I'm still working on my spiel about Seattle's quarterbacks against Minnesota. It involves matters of context (some of which I'll establish here) and fair methods of judgment, so start thinking about that if you want.
Offensive Game Plan
Seattle appeared to treat this game as a team workshop for the short pass. I don't know whether that was an answer to Minnesota's style (doubtful in preseason), lack of confidence in the QB or O-line, or simply part of the preseason plan. The game plan emphasized 3- and 5-step drops (almost exclusively) and a lot of tight end action to defeat pressure. A couple screens and a swing or two to mix it up. The execution was spotty but there. Lack of a run game didn't help.
I, Brandon Adams, famous detractor of the Bad O-line Excuses Everything Philosophy, hereby announce that the O-line was truly, fabulously bad against Minnesota. It was prohibitively bad. No quarterback would have survived behind it. Unless Tom Cable improves it drastically in the next three weeks, allowing Matt Hasselbeck to leave in free agency may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise for him.
Anyone expecting an immediately solidified O-line this year has been naive. Two rookies, a strength-challenged Max Unger, and two injury-prone guys is not a recipe for success. Additionally, most recipes require time to complete. Seattle has had all of three weeks. The lockout is going to have its say on this team.
It's also important to remember that the culprit behind the run-blocking struggles of Seattle's O-line for the five years is not simply "lack of size" or "lack of a mean streak". To hail those qualities as our savior, or an O-line coach for emphasizing them, is also naive and simplistic. Offensive linemen need coordination, intelligence, vision, awareness, decision-making, and technique, technique, technique. Those things weren't on display last night. James Carpenter and Max Unger in particular got worked over.
Caveats: the aggression of the Vikings first-string blitz was a tall order for this young line to handle. Not an excuse, but a consideration.
Also, not every play that looked blown, was blown. When a defender comes free without being blocked, one thing you should ask is: Was that on purpose? Sometimes a play will entice a defender with a free blitz in order to spring open a tight end who otherwise would have been covered.
I did like Max Unger vigorously trying to sell a penalty on the other team. It's a sign of pride on the part of a lineman. Didn't work, though.
There's been some chatter over whether Sidney Rice will be taking catches away from Mike Williams. If 2011 goes anything like last night, neither will be getting many looks at all. BMW had a nice leaping catch near the end zone, and Rice helped out the end-of-half offense, but that was it.
Golden Tate continues to face some serious questions about his role in the offense. He should be a valuable piece in any offense that relies on creative play-calling to neutralize pressure. Instead, he killed two drives with crucial drops.
Doug Baldwin (don't know why I'm tempted to keep calling him "Paul") showed good quickness, but hasn't really outplayed Tate yet. It's not about outplaying someone else, it's about making a true difference in a starting situation.
Kris Durham ended the night with a tough drop but had some excellent receptions from Charlie Whitehurst to announce his presence.
Pat Williams is still camp fodder.
Leon Washington was the star of the abbreviated running game, continuing to validate his new contract. Shows the patience and elusiveness of Justin Forsett with an extra burst tacked on, and less hesitation to the hole. Lynch didn't play much. Forsett slipped a few tackles but didn't accomplish much in his bizarre usage as a goal-line runner.
This was clearly the spotlight for the tight ends, as is the playbook in general. And for the most part, the players held up. Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd showed much-needed flair, leaving the injured John Carlson and Cameron Morrah to race each other back from injury. The odd man out seems increasingly likely to be one of those two. They didn't seem to block too effectively, though - don't remember too many pass rushers getting chipped on their way in.
Lots of movement, substitution, and experimentation on this line. Sometimes I wonder if that's a veiled admission of the same "this isn't working, so we're desperately mixing it up hoping to stumble upon something" issue that has plagued us for the last two years. Brandon Mebane penetrated a couple times and Raheem Brock is a constant presence out there, but the pass rush wasn't a factor overall. Run defense held up well, particularly Junior Siavii. Dexter Davis doesn't seem to have a lot to offer besides downhill bullrushing. Pep Levingston flashed a couple times, showing good motor (and he's slimmer than I expected).
Leroy Hill made an impact early on, showing a refreshing awareness on screens and flat routes that this LB corps has sorely lacked for years. KJ Wright and Malcolm Smith blew a couple big tackles but showed good relentlessness. Mike Morgan got snaps.
Aaron Curry...what to say about him. I think that when your first-round pick is starting his third year and commits a mistake that gets him an earful from his fifth-round sophomore safety, that says it all. Curry mucked up a screen pass and recovered a fumble early on, but also bit spectacularly on a play-action fake and was out of position quite a bit as usual. Don't know what to do with him. He's simply not a disciplined football player. I remember everyone hailing him as the more buttoned-down version of the notorious freelancer Julian Peterson. Didn't turn out that way.
Kelly Jennings played again, and immediately started attracting passes from opposing QB's. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman showed some decent coverage, though Browner blew a wrap-up tackle and Sherman needs to start looking for the ball more often (a key to avoiding PI calls). He also needs to start fair-calling more punts if he's going to maintain interest as a return man.
Josh Pinkard regained some ground in the roster battle with a key fumble and tighter coverage. He and Jeron Johnson were in on the special-teams fumble that should have been returned for a score. Atari Bigby was sluggish to react on plays. Byron Maxwell and Mark Legree were rather invisible.