Other than charging customers full price for a fake game, the biggest grimace that accompanies the NFL preseason is the threat of injury. Friday night at the Clink, Kansas City’s top running back, ex-Seahawk Spencer Ware, was carted off with a sprained knee. In New England, star WR Julian Edelman met the same fate.
The previous week, you may recall the Seahawks’ hope at left tackle, George Fant, was lost for the season with a torn ACL. But Friday, no Seattle representative had a major injury (not counting the commuter aneurysms connected to a game start at the height of Friday rush hour).
So consider the evening modestly triumphal. Also, the Seahawks won 26-13 (box), for those of you who need every chord resolved.
There was even good news regarding Fant’s successor, the one-week-famous Rees Odhiambo.
He neither spit up on, nor soiled, himself in 2½ quarters as a starter. A humble achievement, yes, but considering the disasters imagined for the offense if Odhiambo were to fail, the second-year tackle from Boise State was quite pleased with himself.
“For the most part, I thought I did a really good job,” he said, grinning. “There’s always lots of things you can improve on. But it made me feel more comfortable doing my job.”
The crush of media around his locker drew teasing hoots and catcalls from teammates, but everyone knew much was riding on Odhiambo. In fact, the pressure was significant enough that LB K.J. Wright walked across the VMAC locker room this week and sat with Odhiambo for a chat after practice.
“I went to his locker and we talked awhile,” Wright said. “I just wanted to be sure he was ready for the challenge. He played left tackle in college. We talked about what a good opportunity it was for him. It was like what I went through.”
In Wright’s rookie year of 2011, he stepped in temporarily when MLB starter David Hawthorne was injured. When Hawthorne returned, Wright had made an impression sufficient to allow the Seahawks to make the dramatic move of benching OLB Aaron Curry, who proved to be one of the great busts in the Seahawks’ draft history.
Wright has been the starter since. He sounded Friday as if he thought Odhiambo had a shot at the same career arc.
“Rees is good man,” he said. “He’s very confident. He knows he can do it. It’s a matter of getting reps and getting that technique in a groove. He’s going to be fine.
“I definitely see improvement (from his rookie year). He doesn’t have to focus on guard and tackle. He can just be a tackle.”
Odhiambo was solid as a run blocker and pass protected fairly well with the exception of a third-quarter sack of QB Russell Wilson that he said was a result of a miscommunication.
“We kind of talked about it differently,” he said. “I was supposed to set out for the linebacker, but we misread (the Chiefs’ pass rush). Besides that, we had a pretty good day.”
Wright wasn’t the only one shepherding Odhiambo,
“I was with Rees a lot this week, making sure he’s ready,” said coach Pete Carroll. “His mind was very clear and he played very clear. He was not bothered by the pressure. I was really proud of him for that.
“He did pretty well. He had one bad pass set and Russ got hit. He just made a mistake. I thought he was very solid, from what I could tell.”
Odhiambo and the rest of first unit went a series into the third quarter before giving over to the second and third units. The first group did relatively well, helping the Seahawks to 390 yards of offense and giving Wilson time to complete 13 of 19 passes for 200 yards. The tepid ground game picked up, with 134 yards and a 4.2 yards per carry average.
But the numbers were asterisked because of a truly terrible game by the Chiefs. They were penalized 14 times for 126 yards, only 99 fewer than KC’s total offense. Receivers had numerous drops and QB Alex Smith was 7 for 17 for 48 yards, with a long of 11.
In the second half, the Seahawks had their own problems, particularly backup QB Trevone Boykin. He damaged his previous good works with two unproductive series in which failed to complete any of his six passes and had one intercepted.
In contrast, the presumed third-stringer, Austin Davis, hit on all five of his passes, including a 28-yard touchdown to WR Tanner McEvoy in the fourth quarter.
“We were out of sync so much that Boykin just couldn’t get going,” said Carroll. “Trevone has had a really good preseason so far and I don’t think the five or six passes that he threw this game should be the final decision on it. He’s done very well.”
The Seahawks defense gave up no offensive touchdowns, but special teams allowed De’Anthony Thomas, the former Oregon Ducks star, a blazing 95-yard kickoff return.
Despite the Chiefs’ paltry numbers, Carroll thought the defense could have done better.
“I thought we did OK,” he said. “We have really high standards for the running game, and I thought we allowed them to move the football (69 yards) little bit.”
Carroll’s standards make him sound fussy. He saved his genuine excitement for one thing: Health.
“We got out really clean,” he said. “I’m really fired up about that, as much as anything.”
That’s what is so compelling about the fake-news portion of the NFL calendar: Just don’t get hurt.
Bennett, Britt renew anthem gesture
As promised, DE Michael Bennett again sat for the national anthem, and again was joined by C Justin Britt, who stood next to Bennett with his right hand on Bennett’s left shoulder. As the anthem ended, DE Cliff Avril came over to sit briefly with Bennett.
The difference this time from the first preseason game was that CB Jeremy Lane did not stand in front of them with his back to the field.
When asked about it after the game Friday, Lane said his involvement last week was not intentional. He said he came to talk to Bennett about it when the anthem began, and simply held his spot.
“I didn’t plan it,” he said.