I had scheduled myself to write about the Mariners today and the Seahawks tomorrow, but we’re flip-flopping after an underwhelming series loss to the Rangers of all teams.
I didn’t watch the Seahawks game live, because I have better things to do than watch quasi-meaningless pre-season games. But, you know what I don’t have better things to do than? Watching quasi-meaningless pre-season games the next day on DVR when I already know the outcome of the game!
I’ll just get this out of the way early so we can all move on: I’m not crazy about pre-season announcing booths in general, but the addition of an otherwise quite charming Michael Robinson brought the homerism to a new level. I didn’t bother to write down any specific criticisms, but at points I was wondering if we were watching the same players. Like, he’d praise their attributes that they clearly don’t exhibit! To counter-balance that, I thought the addition of Michael Bennett was delightful, and I particularly enjoyed his interviews on the field. He’s a wild card in the best possible way (even though it’s clear he’s been instructed to also juice up the homerism). Curt Menefee, as always, is a pro’s pro and we’re lucky to have him doing our games. He has no reason to! We’re not interesting from a national perspective without Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner anymore!
The game result is – as has been mentioned everywhere – not important. The Seahawks got down 14-0 through the first quarter, we managed to execute a 2-minute drive heading into halftime to cut the deficit to 17-10, then we tied it on our first possession after halftime. We swapped touchdowns and 2-point conversions after that, to make it 25-25 late in the game. Then, a critical stop by the Seahawks defense was rewarded with a devastating sack/fumble, and the Steelers scored a TD with just 3 seconds left in the game to give the game its final score, 32-25.
Pre-Season Quarterback Report
As has been the case pretty much all off-season, Geno Smith worked with the starters and Drew Lock worked with the backups. In this particular game, Geno worked the entire first half and Drew worked the entire second half.
And, as expected, neither one really stood out, at least to my eye. They’re both crappy-to-mediocre backup quarterbacks in this league. And yet, I came to a definite conclusion while watching this game, as Geno Smith tottered his way to a sack in an imploding pocket (even though he had plenty of time to throw it away): if I have to watch a full season where Geno Smith is my team’s starting quarterback, I’m going to blow my fucking brains out.
Mind you, I don’t expect that to be the end result of my life, so let’s just say I’ll be taking every opportunity to casually skip even regular season Seahawks games this year.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m gung-ho over Drew Lock, because I’m very much not. But, man, we fucking know what Geno Smith has to offer. He was shitty with the Jets (and other teams) and he’s shitty now. Age and sitting behind Russell Wilson has not magically made him better. There’s no savvy to his game. He looks way too long to his first read, for one thing. That makes him frequently late in throwing to that first read if he decides it’s open. Otherwise, it makes him late to his secondary reads, so it’s like he holds on Read 1, and then a few seconds later decides to check it down to his final read. This is especially aggravating when it’s 3rd & long and the check-down gets tackled well before the first down line to gain.
That’s why you can see his stats from Saturday – 10/15, 101 yards, no turnovers – and think that’s not so bad. Last year, in three games, he completed over 68% of his passes largely in this fashion (looking pretty spry against probably the league’s worst defense in Jacksonville), which again leads one to think he’s not so bad. Think again. Think long and hard about the Geno Smith you’ve watched over the last decade.
I just can’t with him. All things being equal – and they do look pretty equal – give me the unfamiliar. Drew Lock, to his credit, did some good things in this one. He doubled the number of touchdown drives that Geno gave us, he completed one more pass for one more yard in the same number of attempts. But, he also took double the number of sacks, including the game-sealing fumble at the end (where he was supposed to recognize the blitzer off the edge and adjust the play/protection accordingly).
You look for moments where a quarterback can show you what he’s got. That was Drew Lock’s moment. The game was tied, there was just over a minute left and we got it on Pittsburgh’s side of the 50 yard line. All we needed was 20-25 yards for an easy game-winning field goal. That’s a moment where you MUST orchestrate a game-winning drive for your team. Granted, it was the pre-season, so it was backups against backups. But, that makes it all the more important if you’re Drew Lock and you’re trying to be a starter in this league. Starters don’t fuck that up. Starters see that blitzer and make mincemeat out of the Steelers on that play. This is going to be Lock’s fourth year in the league; if you can’t see a pretty obvious blitz off the edge by now, then I just don’t think it’s ever going to click for you.
