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How are Seahawks rookies looking? What’s stood out to Pete Carroll

Jun 13, 2022, 12:02 AM
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gestures at training camp on July 29, 2021 in Renton. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Seahawks mandatory minicamp wrapped up last Thursday, and the players now have six weeks before they are due back at the facility for training camp. That is valuable time for the rookies to take what they learned in OTAs and minicamp and arrive ready to impress.

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For some, that means getting used to the workload of the NFL. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll mentioned in his press conference after Thursday’s practice that the tight hamstrings a few of the rookies were experiencing indicated to him that they weren’t as well conditioned as they should be.

For all of them, it’s a chance to study and learn the systems inside and out on a team where many of the veterans are new to it, as well.

There will always be a learning curve for rookies, but this class does have an advantage over the 2020 and 2021 classes – they were able to do all of the usual on-field work instead of virtual learning due to COVID restrictions.

“I can’t even compare where these guys are now to when they would have come to us and had never been on the field but a couple days,” Carroll said. “They’ve had a lot of work, and a lot of quality work, too – I’m talking about the rookies and the first-time guys here. This is kind of where we’re supposed to be at this time of the year and we have not been here in years past… the last couple.

“These guys had a blast. They had fun doing it, they liked the work that came with it, great attitude every day. This was not difficult on them.”

So, what stood out to Pete Carroll about this draft class? A lot, and he went into detail about the potential that they’ve shown so far.

Pete Carroll breaks down the Seahawks rookies

Boye Mafe, the defensive end out of Minnesota that the Seahawks selected with the 40th pick in the draft, drew a really favorable comparison from his head coach.

“He’s the closest looking fit to Cliff Avril that we’ve seen,” Carroll said. “The explosion and flexibility, the bend that he has. Cliff had a great career for us and in the league, and if he could get anywhere near that it would be a great plus for us. It looks like he has a chance to be that kind of a player but we’ll see how it goes.”

Mafe is a comparable size to the Seahawks legend. Avril played at 6 foot 3 and 260 pounds. Mafe is 6-4 and 265, but defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said during OTAs that he doesn’t even think Mafe is done growing yet.

Now, the rookie may have the opportunity to fine-tune his skills with the player Carroll hopes he can model his game after.

“Hopefully, he’s going to work with Cliff this offseason, too,” Carroll said. “That would help.”

• Cornerback Coby Bryant, the Seahawks’ fourth-round selection out of Cincinnati, caught Carroll’s attention with his ball skills.

“Coby Bryant made a ton of plays out here. He’s a football player,” Carroll said. “Natural playmaker, he’s got great hands, might catch the ball as well as anybody on the team. He’s got terrific hands and you can see that adds to a guy’s confidence when they’re faced with the opportunity to make plays… That’s why he was recognized around the country, he’s a big time player. He did a nice job.”

Bryant, who won the Jim Thorpe Award last season as the best defensive back in the country, did have a nose for the ball at Cincinnati. He recorded three interceptions and three forced fumbles along with 11 pass breakups in 2021. That’s something the Seahawks could use as cornerbacks have struggled to come up with interceptions in recent years. Safety Quandre Diggs has lead the team with five picks in each of the last two seasons, which is great, but it would be nice to see the cornerback position make that a bit more of a competition.

• The first of the Seahawks’ two fifth-round selections, University of Texas-San Antonio cornerback Tariq Woolen, is a guy that intrigues everyone with his freaky athleticism. He has drawn comparisons to Richard Sherman both because of his size and for making the transition from wide receiver to cornerback in college.

Not only is Woolen a little bigger than Sherman at 6-4 and 209 pounds, but one thing that sets him apart in the comparison is the rare speed he has for his size. Woolen ran a blazing 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

“Probably the flashiest guy was Tariq Woolen. He was the flashiest in camp,” Carroll said. “He missed some early time but once he got out here, shoot, you couldn’t miss him out there because he’s long and tall and he’s really fast.”

As for the former Seahawks comparisons, Carroll did not have Sherman in mind when watching Woolen.

“When it comes to the style of play,” Carroll said, “we would style him like you would have seen Brandon Browner.”

Kenneth Walker III, the Michigan State running back the Seahawks selected with the 41st pick in the second round, was one of the aforementioned rookies dealing with some hamstring tightness, but it seems he made a very good impression prior to that issue.

“He looked great, he really did,” Carroll said. “Really fast, he’s got an attitude about him, he’s nasty and physical and wants to show that and be that. Beautiful addition to our group and we saw him on a number of occasions getting the ball out of the backfield and then a couple of balls that he broke where you could really see the burst. He’s a big play guy.”

Walker’s physicality was on full display at Michigan State last year when he rushed for 1,636 yards, with 1,168 coming after contact. That’s something the Seahawks were lacking without Chris Carson much of last year, and it may be area of need again with Carson’s status for 2022 still uncertain, making Walker’s physicality a welcome addition.

• The Seahawks drafted two rookie tackles, taking Charles Cross out of Mississippi State with the ninth overall pick and Abraham Lucas from WSU with the 72nd selection in the third round. They are both very much in the mix to start this year.

“As we looked at the draft and we saw the opportunity and we saw the numbers in the draft, we had hoped it could come out like it did,” Carroll said. “To nail both those guys, both those guys have a chance to play. They’ll be competing to start. When they come back to camp, if they hold their own and make the right progress, they have a chance to start for us, which is huge. I don’t know that they will but they’ve got a chance and they give us every indication that they’ve got what it takes to do that.”

Cross doesn’t appear to have much competition at the left tackle spot, and you would expect him to win that job given his draft status, but Lucas has a bit more competition. Jake Curhan, a 2021 undrafted free agent out of Cal, started five games for the Seahawks when Brandon Shell was injured last season. His starts were during the stretch at the end of the season, a time when the offensive line performed very well, helping Rashaad Penny put up over 100 rushing yards in four of five games. Stone Forsythe, the Seahawks’ 2021 sixth-round selection out of Florida, has also been seeing some practice time at right tackle. Carroll said Forsythe is better physically than last year, and when it comes to the right tackle competition, “he’s in it.”

• The Seahawks took two receivers in the seventh round of the draft. Bo Melton is a 5-11, 194-pound speedster out of Rutgers who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash. Dareke Young from Lenoir-Rhyne University is a much bigger wideout at 6-3 and 220, but he is still very fast, posting a 4.47 40-yard dash time.

Carroll liked what he was able to see from the pair, but they had to sit out the majority of OTAs and all of minicamp so it sounds like he expects them to arrive in better physical condition for training camp.

“They should both be playing. They had some tightness that we had to keep from being hamstring pulls,” Carroll said. “Both of them from the workload, really to me, that tells me they weren’t in good enough shape. They came out flying and did really well when they had their chance and by the second week it seemed like it started to catch up. They just got susceptible to what happens. The soreness is the onset of a pull so we just were really careful with them to not let that happen. But both those guys did a nice job.”

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