It was not one of J.R. Sweezy’s better nights, to put it mildly. In the first game since the trade of John Moffitt made him the de facto starting guard for the time being, Sweezy racked up three penalties – in the first half.
The most noticeable and regrettable error came in the first quarter, in the moments after a 14-yard run by running back Robert Turbin. Sweezy came flying in from behind and blocked a Green Bay defender low, well after the play was over. It was careless and overaggressive, and coach Pete Carroll pulled Sweezy off the field for one play so he could give him an earful on the sideline.
The play also represented an unwanted trend this preseason: The onslaught of penalties.
The Seahawks have had a penalty problem this preseason. No denying that. They already have 34 penalties in three games, 13 more than they had all of last year. They had 21 penalties in four preseason games last year. They have had five more than that in their last two preseason games alone. Perhaps the biggest concern: 16 of Seattle’s 34 penalties have been committed by projected starters.
Against Green Bay, Seattle piled up 182 yards in penalties. That came just one week after accumulating 107 yards against Denver.
“We played good and hard football,’’ Carroll said after beating Green Bay. “And we did a lot of good things in the game. But the distractions of giving up (182) yards in penalties is ridiculously hard to deal with and feel like you played well.”
Said one former scout, when asked about the number of penalties committed by starters: “That is a concern then.”
And yet here’s the thing: Penalties aren’t a clear-cut indicator of success.
The three teams with the most penalties in the league last year all made the playoffs (Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis). The three least penalized teams did not (Chicago, Buffalo, Kansas City).
In fact, of the 10 least penalized teams in the league last year, only three made the playoffs. And of the 10 most penalized teams in the league last year, half made the playoffs, including the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens.
The Seahawks ranked 19th in the NFL last year with 102 penalties and, of course, made the playoffs.
This is not to paint Seattle’s preseason penalty splurge in a diminished light. The Seahawks need to clean up the number of their mistakes or it will likely come back to cost them during the season, especially in close games.
But it is intended to provide a little context. A concern? Sure. A reason to panic? Definitely not.