And yet, I still would prefer to see Lock as our starting quarterback this season. Partly because he’s Not Geno Smith, but also because I think he sucks just a little bit more. I think he’s going to be a little more reckless with the football, where Geno might be a little more careful. I think he’ll cost us maybe an extra game or two, where Geno might do just enough to game manage his way to victory. It’s the difference between going 8-9 and 6-11, but that’s a pretty big leap in the NFL draft standings, and that’s all that matters right now.
Because, clearly, neither of these guys deserve to be around and playing in meaningful football games in 2023.
Other Pre-Season Tidbits
I was quite impressed with the offensive line throughout this one. If there’s one positive takeaway, it’s that the depth up front is likely to be our biggest strength.
By extension, I thought the running backs looked great as well! Granted, Rashaad Penny was out with injury (of course), but that just meant more Kenneth Walker. He didn’t break anything, but he looked solid in general. More eye-opening was what we saw from DeeJay Dallas and even Travis Homer, who both got busy running AND pass catching. Great day from that room!
I was pretty appalled by our run defense, especially when you saw a good chunk of our starting interior linemen out there for much of the game. Even in the first half, the Steelers were ripping us to shreds.
Cody Barton is Just A Guy. I don’t know where anyone got the opinion that he’s going to be a good player for this team, but he’s not. He’s just a warm body. His deficiencies might be covered up a little more when Jordyn Brooks is out there being a beast. But, when Barton is the main guy, you can see just how slow he is, how bad his instincts are, and how he gets run over on the reg. If ankle tackles where the runner still falls forward for 2-3 extra yards are your jam, then sign up for more Cody Barton. But, as for me, I prefer an inside linebacker with some juice.
Bit of a mixed bag from our receivers. I thought the rookies Bo Melton and Dareke Young looked solid. No D.K. or Lockett in this one, nor any Swain or Dee Eskridge (naturally). We did get our first look at Noah Fant, who will definitely have a big role in this passing game. That being said, Fant isn’t going to be much of a blocker, especially out in space, so we’ll have to adjust our expectations accordingly. Also, he needs to work on his footwork, because he had a great opportunity along the sidelines, but couldn’t get his second foot down in bounds.
I was pleased to see Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson make big impacts in the pass rush. And I was thrilled with the two sacks from Boye Mafe! He might be raw, but his speed is NFL-ready, no doubt about it. Shelby Harris looks like a quality addition to the interior, and I think it was Myles Adams who stood out quite a bit in the second half (I believe he was wearing #95 in this one, but I could be mistaken). I don’t know how many DTs we can carry, but I’m rooting for Adams.
I’m going to withhold too much judgment on the secondary for now, because we were looking at a lot of inexperienced guys out there on the boundary. I will say that Justin Coleman looks bad and old and slow; he probably shouldn’t make this team. Promisingly enough, Tariq Woolen got the start on one side and was hit or miss. I say “promisingly” because he was always expected to be more of a project, so the fact that the team trusts him enough to start him right out of the gate is encouraging for his overall talent level. I’ll need to see better ball skills, and turning his head when the ball is in the air, but otherwise there are things to build upon, as well as things to point to and praise. On the other side, we saw a lot of Coby Bryant. I don’t know where he’s ultimately going to end up (if it’s outside or as a nickel guy), but sort of the same deal: some good things to point to, some things for him to work on. You wouldn’t expect either guy to be finished products right out of college, but I like that they both have the trust of these coaches this early in their careers.
That being said, if Sidney Jones and/or Artie Burns continue to be injured throughout this season, we could be looking at significant growing pains from our secondary. Granted, neither of our starting safeties – Quandre Diggs & Jamal Adams – played in this one. Here’s hoping they can paper over where we’re limited on the outside.
Finally, I’ll just say the kicking game looked shaky as hell! Jason Myers doinked one in off the upright and did not look sharp; he was also knocking some kickoffs short, but that may have been by design to test our coverage units (who graded out pretty poorly, in my layman’s opinion). Michael Dickson punted a bunch into the endzone, which is entirely unlike him. I’d say the old line about how it’s pre-season for everyone, including punters, but what else does he do with his time in training camp? He punts! Where’s that magic leg we’ve seen for four years?! That magic leg we’re paying Top-Of-The-Punter-Market prices!