What We Saw: Preseason Week 1

The WWS Team recaps the first week of the NFL Preseason

Seahawks @ Steelers

Final Score: Steelers 32, Seahawks 25

Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter, u/truebest on Reddit)

 

Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead only to see Seattle rally late to tie, and a failed 4th and 1 conversion set the Seahawks up with a perfect opportunity to win the game, getting the ball at midfield with under two minutes to play. Drew Lock was stripped of the ball on the first play, however, giving the ball right back to the Steelers in a tie game. Kenny Pickett lead the offense down for a touchdown, sending the crowd home happy with a six-point win.

Both teams took the first step in their respective quarterback competitions, and while each option showed its plusses and minuses, Geno Smith and Mitch Trubisky both appeared to have held off the competition for the time being. The real news in this one came from George Pickens‘ flashy touchdown, as well as some interesting play out of each team’s backfield. Fantasy managers will have some things to take away from this one, even with all of the big-name veteran wide receivers sitting this one out.

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

Quarterback

 

Drew Lock: 11/15, 102 yards, 2 TD, 2 Sacks, Fumble (Lost) | 1 carry, 3 yards

Geno Smith: 10/15, 101 yards, Sack | 2 carries, 9 yards, TD

 

Geno Smith got the first crack in the preseason opener and looked as expected. He executed the offense on the first drive but took a sack with good protection to end it. Seattle’s approach all game was heavy on play actions and screen passes with lots of running the football. Smith did not look good early on second reaction plays and took a check down right away on 3rd and 12 in the red zone for no chance at a first down.

One of his better throws came on a designed shotgun rollout to Noah Fant on a corner route, but Fant couldn’t get his feet in bounds. The drive ended when Smith read the defense well but Bo Melton dropped a pass on 3rd and 6 for what could have been a first. In the two-minute drive at the end of the half, Geno scrambled for a first after breaking a tackle, but the drive was otherwise all check downs and a draw. Smith finally went downfield on that drive for a 21-yard gain over the middle to Cade Johnson to get them in close, and then on a 3rd and 2 play action he rushed it in for a short touchdown. Smith performed relatively well considering he was without his best two playmakers at receiver.

Drew Lock came in for the second half and had a play-action attempt just inside the red zone with a nice throw into coverage that Colby Parkinson dropped as the defender arrived along with the ball. It easily could have been a touchdown, but it also may not have been the safest decision in the red zone. Lock converted the ensuing 3rd down on a crosser, but followed it up with a poorly thrown ball in the red zone off of play action where he tried to put some touch on it but was just slow getting it to the receiver. He would punch it in with a short touchdown on 3rd and goal from the three, however, on a quick pass over the middle.

Seattle started to spread it out some for Lock on the next drive but then drew up a wide receiver screen on 3rd and 12. Lock placed the ball poorly and gave his receiver no chance to catch and make a play, leading him right into the defender. The next drive saw Lock move the team down the field with mainly the run game and play action, and he threw for a second touchdown on a check-down to Deejay Dallas where the running back did most of the work. Finally, Lock took over in a tie game with under two minutes to play and just past midfield, coming off of a fourth down stop by the defense. But on the first play of the drive, with a chance to lead Seattle to a game-winning score, Lock got blindsided by an untouched blitzer and fumbled, costing Seattle the game.

 

 

Lock made more mistakes than Smith did, and his stat line makes his performance look more impressive than it actually was. I would be shocked if the coaching staff saw anything here that sways them from Smith as the starter.

 

Running Back

 

Kenneth Walker III: 5 carries, 19 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

DeeJay Dallas: 10 carries, 73 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards, TD

Travis Homer: 4 carries, 41 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 33 yards

Darwin Thompson: 3 carries, 15 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards

Dareke Young: 1 carry, -1 yard | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards, TD

 

With Rashaad Penny sidelined with a groin injury, the rookie Kenneth Walker III started and received a carry on the first offensive play. He received three straight carries on the second drive that resulted in a three-and-out. Walker was the return man on the second kickoff Seattle received. Towards the end of the second quarter, Walker was given a quick swing pass against a blitz and he did a good job one on one with a defender to gain a few extra yards. Walker looked patient and strong as a runner, but we really didn’t see many flashes in his half of action, and he was off the field for the two-minute drill to end the half.

 

 

Travis Homer started the third drive and caught a swing pass for a big gain on the first play. He had a big lane for a long run on two straight plays and was in for all of the work on this particular drive until Walker gave him a breather. Homer was the running back in the two-minute drive at the end of the half over Walker and had a big run on a draw. Homer stayed in for the red zone portion of the drive and nearly scored a touchdown on another draw. Homer would also return early in the second half when Seattle reached the red zone. Homer flashed speed in open spaces, and looks set as their pass-catching option.

