K.J. Wright’s observations of Seahawks’ 2022 rookie class
Oct 29, 2022, 9:50 AM
(Harry How/Getty Images)
The Seahawks are 4-3 and in first place in the NFC West heading into a Week 8 clash with the New York Giants, and their rookie draft class is a major reason why.
Seattle has gotten key contributions from players selected on all three days of this April’s draft, and this draft class is shaping up to be arguably the team’s best since that historic draft in 2012.
Someone who was part of another great Seahawks draft class – specifically, the 2011 draft – is K.J. Wright, a longtime NFL linebacker who is now a contributor for Seattle Sports 710 AM. During his weekly show on Wednesday, Wright shared some thoughts on the play of many of Seattle’s rookies. Here’s what he had to say.
CB Tariq Woolen
Despite being a fifth-round pick, no Seahawks rookie has turned heads more than cornerback Tariq Woolen.
The tall and fast UTSA product has four interceptions this year – which is tied for the NFL lead –and has also recovered two fumbles. He returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown and also blocked a field goal that fellow cornerback Michael Jackson returned for a score.
“He’s become a lockdown corner,” Wright said.
No words for how good @_Tariqwoolen is.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 16, 2022
Woolen is best known for his splash plays, but he’s also excelling in coverage. Per Pro Football Reference, opposing quarterbacks have just a 46.1 passer rating when targeting receivers covered by Woolen.
Mike Salk asked Wright if you’re supposed to be a legit lockdown cornerback after just seven NFL games.
“You’re not, but he is,” Wright replied. “And you just look at his technique. He’s so savvy. He’s breaking up routes like curl routes and getting (pass breakups), (defending) dig routes and getting his hands on the football. And his confidence is just just through the roof.”
OLB Boye Mafe
Sticking with the defense, one of the Seahawks’ highest-drafted players this year was Minnesota linebacker Boye Mafe, who Seattle selected 40th overall.
Mafe has played more and more in recent weeks, including a season-high 51% of the team’s defensive snaps in Week 7. Wright thinks the Seahawks could be better utilizing Mafe’s skillset, though.
“They put him in space a little bit too much. I want to see this man get going. Let him rush the passer,” he said. “Don’t be having him out there covering (star Chargers running back Austin) Ekeler running out of the backfield. Let him go loose so we can really see his skill set.”
RB Kenneth Walker III
One pick after selecting Mafe, the Seahawks took Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.
Walker missed Week 1 due to injury and was a reserve back to start the year, but since Rashaad Penny suffered a season-ending leg injury, Walker has shined.
Walker ran for 88 yards and scored his first touchdown in Week 6, and he’s rushed for 264 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks as the Seahawks’ clear lead back.
KEN IS THE TRUTH!
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 23, 2022
“When he gets a full head of steam, he’s a problem. He’s a big-time problem,” Wright said. ” … His lower body is strong, he has toughness, he has sneaky speed.”
Walker did run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his game speed is arguably more elite. During his 74-yard touchdown run last week, Walker was clocked at 22.09 mph, which is the fastest speed by any NFL ball carrier this season.
“That young man is really special to watch,” Wright said. “He’s young, and he still has a lot to learn. I was watching him a lot of times like stop making all these cuts in the backfield. Just go. And you saw the safety play. You’re on the 1-yard line. Just go.”
OL Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas
The Seahawks used two of their first four picks on the offensive line, selecting Mississippi State’s Charles Cross ninth overall and WSU product Abraham Lucas in the third round. Cross and Lucas have since started every game at left and right tackle, respectively.
“They call Charles Cross ‘Sweet Feet,'” Wright said. “They’re looking for those guys that can really block these fast and powerful defensive ends.”
So far, so good for both Cross and Lucas. And with Lucas, Wright sees him as the tone-setter for Seattle’s offensive line.
“You just start with Lucas, I believe he is the guy that sets the tone on the offensive line. And you need the big, bad nasty dude to be like, ‘We’re about to drive you off the ball and there’s nothing you can do about it,'” Wright said.
That has really come through in the run game, which is notable as both Lucas and Cross played in air-raid offenses in college that focused on passing rather than running the football.
“When you look at the success of Kenneth Walker, you have got to look at the guys up front blocking for him, and I believe that Lucas is that guy that really sets the tone,” Wright said. “You don’t hear his name too much. You don’t hear his name with holding, with false starts. But when they run the ball, and when he pass blocks, he is doing a phenomenal job.”
Cross and Lucas have the Seahawks’ offensive line really playing well, Wright said.
“I look at this offensive line, this is what it’s supposed to look like. This is football. When you’re driving guys off the ball, when you’re double-teaming guys, when you’re scooping guys, climbing to the next level,” he said. “… That’s what the offensive line is supposed to look like. So I believe in the interior, you can have those big maulers, but on the perimeter, especially at left tackle, you’ve got to have a guy that can protect your quarterback’s blind side.”
Listen to this week’s K.J. Wright Show at this link or in the player below.