s a good idea if you can do it. It just depends on the rest of the roster.”
Specifically speaking of Davis, Carroll said: “He’s a very, very smart football player. He’s very savvy. He’s helped us, and brought a lot of focus and good stuff to the room. He really is a big step ahead of what is going on, always. It’s how he’s played. It’s pretty clear.”
Tre Madden: The versatile back scored the game’s first touchdown Friday by makinge a tricky, twisting catch of a pass by Wilson that a Chiefs’ defender deflected into a knuckleball. Madden can play fullback, tailback and catch passes. He has done more than the only other fullback on the 90-man roster, Marcel Reece, this summer. The fact he is $300,000 cheaper and, at age 24, eight years younger than Reece doesn’t hurt Madden’s chances, either.
I’d put Jermaine Kearse on this list after his three catches for 59 yards, including a deft one over his shoulder from Wilson in the first quarter while well-covered that Carroll praised. But I’ve never seen Kearse in danger of losing his roster spot. One of Wilson’s favorites -- and Carroll’s for coming up through the program the hard way as an undrafted free agent in 2012 willing to do anything on special teams -- will make the team. Again.
WHO HURT THEIR CHANCES:
Collins: Practice. Preseason games. OTAs. Minicamps. It doesn’t matter. You fumble, as Collins did last week against Minnesota, and you drop way down on Carroll’s likeability list. Friday showed that. Unlike in the previous week it was McKissic, the part-time wide receiver and kick returner, getting the carries to close out the win, not Collins.
Michael Wilhoite: The former San Francisco 49ers starter was on his way to winning the starting strongside-linebacker job. But now he hasn’t been on the field in almost two weeks.
Terence Garvin, also signed as a free agent in March to a one-year deal, has started the last two games.
The Seahawks still value Wilhoite for special teams, but Garvin has made a name for himself from doing that for Pittsburgh and Washington before this.
Shaquill Griffin: The rookie third-round pick didn’t do anything wrong to hurt his stock. More accurately, Griffin falls under the category of “Who saw his starting status dipped.” Veteran Jeremy Lane started at right cornerback in base defense, after Griffin had done that in each of the first two exhibitions.
The Seahawks seem to be trying to decide whether they want Aaron Rodgers targeting Lane or Griffin in base defense on Sept. 10.
Then again, this is likely to be moot in that game and most of this season. The Seahawks will be in nickel the majority of the time, with Griffin at right corner while Lane slides inside to his usual nickel-back spot.
Boykin: An 0-for-6 with an interception will give any coaching staff pause to consider alternatives. Carroll’s postgame comments Friday suggest Boykin has some work to do this week.
Amara Darboh: Zero catches in two targets Friday. No catches in three targets in three preseason games. Rare, if any, work with Wilson and the starting offense in practices, when the Seahawks often go six or seven deep in wide receivers with the first-team quarterback.
Carroll praised the rookie from Michigan’s polish, smarts and skills this past week. And I don’t think the Seahawks are going to cut a third-round pick months after they drafted him. But he’s done little to help his stock this month, put it that way.