SEATTLE -- Pete Carroll billed Thursday night's preseason opener against the Denver Broncos as a big opportunity to see the young guys on the roster get a chance to shine.
With many veterans being given the night off, quarterback Paxton Lynch, wide receiver Jazz Ferguson and cornerback Ugo Amadi were among the standout performers in Seattle's 22-14 win over the Broncos.
The list of veterans sitting was a lengthy one: Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Bradley McDougald, K.J. Wright, Duane Brown, D.J. Fluker, Jarran Reed and Poona Ford were all veterans healthy enough to play that were parked on the bench instead. While that will change over the next two weeks as the starters begin to prepare in earnest for the regular season, the depth off the roster got the work against the Broncos.
But Thursday night was used to give younger players a chance to make an impression. Here's some of those who did standout in the first preseason game of the year:
-- Utah rookies Marquise Blair and Cody Barton flash, good and bad, in their debuts.
Both Blair and Barton have drawn praise throughout offseason work and Thursday night was their first chance to let loose and hit again. They both took advantage of the opportunity.
Blair has only returned to practice over the last week after being slowed with a hamstring strain to start training camp. However, he played 46 total play against the Broncos between defense and special teams combined. It didn't take him long to display his reputation for big hits either. Blair was flagged for unnecessary roughness in a collision with receiver Nick Williams that prompted a review to see if the hit was worthy of an ejection. Blair stayed in the game and just four plays later leveled another big hit on receiver Trinity Benson.
"I feel like they both was good to me," Blair said. "I felt good. I didn't feel no helmet-to-helmet. I've been working on it ever since I left Utah. I've been working on moving my shoulder. It's going full speed out there so it's whatever they see."
Blair had a good play early on shooting into the backfield for a stop on a running back. When he tried a similar tactic to chase down quarterback Drew Lock later in the game, the results weren't as rosy. Lock hit Williams for a 24-yard gain when Blair blew his assignment on the play.
"Yeah, that was on me. I went down too fast and then I just felt that I was in the wrong spot," Blair said.
Added Carroll: "That’s a mistake.That’s just a mistake."
Regardless, Blair was a presence throughout the game and always felt like he was close to the football. He finished the game with five tackles, which was tied for the team lead with Barton and Austin Calitro.
Meanwhile, Barton was limited to just 29 total plays and 23 on defense as the team wanted to keep his reps down while coming back from a minor groin tweak.
"We had a pitch count on him, because he hadn’t practiced the last couple days, much," Carroll said. We’ll go right back into full mode with him if he comes out OK. The next segment of practice is really important for him, but he’s been nothing but special for us so far, so I would expect him to continue and get back on track."
Barton made a few good tackles while also possibly being involved in allowing a 50-yard run to Royce Freeman on the first drive of the game.
All in all, it was a good first outing for the duo.
-- Paxton Lynch shows he's not an afterthought in backup quarterback battle.
Lynch took advantage of his opportunity to play the entire second half against his former team on Thursday night.
Lynch completed 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 38 yards and a score to help Seattle get the victory. Lynch connected four times with undrafted rookie Jazz Ferguson, including on a 6-yard touchdown pass that gave the Seahawks the lead in the third quarter.
While Geno Smith had to play a sizable portion of his outing against the Broncos starting defense behind an offensive line that was holding out Brown and Fluker, and saw Mike Iupati out due to a foot sprain, Lynch got to play against the Denver reserves. That has to be factored into the equation when evaluating the two performances alongside each other. But Lynch still made the plays he could with the opportunities he was given.
"I thought Paxton Lynch did a really good job," Carroll said. "Paxton handled himself well; good tempo with the game, and ran the ball really well. He’s a big unit running, you saw that down by the goal line, that’s a fantastic run for a quarterback to score down there."
Lynch scrambled for a 9-yard touchdown that involves blasting through cornerback Trey Johnson at the goal line for the score.
"I wanted to show myself that all that hard work that I had put in had paid off," Lynch said. "I had a long offseason basically. While everyone else was playing [last season] I was sitting at home, I wasn’t playing, I was watching on TV and I was working, I was working hard. I was building myself up, believing in myself and trying to get back to where I was and trying to figure out how I could do that. I was excited when Seattle gave me the opportunity to come here. I’m glad that they gave me the opportunity to go out there and do what I did tonight."
Smith is having surgery on Friday to get a cyst removed from his knee. Despite the surgery, he could still be back in time to play in Seattle's next preseason game a week from Sunday. Smith may still be the favorite in the running for the gig to his experience in the league, but Lynch has shown he legitimately needs to be considered for the job as well.
The Seahawks have not carried three quarterbacks on their active roster for any significant length of time in the Carroll era. One semi-exception to that being when B.J. Daniels was on the roster as a receiver but had played quarterback for the team previously as well. There's likely only one reserve quarterback spot available and Lynch is definitely a candidate for the job now if he wasn't before.
-- Jazz Ferguson throws himself into the battle for a roster spot.
The largest receiver on the Seahawks' roster had the largest impact of any wide out in Thursday's opener.
Ferguson caught four passes for 54 yards to lead the team in receiving. He was also led the team in receiving during their mock game scrimmage at Pop Keeney last Saturday in Bothell.
At 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, Ferguson is the biggest pass catcher the Seahawks have. He was even bigger for offseason workouts, which was a problem he rectified in the month or so between the end of mini-camp and start of training camp.
"He didn’t get drafted, because there were reasons, and whatever, in his past," Carroll said. "We’re giving him a chance to see if he can be with us and play right and play well and do his thing. A big test was, the first time we see him, he is 10-12 pounds overweight. We made a big deal about that to him, and he came back and righted it.He’s had an excellent camp going to this point. It’s nice to see.
"I really liked the way he played, and we were looking for him a couple of other times, too. We had a couple of other calls where we trying to feed it to him a bit. He had a really impressive start. He has been like that at practice as well, so it’s a nice job by him."
Ferguson is now firmly in the mix for one of Seattle's final roster spots at receiver. It's difficult for NFL teams to keep guys as 6th or 7th options at receiver when they don't contribute on special teams. Ferguson hasn't really been asked to do that much yet as he played just four special teams reps against Denver. But Ferguson has shown enough to be legitimately considered alongside Gary Jennings, John Ursua, Malik Turner and Keenan Reynolds as players vying for the final spots on Seattle's roster.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - AUGUST 08: Jazz Ferguson #87 of the Seattle Seahawks completes a six yard touchdown pass against Linden Stephens #37 of the Denver Broncos in the third quarter during their preseason game at CenturyLink Field on August 08, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)