Originally published August 28, 2011 at 8:16 PM | Page modified August 28, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Seahawks again struggle with pass protection

The third exhibition game is the NFL equivalent of a dress rehearsal. And to see the Seahawks' performance in Denver on Saturday, they've got a lot of work before they're ready for prime time.

Seattle Times staff reporter


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7:30 p.m., Ch. 5

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The third exhibition game is the NFL equivalent of a dress rehearsal. And to see the Seahawks' performance in Denver on Saturday, they've got a lot of work before they're ready for prime time.

Here's a look at what is becoming apparent about Seattle, and the questions that still have to be answered:

Three things we learned

1. Quarterback is not the biggest question on Seattle's offense.

Seattle's fourth-quarter touchdown drive showed starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can cut up a second-string defense just as efficiently as Charlie Whitehurst did the first two exhibition games. The question is whether this offensive line can give anyone enough time in the pocket to have a reasonable chance of success this season. Seattle has allowed eight sacks in three games, and while that's tied for eighth most in the NFL, it doesn't give a true indication of the pass pressure that has been constant and unrelenting.

2. Rookie tackle James Carpenter is not ready to be on an island.

That was demonstrated quite clearly by Denver's Von Miller, who showed why he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Miller went around Carpenter. Repeatedly. Miller got Seattle's rookie so thoroughly off balance at one point that Miller was able to shove him with two hands in the chest and knock the 325-pound tackle backward. What we don't know is how much the Seahawks planned to leave Carpenter alone against Miller and Elvis Dumervil to give the right tackle an idea of the kind of quickness he would go up against. A regular-season game plan might have included a good dose of help from the tight end, but Saturday showed Carpenter has a long way to go in terms of pass protection.

3. It would be very hard to leave receiver Doug Baldwin off this team.

The undrafted rookie from Stanford leads the team with eight receptions in three exhibition games, and then all he did on Seattle's first — and only — kickoff return Saturday was return it 105 yards for a touchdown. How did he feel by the time he reached the end zone? "Exhausted," he said. "I was exhausted. But I tried not to get in the oxygen tank. That was my mindset when I came back to the sideline." Mission accomplished. He needed no oxygen after a kick return that took everyone else's breath away, too.

Three things we're trying to figure out

1. How will Seattle's pass protection be functional by Week 1?

The Seahawks made their decision to start from scratch on the offensive line. New position coach, two rookies on the right side, new left guard and new position for Max Unger. That's over and done with. The question is how many lumps they'll have to take before that results in an improved line. There's nothing else to do now but work, wait and maybe see if a veteran like Paul McQuistan can help stabilize things. There are signs Seattle will run the ball better this season, but that's not saying much since the Seahawks averaged 89 yards rushing last season, fourth lowest in franchise history. There's no way to fake either continuity or experience on the offensive line, and Seattle doesn't have much of either.

2.What is Golden Tate's role going to be?

He didn't see the field in the first half as Ben Obomanu made his exhibition debut, and was the slot receiver in Seattle's three-wide packages. Then Baldwin went and scored on a kickoff return, which is another way Seattle sought to utilize Tate. This is the second time Tate entered a training camp with expectations and hopes for a big season and failed to produce much of anything in the exhibition games.

3.Where does Kelly Jennings fit in the secondary?

He did not play on Saturday because of a hamstring. Brandon Browner started in his place, and played well. Walter Thurmond is back from his sprained ankle, and projected to start at right cornerback, and then there are rookie draft picks like Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell. Seattle not only re-signed Jennings to a one-year deal, but paid him a six-figure signing bonus. It's getting harder to see exactly where he fits in the Seahawks' secondary.

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