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Seahawks notebook: Pete Carroll talks nickel CB battle, free agency moves

Seahawks HC Pete Carroll joined John Clayton for an interview at the NFL owner's meetings. (AP)

In a Wednesday morning interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll answered a few questions about Seattle’s free agency moves, upcoming surgery for wide receiver Doug Baldwin, top candidates to replace cornerback Justin Coleman, and positions of need on both sides of the ball.

Clayton: Why Seahawks can make 1 more signing

The Seahawks were relatively quiet in free agency, but Carroll said that was the plan heading into March.

“We wanted to keep this team together as best we could,” Carroll said of Seattle’s free agency decisions. “K.J. (Wright) was a big part of that to get this thing started and we’re really excited about that. I think getting the kicker is a big deal for us. (With) the style of play we want, we want to be as efficient as we possibly can. Jason (Myers) had a great season last year once he got out from under our clutches; he did a pretty good job. But it gave us the opportunity to bring him on back in and we’re thrilled to get that done. It gives us a really solid kicking game. Obviously with Michael (Dickson), and (Tyler Lockett) returning, we’re in great shape. So we’ve done some really good things there. I’m anxious to see us continue to grow with our young guys coming up. So, we’re not as active going for the big-shot guys in free agency, which we never think it’s a good idea to do that in the long haul, and so we like where we are.”

Here are a few other notes:

The Seahawks like what they see with DE Jacob Martin

In what was his first season as a full-time starter, defensive end Frank Clark had a career year, with 41 tackles, 27 quarterback hits, 13 sacks, and his first ever interception. Seattle had less success finding a full-time starter on the other side of the defensive line. Dion Jordan was a favorite for the spot heading into camp, but was sidelined by surgery ahead of training camp and ultimately started just three games. That role eventually went to Quinton Jefferson – who swapped between defensive end and defensive tackle – though both Jordan and Branden Jackson contributed as well.

Carroll was asked what the team wants in a pass rusher opposite Clark while they wait for their younger talent to develop. Carroll instead highlighted a young player as an example of what they want at that position.

“Well, let me start with the fact that Jacob Martin had a really impressive year when you go back and look at the stats that he turned out for the limited amount of plays that he played,” Carroll said.

“He was active, his pressures were up there percentage-wise – three sacks in 200 snaps or something like that – (and) he’s going to be a factor for us again. We need to develop him physically and maintain his girth, he lost weight, he lost 20 pounds over the season, and so that affected him some near the end. But he’s still an attractive guy because of his motor and his quickness. So start there with those two guys. But we’re always looking for activity problem-makers for the offense, and they can come in different sizes and shapes, there’s some guys in the draft that we’re interest in, there’s some guys in free agency that we’ll look at here in the upcoming weeks. But if I go right back to our (guys), we’ve got to get Rasheem Green to really come alive. He had some really good spots last year, he did great early in the season, got worn down a little bit and wasn’t quite as effective, but he has to be a factor for us too from inside, from our guys that we develop. We’re just looking for activity and problem-makers. Usually you can look to that pressure percentage; how many times when they rush do they affect the quarterback. That’s where Jacob Martin, if you look back at his numbers, he was way up there.”

Carroll says there’s still a need for an additional run-stopping DT

“I think that’s a clear-cut area for us,” Carroll said. “We’ve always had a real large guy that can fill in for us in there. Poona Ford did a great job last year and he grew into our affection, man, we like the way he finished up, he was so active and such a good motor. J-Reed is a fine player, too. But I think it’s really important for us to continue to find another guy with Shamar (Stephen) going on.”

Akeem King, Kalan Reed and Jeremy Boykins will compete at nickel CB

The Seahawks lost defensive back Justin Coleman to the Detroit Lions in free agency. Coleman had successfully carved out a role as Seattle’s starting nickel cornerback, and posted a combined 90 tackles, 19 passes defended, three interceptions, three touchdowns, and two sacks in his two seasons with the Seahawks.

The team re-signed cornerback Akeem King to a one-year, $1.4 million deal in early March — an early indication Coleman could sign elsewhere — but Carroll says defensive backs Jeremy Boykins and Kalan Reed will be competing at the position.

“I think Akeem King can do a nice job in competing for that spot,” Carroll said. “A guy not many of our fans know in Jeremy Boykins did a really nice job in camp, we know he can do (that). Also, Kalan Reed can do a really nice job for us too. So we think we’ve got some really good guys to battle for this spot. We kind of grew up with Coleman, and we think we can grow these guys up too.”

Carroll feels good about CB spot, but starters will feel pressure

In a response to a question about how he scouts and trains cornerbacks in particular, Carroll said last year’s rookie starter Tre Flowers was a perfect example of how the team tries to individualize coaching. Still, no starting gig is safe.

“(Flowers) came out of nowhere for us, but we saw the elements that we needed and hoped that his competitiveness would carry over, which it did, and he became a very physical, aggressive corner that made a lot of things happen for us in his first year ever,” Carroll said. “But I look at it now for Tre and he’s going to have to battle, because the others guys coming up in the system — Boykins and King — those guys can play, and Neiko (Thorpe) can play. So we should have a very good position there as well. Using the bigger guys — you see us using bigger guys and longer guys — they have more of an effect on the players, not necessarily with their quickness, but with their length and their size to disrupt the receivers that they work against. And that’s kind of just been the way we’ve been doing it for a long time.”

Looking back, Carroll wishes they would’ve used WR Jaron Brown more

While speaking in general about an upcoming surgery for wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Carroll was asked about depth at the position and what he saw from David Moore and Jaron Brown. Carroll said he’s hoping to see more for both players in 2019.

“I’m hoping this third year for David is really, really special because he’s got great talent,” Carroll said. “Amara Darboh comes back too to us and he was a very competitive kid also. It’s a good position group right now. Tyler had his best year ever and we’re hoping to build on that one. But again, it’s going to go back to the competitiveness. Jaron Brown is a really good player that we look back and we could’ve used him a lot more. He did a lot of things for us. He blocked well, and fit into a lot of stuff, scored five touchdowns on a limited amount of catches. So we know we can go to him, he’s a real pro and so we’re anxious to see him develop more.”

Seattle’s offense will be ‘refined’

Under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Mike Solari, Seattle found success in the run game the offense hadn’t seen since 2014. Starting running back Chris Carson had a 1,000-yard season and Seattle led the league in rushing yards per game (160).

If there was a critique for Schottenheimer’s offense, it was the tendency to lean away from the passing game – this critique was loudest after Seattle’s final game of the year, a 24-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round.

Carroll isn’t disclosing exactly how Seattle’s offense will change, but he did say they plan to take advantage of Wilson’s success in play-action.

“The system will become more refined and in that we will expand our ability to attack better,” Carroll said. “And part of that is because Russell’s so good at it now. Russell has really developed the ability to really attack the defense with the running game by his ability to change things. So that really adds to it, that developed during the season, we’ll have much more command of that going into this year. George Fant’s going to have a big factor in the running game, too. This time last year, we weren’t even thinking of him blocking at tight end, and when injury necessitated it, out of nowhere George becomes one of the dominant blockers. So I’m really looking forward to putting all of those big dudes together again, and get Chris and Rashaad (Penny) back there hammering the football, and away we go. So that’ll be again a big area of emphasis, but I want to take advantage of that by using the play-action game that Russell’s so good at.”

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