I. THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1) It’s impossible not to wonder about Russell Okung’s durability.
It was premature to call him injury-prone last year as he suffered injuries to different ankles two months apart in 2010. Each injury was described as a high ankle sprain, which involves the ligament holding the two lower bones of the leg together. The injury used to be described as a broken leg. He never missed time in college and didn’t have some sort of chronic condition in the joints. It seemed that might just be awful luck. But now, as Okung injured his left ankle on the first series of this second season in what his coach termed a non-contact situation, it’s impossible not to be concerned about whether Okung will stay healthy enough to be the cornerstone the team expects at left tackle.
2) Doug Baldwin is an undrafted rookie out of Stanford with a whole lot of promise.
Coach Pete Carroll always talks about finding players with a unique skill or trait. For Baldwin, it’s his feet, and showed a precision on his routes and an ability to get open in the slot that could earn him a role in this offense. He caught four passes, most of any Seahawk in San Diego.
3) Kickoffs are a concern.
That statement holds true not only for Seattle’s coverage, but on returns. Seattle’s special teams were the single biggest strength of the team last year. The NFL changed its rules this year, moving kickoffs up 5 yards. That means more touchbacks, muting Seattle’s ability to return the ball. Not only that, but Seattle’s second-half kick coverage was disappointing, and not strictly because of the kickoff Bryan Walters of Juanita returned 103 yards for a touchdown. Some of that is because Seattle was using its deep reserves, but Seattle also must adjust to the loss of core special-teams contributors like kicker Olindo Mare and linebacker Will Herring.
II. THREE THINGS WE ALREADY KNEW
1) Seattle’s offensive line is a rugged bunch when it comes to run blocking.
Pass protection, however, is going to be a work in progress. The Seahawks were determined to improve their ground game, the results evident as they added three starting offensive linemen, each of whom weighs 319 pounds or more. Seattle’s run game was rough and ready, finishing with 133 yards in San Diego. However, the Seahawks allowed two sacks in the first quarter alone, and Tarvaris Jackson’s athleticism prevented a couple more. With rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt on the right side, playing next to center Max Unger with only 17 career starts, Seattle has some work to do in terms of pass protection.
2) Kelly Jennings is prone to getting picked on.
That is as true for public perception as it is for opposing offenses. Jennings started at right cornerback Thursday and on the Chargers’ first possession, he wound up matched up against Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson on the outside. The result: a 48-yard completion. Now, this wasn’t necessarily pure man-to-man coverage. Jennings appeared to have other responsibilities on the play, but all across Seattle, fans felt the frustration because it’s a situation they’ve seen before with Jennings losing a mismatch to a big-bodied wide receiver like Jackson.
3) Tarvaris Jackson’s athleticism is an attribute, not an exaggeration.
The man can move. He made that evident in the way he evaded San Diego’s pass rush, and also had a nice scramble. Matt Hasselbeck was more mobile than people gave him credit for, but Jackson is different. He’s a threat to run, and he’s going to keep plays with his feet.
III. THREE THINGS WE’RE STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
1) How much of Seattle’s first-quarter passing struggles was due to receiver absences?
Seattle was missing four of its top five receivers Thursday: Sidney Rice (shoulder), Mike Williams (toe), Ben Obomanu (shoulder) and Kris Durham (hamstring). Carroll mentioned Jackson didn’t have a lot of open receivers to throw to, and that lack of options gave San Diego’s pass rush time to get home.
2) Why Charlie Whitehurst looked so much better in the third quarter than the second?
He led a pair of scoring drives in the third quarter, and his offense that didn’t look downfield much at all in the first half, started to move the ball consistently. Whitehurst’s most impressive pass didn’t result in a completion. He stood tall in the pocket with a linebacker bearing down, and delivered a strike down the seam of the defense just before he was clobbered. That kind of courage is essential for a quarterback.
3 How things will shake out in Seattle’s secondary?
Marcus Trufant is starting at left cornerback while Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are the starting safeties. After that, things get murky. Second-year cornerback Walter Thurmond figures to get a look at right cornerback, which is where Jennings started. Safety Josh Pinkard served as Seattle’s nickelback with the first-unit defense. Brandon Browner’s length makes him an intriguing candidate at cornerback, and then there are rookies Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeron Johnson and Mark Legree all vying for roles. Seattle’s plan was to stockpile young talent in the secondary and see who emerges, and if Thursday was any indication, the results will be very interesting.