SEATTLE — Winning the Super Bowl also means getting the perk of hosting the traditional Thursday night season-opening NFL Kickoff game and all that comes with it. Come for Pharrell and Soundgarden, stay for the game
But for the Seahawks, it also means a quick turnaround from the preseason to the regular season. Seattle will set its final 53-man roster Saturday at 1 p.m., then dig in fully to preparation for Thursday’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
Before putting the preseason completely to bed, though, here are some final impressions of what we learned the last month:
1. The offense appears to have taken a step forward
The usual caveats apply about the preseason — everybody’s playing lots of weird lineup combinations and no one’s game planning much. Oakland, for instance, was without seven defensive starters Thursday, and is hardly a defense to write home about in the first place.
Still, the Seahawks could hardly have looked better in the one drive that the starting offense played, moving 80 yards in four plays for a touchdown, capping a preseason that was almost flawless.
Seattle scored on 11 of 13 drives with its No. 1 offense in the preseason, finishing with nine touchdowns, two field goals, one missed field goal and one punt — the punt coming on the first drive of the preseason at Denver.
Quarterback Russell Wilson could also hardly have been better, finishing 33 for 42 (a staggering 78.6 completion percentage) for 437 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 133.8 passer rating was second in the NFL behind only Cleveland’s Connor Shaw, who threw only nine passes.
After the Oakland game, coach Pete Carroll made his most emphatic statement yet that he thinks the offense is improved from last season.
“We’ve moved ahead,” he said. “We are better than we were in the past and I think it’s the growth of the quarterback and his connection with all his guys. It’s (guards) J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter. Those guys are really good football players. … They’ve just improved. They’ve just grown with us. Hopefully that makes a difference. We are going to need it all.”
2. The defense is getting healthy
Both Denver and the Raiders drove for touchdowns against the No. 1 defense, which given the high standard the Seattle defense has set for itself might have caused some angst among Seahawks fans.
But the starting defense was otherwise unscored on, and the biggest news of the preseason is that the players the team needed to get healthy — Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Kam Chancellor — appear to have done just that.
In fact, the only real health issue to a projected starter or key member of a position rotation is linebacker Bruce Irvin, recovering from offseason hip surgery. He may return this week (nickelback Jeremy Lane also missed the Oakland game with a hamstring injury but word is he could be ready, and none of the others who sat out against the Raiders appear to have significant issues).
That some key players were out much of the preseason, though, while some others sat out at the end for precautionary reasons means the projected Seattle starting defense was never really together, something Wagner noted when asked about the touchdown allowed against the Raiders.
“You haven’t seen everybody on the field at the same time,” Wagner said. “I think we just have to clean up some minor details, some minor things we have to fix. We can fix all that in (watching) film.”
3. Seattle’s depth remains a work in progress
If there’s one possible cause for concern, it’s that Seattle’s depth wasn’t as dominant this preseason as the past two years.
Seattle went 4-0 in each of the 2012 and 2013 preseasons when its backups usually came on and picked up where the starters left off — the Seahawks outscored opponents a combined 125-37 in the second half of the 2012-13 preseasons.
That wasn’t the case this preseason as the Seahawks outscored opponents just 36-33 in the second half this season (in contrast, the Seahawks outscored foes 86-49 in the first half of the preseason, including 65-14 in the first three games, when starters saw most of their action).
The most definitive sign of the overall depth of Seattle’s roster last year was that 23 players the Seahawks released from Jan. 31, 2013 to the end of the regular season ended up being signed to another NFL team’s active roster.
Time will tell if this year’s Seattle castoffs prove as attractive.