Russell Wilson’s training-camp roommate took a huge step last night — 81 yards worth of steps in less than one half, in fact — toward becoming the Seahawks’ first option at running back behind Marshawn Lynch. But as you can see and hear above, Robert Turbin wasn’t about to claim any ground in the competition with Christine Michael to be the No. 2 runner.
As I noted here late last night/early this morning, coach Pete Carroll made it clear he doesn’t like Michael’s two fumbles in eight carries over two exhibition games. And Turbin, the third-year man out of Utah State, is in the best shape of his life. He got his knee “cleaned up,” in the words of Carroll, this offseason. And at a listed 5 feet 10 and 222 pounds he looks bigger, yet leaner.
My colleague Dave Boling wrote in today’s News Tribune that the Seahawks don’t call Turbin “Turbo” for nothing. Boling floats the idea that Turbin could possibly be Lynch’s replacement someday.
Turbin’s 47-yard run in the first quarter that got Seattle from its own 7 out to midfield was almost all him. Turbin made a quick, one-step cut behind the line from the left to the right. That allowed him to take advantage of a big, crash-down block by rookie right tackle Justin Britt, who blew his man from one hashmark to the other. Then tight end Zach Miller had a subtle peel-back block on a linebacker to spring Turbin. The running back then delighted Carroll by throwing out a thudding stiff arm into the chest of Charger Marcus Gilchrist, carrying the safety with him for the final 10 yards of his run.
“I love the finish,” Carroll said. “I’ve been trying to get Turbin to straight-arm somebody since he got here. … He finally used one, in big fashion. I was really fired up for him.
“It was a hell of a play.”
And a hell of a way to seize the No. 2 running-back job.
–Here is my game story for today’s News Tribune. In it, I mentioned one play in particular from last night the Seahawks are going to run in the real game at San Diego next month.
First and 10 from the San Diego 48, in the second quarter against the Chargers’ starting defense. Shotgun formation, with Percy Harvin in the slot left and Zach Miller tight on left end. Russell Wilson’s play-action fake to Robert Turbin inside drew Chargers linebacker (and former Washington Husky) Donald Butler 4 yards toward the line of scrimmage. Harvin’s “go” route down the left seam drew Jaheel Addae out of the middle, because . Miller ran — OK, more like lumbered — past Butler and into the area Addae should have been, but the safety was preoccupied with Harvin and his speed outside. The result was a 37-yard catch and carry that would have been a 39-yard touchdown if Miller had any more speed.
–Wilson’s elusiveness was again the difference between a touchdown or a field goal on the starting offense’s final drive, in the second quarter. On third and 8 from the San Diego 37, the Chargers sent a corner and linebacker blitzing off Seattle’s left end. Both ran in unblocked on Wilson’s backside. The quarterback didn’t see them as much as he felt the two blitzers. He ran a few steps away from them to his right. That was the two seconds he needed to find backup tight end Luke Willson wide open in the right flat for 18 yards. Instead of a 55-yard field goal try on fourth down by Steven Hauschka, the Seahawks get a first down at the San Diego 19 — then score a touchdown on another improv play by Wilson, his 5-yard touchdown run up the middle when he avoided another would-be sack with Chargers closing in on him from both sides.
–Last week in the visitor’s locker room at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, after Denver reporters got done cooing over former University of Colorado Buffalo wide receiver Paul Richardson’s four catches for 37 yards in his first NFL “game,” I walked up to the rookie second-round pick and asked what he felt about his debut. He said he was unhappy that he blew some blocking assignments outside. He said he erred by not ensuring he heard the entire play call in the huddle or at the line; the last part of play calls often include the assigned blocking patterns. He knew his coaches would ding him for that.
Last night, Richardson showed he’s a quick learner. On Terrell Pryor’s 44-yard bootleg sprint around left end for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Richardson blocked San Diego cornerback Chris Davis. It wasn’t a crunching one, but the 183-pound (maybe, in full pads) Richardson got in Davis’ way long enough to spring Pryor with the only help he needed to give the Seahawks a 34-14 lead.
“I wouldn’t have gotten that touchdown without Paul Richardson,” Pryor, the former Oakland Raiders starter until last season, said, showing his leadership qualities.
It will further impress his coaches that Richardson’s block came after the wide receiver had just sprinted 40-plus yards downfield on the play before, trying to catch a long ball from Pryor that got broken up.
