Fighting for jobs

  • By John Boyle Herald Writer
  • Saturday, September 3, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — First the score. You probably want to know the score, even if it doesn’t mean much of anything, right?

OK, so the Seahawks won their final preseason game, knocking off Oakland 20-3 in front of 65,418 at CenturyLink Field.

But the final score isn’t really what mattered Friday night. This game was all about taking care of some final business before the regular season starts next weekend. For the coaching staff and general manager John Schneider, Friday was the last chance to evaluate the players battling for the final roster spots before today’s roster cuts. For an offense that has been anemic throughout the preseason, it was the last opportunity to show that progress is being made.

So rather than focus on how the Seahawks earned a victory that means nothing in the standings, let’s focus on what and who stood out in Seattle’s final tuneup before heading to San Francisco next weekend.

• Few individuals had more to prove Friday than second-year receiver Golden Tate. A former second-round pick, Tate was tabbed at the start of the training camp as a potential difference maker this season, but instead he has struggled to the point of being outplayed by undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin. Over the past week, people have even started to question if Tate would survive today’s roster cuts. So with all of that hanging over him, all Tate did was lead the Seahawks with 79 receiving yards on five catches and return a kickoff 34 yards and a punt 43 yards. Tate was almost certainly going to make the team, but if there was any doubt, he erased it Friday night.

“It’s been a long year and three games, but I felt like tonight it finally clicked,” Tate said. “And I’ve still go a lot of work to do. I’m going to watch the film like, ‘Wow, I wish I had that play back. I could have done this better.’ But just to show that I am capable of playing this game and being OK is the biggest thing.”

• The Seahawks really want to get their offensive line going. Most of Seattle’s starters played two series; rookie offensive linemen John Moffitt and James Carpenter, however, played well into the second half. Carpenter even played late into the fourth quarter as he and Breno Giacomini, who is still in a battle to unseat Carpenter, split reps. Tyler Polumbus, who is filling in at left tackle with Russell Okung sidelined, also saw action into the second half. With no offseason workouts, the Seahawks are trying to take advantage of every last chance to get the line clicking. The results weren’t all good — Seattle averaged just 2.1 yards per carry in the first half and 3.1 for the game — but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson did have time to operate, or at least more time than he has in previous games.

“We wanted to do a thorough job of evaluating,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the Carpenter-Giacomini platoon. “There were a lot of plays in this game, it was a really cool game for these two kids, and we’ll just see where it goes. Both guys can play. It’s not that they can’t play, and we have a problem. We don’t have a problem. It’s, how far has James come?”

The Seahawks also had 203 yards of first-half offense and punted only once all night.

“We found a rhythm today,” Jackson said. “We were able to gain some confidence. I think as unit, as a first unit, we did a pretty good job except for that interception I had. “

• And speaking of Jackson — and that interception — the starting quarterback had some of his better moments, as well as one of his worst, of this preseason. On Seattle’s first drive, Jackson was sharp as he led the Seahawks into Oakland territory. Then, after the Seahawks reached the 15-yard line, Jackson either tried to force a pass into coverage, or he never saw a safety, because his pass intended for Tate was intercepted at the goal line.

Other than that ill-advised throw, however, Jackson was 5-for-6 for 88 yards on two possessions, the second of which led to a field goal.

“I really feel good about Tarvaris, we know what he can do, we’ve seen him again on the practice field,” Carroll said. “He’s got terrific potential to make plays and he’s running the offense really well. He did a classic thing of trying to do a little bit more on that first drive and jamming it in, but it’s probably a good thing. We don’t need him to play like that, we just need him to play with the system and not try too hard, and he’s going to do fine for us.”

Backup Charlie Whitehurst, as has been the case all of this preseason, was able to put up better numbers than Jackson facing a backup defense. Whitehurst finished his game 9-for-15 for 140 yards, though he missed high on a few occasions, including one pass that 6-foot-6 rookie Kris Durham was able to haul in with a nice leaping grab.

• After missing three weeks of practice and two preseason games with a high-ankle sprain, cornerback Walter Thurmond is still working his way back into playing shape. So when the rest of the starting defense was out of the game, Thurmond was still playing into the third quarter with the reserves. It remains to be seen whether he or former CFL star Brandon Browner will start at right corner, but even if Browner wins that job, Thurmond will be on the field plenty as the nickel back in passing situations. Thurmond most likely will not be returning punts, however. On his only attempt at a punt return Friday, Thurmond muffed the catch, giving Oakland the ball in Seahawks territory. Last year Thurmond attempted one return — in Week 2 against Denver — and had the same result.

• The young linebackers look good. Fourth-round pick K.J. Wright started in place of an injured David Hawthrone at middle linebacker, and came up with some nice open-field tackles. Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, a seventh-round pick, continues to look good making plays in the open field. Matt McCoy, who could be battling for a roster spot, made his case with a strong showing in the second half. Hawthorne is expected back next week, but the Seahawks look like they have a capable backup should they need him.

• Thomas Clayton is making the decision tough at running back. With Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington all seemingly safely on the roster, Clayton would seem like the odd man out, but he has played very well in the preseason, and kept that up Friday, rushing for a team-high 41 yards on 11 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown.

• Mark LeGree could be the odd man out. Fifth-round pick Mark LeGree seems to be lost in the shuffle at safety, and is playing behind Jeron Johnson, an undrafted rookie, and Josh Pinkard, who went undrafted last year. LeGree made some plays late in the game, but he was not on the field, other than special teams, until the fourth quarter.

Johnson, meanwhile, made a few more nice plays that seemed to strengthen his case, including a tackle for loss on a running play and pass breakup on third down that ended a Raiders drive.

“I feel like I did everything I can possibly do,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely pleased with what I did. It’s out of my control now. Gotta wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

• Rookie Byron Maxwell is probably safely on the roster, but the cornerback didn’t do himself a ton of favors with two big penalties — one a pass interference call in the first half, and the other a personal-foul facemask in the second half.

Note
Carroll said left guard Robert Gallery and backup defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson both suffered knee sprains that are, “significant enough that we have to be concerned about next week.” Fullback Dorson Boyce, a longshot to make the roster, left the game with a shoulder stinger.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog.

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