|SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 03: Wide receiver Deon Butler #11 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders on September 3, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)|
It's safe to say that the trail of cautionary tales ends with Aaron Curry. In his first serious starting time as an NFL "endbacker", the former Wake Forest linebacker and fourth overall pick in 2009 sifted through the Oakland offense, both stars and scrubs, like a battering ram attached to a Ferrari engine. He provided four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and the kind of constant pressure and on-field acumen the Seahawks had always hoped to see from Julian Peterson.
"I spent a lot of time in the training room," Curry told the Seahawks' broadcast crew after the game, when asked of the minor injuries that put his preseason off to a slow start. "That was my new home – just to make sure that I could get back to 100 percent and contribute to the success of the team.
"I think the biggest thing was that the coaches told me to just go out there and stop thinking – to just cut loose," Curry continued. "That was my goal today, to play fast and have a lot of fun. Sometimes, I get so amped up, that I overrun the ball and get going too fast. I learned today to diagnose (the play) and then hit the ballcarrier."
Two lesser-known defenders matched Curry's effort. Seventh-round pick Nick Reed, the ex-Oregon end who's been the star of Seattle's preseason, picked up six tackles and a sack of his own, while undrafted Texas A & M defensive tackle Michael Bennett recovered a fumble and seemed to be in on every defensive play. Both Reed and Bennett have made it very difficult for the Seahawks coaching staff to cut them as final roster decisions must be made.
On offense, Matt Hasselbeck gave way to rookie Mike Teel after one possession, and Teel continued to display several attributed needed to make his way in the NFL. His feel for play action is impressive, he's generally comfortable in the pocket, and he showed off his touch on a beautiful 38-yard rainbow pass to Ben Obomanu for a touchdown with 2:20 left in the first half. Finishing the game 11 of 19 for 148 yards and two touchdowns, Teel seems determined to not only earn his spot as the third quarterback, but challenge for more in years to come. Wyoming running back Devin Moore displayed his edge speed on several plays, gaining 75 yards on 22 carries. Obomanu and Logan Payne led Seattle receivers in yardage, and each scored a touchdown to match Deon Butler's.
Not everything went perfectly well – former Washington Huskies running back Louis Rankin gashed the middle of Seattle's defense for a 45-yard run in the first quarter, and Gary Russell added two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Seattle also picked up 12 penalties for 144 yards. But the Seahawks also added four sacks to their previously league-leading total of 12, and finished the preseason with five forced fumbles and five interceptions. Reed finished the preseason with 3.5 sacks, making his the NFL leader. The Seahawks also got to see a bit of their newest running back, Edgerrin James, as he rushed twice for 11 yards in the first drive.
Still, this game was all about the kids. Final cuts to the 53-man roster must happen by this Saturday, September 5, and the coaches have a great deal of work to do from now to then.
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Doug Farrar is the Publisher of NorthwestFootball.net. He's also a Staff Writer for Football Outsiders and an NFL Columnist for the Washington Post. You can e-mail Doug here.