NFC West: 2012 NFL preseason


SEATTLE -- Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in an exhibition opener at CenturyLink Field:

1. QB competition. Starter Matt Flynn was efficient early, but two sacks and an interception changed the complexion of his performance. At his best, Flynn rolled left and threw across his body for a 14-yard gain with a defender bearing down on him. The Seahawks did not ask much from Flynn overall. Most of his passes were safe ones, including when linebacker Colin McCarthy dropped into underneath coverage for an interception. I don't think Flynn hurt his cause, but neither was he the most exciting Seattle quarterback in this game. We need to see more.

Russell Wilson started the second half and moved outside the pocket on his first three dropbacks, including one negated by a Titans penalty. At this point, I was wondering how much we'd see Wilson throw within the context of a conventional offense. Wilson threw from the pocket on his next dropback, finding Braylon Edwards for a 39-yard touchdown on a deep pass up the left side. Wilson continued moving well. He threw effectively on the run, showing good accuracy and velocity. But he also threw into coverage for an interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Wilson appeared to make a poor decision on this play, costing his team points. His 32-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes left a positive impression.

2. Three rookie draft choices. Defensive end Bruce Irvin, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin were the ones I singled out.

Irvin played sparingly and did not get much pressure. Titans left tackle Michael Roos absorbed him. There were times Seattle left Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane on the field in its nickel package, with Irvin on the sideline. That will change when the games start counting. Regarding Irvin, Seattle looked like a team holding back in preseason. Coach Pete Carroll greeted Irvin excitedly on the sideline after Irvin and the second-team defense stopped the Titans on a fourth-down play. Quarterback Jake Locker rolled away from Irvin and threw incomplete.

Wagner stopped Javon Ringer following a 2-yard gain early when the Titans did not block him. He showed speed in running from between the hashes to the yard-line numbers to assist on a tackle following a quick pass to the perimeter. Titans guard Kyle DeVan got into Wagner pretty good on a third-quarter running play.

Turbin showed excellent hands as a receiver out of the backfield. A longtime scout watching from the press box marveled at the grab Turbin made over the middle on a hard, low pass that looked almost like it was thrown away. That would have been a difficult catch even for a wide receiver. Turbin appeared quick through the line on a 9-yard gain in the first half. His quickness was apparent again on a toss to the left. Turbin outran defensive end Keyunta Dawson on that one, gaining 10 yards. Turbin didn't have much room on other runs, including when linebacker Zach Brown chased him down for a 2-yard loss.

3. Receiver mix. Edwards, on alert since the Seahawks signed Terrell Owens, helped himself in this game. He made an aggressive play on the ball to haul in Wilson's 39-yard bomb up the left side. Seattle wants a receiver with size. Edwards put his size to use on that play. Edwards scuffled with a Titans defender early in the game. He drew a penalty for a block in the back after hustling to tag cornerback Tommie Campbell following a long run from Wilson. Once a top-10 overall draft choice, Edwards was out there battling when Charly Martin, Phil Bates and Kris Durham were the other wideouts.

Deon Butler was active early, drawing an interference penalty before making a 10-yard catch for a first down as Seattle moved to the Tennessee 30-yard line. Durham, a player the Seahawks hoped would develop into a faster version of Mike Williams, couldn't handle a pass Wilson zipped to him on the perimeter.

Looking back upon three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' exhibition game Friday at Kansas City, a game the Cardinals lost 27-17:

1. QB competition. John Skelton started and generally looked better than Kevin Kolb, in my view, except for an across-the-body pass into coverage for an interception on third-and-14. Neither quarterback made a clear positive statement. Skelton completed 3 of 6 passes. Kolb completed 1-of-5. Skelton appeared unfazed by the rush, at one point coolly sidestepping a charging defender to find Andre Roberts. The running game struggled early, however, and the Cardinals found themselves in third-and-long situations too frequently. Kolb appeared sharp and accurate on his first couple throws, both back-shoulder types. He held onto the ball too long a couple times, including once when the Chiefs sacked him. "Five hitches, you gotta get rid of the ball," former NFL quarterback Trent Green said during the Chiefs' broadcast of the game. Ryan Lindley, the likely third quarterback, completed all four attempts working behind the first-team line late in the first half. He drove the Cardinals to a field goal after the team fell behind 17-0.

