SEATTLE -- The first preseason game is in books and several rookies make a strong first impression for the Seahawks.
Two of the biggest questions this offseason have surrounded the running game and pass rush. While those questions will continue to linger into the regular season, several players put together strong showings in areas that could help solve those problems.
Here are the takeaways from Seattle's 19-17 preseason loss to the Colts:
1. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny show signs of life for Seahawks rushing attack.
Considering the entire offseason has been built around restoring Seattle's anemic rushing attack, Thursday night's showing against the Colts was a solid opening effort.
It's not the statistics that matter, it's the way the rushing attack looked that was more instructive.
Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis all showed off their athleticism in various ways. Carson had a nice backside cut to avoid a defender, Penny had an impressive jump cut to make a defender whiff and Davis again showed off his ability to make defenders miss as well.
"We saw some sparks," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We got some spacing in there. We made a couple mistakes, we got hit in the backfield on stuff, but I thought Chris looked really good. I thought Rashaad had a chance and Mike had a chance to do some stuff. When you’re looking at three and then four running backs it’s hard to get them enough touches, but I thought they all showed like we’ve been seeing, and I think it’s very promising."
The offensive line actually managed to open a hole or two for the backs to run through. Carson sprung free for a 12-yard gain with blocks by rookie tight end Will Dissly and right guard D.J. Fluker opening a hole.
That play was followed by a 7-yard gain from Penny with the aforementioned jump cut.
"We had some nice, tough runs," Wilson said. "The fourth-and-1 was great to see. I thought Chris Carson ran really well there. I thought the offensive line look tremendous."
The Seahawks have to run the ball more effectively to take the pressure off Wilson. Carson and Penny will be the primary vessels to accomplish that task. Thursday night's limiting showing carried some reasons for optimism.
2. Shaquem Griffin has an impressive debut.
Seahawks rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin is a fantastic story. There's no doubting that. To find a way to make the NFL with only one hand is a scenario that is unique to professional football.
However, Griffin isn't going to stay in the NFL because he's a good story. He's going to stay in the NFL due to performances like Thursday night.
Griffin led the team in tackles with nine along with a tackle for loss of former Seahawks running back Christine Michael in the backfield.
"I think he was running and hitting just like he’s been looking in practice," Carroll said. "Very encouraged. He is a wonderful kid, he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out, and how to play in our scheme and all that."
Griffin quickly made an impact upon entering the game in the latter stages of the first quarter. He recorded tackles on four consecutive plays spanning the end of the first quarter and the start of the second.
"I didn't know how many tackles I was having, I just kept running," Shaquem said.
While a preseason game against the Colts doesn't make or break a career, it was a fantastic opening salvo for the newest Griffin brother in Seattle.
"It felt good to kind of get out there and get your feet wet and kind of get some hits in," Shaquem said. "I know the way the league works you don't really get a chance to really tackle too much so to kind of get out there and get a few tackles in and kind of hit a few people as hard as you can, kind of felt good to hit other people today."
3. Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin shows signs of life in the pass rush.
Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed became annoyed earlier in training camp when asked about all the players the team doesn't have this year.
"I'm honestly tired of hearing it," Reed said. "We got guys right here and they can do the same thing and I just want everybody to believe in us."
Thursday night's showing from rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin might indicate Reed was rather prescient with his comments.
Without Frank Clark or Dion Jordan, Green and Martin combined to record a pair of sacks of Indianapolis quarterbacks. Green cleanly beat left tackle Joe Haeg to sack Andrew Luck early in the first quarter and combined with Martin for a sack of Jacoby Brissett early in the third quarter.
Former Colts linebacker Barkevious Mingo also got a sack in beating former Seahawks tackle J'Marcus Webb.
"I was pretty happy about Rasheem, he got loose a couple of times, and (Barkevious) Mingo was involved, and Jacob Martin. Those were guys that we really needed to see. They’re all additions to our team, and they looked like they could show a spark in the pass rush game and I thought they definitely did," Carroll said.
With Clark and Jordan on the mend and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett no longer a part of the roster, the question of where the pass rush would come from has permeated training camp. But Green and Martin flashed throughout Thursday's opener.
"It didn’t really validate anything," Green said. "It was more of just taking what coaches coached in the meeting room and the stuff I do in practice, and just doing what I do in practice in the game because it’s all the same. It’s just practice with more people watching."
Green finished the game with three quarterback hits while Martin posted 3.5 hits on QBs.
If Green and Martin can truly be impact pieces up front, it would solve several questions about the revamped Seattle defense entering the 2018 season.
4. New "lowering the head" rule effectively implemented on two occasions
It's doubtful the new emphasis on penalties for lowering the head to strike an opponent will always be as clear cut as the two instances seen Thursday night in Seattle. However, the implementation of the new rules was without criticism in the two circumstances it showed up against the Colts.
Seattle cornerback Akeem King and Colts safety Shamarko Thomas were each flagged for unnecessary roughness for blows delivered with their helmets. Thomas' hit on Seahawks wide receiver David Moore was judged to be egregious enough to warrant his ejection from the game. Thomas becomes the first player to be ejected from a game due to the new rules implemented this offseason.
Moore was diving in an attempt to haul in a pass from Seattle rookie quarterback Alex McGough when Thomas dove and hit Moore squarely in the side of his helmet.
The ejection drew no complains from new Colts head coach Frank Reich.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "We do not teach that. It was a good call. It was the appropriate call. He should have been ejected. We do not teach that, that should not be a part of the game. That could have been avoided, should have been avoided and the officials did the right thing."
King was not ejected for his hit on Colts punt returner Nyheim Hines.
Hines muffed a punt from rookie punter Michael Dickson. With his head down attempting to corral the loose ball, King plowed into Hines with his shoulder and head, which resulted in the penalty.
"We were talking the whole time with the officials about the rules and about the hits and the helmet shots and stuff like that and trying to make some sense of it," Carroll said. "There was a couple of learning opportunities on this film in this game for everybody. They’ll learn in New York, the officials will learn, the players and coaches will all learn as well."
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 09: Linebacker Shaquem Griffin #49 (L) and brother Shaquill Griffin #26 of the Seattle Seahawks head off the field after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at CenturyLink Field on August 9, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)