Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks' porous O-line play spells trouble for Russell Wilson, offense in exhibition loss to Vikings

Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen (97) has Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in his sights. Wilson was sacked four times Thursday.
Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen (97) has Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in his sights. Wilson was sacked four times Thursday. The Associated Press

Hey, here are new issues for the Seahawks:

Pass protection and their offensive line.

The Minnesota Vikings sacked Russell Wilson four times in the first half of Thursday’s second preseason game at CenturyLink Field. The half was so ugly for Seattle that the best thing to say about it was “it’s only August.”

The Seahawks trailed 11-0 at halftime, and by that same score into the fourth quarter. The Vikings outgained them 200 yards to 106 in the first half.

Seattle’s starting offense managed those 106 yards on 29 plays, an underwhelming average of 3.7 yards per snap. The Seahawks punted four times on five drives. The other drive ended when the Vikings stuffed rookie running back Alex Collins up the middle for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 41 in the first quarter.

Coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he wanted to see his starting offensive and defensive line control the line of scrimmage better in this exhibition than last week’s.

They did not.

The most alarming play was Wilson’s and the starting offense’s last one. On third-and-long and trying to get a two-minute drill going, Wilson ran around while right tackle Garry Gilliam let his Vikings defender go. In fact, Gilliam didn’t hit anyone on the play. Blitzing safety Andrew Sendejo hit Wilson 18 yards behind the line, crumpling the invaluable legs of Seattle’s $87.6 million quarterback beneath his body weight and into the turf.

You could almost feel the home stadium gasp.

Of the four sacks, Wilson held onto the ball an extra-long time on two of them. New left tackle Bradley Sowell thought Wilson had already thrown the ball on a play deep in Seattle’s own end in the first quarter. The quarterback still had the ball, though, and Sowell’s man, Minnesota star end Everson Griffen, ran in free to dump Wilson for a 10-yard loss.

The other sack came when the Vikings blitzed a linebacker off Seattle’s right edge, inside Gilliam. Collins took a fake handoff, then missed the blitz pickup as Wilson got dumped again.

Sowell is playing left tackle and Gilliam right tackle – where he started all last season – since last week’s knee sprain sustained by J’Marcus Webb. Webb, signed as a free agent from Oakland this spring to a two-year contract with $2.75 million guaranteed, had been the starting right tackle from May’s minicamps until Aug. 10.

Wilson finished 5 for 11 passing for 77 yards. Three of his passes were dropped, by Collins and tight ends Brandon Williams and Luke Willson.

Sowell also had a false-start penalty at the start of the final drive. Jonathan Amosa, the former Washington Husky signed to a trial at fullback two weeks ago after a Seafair roadblock allowed him to be available to answer the Seahawks’ phone call for a tryout, had a crack-back block foul on a bubble screen to Doug Baldwin.

Through two preseason games, the Seahawks’ starting offense has played six drives and produced 167 yards on 39 plays (4.3 yards per play) with 11 first downs, one interception, one turnover on downs — and zero points.

The offensive line, with the potential of new starters in four of the five positions, has allowed four sacks on 30 drop backs so far this preseason.

MICHAEL ROMPS AGAIN

Christine Michael continued to make huge strides filling in as lead running back while Thomas Rawls works back from his broken ankle suffered last December.

Michael rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and showed not only sharp cutbacks but also a better awareness than in his previous seasons.

Seattle’s former second-round pick, whom the team traded away to Dallas last September before bringing back after Rawls got hurt, has 99 yards on 17 carries through two preseason games.

That’s 5.8 yards per rush, better than Rawls’ NFL-best 5.6 yards per carry last season.

AND ON DEFENSE …

The starting defense mixed in reserves more than the offense did. It included Mike Morgan, back from a quick trip to Philadelphia to see a specialist for a groin issue, at strong side linebacker. Rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed was the defensive tackle with Jordan Hill. Jeremy Lane starting at left cornerback, then moved to nickel inside again with DeShawn Shead outside when Seattle went to five defensive backs.

Those starters allowed Minnesota eight points and 166 yards on 29 plays (5.7 yards per play). The Vikings were 3 for 7 on third downs. Seattle’s starters again did not force a turnover, and its pass rush did not pressure Minnesota’s Shaun Hill with four- and occasionally five-man rushes.

Hill got the start when the Vikings’ first-string quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sat out. Minnesota officials said that was a “coach’s decision.”

The Seahawks rotated eight linemen in on that defensive line in the first half, including rookie draft pick Quinton Jefferson, end Ryan Robinson, strong side linebacker candidate Cassius Marsh and tackle Justin Hamilton. Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett started after missing last week’s exhibition because of illness.

Through two games, the Seahawks’ starting defense has allowed 215 yards on 37 plays (5.8 yards/play), 13 first downs on six drives — and 15 points.

The Vikings’ eight points on the “starting” defense came Thursday when Bennett plus All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were on the Seahawks’ sideline.

WRIGHT HURTING

Starting weak side linebacker K.J. Wright walked off the field slowly in the second quarter with a trainer on one side of him and a team doctor on the other. He appeared to have gotten hit near the head or neck. When he got to the sidelines, another team doctor apparently declared Wright’s night over — judging by Wright stomping up and down and then being escorted into the Seahawks’ locker room.

McDANIEL DEBUTS WELL

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel entered in the first quarter and stoutly took on double teams while plugging running lanes. It looked like 2013 again for him on the Seahawks’ front.

Not at all bad for a 31-year-old free agent who was kayaking and hiking in Leavenworth less than a week ago. His agent noticed on Snapchat that his client was in Washington, and asked the Seahawks to try out McDaniel with the added attraction the team wouldn’t have to pay for his flight.

McDaniel started at defensive tackle for Seattle on their Super Bowl teams in the ’13 and ’14 seasons.

EXTRA POINTS

Rookie free agent Nolan Frese’s high snap caused Steven Hauschka’s timing to falter on a 53-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter. The Seahawks cut Drew Ferris this month and chose Frese, from the University of Houston, instead. … Rookie tight end Nick Vannett left the game in the third quarter after a catch and was limping on the sideline.

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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