Deejay Dallas returned Seattle’s first kick of the game but didn’t see any offensive action until the start of the second half. Dallas was actually the most impressive runner for Seattle, showing good second effort early after plowing into the pile. He looked patient and strong, though he’s not the most explosive rusher. Dallas had the entire first drive of the second half until 2nd and goal, where Homer replaced him. Dallas was back in on the next drive with a strong run up the middle for more than ten yards, and he kept finding extra yardage. Dallas finished the drive coming out of the backfield, catching a pass, breaking tackles, and leaping over the pile for a score. Dallas was impressive but was also still working into the fourth quarter and took a lot of work, which probably isn’t the best sign for how the team values him.

Darwin Thompson was the last one in the game and saw limited action.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Noah Fant: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Bo Melton: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 47 yards

Cade Johnson: 1 target, 1 reception, 21 yards

Colby Parkinson: 3 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards

Aaron Fuller: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards

 

There wasn’t much to speak of in the receiving corps with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett sitting out. Noah Fant had Seattle’s first reception, but on the next play, he looked lost as a blocker on a jet sweep and derailed the play. He had a deep corner route where he made the catch but didn’t get his feet down with two defenders on him, not an easy play but he left yards on the field. Those two mistakes likely overshadowed the positives in this one.

Bo Melton had a big run after the catch on a play-action short pass where he was motioning across the backfield before the snap. It was an impressive run that went for 39 yards.

Dareke Young played the big-bodied possession role and had a first down reception on a crosser on 3rd and 6 in the red zone. He then was the recipient of a quick hitter touchdown over the middle on 3rd and goal from the three for a touchdown. It was encouraging to at least see the seventh-round rookie trusted in high-leverage situations.

Aaron Fuller had a poor punt return he nearly fumbled away, but Seattle was able to recover.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Quarterback

 

Mitch Trubisky: 4/7, 63 yards, TD | 1 carry, 4 yards

Mason Rudolph: 9/15, 93 yards, TD, Sack, Fumble

Kenny Pickett: 13/15, 95 yards, 2 TD, 2 Sacks, | 3 carries, 16 yards

 

Mitch Trubisky started for Pittsburgh and did a good job against a decent amount of blitzing from Seattle, especially for a preseason game. Trubisky’s touchdown pass on the opening drive was on a wide-open busted coverage play. On the next drive, Trubisky shook a sack on a blown blocking assignment and made positive yardage out of it. The following 3rd and 4 he hit the back of his drop and immediately looked to run up the middle of a clean pocket, and at the last minute, after a defender came off his block, he fired inaccurately to end the drive. Trubisky spent the least time on the field of the three quarterbacks, but he was the first into the game and ran the offense well, and he made fewer mistakes than the two to follow, so I would imagine this is still his starting job for now.

Mason Rudolph entered for Pittsburgh’s third drive with three minutes left in the first quarter. He was strip-sacked from behind on the first play as the pressure got to him as he drew back to throw, but he recovered his own fumble. But Rudolph would finish the drive with a touchdown to George Pickens driving a short field, a nice pass in the corner of the end zone.

Later, with the Steelers driving near the red zone, Rudolph couldn’t find a receiver, was double clutching, and finally fired a throw over the middle late that should have been an easy interception. He also threw a dangerous 3rd and 2 pass near the goal line where the timing was all off; the pass was high and into coverage and could have been an interception. He was still in at the end of the half and threw another high pass that fell incomplete but could have led to a worse result. The pressure got to him on the next two plays for a three-and-out. Outside of the touchdown pass to Pickens, Rudulph’s day wasn’t great, and he easily could have had multiple interceptions.

First-round rookie Kenny Pickett was in to start the second half, getting the home crowd excited for a glimpse of their future. He started with a play-action rollout pass to the tight end for a first down on his first play. He moved the ball down the field with all short stuff while leaning on the running game, and capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to the running back. Pickett then converted the two-point conversion with a quick pass over the middle. Pickett made the right reads on his touchdown drive, but it was all a low level of difficulty.

