In a 41-31 loss in the final exhibition game of the year the Seattle Seahawks team that dominated its opponents the last two weeks was nowhere to be found. Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr completed 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and touchdown passes of 36 and 11 yards to Denarius Moore and 20 yards to Mychal Rivera.
This all happened with 10:43 remaining in the second quarter. The Seahawks defense played a bit better once Carr left the game, but the inconsistency left nothing but worry about the team’s depth. Perhaps the Seahawks simply didn’t come ready to play for an exhibition game exactly one week before their season opener.
But several Seattle reserves needed stronger performances than they gave if they wanted to avoid being one of the 22 players cut by Saturday afternoon. Before the game we had a pretty good sense of where these battles were, but now it’s time to decide the victors.
It’s difficult for any pro football team to win a Super Bowl twice in a row. For that to happen, a team doesn’t have to just be elite, it has to avoid key injuries. And the front office often has to successfully replace players lost to free agency.
Luckily for the Seahawks, they have their core intact heading into this season.
Which players are the most significant for this upcoming season? For that matter, are the players themselves the most important piece of the Seahawks’ championship puzzle?
No Seattle Seahawks player garnered more positive press during the offseason than running back Christine Michael.
Going all the way back to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, the Seattle coaching staff and front office has raved about the second-year pro’s potential. SI.com’s Doug Farrar, among others, speculated that the team’s faith in Michael was one of the reasons the Seahawks took a hard-line stance with Marshawn Lynch during his short-lived holdout.
However, with the Seahawks’ season opener less than a week away, Michael still finds himself third on Seattle’s depth chart behind Lynch and Robert Turbin.
Potential doesn‘t necessarily equal production, and sometimes hype is just that.
As Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times reports, head coach Pete Carroll recently called Michael the team’s most improved player in training camp. It continues a pattern of praise for Michael from Carroll that dates all the way back to February, per MLive.com’s Justin Rogers:
With that said, it’s been an up-and-down preseason for Michael.
Sure, there were some impressive runs. There were also two fumbles in the first two weeks of the exhibition season and missed blocking assignments.
As offensive line coach Tom Cable told Jenks, the key for Michael now is consistency:
You might see the great cut one time and then not the next, and it’s the exact same scenario. He comes across and makes a great pickup and then he’s supposed to chip and then, “Oh, I’m going to get out for my route and, oops, I forgot to chip.” It’s just being able to put a good play together and then a good one the next time and the next time. When that becomes his habit, then he owns it. Right now, he doesn’t own it.
Michael himself conceded that there’s still a lot of work to be done. “Doing the small things right,” he said. “Knowing who to block, ball security, the passing game.”
Of course, Cable also stated that he’s been impressed by the improvement he’s seen from Michael in his second NFL training camp:
What’s really cool about Christine is from where he started and where he’s at is a country mile. And yet there’s another country mile to go. Some people look at that and say, “The glass is half empty and that’s not good.” No, actually he’s on pace to be what you want him to be.
So, what we have essentially is a very talented young back who is still having some issues with blitz pickups and ball security.
That makes Michael…well, it makes him a second-year running back. Young ball-carriers having issues with pass protection is hardly a rarity.
With a steady backup on the roster in Turbin, the Seahawks aren’t in a position where they’re compelled to “rush” Michael, so he’ll stay third on the depth chart for now.
Were Lynch to get hurt, though, you’d see a shake-up on that depth chart.
Turbin is a solid backup and capable running back in his own right, but he’s much more bowling ball than ballerina. Turbin‘s a grinder, plain and simple.
Simply put, Michael brings things to the table as a runner that Turbin can’t. Michael is a much more explosive player, capable of gaining yardage in chunks every time he touches the ball.
His elusiveness was on display in training camp when he made linebacker Bruce Irvin look foolish:
Michael also has a high gear that Turbin doesn‘t, which was on display in this play from the 2013 preseason:
It was plays like that which got the hype machine rolling to begin with. It’s plays like that which have made Michael the heir apparent to Lynch in the Seattle backfield.
As it turns out, we may have gotten caught up in that hype machine a bit. Assuming that the Seahawks meant what they said while gushing about Michael all summer long, they may have, too.
However, Michael’s “struggle” to climb the depth chart is no more an indictment of his ability than the “summer of love” was a coronation of Michael as the NFL’s next great tailback.
As Michael told Jenks, “Everybody has a job to do out here, and everybody has their part. You have to play your part.”
It’s just taking Michael a bit longer than we thought to memorize his lines.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association as well as the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.
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The Seattle Seahawks leave the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field as the Oakland Raiders play host Thursday to the defending champions in the teams’ final preseason matchup of 2014. Week 4 marks the final opportunity for many of Seattle’s 75 roster players to make an impression and make the final 53-man squad.
Head coach Pete Carroll says there are several close matchup decisions that will be decided by the level of play in tonight’s game, per the Seahawks’ team page:
We’re hoping that we can really show guys and give them the chance to make a statement for their opportunity to make this club. There’s stuff that’s in the balance. There are a number of competitions where it’s one or the other. So we’re going to take all of the information in. We have not made our final decision at this point.
The Raiders are coming off a loss to the Green Bay Packers, 31-21, being dominated early but falling short in a comeback attempt by the team’s reserves. The Seahawks appear to be in midseason from following two dominant performances at home.
The challenge will be for the Seahawks to remain consistent on both sides of the ball in an away game, regardless of the opponent.
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The Seattle Seahawks have put the league on notice, outscoring their last two opponents by a combined score of 75-20. As the fourth game of the preseason it’s likely the starters won’t be seeing much action as they prep for the real thing on August 6.
Instead this week’s matchup against, easily, Seattle’s least challenging opponent will be about figuring out which guys will be staying on the roster and what 22 players will find themselves without a team.
The Raiders offense’s second unit has actually performed well this season and should still offer the Seahawks’ reserves valuable, prolonged playing time. Offensively, quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have the opportunity to play against his former team.
Pryor will need to play well if he would like to remain on the team’s final 53-man roster, so there will be points of interest on both sides of the ball.