What to Make of Preseason Stars


October 23, 2011; London, ENGLAND; tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) throws the ball as he is pressured by Chicago Bears defensive end Nick Reed (94) during the fourth quarter in the NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night the Seahawks put together a solid 31-10 win over the Chargers. Although it was a day largely for second string players, there were performances that seem to suggest reason for optimism surrounding guys like Allen Bradford, Christine Michael and Benson Mayowa. The question I thought I would look into today was what exactly those performances might mean.

It is constantly debated as to how predictive preseason performances are so I thought I might take look back at previous Seahawks preseasons to see how well the stars of the preseasons fared when the games started to count. I’m going to give each performance a score a fairly arbitrary score of how predictive it was and we’ll see where we are. I’m going to take this back 5 years so we’ll start in 2008:

2008 Preseason

Leading Passer (QB Rating 50+ Attempts): Seneca Wallace (105.1)

In 2008 Wallace would end up having a career year starting eight games with an 87 passer rating and an 11:3 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s hard to prove causation but it’s hard to dispute that his excellent preseason carried over into regular season play. Predictive value: 4/5

Leading Rusher (Yards): Justin Forsett (248 yards)

Forsett would end up being cut after his excellent preseason much to chagrin of Seahawks fans everywhere. He wound up with the Colts but then returned to Seattle before the end of the year. He did have an excellent 2009 where he had 619 yards and 5.4 yards per carry so I can’t give this a 0 on predictive value even though he recorded 0 rushing yards in 2008. Predictive value: 1.5/5

Leading Receiver (Yards): Michael Bumpus (133 yards)

I totally forgot about Bumpus, and for good reason. He had 66 yards in 2008 and no others in his NFL career. Predictive value 0/5

Leader Sacks: Jason Babin (3 sacks)

Babin emerged as a pass rushing stud with the Tennessee Titans in 2010 but in 2008 he only recorded 2 sacks both of them as a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Predictive value 0/5

2009 Preseason

Leading Passer (QB Rating 50+ Attempts): Matt Hasselbeck (111.7)

2008 was the beginning of the end for Hasselbeck and 2009 was confirmation the he was done. Our fearless leader threw 17 interceptions and had an ugly 75.1 passer rating. It was nice that Hasselbeck had a last hurrah going to the playoffs in 2010 with the Seahawks and getting a playoff win, although that win belongs to Marshawn Lynch. That is all beside the point. 2009 was quite simply not good for Matt. Predictive value 0/5

Leading Rusher (Yards): Devin Moore (136 yards)

Apparently Devin Moore played 4 games for the Colts in 2010 returning 12 kicks for 257 yards. That’s all I could tell you about the man. Predictive value: 0/5

Leading Receiver (Yards): Deon Butler (126 yards)

In all honestly Butler has never really made good on his promise as a 3rd round pick that the Seahawks traded up to get. In his rookie year in 2009 he had only 175 yards, and he has 611 yards for his career. Predictive value: 1/5

Leader Sacks: Nick Reed (4 sacks)

Reed became a huge fan favorite due to his massive preseason but would ultimately fade into obscurity with 1 career sack and retired at age 24.  Predictive value 0/5

2010 Preseason

Leading Passer (QB Rating 50+ Attempts): Charlie Whitehurst (70.6 by default)

Clipboard Jesus sucked in the preseason much how he always has and always will suck. Predictive value: 5/5

Leading Rusher (Yards): Justin Forsett (81 yards)

No one really got it going on the ground in the preseason and though Forsett started five games and accumulated over 500 yards he wasn’t as explosive as he had been the year before. Still a solid back though. Even though I’d rather have both Turbin and Michael I irrationally miss Justin Forsett. Predictive Value 3/5

Leading Receiver (Yards): Deon Butler (191 yards)

Butler would go on to have his career year in 2010, but he still checked in under 400 yards. He just never got it going. Predictive value: 2/5

Leader Sacks: Chris Clemons (3 sacks)

Chris Clemons was on the verge of entering a three year stretch as one of the best and most consistent pass rushers in the league when he performed this way in the preseason. It might have meant something. Predictive value: 5/5

2011 Preseason

Leading Passer (QB Rating 50+ Attempts): Charlie Whitehurst (91.1)

See above. Predictive value: 0/5

Leading Rusher (Yards): Thomas Clayton (132 yards)

Clayton’s career totals: 15 attempts for 29 yards. None with the Seahawks. Enough said. Predictive value 0/5

Leading Receiver (Yards): Golden Tate (103 yards)

Tate would take baby steps from his rookie year in 2011 but it wasn’t until last year that he really broke out. Predictive value 2/5

Leader Sacks: Lazarius Levingston (2.5 sacks)

How much have we heard about Lazarius Levingston lately? That’s what I thought. Predictive value 0/5

Preseason 2012

Leading Passer (QB Rating 50+ Attempts): Russell Wilson (110.3)

Russell Wilson is the best. Predictive value 5/5

Leading Rusher (Yards): Robert Turbin (163 yards)

Robert Turbin was a very competent second running back last year and the Sea-Hulk looked like he had the potential to start in the right situation. Unfortunately this is now the wrong situation because he is likely the best 3rd running back around. Predictive value 4/5

Leading Receiver (Yards): Anthony McCoy (106 yards)

McCoy had his best season catching the ball last year with 291 yards and 3 touchdowns but hardly became a dominant receiving threat. Predictive value 3/5

Leader Sacks: Greg Scruggs (2.5 sacks)

Scruggs became a surprisingly effective rotational pass rusher as a rookie in 2012. This is exactly the kind of performance one is looking for in the preseason to find productive role players. Predictive value 4/5

At the end of this walk down memory lane I could add up all the ratings and make some averages but they are so unscientific I don’t think there’s much value in that. The point is that preseason results are rarely all that predictive of what’s to come. The guys who get enough time to lead a team in one of these categories is rarely a star player but rather someone the team is trying to evaluate so it makes sense that few of these preseason stars shined when it counted. However, given their performances one might have predicted they would at least land jobs and contribute as depth and in specific roles.

I’m not trying to say the preseason is useless. It’s both fun and useful to put our scouting caps on and see how the team is shaping up. It’s also football, which is a beautiful thing after so many months in the desert of non-football related activities. More than anything the fact that there is some semblance of Seahawks football being played is what should be of interest here. So when you watch the games observe carefully, try and spot some sleeper contributors, but don’t take the numbers too seriously.