Carroll: What stands out from Seahawks’ rookies after another big day
The Seahawks are tied for first place in the NFC West after a 19-9 Week 6 win over the Arizona Cardinals, and they came away with the win in large part because of their rookies.
As you may have guessed, the Seahawks’ 2022 rookie class was a key topic of conversation during this week’s Pete Carroll Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM. Here’s what the Seahawks head coach had to say Monday morning to Brock and Salk.
No Seahawks rookie has stood out more this year than cornerback Tariq Woolen. What makes that so interesting is Woolen was a fifth-round pick who only played cornerback for two years in college at UTSA.
Woolen earned a Week 1 starting spot and hasn’t looked back. In fact, he’s continued to get better every week.
In Week 2, Woolen blocked a field goal that fellow cornerback Michael Jackson returned for a touchdown. And in Week 3, he recorded his first career interception.
And after a Week 6 interception of Kyler Murray, Woolen now has made a pick in four straight games, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also recovered a fumble for the second week in a row in Sunday’s win.
Per Pro Football Reference, Woolen has an opponent passer rating of just 35.8 when targeted. For context, a quarterback’s passer rating when spiking the football every play is 39.6.
So why in the world did Woolen, a 6-foot-4 athlete who ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash, slip to the fifth round?
“You’ve gotta go look at the (college) film. If you look at the film, you can see why,” Carroll said, laughing.
“He wasn’t playing like this. He showed potential and he had all of the stuff that would make you think he could, but he was not a steady performer. He was up and down, in and out and wasn’t sure of himself like he is now,” Carroll added.
In addition to having physical traits one can only dream of possessing, Woolen has a great head on his shoulders, Carroll said.
“He’s really bright and he’s picked it up. He’s seeing things now. He’s talking about things he’s seeing during the game that gave him a little hint about that route that he picked off. He’s just taken to it.”
Sticking with the secondary, the Seahawks selected Coby Bryant, now Seattle’s starting nickel corner, out of Cincinnati in the fourth round.
Bryant was the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back. While Woolen was the prospect with all the tools but limited college production, Bryant was a stud in college.
So why did he fall to Day 3 of the draft?
“He didn’t run a great time. He didn’t run a first-round type of time,” Carroll said of Bryant’s 40-yard dash. “And I think guys watched him and they saw maybe not the (high level) of athletics … Something held him back in the regard of the scouting department because of those things. It wasn’t because he wasn’t a playmaker.”
What may have hurt Bryant’s stock, Carroll said, is he played opposite cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, at Cincinnati.
“Sauce got all the love because he had all the numbers and all, but Coby was the one making all the plays because obviously he was the Thorpe winner,” he said.
Bryant had a rough start to his career as he played just two snaps in Week 1 and gave up a long touchdown, but he’s since improved as the team’s lead nickel back. And while he doesn’t have the interceptions like Woolen, he does have a sack and has forced four fumbles in the last five weeks, two of which Woolen recovered.
“Coby is just doing marvelous things. His coverage was the best it’s been by far this weekend,” Carroll said. “… Think (about what he’s doing forcing fumbles) … That’s remarkable. Because we’ve got a lot of other guys out there playing, too, but this one guy keeps figuring out a way to do it. It makes him really stand out.”
Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas
When the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson last offseason, they received the No. 9 pick in April’s draft from the Denver Broncos.
The Seahawks used that pick to take left tackle Charles Cross from Mississippi State. Two rounds later, they took WSU’s Abraham Lucas to play right tackle. Both Cross and Lucas have started every game for the Hawks this year, and they impressed their head coach yet again against an aggressive Arizona defense.
“Those guys, they can handle it. They got pushed a little bit at times and we held the ball a little bit at times and we got run by once or twice, but they’re doing a great job play after play,” he said. “It’s just remarkable that they’re holding up so steadily and we’ll just hopefully keep growing and getting better. We’re going to have a chance to see this whole thing about when rookies play early on and we get to the mid-year, what kind of factor can they become? For our guys, they’re kind of accelerating that a little bit. But this is really going to give us a chance to be good in the second half of this season.”
Kenneth Walker III
The Seahawks had two second-round picks this year and used one of them on Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.
Walker had played a bit already this season but was thrust into a major role last week when Rashaad Penny went down with a season-ending injury.
Walker got the start this weekend in Seattle and rushed 21 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.
So how did the rookie do in his first day as the lead back?
“He had fun with it. He was having fun in the game. He really enjoyed it and he was really fired up after the touchdown run, and he knew that he’d just missed it on the other shot that he had,” Carroll said.
Carroll also thinks Walker can be an emotional leader of this team in the same way former safety Kam Chancellor was.
“I think we just need to keep watching this kid because he’s more like Kam than a lot of guys,” he said. “He’s quiet, he’s tough and he’s gonna have a lot to say with a few words.”
Listen to this week’s Pete Carroll Show at this link or in the player below.