And if you think the illegal contact call that negated Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon's 105-yard interception return for a touchdown seemed a little ticky-tacky, well apparently the league agrees.
“They said as they observed it that that shouldn't have been called,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Monday.
Illegal contact and defensive holding are points of emphasis this year in the NFL, and there has been a big uptick in flags during the preseason. It's worth noting that the first flag against a Seahawks defensive back for either penalty didn't come until the second half of preseason game No. 2.
Both Carroll and some of his players have expressed concerns about how those calls are being enforced. The fact that the league is acknowledging mistakes now could be a sign that pass plays will be called at least a little less tightly by the start of the regular season.
Guard play shines
One noticeable difference for the Seahawks from their first preseason game to their second was the improved offensive line play. That especially showed up at guard, Carroll said, so much so that he showed a few of J.R. Sweezy's highlights to the entire team during a film session.
“Really one of the better preseason games I can ever remember us playing,” he said. “As far as the line of scrimmage just coming off the ball, just in that single element, we were really flying off the football. Sweezy played a fantastic half and James (Carpenter) did really well. If you look at Sweezy's plays, he had a bunch of knock-downs and really aggressive blocks that we were really excited about. ... Those two guys were really the highlight.”
Who will return punts?
Carroll said the competition for the punt return job is wide open, and likely won't be settled before Seattle's final preseason game. Carroll said safety Earl Thomas has looked comfortable in that role, and praised the job done by receiver Bryan Walters. But no decision has been made.
“We just haven't had enough opportunities to tell in games,” Carroll said.
Speaking of Walters, he sat out with sore ribs Monday, but he made an impression both as a kick and punt returner Friday against the Chargers.
“He was awesome,” Carroll said. “Shoot, everybody was fired up about what he brought. He was really a valuable player in that game. You could tell the way he was jumping around making this happen, his great decisions on short balls that saved us yardage and made something out of it. He just showed his savvy and experience. You can tell he's returned a lot of kicks in his lifetime and he's very comfortable back there.”
And while Percy Harvin is the team's top kickoff returner, the expectation is that the Seahawks will only use occasionally to keep him fresh at receiver. So that's another spot where others have a chance to earn playing time, Walters included. Another name to throw in the mix, Carroll said, is rookie receiver Paul Richardson, who said after he was drafted that he would be interested in punt returns, but who instead has been getting practice time as a kick returner.
“He's working there, and he's in the mix,” Carroll said. “He could play in a game as a kick returner right now.”
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