What We Learned in Seahawks' 2022 Preseason – Sports Illustrated

Officially ushering in the final wave of roster cuts in earnest, the Seahawks wrapped up preseason play with a 27-26 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Friday night.
What did we learn from Seattle's winless exhibition schedule? Taking a close look at offense, defense, and special teams, here are seven key takeaways heading into the regular season:
1. In a competition that never truly was, Geno Smith’s ability to avoid turnovers made Pete Carroll’s quarterback decision a breeze.
While some fans may continue to argue Drew Lock offers a higher ceiling than Smith, coach Pete Carroll wants a point guard under center who takes care of the football and doesn't take too many unnecessary risks as a passer. Unfortunately, Lock failed that test and then some in Friday's defeat, throwing a trio of interceptions while throwing several other questionable passes that easily could have wound up in the hands of a Dallas defender. His performance wasn't anywhere close to where it needed to be to surpass Smith, who once again played much better than his final stat line (3 for 6, 43 yards) indicated with receivers continuing to drop passes.
At the end of the day, Lock's arm talent and ability to create when plays break down presents more intrigue than Smith and it's still possible he could play at some point this season. But those tools don't matter to Carroll if the quarterback consistently makes poor choices that result in turnovers, particularly telegraphed interceptions thrown right at defenders, which made his decision an easy one and helps explain why the competition never came to fruition as anticipated with Smith holding a substantial lead every step of the way.
2. While challenging tests await, Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas looked the part of viable starting NFL tackles.
As is the case when evaluating any position during the preseason, level of competition must be accounted for when combing through Cross and Lucas' first NFL snaps. Many of the defenders they blocked against will either be seldom-used reserves or working another job a few weeks from now. Still, Cross handled his business against Bears star pass rusher Robert Quinn in Seattle's second preseason game and Lucas held his own against legitimate NFL talent in his first opportunities.
Cross and Lucas each performed well in pass protection, allowing six combined pressures and no sacks on 163 pass blocking reps in preseason play. But while success protecting the quarterback wasn't as much of a surprise given their respective backgrounds coming from Air Raid offenses, both players also excelled as run blockers and appear to be well ahead of schedule in that regard. Most notably, Lucas has been a revelation blowing up defenders out of his three-point stance and driving them several yards off the ball before driving them into the turf. In total, he produced a whopping six pancakes in the run game this preseason, displaying a nastiness and a penchant for finishing that has to fire up Carroll and line coach Andy Dickerson.
Set to face off against Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory in a Week 1 matchup with the Broncos before a date with Nick Bosa and the 49ers in Week 2, Cross and Lucas will soon be thrown into the fire against far superior competition. Undoubtedly, growing pains will be part of the equation and they may struggle quite a bit early on. But the Seahawks should have no reservations about starting the rookie tandem out of the gate, as they each earned their starting spots this summer and exhibited great potential in the process.
3. The drop off from DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to the rest of Seattle’s receivers is wider than a crevasse on Mount Everest.
Receiving massive extensions over the past calendar year, Metcalf and Lockett rank among the 20 highest-paid wideouts in the NFL and for good reason. They are the only pair of teammates over the past three seasons to produce at least 200 receptions, 3,100 receiving yards, and 25 touchdown receptions during that span and earned those lucrative deals. Behind them, Dee Eskridge comes in third receiving a paltry $1.48 million per year on his rookie deal and quite frankly, the dip in performance from the top two receivers to the rest of the group seems to match up with the salary discrepancy.
With Metcalf and Lockett mostly standing on the sidelines as bystanders during the preseason, Seattle's receivers combined to drop 16 (!) passes in three exhibition games. Three notable wideouts – veterans Freddie Swain and Aaron Fuller as well as seventh-round pick Bo Melton – posted drop percentages north of 30 percent. Eskridge only played in one of those games, but both he and veteran Marquise Goodwin benefited from others failing to capitalize on their opportunities and should be on the Week 1 roster as a result. Rookie Dareke Young had a strong training camp and produced seven receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown in the preseason, offering enough intrigue to likely warrant his inclusion as well. Regardless, the team's struggles finding quality complimentary targets for Lockett and Metcalf remains an ongoing issue.
4. The Seahawks have a wealth of riches in the trenches coupled with a fascinating young crop of edge rushers.
While Seattle overhauled much of its roster during the offseason, the front office kept the band together along the interior defensive line while further fortifying the group and for good reason. Led by Poona Ford, Al Woods, and Bryan Mone, the team ranked in the top five in yards allowed per carry for a second straight season. All three of those players return in 2022 with additional reinforcements around them, as underrated veteran Shelby Harris arrived in the Russell Wilson trade and Quinton Jefferson came back for a second tour of duty in the Pacific Northwest.
