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Defense holds Chargers to 223 yards as Seahawks rally for preseason win

Posted By Erik Olsoy On Aug 12 2011 @ 4:01 am In Seattle Seahawks | No Comments

The Seahawks opened their preseason tonight with a win against the Chargers, overcoming a 10-0 halftime deficit.  After giving up an opening 89-yard touchdown drive to a very sharp Phillip Rivers-lead Charger offense, the defense clamped down, holding San Diego to 134 yards for the rest of the game.  Charlie Whitehurst shook off a slow start to lead two scoring drives in the third quarter before rookie quarterback Josh Portis and new running back signing Thomas Clayton lead the Hawks to two fourth quarter touchdwons.

New Seahawks starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson looked decent at best in his first playing time as a Seahawk, though the team didn’t move the ball too far in either of his drives.  The first drive included a nice throw by Jackson on third and long, but stalled after an intentional grounding call put the Seahawks in a hole.  Jackson ran for a first down on the second drive before getting sacked on consecutive plays at the end of the drive.  The Chargers’ steady pass-rush exposed the the youthfulness of the Seahawks’ offensive line, and Jackson started to get happy feet in the pocket (he started reacting to the pass rush by looking for running space instead of keeping his eyes downfield or hitting his safety passing outlet on the play).  Jackson did show very good agility and general running ability in the game, but no quarterback is as effective at passing if they have to be constantly juking out defenders just to get a throw off.  To be fair to Jackson and the Seahawks though, the Chargers have an excellent defense and neither Seahawk starting wide receiver played.

The Seahawks secondary was burned by Phillip Rivers for the one drive he played on, but stiffened after he left the game.  They are the question mark of the defense right now.  The Chargers could only manage 51 rushing yards, and the Seahawks looked very physical in run defense.  Rookie linebacker K.J. Wright lead the team with 9 tackles, and new D-line additions Jimmy Wilkerson and Alan Branch made their presence felt.  Wilkerson recorded a sack in the second quarter and Branch frequently disrupted the Charger run game, holding up at the point of attack or slanting into the backfield in pursuit of a ball carrier.

Though it is a limited sample size, it looks like the defense has been at least adequately beefed up against the run.  I’ll take a rain check on giving my opinion on the Seahawks pass defense.  Yeah they were picked apart by the Charger starting lineup – but Rivers lead the NFL in passing yards last year, and he has enough talent to torch most defenses in the league.

On his first couple of drives Charlie Whitehurst looked like a backup quarterback.  The offense never really got clicking with him at the helm, and I was beginning to wonder why Seattle gave up a second round pick for him.  Things were different in the second half though, and on their first offensive possession of the second half, Whitehurst lead the Seahawks on a 5 minute touchdown drive.  Whitehurst was 4-4 for 51 yards on the drive, hit two nice passes on third downs, and bought time or gained yards with his feet.  On his last drive, Whitehurst lead the offense deep into Charger territory before settling for a field goal.  Though he started slow, Whitehurst played pretty well once he got into the rhythm of the game, and I’m curious to see if he can improve in the next couple of games and get into the starting quarterback discussion.


Whitehurst runs up the middle

Undrafted rookie free agent Josh Portis was among the most impressive Seahawks today, showing great potential today in a performance that somewhat mirrored fellow quarterback Charlie Whitehurst’s.  Portis couldn’t move the hawks for a first down on either of his first two drives before going on to record five completions in six attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown pass on his third drive.  He’s one to watch for the rest of the preseason.  Take a look at the touchdown pass by clicking here [2].

I didn’t forget about the ground game.  The Seahawks starting unit ran the ball pretty well.  The line was able to push the Chargers around at times, and the team looked like a consistent threat on the ground. On several instances, penetration from the Charger defense ruined plays where the Seahawks O-line had blasted gaping holes for running backs or pushed defenders yards past the line of scrimmage.  I’ll expect to see holes and running lanes for Seahawk backs again next week against the Vikings.  New signing Thomas Clayton gave the Seahawks the lead with a 25-yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter.  Clayton made several nice cuts, but when watching the replay, notice how big the hole he ran through was.

Click here [3] to watch the play.

In bad news for the Seahawks, left tackle Russell Okung suffered a high-ankle sprain in an injury similar to the two sprains that plagued him last season.  If he takes about the same amount of time to recover as he did last year, we should see him back about Week 3 of the regular season.

While this was only a preseason game (and the first one at that), there was plenty for Seahawks fans to be encouraged about, and the unknowns have now become more clear.  The unknowns are the passing offense and passing defense.  I’d like to see Tarvaris Jackson improve in the passing game behind a less mistake-prone line next week, and I’d like to see the Seahawks starting corners and safeties lock down the Vikings’ passing game.

The Seahawks made plenty of mistakes, had holes in coverage, and missed a few blocks.  Still, I think zero turnovers on offense and only three points allowed on defense after the Chargers’ first drive (the Chargers ran back a kickoff in the fourth quarter) are great signs.

It’s tough to take value from a Seahawks win in preseason, but it was our first chance to see what sort of team we’ll have this year.  There’s room for improvement, but a win against the Chargers on the road isn’t the worst way to build the confidence of a young team (even if the backups played most of the game).  Hopefully the Hawks can put it all together next week and post a more polished performance.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/psb/uploads/2011/08/Whitehurst-run.jpg

[2] here: http://www.seahawks.com/videos-photos/videos/Portis-6-yard-TD-pass-to-McCoy/c712ae7b-c03d-4d5f-ac0f-68786e6cde50#?id=30c10075-1715-4e69-859e-75e30f8d851e

[3] here: http://www.seahawks.com/videos-photos/videos/Clayton-25-yard-TD-run/30c10075-1715-4e69-859e-75e30f8d851e

[4] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/erik-the-red/feed/

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