The next drive featured a wide receiver screen and a roll-out quick hitter, then on 3rd and 6 Pickett had a traditional dropback and was sacked to end the drive. He had a nice sideline throw on time for 11 yards to start his third drive. Late in the fourth quarter, Pickett led a drive that was powered by the running game. He had a nice escape of the pocket to rush for a first down on 3rd and 2, and they were still running the ball coming out of the two-minute warning around mid-field with the game tied. On the ensuing 4th and 1 they went for it and called a play-action bootleg. Pickett took a sack for a big loss and a turnover on downs that would have probably cost them the game against a better opponent. The play was totally blown up but he might have had an option to at least get rid of the ball and save some yardage. When they got the ball back following the Lock turnover, Pickett moved the ball with his legs and the running game. Then with 12 seconds left and Pittsburgh well into field goal range in a tie game, Pickett hit a comebacker that featured an awful tackling attempt and a puzzling defensive scheme from Seattle for the game-winning touchdown.

Overall Pickett looked composed and moved well in the pocket and picked up first downs with his legs. But we saw very little need for him to push the ball downfield or go through multiple progressions, which we will want to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses.

 

Running Back

 

Anthony McFarland Jr.: 7 carries, 56 yards

Jaylen Warren: 6 carries, 34 yards, Fumble | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards

Master Teague: 6 carries, 31 yards

 

Anthony McFarland Jr. was the first in for Pittsburgh, as Najee Harris sat out and Benny Snell was inactive with a knee injury. McFarland was very impressive, starting off with a really nice 3rd and 1 run out of a jumbo formation. The defense had no contain and he broke it outside with speed. McFarland later looked excellent on a toss that should have been blown up in the backfield until he changed directions and cut back, and then he showed burst through the middle for a nice run on the very next play. McFarland got all the work in the first quarter and took a kick return at the beginning of the second before he was finally spelled. McFarland rotated in with Warren that drive and had a slashing run for three where some more patience might have helped. Overall McFarland was impressive, and if anything were ever to happen to Harris, McFarland would be the option with upside in this offense.

 

 

Jaylen Warren was the second running back in and took a ton of work. The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State looked like your typical plodder on the ground to start, but he flashed as the game went on. Warren is a stout runner with thick legs who can be hard to bring down at just 5’8″ but weighing 215 pounds. He caught a pass from the backfield and broke two tackles for a first down. He broke a tackle on a run later that drive for over ten yards, and though he did fumble at the end of it the Steelers recovered. He played the ensuing drive as well and was even playing third downs. He tacked on a nice spin move on a run-out-the-clock attempt at the end of the half. He received frequent work in the passing game with Pickett in, totaling three catches on one drive, including an excellent leaping grab where he took a shot as well but reached the end zone for a touchdown.

 

 

Master Teague and Mataeo Durant saw work late, but they were outshined by McFarland and Warren.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

George Pickens: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 43 yards, TD

Gunner Olszewski: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 47 yards, TD

Steven Sims: 2 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards | 1 carry, 38 yards

Tyler Vaughns: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 32 yards, TD

Miles Boykin: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards

Connor Heyward4 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards

Jace Sternberger2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Cody White: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 13 yards

 

George Pickens was the fantasy talk of the game, and he started out with a first-play reception on a comeback route on the sideline. Pickens was the target of a deep incomplete shot that drive as well. Pickens scored his touchdown on Rudolph’s first drive, where he found himself in single coverage with rookie corner Coby Bryant on him. Bryant playing off coverage and never laid a hand on Pickens until the ball was arriving in the corner of the endzone. Pickens did a beautiful job of toe-tapping and hand-fighting in the corner to complete the score. Later, Pickens had a tough sideline catch for a first down on 2nd and 7, though again he had tons of cushion and was untouched. He got a shot down the sideline on the very next play but the corner was up on him and pressed him and Pickens was covered well. The pass was ultimately uncatchable and out of bounds. That was the end of Pickens’ day, and while the touchdown was impressive, he had very little target competition with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth all sitting out the game.

 

 

Gunner Olszewski was impressive acting as the de-facto slot option, catching a slant route for a first down on the opening drive. He capped off that drive with an uncovered, busted coverage touchdown. Most of Gunner’s work came early with Trubisky, but he did have a first-down catch from Rudolph as well.

Steven Sims had a really nice punt return in the first quarter, and also sprung a huge gain on a jet sweep, on what was a horribly blown defensive assignment by Seattle.

Rookie tight end Connor Hayward had a false start, but they went right back to him for a catch on the next play, and he looked decent with his opportunities.

Rudolph started looking Miles Boykin‘s way as soon as Pickens exited the game, and Boykin had a couple of catches and a broken-up target in the end zone on the same drive. On the end zone target the defender was draped all over him, and it could have easily been pass interference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.