–Cooper Helfet came back down to earth after a meteoric week in which he excelled in Denver and then got high praise during the subsequent practice days for having the lead in the competition to be the No. 3 tight end. Helfet dropped Pryor’s best pass in two games, on a third and 3 in the third quarter. Pryor rolled left away from pressure and instead of running as he could have — and did last week in Denver — the quarterback did what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had said he wanted to see more of this week. Pryor kept his eyes focused downfield on secondary receivers during his scramble and find Helfet at the sidelines near the Chargers 25. The pass was on the tight end’s hands at the sideline, then clanged off them. Instead of a possible touchdown drive, the Seahawks settled for Steven Hauschka’s 55-yard field goal and a 27-7 lead.
Helfet also had a false-start penalty to start that drive, one of Seattle’s eight penalties for 48 yards.
–The Seahawks have 21 penalties accepted against them in two exhibitions. Seven of those flags have involved the NFL’s points of emphasis in officiating for this season: Illegal contact by defensive backs, taunting and cussing at opponents following plays, and hands to the face of foes. Last night, Jeremy Lane got a hands-to-the-face foul — while covering a kickoff. (Lane, who has had a great preseason as nickel back, has been flagged for three fouls in two exhibitions).
Two examples of over-emphasis of the illegal-contact foul came on two calls in a three-play span in the third quarter last night.
Phillip Adams got called for illegal contact yards downfield from where San Diego’s pass to David Johnson fell incomplete. Adams was guarding a Charger wide receiver running a clear-out route for the tight end; his contact had no affect on the pass that went in a different direction.
Two plays later Tharold Simon had his 103-yard interception return for a touchdown nullified by the side judge. Simon’s contact — a hand onto the chest of San Diego’s Dontrelle Inman — came at the 2, 4 yards off the line and within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Thus, by rule it was legal. There was no contact after that or while the ball was in flight, or else the foul called would have been pass interference.
By the way, that pass-interference foul called on San Diego’s Brandon Flowers against Doug Baldwin in the end zone on Seattle’s first drive was not a penalty, either. Flowers absorbed contact from Baldwin while Wilson’s pass was in flight; the defender didn’t make any contact.
The officials were so eager to call that illegal-contact foul that referee Peter Morelli overruled one such flag in the third quarter because Kellen Clemens had scrambled out of the pocket, voiding the illegal-contact downfield prohibition.
Of the Simon-TD-return-that-wasn’t play, safety Earl Thomas told the Seahawks’ television network during last night’s broadcast: ”That was a great play. I think Coach Carroll is going to do a great job of turning that into the league and seeing if it was right.”
Carroll says the league has been open with coaches discussing this new emphasis that is making what is already the toughest task in the NFL — legally defending a wide receiver in this pass-happy, heavily legislated league. The coach hopes this open dialogue will lead to an adjustment in how this particular rule is called in the regular season.
“I hope that the league office will be open to the conversation. They already are, and I’ve already heard from them,” Carroll said. “They’re open to the conversation about how it’s going.
“It doesn’t seem quite right. It seems like there are too many calls being made and too many incidental calls that seem to be affecting the game. So, we’ll see. … It’s obviously different. So, the question is: Is it better? I don’t know. Hopefully, we will have a good conversation about it.”
Simon acquitted himself well following last week’s ejection in Denver. The second-year cornerback from LSU who missed all of last year with foot injuries also broke up another potential touchdown earlier in the third quarter. He had great, inside position on Inman then leaped to break up Clemens’ deep pass to him in the end zone midway through the third quarter — though Simon really should have intercepted that; it clanged off both hands while he was in the air.
Richard Sherman, always involved in all aspects of his team, came over to Simon the sideline during a Chargers timeout immediately following that play. Sherman seemed to be half praising Simon for being in the right place to prevent the touchdown — and half scolding him for not securing the interception.
“Yeah,” Simon said, “they gave me a hard time on the sideline.”
–Funny audio I heard over the TV broadcast while re-watching the game this morning: Baldwin joshing with an official along the Seahawks sideline after he got walloped in the back on a vicious hit by San Diego safety Darrell Stuckey, preventing Baldwin’s second, left foot from getting down inbounds to complete a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wilson in the second quarter: C’mon, man! I got the (crap) kicked out of me.”