The most conclusive findings of the Seattle Seahawks’ 31-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders in their preseason finale at CenturyLink Field came early Thursday evening.
They were a decisive signal that Seattle’s present and future are in capable hands.
More accurately, feet.
On two of the game’s first three scrimmage plays, top rookie draft choice Frank Clark sped from his defensive end spot past a Raiders backup tackle to disrupt Oakland’s plays before they got started. He was in the backfield six times in the first 19 minutes.
The sixth time was for a sack and fumble in Oakland’s end zone. Teammate Jordan Hill recovered that for a Seahawks touchdown and a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter against a Raiders team that only started one of its 22 regulars.
Whether against starters or reserves, inside at defensive tackle or outside at his usual end, Clark’s zooming summer shows why Seahawks general manager John Schneider was willing to take the hefty public-relations hit he and the team got in May — drafting a player Michigan had kicked out of its program in November following an arrest and brief jail stay on a domestic-violence charge. Ohio authorities eventually reduced it to misdemeanor assault.
Clark beat his blocker five times to speed into the Raiders’ backfield in the first quarter. His first 20 minutes Thursday included four tackles — three solo — one tackle for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and those half-dozen charges into the Raiders’ backfield.
Seattle’s other top rookie pick was just as fast. And just as stunning. Again.
On the second offensive play for Seattle, which finished exhibition play 2-2, Russell Wilson worked behind his new starting offensive line that gave him plenty of time for one of the relatively few times this preseason. The quarterback looked right then left. There he found rookie Tyler Lockett sprinting alone as if he was on a remote prairie back in Kansas. The former Kansas State star and third-round pick ran past every Raider all the way back to Lester Hayes.
He caught Wilson’s lofted ball at the Oakland 30, then zoomed past late-arriving safety Larry Asante and thoroughly beaten cornerback Keith McGill the rest of the way to the end zone.
Lockett then broke into a goofy, arms-crossing, almost square-dance move to celebrate his third touchdown in four exhibition games. They’ve been 63 yards, 68 yards on a wowing, zigzag punt return last weekend in San Diego and 103 yards on a kickoff past some stunned Broncos in the preseason opener Aug. 14.
That may even be beyond the production Schneider had in mind when he traded three draft choices to Washington in May to move from the bottom to the top of the third round so they could get Lockett to be Seattle’s primary punt and kickoff returner.
Less conclusive but no less exciting: What to do with Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams as the 53-man roster for the regular season must be set by Saturday afternoon?
Incumbent wide receivers Chris Matthews and Ricardo Lockette may be wondering that now, too.
The former Washington Huskies wide receivers seemed to perhaps be battling each other for the final of six or perhaps seven roster spots at the position. Then Williams, the undrafted rookie who had his final season and a half at UW ruined by a broken leg and displaced foot, made a diving catch in the crook of one arm while tightly covered. That 16-yard touchdown pass from B.J. Daniels made it 24-14 in the third quarter.
Smith was the first and second man down on kickoff coverage from his outside, right gunner spot multiple times. He also made a deft move after a catch on a screen and then a cut-back move to complete a 28-yard punt return. No. 1 wide receiver Doug Baldwin got into Smith’s facemask for some celebratory woofing on the sideline after that impressive return, while Smith tapped his wrist as if to say, “You know what time it is!”
Daniels, converting this summer from last season’s No. 3 quarterback to wide receiver, seemingly cemented his roster spot by showing he can come back in off special teams and punt returning to spark the offense. Replacing R.J. Archer at quarterback midway through the third quarter, Daniels immediately pump-faked former UW defensive end Josh Shirley halfway into the upper deck then ran past him for a first down. Then he threw the precise, pretty pass to Williams for that 16-yard score.
More Daniels running led another touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a touchdown run on a read-option handoff to undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls, who’s been pushing Christine Michael for the roster spot as No. 3 tailback.
Daniels finished with 75 yards on seven runs. He 6 for 14 passing for 45 yards.
Rawls rushed 11 times for 87 yards and that score.
Michael ran eight times for 39 yards, all in the first half behind the first- and second-team line.
Jesse Williams had half a tackle in the second quarter then a sack to doom Oakland’s final drive in the last 30 seconds in what may or may not be the last game of his already-remarkable 2015 for Seattle.
Williams said this week he is still getting scans a couple times each week as doctors continue to determine if his cancer they found in the 24-year-old’s kidney and lymph nodes while removing them has spread to other parts of his body. If it has, or the Seahawks have reason to believe before 1 p.m. Saturday that it has, the team could put Williams on the non-football-injury injured reserve list.
It would end his season before it actually started for the third consecutive year, after knee injuries doomed his first two. But that move would ensure Williams gets another full season of pay ($435,000 this season) while on IR again.
SEPT. 13: Season opener, Seattle at St. Louis, 10 a.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM