Seahawks’ luxury: Seeking widespread improvement following a win

That was just one game. There are 15 more.

That’s basically what coach Pete Carroll said about the Seahawks’ season-opening escape, 21-20 past Cincinnati. He said that after the win on Sunday and again on Monday, relating it to this weekend’s game at Pittsburgh.

“After taking a good look at the film, there’s a lot of stuff for us to get better at,” Carroll said.

Seattle won for only the second time in five openers despite the Bengals out-gaining the Seahawks 429-233. Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards against them. The offensive line allowed Russell Wilson to get sacked four times and hit nine more times in 24 drop backs. Seattle’s number-one rushing offense in the NFL last season managed just 72 yards on 25 carries.

It was a meager 48 yards on the first 20 rushes until Chris Carson bulled through four Bengals for 21 yards on third down with 3 minutes left to basically clinch the win.

Plus, Carroll on Monday vaguely described injuries to three starters—defensive tackle Poona Ford, tight end Will Dissly and tight end Will DIssly, plus rookie draft choice Ugo Amadi, who was the first nickel defensive back Sunday.

“(We) came out rusty,” Carson said. “That’s something that we’ve got to fix.”

The only thing perfect about the Seahawks heading into Sunday’s game at angry Pittsburgh (0-1) is their record.

“We were fortunate to get the win. You’re always fortunate to get the wins in this league. They’re so hard to come by.” Carroll said. “Thrilled that we got off to that start with so much to gain and to improve in all areas, really.”

Tedric Thompson needs to improve.

The free safety started an opening game for the first time in his three-season career, in what he hopes is his first full season as Earl Thomas’ replacement as the center fielder in back of the defense.

Late in the first half Dalton chucked a jump ball up toward former University of Washington wide receiver John Ross in the final seconds of the first half. It was almost Hail Mary style. Thompson ran under like a returner does a punt. But he jumped about a day and a half early for the arriving ball. As his feet returned to the ground at the 12-yard line, the ball plopped behind Thompson right to Ross for a gift of a 55-yard touchdown.

Thompson also ran wildly out of assigned areas in search of tackles and hits. Such lack of discipline and headiness can be a siren call to opposing quarterbacks such as this week against the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. He holds the record for most yards passing in a game against the Seahawks: 456 in November 2015.

Thompson might as well have been wearing a sandwich board during the game declaring “Attack me!” as the last defender for parts of Sunday.

“I thought he over-tried,” Carroll said.

“He was trying so hard he was flying around. He overran a few things. He just mistimed his jump on the big play. ... He was just selling out all the hits trying to make big hits when maybe it wasn’t the right opportunity, just trying to go for it. Which we appreciate. But we’ve got to clean up because we have to be more precise.”

It’s only one game. So part of the angst over Thompson’s play is overreacting. But Seattle’s fourth-round draft pick in 2017 known as a college ball hawk at Colorado was often too aggressive last season when he started the final three months of 2018, after Thomas broke his leg.

“He’ll play better,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t because he wasn’t working hard or trying hard or knowing his assignments. He really was going for it and we kind of have a tendency, we can talk guys into that a little bit. He’ll do better.”

The Seahawks have options on hand to replace Thompson, if they choose to.

On his Monday morning radio show with Seattle’s KIRO AM, Carroll said safety Lano Hill will compete to play now that he’s back from the cracked hip that ended his 2018 season early and kept him out well into August.

Marquise Blair might already be starting with Bradley McDougald at safety if he didn’t miss minicamp in June with a hamstring injury then much of August with a hip pointer. The rookie second-round draft choice completed a full week of practice last week.

Asked Monday afternoon how seriously he’s thinking about switching Thompson out of the lineup, Carroll said: “No. We’re playing ball. We’re not talking about that seriously.”

The offensive line proved what it did last season: it can’t adequately protect Russell Wilson trying to throw in long-yardage situations when defenses know a pass is coming. That’s why the running game is so vital to all the Seahawks do on offense. The Bengals stacked the line of scrimmage to stop Seattle’s run Sunday; Chris Carson, an 1,100-yard rusher a year ago, had 25 yards on his first 14 carries against Cincinnati.

That created second- and third and long. And Wilson got besieged like it was Denver and Chicago from the start of last season again.

“Not as good as expected,” Carroll said. “We thought we would come out more efficient than that in the run game and protection-wise. Really, playing off the running game would’ve helped us quite a bit in the pass actions and stuff like that.

“They did a nice job. They were totally playing on us and did a really good job with their coaching. I thought they had a good thought in how they tried to work with us.

Really, it wasn’t a good as we’d hoped. And we’ll do quite a bit better.”

They have to.

Here’s the thing about this Sunday in early September, the first of 16 acts in a long performance of the regular season: More than many Seahawks early seasons, this one is not likely to be indicative of what this team will look like in November and December. This isn’t the “Legion of Boom” secondary and a deep, pressuring defensive front and Wilson throwing to the incredibly reliable Baldwin though an uncanny, unspoken understanding the quarterback and receiver shared in the biggest moments of games.

Those players—with the exception of Wilson, All-Pro Bobby Wagner and his linebacking partner K.J. Wright—and those Super Bowl days are gone. There are so many unknowns, so many new parts in key spots right now.

“We’re all right. We’ve got a long ways to go,” Carroll said.

“This isn’t an indication of anything.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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