Those five established veterans offer the Seahawks great flexibility and experience along the defensive line, but the unit may be even better thanks to the rapid improvement of Myles Adams. Dominant throughout the preseason, the third-year defender racked up 10 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and a whopping 11 pressures in three exhibition contests. Earning an elite 87.9 pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus, he was credited with pressures on 13.5 percent of his 81 pass rushing snaps and that number ballooned to 26 percent on 35 "true" pass set reps. His emergence likely makes L.J. Collier expendable and provides another athletic alternative to blend into the team's line rotation.
As for the edge defenders, Seattle has to feel good about the upside of Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu as starters. Taylor quietly produced a 16 percent pressure rate in limited preseason snaps, while Nwosu played well against the run and contributed three pressures. Those two should be fun in Clint Hurtt's 3-4 defense, while rookie Boye Mafe flashed with a pair of sacks in the preseason and should have an immediate role as a situational pass rusher to grow into. Behind them, assuming his knee is healthy, Alton Robinson will also be in the mix for snaps and rookie Tyreke Smith could factor into play down the line after missing most of camp with a hip issue.
5. On the other hand, while Jordyn Brooks has All-Pro written all over him, Seattle may have one of the weakest linebacker corps in the NFL.
Even without Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks could have one of the best inside linebackers in the league in Brooks, who broke the franchise's tackle record with 184 stops a year ago and looks primed for another big step forward in 2022. But away from him, questions remain about Cody Barton's upside as a starter after three seasons primarily as a special teams ace and the depth behind them is shaky at best and terrifying at worst.
Before the preseason finale, Seattle cut ties with Joel Iyiegbuniwe, releasing him as part of the second wave of roster cuts due to underwhelming play and leaving minimal experience at the position. In the exhibition finale, the trio of Tanner Muse, Joel Dublanko, and Lakiem Williams played the majority of the snaps at off-ball linebacker and none of those players finished exhibition season with better than a 51.0 tackling grade from Pro Football Focus. Dublanko and Williams allowed three touchdowns in coverage as well, with all three young 'backers yielding a quarterback rating of 107.0 or worse. Veteran Nick Bellore also struggled in limited snaps and at this stage of his career, he's not the answer beyond emergency insurance. If there's a position where general manager John Schneider will be aggressively combing through the waiver wire, linebacker may take the cake.
Matt Durisko, The Associated Press
6. Seattle should be in good hands – figuratively and literally – with a corner group featuring a blend of experience and youth.
Rolling into a new season, cornerback was perceived by many as an identified area of weakness for Seattle's defense. But even after losing starter D.J. Reed to the New York Jets in free agency, the team broke camp with far more optimism at the position long-term after using a pair of draft picks on Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant. Starring throughout camp and the preseason, both rookies impressed enough to warrant defensive playing time right away, as Woolen looks poised to start at right cornerback in Week 1 and Bryant has been pushing Justin Coleman for snaps in the slot as of late.
Interestingly, the Seahawks don't have to usher in an all-out youth movement just yet if they don't want to. Veteran Sidney Jones, who returned on a one-year deal in March, got off to a fast start in camp before suffering a concussion and should be the starter on the left side against Denver in two weeks. Across from him, Artie Burns played the majority of first-team reps before a groin injury sidelined him the first two preseason games and given his familiarity with associate head coach Sean Desai, it's not out of the question the team could turn back to him rather than Woolen. Mike Jackson also had a fantastic month of August, likely earning his roster spot with several pass breakups in Friday's loss in Dallas.
Regardless of what Seattle decides to do in regard to starters right off the bat, the future looks bright at cornerback. Coupling that surprising group with Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, and a deep, talented safety unit, the secondary should be a major strength for Hurtt's defense in his first season as coordinator.
7. Special teams remains a work in progress, but Jason Myers’ stellar play offers much-needed encouragement.
The third phase of the game has been an unmitigated disaster for Seattle throughout the preseason. Punt returners have struggled to catch punts, coverage specialists have failed to maintain leverage and execute assignments, several penalties have been flagged on kick returns, and tackles have been missed in bulk, much to the dismay of Carroll and coach Larry Izzo. With several rookies and other young players set to play extensive snaps, it may take time to fix these issues.
But if there's a reason for optimism, coming off a down 2021 season where he barely made 70 percent of his field goal attempts, Myers has been money most of the preseason. He nailed all four of his field goals against the Cowboys, including splitting the uprights with a booming 53-yard kick in the first quarter to put the Seahawks on the board for a 3-0 lead. After making five out of six attempts in the preseason, the veteran place kicker will move into the regular season riding a wave of confidence, which could pay major dividends turning a couple of tight losses into victories down the road.

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