2. Stewart Bradley's progress. The Chiefs blocked Bradley (and quite a few of his teammates) effectively while driving to touchdowns on their first two possessions. Bradley did stop Peyton Hillis for a 1-yard gain early, but he appeared unaware as Hillis rumbled through the line for a sizable gain to the Arizona 13-yard line. Hillis gained 41 yards on his first four carries and also had a 11-yard touchdown reception. One of the Chiefs' tight ends blocked Bradley to spring Shaun Draughn for a 4-yard touchdown. The entire defense had problems stopping Kansas City early. Bradley was in the spotlight here because he played well in the exhibition opener while trying to bounce back from a rough first season with Arizona.

3. Pass protection. There were issues in protection, but these were not just protection issues. They were situational issues. The Cardinals, playing without their top running backs, struggled to run the ball early. The run blocking itself wasn't very good. Arizona found itself in third-and-long situations too many times. Offensive linemen have a hard enough time holding up in protection without trying to keep their quarterbacks upright on third-and-long. And when a quarterback holds onto the ball an extra second or two, the job becomes even tougher. An improved ground game would have helped the protection.

CANTON, Ohio -- Looking back upon three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' exhibition opener against New Orleans, a 17-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on Sunday night:

1. Kevin Kolb's performance. The first item linked above included two questions for the Cardinals' quarterback. One, can he command the offense and finally appear comfortable running it? Two, can he make it through the game healthy after injuries derailed his 2011 season? Unfortunately, "no" and "definitely not" were the respective answers against the Saints. Kolb tossed an interception on his first pass attempt. Kolb, dropping back for his fourth pass attempt, suffered a rib contusion when New Orleans' Sedrick Ellis hit him. Kolb's night was finished, the latest damaging blow to his starting candidacy in Arizona. Injuries have knocked Kolb from preseason and/or regular-season games in four consecutive seasons.

2. Right side of the OL. Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie played extensively. He matched up against third-year Saints defensive end Junior Galette and seemed to do well enough. New Orleans did get pressure against Massie a few times, including once when Massie might have allowed a sack (I did not see the play clearly). Massie cleared out Galette to spring running back William Powell into the clear. Another time, Galette wanted a holding call, but did not get one, when Massie appeared to hook Galette around the collar. Massie disengaged and held up his hands as if to show officials he wasn't holding. Update: Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he thought Massie struggled some while getting needed reps. The team is working with Massie to adjust his setup. The goal is to make Massie less mechanical, Whisenhunt said. That won't happen overnight or after a week of practices, but we should see progress as the preseason continues.

3. Cornerback competition. William Gay started opposite left cornerback Patrick Peterson, as expected. Michael Adams was the nickel corner with the starting group. Tackling was a problem for the defense overall, including at corner. Gay missed one tackle on running back Mark Ingram early. Adams was the left corner and A.J. Jefferson the right corner with the second unit. Greg Toler also worked with the second unit. He missed a tackle in the third quarter. Teams aren't getting as much contact work in training camps under the current labor deal. That makes it tougher to simulate timing and work on the fundamentals of tackling. Saints quarterback Drew Brees played little, so the Cardinals' secondary didn't get an extended look against top competition. Update: Whisenhunt liked the way his corners played the ball. He thought they were physical. He thought the Cardinals needed to do a better job tackling on check-down plays.
A few notes after the NFL announced its preseason schedule for the 2012 season:
  • The San Francisco 49ers face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a nationally televised game in the third week. The third week is generally when teams play their starters the longest.
  • Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans face the Seahawks in Seattle, Hasselbeck's first game against his former team. That means Matt Flynn makes his Seattle debut against Hasselbeck.
  • Seattle travels to Denver for what will be Manning's first home game with the Broncos.
  • All four NFC West teams are home in the fourth week of preseason. That's a bonus heading into the regular season. Every AFC West team finishes the preseason on the road, with three of those games against NFC West teams.
  • Two of the Arizona Cardinals' five games are televised nationally, beginning with their matchup against New Orleans in the Hall of Fame Game. The Aug. 23 game at Tennessee falls on a Thursday night.
  • The St. Louis Rams open the Jeff Fisher era against Indianapolis, the worst team in the NFL last season. That's what we call easing into things. The Rams should welcome the arrangement as they rebuild.
  • The NFL wasn't about to schedule another 49ers game against Oakland after violence marred the 2011 preseason game between the teams.
  • As miner49er4984 noted in the comments, the 49ers face the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason and again in the regular season. Two matchups with Mike Singletary in one season, then.

The chart shows each team's opponents.

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