Carroll: Seahawks rookies set for big roles early, what Smith brings to team
The next iteration of the Seahawks begins on Monday, when a very different-looking roster takes the field against the Denver Broncos.
Gone are stars Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, and in are a highly-touted draft class and Wilson’s longtime backup, Geno Smith, starting at quarterback.
During the first Pete Carroll Preview of the year on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM’s Seattle’s Morning News, the Seahawks head coach sat down with former NFL receiver and current Seattle Sports 710 AM host Michael Bumpus to share his early impressions on his rookie class and why Smith won the starting job over Drew Lock.
Rookies set for big roles
Over the last few years, the Seahawks have gotten away from playing rookies in key roles, instead opting to lean on veterans. That won’t be the case this season.
Carroll told Bumpus he’s very impressed by Seattle’s nine-man draft class, but did note that “it doesn’t mean anything” yet since the Seahawks have yet to play a regular season game.
“However, guys have found themselves slotted into a lot of playtime here, right off the bat. The whole class can do something,” he said. “… But right now, we’ve got some young guys that are playing.”
The rookies to keep an eye on Week 1? First-round left tackle Charles Cross, third-round right tackle Abraham Lucas, fourth-round cornerback Coby Bryant and fifth-round cornerback Tariq Woolen.
And another guy, second-round running back Ken Walker III, is also worth monitoring. It’s unclear if he’ll play against the Broncos due to a hernia surgery, but Carroll has high hopes for the Michigan State product this season.
“If we don’t get the chance to see Ken Walker this week, we’ll see him a lot before this season’s over,” he said. “He’s a fantastic talent. Tough, gets the game, is totally, ‘hold me accountable for whatever, coach,’ and he’s fast. He’s all that. Really shifty. So when he gets to be a part of it, he’ll really accentuate the fact that he’s part of this class.”
Bryant started the Seahawks’ preseason opener as an outside corner opposite Woolen, but he’s now in line to play as a nickel. Was that always the plan?
“No, it was just done because of him,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to get the guys in the right spots to do what they can do best. He is such a savvy player and he has so much to offer. That nickel spot, there’s a lot goes on in there coverage-wise, run-wise, tackling wise, blitzing wise, all of that. He gets all of that.”
Bryant has been one of the standouts in practices, Carroll said.
“He’s had his hands on the ball more than anybody in camp. He’s had as many picks as anybody,” he said. “He’s a playmaker. That’s what he was in college, too, so there’s no surprise there. So this spot, in particular, I think really can accentuate the uniqueness that he brings.”
On offense, after years of veterans at the two offensive tackle spots, the Seahawks are slated to start two rookies on the edges in Cross and Lucas, a WSU product.
While there’s plenty of excitement in the air regarding those two players and the Hawks’ draft class as a whole, the big question with Cross and Lucas was how they’d adjust to an NFL system, especially one that wants to run the ball often like Carroll preaches. That’s because both Cross and Lucas played in air-raid offenses in college.
But Carroll has loved what he’s seen from his two big blockers this offseason and preseason, and isn’t at all concerned about their ability to run block.
“We have to evaluate the guys, not just the scheme. I would be really shallow, I think, to say ‘he’s this because he plays in this program,'” he said. “We evaluated them.”
Both Cross and Lucas are “terrific movers,” Carroll said, evidenced by both running sub-5-second 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“That translates into their athleticism, light on their feet, the physicality, the ability to return to balance and athletically all of those cool things that they these guys show,” he said. “And they’re both smart, and it’s not too big for them and shoot, Abe’s done a great job and so as Charles and so they’re gonna get a ton of playtime.”
Smith over Lock
The Seahawks had one of the few quarterback competitions across the league this offseason, and the result was Smith, who has been with Seattle since 2019, beating out Lock, who came to the Hawks from Denver in the trade of Wilson.
What caused Smith to win the job? Carroll dove into that.
“Geno is a magnificent thrower. I mean, he’s got great arm talent,” he said. “He’s got a big arm, he’s got a great release, his accuracy is there, his creativity with the ball, the different styles that he can throw is classically unique. And he’s a very statuesque guy in the pocket and all that, he plays big. Entirely different style than Drew as we break it down. They have totally different makeups.”
That doesn’t mean Carroll isn’t a fan of what Lock has to offer. Quite the contrary.
“Drew was really fun to coach up now. He can do all kinds of stuff,” Carroll said. “He’s a really cool athlete, very creative, very loose hipped, his feet and upper body can really be going in different directions and he can release the football with velocity and accuracy and all that. He’s got a very gunslinger mindset about going for it and all that, which we loved about him. He just ran out of time.”
Lock was slated to start the Seahawks’ second preseason game against the Chicago Bears, but tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the game. That resulted in Smith starting all three preseason games for the Seahawks, and playing well enough to keep the job from Lock.
“The process was all set up for (Lock’s) opportunity, and we feel bad for him because he just didn’t get the shot because he got sick,” Carroll said. “… So he really didn’t give get to give it his best finishing shot. And meanwhile, Geno just kept going.”
Carroll thought Smith could have been perfect or close to it in terms of completions in all three of his preseason outings were it not for dropped passes.
“He really had a good preseason for us, showing the discipline and the control and understanding of the game,” he said. “We’re ready to go. We’ve practiced against our defense quite a bit, which is very similar to (Denver’s) defense. He’s prepared. He’s ready.”
Listen to the full Pete Carroll Preview at this link or in the player below.
Seahawks on the radio
Catch the Seahawks’ season opener Monday night against Russell Wilson and the Broncos on Seattle Sports 710 AM and streaming at SeattleSports.com, on the Seahawks app and the Seattle Sports app. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with the pregame show, followed by kickoff at 5:15 p.m. and the postgame show, which airs for roughly two hours after the end of the contest.
Note: Due to NFL restrictions, Seahawks games are available to stream from Seattle Sports only if you are within 75 miles of Seattle. There are several Seahawks Radio Network affiliates throughout the Pacific Northwest. Find your nearest affiliate at this link. If you are outside of the Pacific Northwest and want to stream Seahawks radio broadcasts, the NFL offers a subscription streaming service. For details, click here.