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2011 Seahawks Week 1: Five observations

Five things I noticed while watching the Seattle Seahawks during their 33-17 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1:

  • Free safety Earl Thomas slamming 49ers tight end Vernon Davis to the ground behind the line of scrimmage and out of bounds after lurking in coverage on the play. Thomas played this game with a level of aggression and ferocity that stood out play after play. He looked like the best young safety in the game, particularly with Eric Berry injured. It's stunning, in retrospect, that anyone asked Pete Carroll why the Seahawks didn't consider selecting Carroll's former USC safety, Taylor Mays, in the 2010 draft. Thomas was a force in the backfield, on the perimeter, everywhere. So was strong safety Kam Chancellor. The Thomas-Chancellor pairing looks promising.

  • Several matchups between Seahawks second-year left tackle Russell Okung and 49ers rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Okung was the sixth player drafted in 2010. Smith was the seventh player drafted this year. Okung seemed to fare well in these initial matchups. It had to be a relief for him to see someone other than Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith coming his way. Aldon Smith did use his length effectively to bat down a screen pass for Golden Tate that might have gone for a big gain.

  • Running back Marshawn Lynch helping Okung block Justin Smith in pass protection on a play deep in Seahawks territory. This was Okung's first game back from his third ankle injury in about a year. Outside that play when Lynch provided help, Justin Smith gave Okung problems with a bull rush and a spin move. He drove Okung to the inside on a third-and-2 play in the first quarter, then spun off him and sacked Tarvaris Jackson. Receiver Mike Williams was open near the right sideline on the play, but Jackson looked only left. Seems like Seattle needed better answers for pressure early in the game. Williams should be an easy target in those situations.

  • Lynch leveling another 49ers linebacker with a stiff-arm. Willis was his victim somewhat spectacularly at San Francisco last season. Lynch took out NaVorro Bowman with a stiff-arm early in the third quarter Sunday. Seattle wants to establish a physical running game. Lynch is the only player on the roster able to provide that type of running. He needs better blocking, of course.

  • Leon Washington serving on the Seahawks' kickoff coverage team thanks to injuries. Ted Ginn Jr. broke his 102-yard return after dodging Washington during the early portion of the play. After the game, Ginn indicated he wasn't expecting to see Washington, and that the way Washington played him was instrumental in Ginn breaking free. This was a difficult position for Washington, whose value on special teams should be as a returner, not as a coverage player. The game was pretty much over once Ginn's return turned a 19-17 game into a 26-17 game.

These are fun files to put together. Looking forward to another set of them next week.