What we learned from Seahawks-Vikings: Seattle knows what it has in DeShawn Shead

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A few day-after thoughts on what we learned from the Seahawks’ second preseason game, a 25-19 loss to Minnesota that otherwise will drift quickly into the abyss of the memory.

DeShawn Shead makes good case for himself

DeShawn Shead was everywhere on defense, playing much of the final two and a half quarters as a safety and also playing in some of the team’s dime (six defensive backs) packages throughout.

Just how much he played became evident Monday when the snap counts from the game were revealed: Shead played 54 snaps, five more than any other defensive player (out of 74 plays run by the Vikings).

A lot of that was due to the injuries to Marquise Blair (who left with back spasms in the third quarter) and Lano Hill (held out one more week after returning to practice recently following hip surgery last January), which left Shead, rookie Ugo Amadi and Shalom Luani as the only healthy safeties at the end, other than the starting duo of Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald.

But as the Seahawks try to sort out a muddled safety position, it’s obvious they wanted to give Shead a long look. He was the first backup safety into the game, replacing McDougald on the third series to work with Thompson, which might have been a statement about Shead, but also might have been so they could see how a Shead-Thompson pairing looked in a game. Blair then replaced Thompson at free safety, working with Shead at strong safety until leaving, having played just 16 snaps.

Figure Hill to get significant work in the final two games if he’s healthy. He spent much of the practice week working with the No. 2 defense.

But if the Seahawks had questions about how Shead might fit in his return to the Seahawks, they got a lot of good info Sunday. He was a cornerback at the end of his first tenure with the team but is now playing solely safety.

He wasn’t flawless, beaten a couple of times in man coverage situations, including on a third down right before his 88-yard pick six. And the Seahawks allowed third-team Minnesota QB Kyle Sloter to complete 11 of 13 passes for 116 yards and lead the Vikings on two long touchdown drives in the second half, during the time the backup defense was in the game. Sloter, in fact, completed 10 straight passes on the two TD drives he led.

But the playmaking ability, versatility and experience Shead has always had -- and showed he still has -- will make the decisions on the safety position that much more difficult for the Seahawks.

Waiting for some young WRs to break out

Due in large part to depth issues on the offensive line and a little bit of a regression by Paxton Lynch, it was a tough night for the offense once Russell Wilson and the first-team line took a seat.

After gaining 106 yards on the first two Wilson-led drives on 18 plays, Seattle had just 115 yards on seven drives the rest of the game.

And that meant that many of the young receivers whom fans have been eagerly waiting to do things didn’t have a great chance to do much of anything.

DK Metcalf, of course, was already out, scheduled for knee surgery Tuesday that coach Pete Carroll characterized as minor (though without ever actually using that word), while saying there’s a chance he could be back for the season opener.

But the two other drafted rookies, Gary Jennings (fourth round) and John Ursua (seventh), got just three targets.

Jennings had a breakout performance in practice last Monday, and his potential and status as a fourth-rounder seems to have a roster spot fairly well locked up. But he has yet to make a catch in two preseason games on three targets. Jennings was on the field for 22 plays, most of any receiver, other than Ursua, who had 24.

But other receivers also have been largely absent.

Malik Turner, also vying for a roster spot, has yet to even get a target.

Turner had 16 snaps Sunday, when he was the fourth receiver to take the field, after the starting three of Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown and David Moore, and the only one of those three to play when Wilson was in the game.

Turner played a few snaps alongside Lockett and Brown, in the spot where Moore would have been, which was interesting in itself. It seems evident Lockett and Brown are the top two receivers right now with Moore appearing to be the third, especially now with Metcalf out.

Jazz Ferguson, the star of the first preseason game, failed to really build on the moment of the first game with just two receptions on seven targets with a drop and a fumble (though to be fair, it also looked like Lynch just missed him a couple of times).

Keenan Reynolds also has yet to get a target, while 2017 third-round pick Amara Darboh has yet to even play.

Maybe if Wilson and the No. 1 line play a bit more in Week 3 it’ll give more of a chance for some of the nonstarting receivers to shine, as well.

Nickel spot up for grabs

It can be risky to assume those of us on the outside see the game the same way as the coaches.

The initial reaction seeing the Vikings complete 28 of 35 passes for 272 yards and a 106.2 passer rating is that the pass defense had a tough day.

And it wasn’t just the backups. Tre Flowers had a penalty for a 45-yard gain and Shaquill Griffin gave up a 34-yard completion (and while Carroll argued he might have been pushed off, the play stood after review.)

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But Carroll said later of the secondary that “I though they played pretty tight coverage for the most part.”

Asked about the pass rush -- Seattle didn’t have a sack and was credited with just three quarterback hits -- Carroll noted the Vikings get the ball out quickly but also said he’d need to watch the film first.

The nickel spot is the biggest remaining question with regards to starters in the secondary, with Thompson appearing to have a hold at free safety. Sunday, it was basically a two-man battle between Akeem King, who played 31 snaps, and Jamar Taylor, who played 30 (not all at nickel for each).

Interestingly, Kalan Reed, who worked some with the starting unit in practice during the week, played just six snaps after being beaten early for a 10-yard completion on third and 9.

Maybe the Seahawks just wanted to give King and Taylor most of the work to give them the best evaluation, but it’s tempting to wonder if Seattle has thinned that battle down some, as well.

Amadi, who can also play nickel, had 28 snaps, but it appeared most of those came at safety. But his ability to play nickel and the fact he seems likely to make the roster factors in to how the coaches are going to decide this.

Offensive line depth an issue

One of the biggest revelations seemed to be the distance in the gap between the first offensive line and the backups.

The good news is that, barring injury, there’s no need to ever have to play the backups.

And Seattle appears to have a pretty set top seven who all may be ready to go Week 1.

But two of that seven -- guard Mike Iupati and tackle George Fant -- remain out, and it’s unclear exactly when they will return.

Ethan Pocic has filled in for Iupati at left guard, and Carroll said he played “solid with the first group.”

While there was some question in the offseason about Pocic’s spot on the roster, it doesn’t seem like there should be now.

Putting together a viable second unit was a challenge, with injuries to a number of backups, such as Jamarco Jones and Jordan Simmons. Rookie guard Phil Haynes also has yet to practice while on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

These difficulties impacted not only Lynch and the receiving corps but also the running game, with Rashaad Penny held to minus-2 yards on six carries. Carroll said he didn’t put that on Penny but on the line.

The Seahawks may need to do some roster shuffling there this week.

Special teams a bright spot

Improving special teams was an emphasis for the Seahawks in the offseason and played a key role in many of the team’s 11 draft picks.

It’s really risky to read much into overall preseason numbers.

But for now it’s what we have, and so far so good in achieving that objective.

Seattle has pretty wide advantages in almost every special teams category so far -- almost 4 yards better per kickoff return, holding opponents to 2.3 yards per punt return and having a net punting average almost 3 yards better than opponents, all buoyed by Jason Myers hitting six of seven field goals, six in a row after his initial miss from 56 yards last week at CenturyLink (longer than any kick that has ever been made there).

Amadi had a huge hit on a punt return but two other good tackles on kickoff returns were made by vets: Thompson and Barkevious Mingo.

Terry Wright, meanwhile, put some life into the kickoff returns with 66 yards on two attempts. The undrafted rookie free agent is another intriguing young receiver who at the least appears to be doing enough to hang around on the practice squad.

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