Carroll: Seahawks rookies shining ahead of tough matchup with Chargers
The Seahawks enter their Week 7 clash with the Los Angeles Chargers at 3-3 and tied for first place in the NFC West, and a big reason why has been the play of their rookie class.
Entering Week 7, the Seahawks have five rookies holding down starting spots and another in linebacker Boye Mafe who is rotating in on defense and has seen his snap percentage increase every week this year.
So what’s helping those rookies find such early success? Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll discussed that and more during this week’s Pete Carroll Preview on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM.
“The first thing is they’re capable, they’re physically capable,” Carroll told Steve Raible. “We chose guys that have enough ability to do the job. And without that, you’re always gonna be fighting uphill. But the tackles can play and the rushers can rush and the corners can cover. That’s a big deal. Sometimes they can’t or it’s going to be a couple of years for them.”
Carroll stressed that these rookies haven’t been “rushed to the front” in terms of playing time.
“They’re capable of it. They’ve earned it by the way they’ve worked. That and plus this is a really smart, bright group,” he said. “They’re really confident and they’re handling it really well … Their makeup is allowing them to handle the fact that they’re playing a lot of snaps in the NFL in their first year, and they’re doing OK and they’re finding success. So the next part of it is for us to help them handle that so it doesn’t get them messed up and they don’t start making some wrong evaluations and judgments and things like that. We have to keep them really clear. But it’s really fun. We’re having a good time watching that happen.”
No rookie has shined more for the Seahawks – and perhaps the entire NFL – than Tariq Woolen, a cornerback from UTSA who wasn’t selected until the fifth round of this year’s draft.
Woolen has recorded an interception in each of the last four weeks, and his four picks are tied for the NFL lead. He’s also recovered two fumbles this year and blocked a field goal that was returned for a touchdown.
“There’s no doubt that he’s physically as capable as you could hope for,” Carroll said of Woolen. “There has not ever been a guy probably as tall as he is and as fast as he is that’s really tried to (to play) corner. I don’t remember anybody before.”
Woolen is quite the physical specimen as he stands 6-foot-4 and has nearly 34-inch arms. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.
“4.26 is as fast as I can never remember anybody being,” Carroll said. “… That’s there, but he’s a coordinated athlete, too, so the physical things that we’re asking him to do really just kind of came pretty comfortably to him. Now, there’s a real discipline about it that he does not have yet and it takes a long time to nail this – the discipline to be able to do it play after play after play – but technique-wise, he has taken to the approach. And when he has to modify because he’s not quite as clean, he’s got the skill to catch up, and the length of make get a handle on the ball and bother a receiver of any size or shape. So it’s pretty exciting.”
Woolen and the rest of the Seahawks’ defense have a tough task this weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers, who have one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Justin Herbert as well as weapons in the passing game in receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen as well as running back Austin Ekeler.
Carroll thinks the Chargers have a good scheme to both utilize and protect Herbert.
“They do play-action and they do all of that, but they’re a really well-equipped drop-back team,” Carroll said. “And their protection scheme is really good. They’ve only been sacked seven times in six games, so they’re really doing a nice job protecting him. And he gets the ball out and he’s hard to sack. He’s a big stud and you’ve got to really hit him to get him in. So we’re going to work hard to get that done and see if we can kind of move him as we want to and keep him out of balance some. But he’s got all the throws and he can throw in a mile.”
The receiving duo of Allen and Williams is a good one, and Carroll especially had praise for Williams, as well as Ekeler out of the backfield.
“Michael Williams is as good as you’ll find in the NFL. He’s got all of the skills and the playmaking,” he said. “But Ekeler, he’s really something now. A guy who was not highly a heralded guy coming out (of college), but man is he a ballplayer.”
Listen to the entire Pete Carroll Preview at this link or in the player below.