Gotta warn you up front, when the first exhibition game kicks off at 7 on a Saturday night, this commentary tends to be limited to a grab-bag of observations from the first couple series of play.
That’s the most relevant part of the game, anyway.
So here’s the flash-card notes on the Seattle Seahawks’ first game of the 2010 exhibition season, against the visiting Tennessee Titans.
• Coach Pete Carroll, in his debut with the Seahawks, came out earlier than most of the players.
First thing, he went over to the bench and grabbed a football and started walking around visiting. His coaches, the other team’s coaches. Whoever was close.
Here’s what I saw right off on Carroll: He’s clearly nowhere near 100 percent. He’s still limping a bit on that tender knee that he had fixed recently. Hey, sometimes you gotta coach hurt.
But he still managed to cover a lot of ground.
• He has plenty of smiles for everybody, too. This won’t surprise you, he looked pretty happy being on the field. He played a little catch for a while, warming up the wing. The arm’s not great but not bad … and certainly better than his wheels.
• The opening kickoff, with the tackle by former Washington Huskies cornerback Roy Lewis, is a good reminder that he’s a guy who has been looking very steady and competent in camp.
• The first time all-world back Chris Johnson ran left, the Seahawks’ strongside run defense held up nicely as Red Bryant stuffed 2008 Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos, and Colin Cole stepped in to stop it for no gain.
• Bryant later stopped Johnson for no gain at the goal line with a nice penetration. Johnson tried it again up the middle and Brandon Mebane and Kevin Vickerson stood him up at the line.
• Other than that, the Titans and quarterback Vince Young scored in 10 plays against what appeared to be light opposition. Yes, linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill were inactive for the game, but the Titans moved with surprising ease.
• One of the obvious areas of evaluation this exhibition season for the offense is the way the line comes together under new coach Alex Gibbs.
• First-round draft pick Russell Okung saw his first duty at left tackle and handled himself pretty well. He got help from the tight end on one play, but after that he either held off defensive end Jacob Ford on his own or showed enough savvy to feed him to guard Ben Hamilton in a combination block.
• As the first quarter wore on, the best news for Seattle fans had to be that Okung not only looked competent, he looked fairly comfortable as well. There never seemed to be even a moment of confusion. That’s a good sign for a key young player.
• The first real action that rookie safety Earl Thomas made himself obvious was as he crowded the line and unloaded on Young after he fumbled a snap. Thomas came in hard and low, and did not treat Young as one might expect a fellow Texas Longhorns alum.
• When Carroll showed up, from the first day, he stressed that the Seahawks need to make big plays. The game is about “the ball,” he said. Possessing the ball, getting the ball, taking the ball away.
Cornerback Josh Wilson got that message as he stepped in front of an out pattern and picked off a Young sideline pass. Good read. Good break on the ball. Good hands to pull it in.
Ah, so that’s what a big play looks like?
• For everybody wondering about how Okung would fare, it’s interesting to note that the first sack of Matt Hasselbeck wasn’t the result of Okung getting beaten, but veteran right tackle Sean Locklear.
• The first boos? When back Julius Jones took his eyes off a short pass on third down and dropped it. Another lesson about making big plays? They don’t count if you can’t do anything once you get the ball.
• For a team chronically inept at pressuring the quarterback, the Seahawks had a promising moment early as end Chris Clemons got to Titan Chris Simms with a quick move to the inside.
If nothing else positive happened in this game, the early effectiveness of Okung looks like a critical step in the Seahawks’ prospects.