SEATTLE Tyler Lockett made this coming week for the Seahawks far better than it could have been.
Without the rookie’s electrifying debut Friday, Seattle wouldn’t have a ton to be happy about while looking ahead to this weekend’s second exhibition game at Kansas City.
That’s how reassuring the third-round draft choice from Kansas State was in his first exhibition game for the team that traded four choices in May to move up and get him.
Lockett single-handedly rescued the Seahawks from what would have been a wholly underwhelming exhibition season opener against a Denver team that left its starters in far longer than Seattle did and won, 22-20.
The Seahawks’ offensive line, with new starters Lemuel Jeanpierre (in place of traded Pro Bowl center Max Unger) and Alvin Bailey (replacing departed free agent James Carpenter at left guard), was as porous as it has been in training camp.
Russell Wilson was sacked and lost a fumble at his own 11-yard line on the game’s second play. He got dumped again on the next drive.
It was an almost across-the-line failing. Second-year right tackle Justin Britt allowed Denver’s rush end, Von Miller, to run around him for the first sack. Right guard J.R. Sweezy got pushed back and left tackle Russell Okung seemed turned around on the second sack.
Wilson completed his only other pass call in nine plays over two drives that netted 25 yards and three first downs: And he had to roll outside on a bootleg play to do it, for 12 yards to new tight end Jimmy Graham.
“We’ve got a lot to work on, overall,” said Jeanpierre, Unger’s backup for five seasons who will continue to get a push from Drew Nowak for the starting center job.
“We were slow. No one feels good about that, at all.”
Jeanpierre said communication was a problem against Denver. That’s an issue that starts with him, the traffic cop of the line who makes the presnap reads and calls.
“We’ve just got to get better,” he said.
The defensive secondary sustained another injury. Newly acquired Mohammed Seisay pulled his groin, though coach Pete Carroll said he doesn’t believe it is serious.
Chris Matthews, the wide receiver and a Super Bowl standout from February, sustained an AC (acromioclavicular) joint sprain. That’s a shoulder separation, the result of trying to recover a fumbled punt return by the Broncos.
Carroll said backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson could be out “a little bit, (and) of course, we are concerned.” A Denver defender rolled up on Jackson’s ankle and sprained it on the first drive of the third quarter.
The first- and second-team defenses allowed Denver’s Brock Osweiler to complete 15 of 20 dink-and-dunk throws and convert four of eight third downs without being sacked.
Seattle was outgained 240 yards to 29 in the first half. It ended with the Broncos leading 19-10, instead of 19-3, only because of Lockett’s zooming, 103-yard kickoff return.
While the coaches and players focus on fixes, those outside team headquarters are spending the weekend marveling over Lockett, who returned another kickoff 46 yards and escaped for an 18-yard punt return that was all improvisation.
“We drafted him with the thought that he might give us a real spark in an area that we wanted to find a way to improve and be more dynamic. He did that,” Carroll said. “I think the creative return on the punt return was really nice to see. He started one way and got bottled up, and had the speed to get back around.
“Also, on the big kickoff, lots of times guys make that break and they start to turn the corner, and they get run down at the 30-yard line. He finished it, and that’s 4.3 (speed), and it showed up. A lot of fast guys tried to get him, and he turned the corner.”
Lockett is known in Kansas as a self-assured man of process, a son of K-State’s former career receiving leader, Frank Lockett, who internalized Wildcats coach Bill Snyder’s system to become a Heartland wonder. But even he was taken aback by what he did in his first NFL showcase.
“It’s a little bit more than I could have imagined,” Tyler Lockett said.
“Nobody understands or knows what their debut is going to be like. There’s a million thoughts that go through your head, especially when you play a night game. Anything can happen and you just kind of have to run with it and go with the flow. Luckily, I was blessed enough to have a game like this. … I felt the very first time I was out there, it got a lot faster. But after that was over, it was the same. It was the same as college to me.”
That comfort and poise are why Seattle general manager John Schneider and Carroll traded from the bottom to the top of the third round to get him.
Lockett said Seahawks veterans such as Doug Baldwin told him to simply rely on his instincts.
“Don’t think too much, because when you think is when you make mistakes and stuff like that,” Lockett said. “So I really just try to go out there and play off of instincts. The coaches know we’re going to make mistakes and stuff like that, and it’s all about correcting and not making the same mistake again. You have to be able to play mistake-free. You can’t worry about making mistakes.”
No worrying about Lockett in practice game No. 1.
Seattle’s late-game standouts included undrafted rookie T.Y. McGill from North Carolina State. The defensive tackle spent most of the second, third and fourth quarters in Denver’s backfield, along with Cassius Marsh and top rookie draft choice Frank Clark.
Carroll singled out McGill for praise. That usually means a move up the depth chart in practice the following week.
Wide receiver B.J. Daniels, the former No. 3 quarterback, caught two of the four passes thrown near him and returned his first kickoff for 35 yards in the second quarter.
And former University of Washington wide receiver Kevin Smith received Carroll’s praise for two catches for 36 yards on consecutive third-quarter completions — from otherwise erratic (again) third-string QB R.J. Archer.
Smith blew out his knee in practice the week before the Alamo Bowl in December 2012 during his junior season at UW. He made his first catch by contorting himself back toward Archer’s throw, which was far behind him.
There are jobs to win at wide receiver, especially with Matthews out indefinitely. Smith made a big step toward one of those.
“Gosh, he sure did. He had two great plays and good finishes on catches,” Carroll said. “It was really cool to see that. He’s been really active in camp and done very, very well for us. The catch on the one behind him was a fantastic grab, to hang on, and he got whacked, too. So a good showing.”
But not as great as Lockett’s first one.
FRIDAY: Exhibition, Seattle at Kansas City,
5 p.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM