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Seahawks DE L.J. Collier
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Carroll’s final takeaways for Seahawks’ 2019 rookie class

Seahawks rookie DE L.J. Collier struggled to make an impact this season. (Getty)

Any time an NFL team’s season ends, the immediate aftermath is typically filled with reflection on the year. That was certainly the case with the Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll’s final press conference of the 2019 season Monday afternoon.

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One area that Carroll spent a while talking about was his 2019 rookie class. The Seahawks selected 11 players in the 2019 NFL Draft, and also had one undrafted free agent, defensive tackle Bryan Mone, play meaningful snaps on defense down the final stretch of the season.

Of those 11 draft picks, one of their sixth-round picks, defensive lineman Demarcus Christmas, was injured for the year, and fourth-round receiver Gary Jennings was inactive before being waived when the team signed receiver Josh Gordon off of waivers.

The other nine – 10 including Mone – played in varying degrees throughout the year.

One of the biggest disappointments for Seahawks fans was the play of defensive end L.J. Collier, the team’s first-round pick. He was injured in training camp and struggled to catch up after returning from the injury. He was a healthy scratch throughout the year, including Seattle’s two playoff games.

The team may lose defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to free agency, so a big step forward from Collier would be critical for a Seahawks defense that struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

“I think he just needs to be in there. Get his play time, get going, get all of camp, get everything organized, he’s got it all together,” Carroll said. “We would like to play him inside and out, move him a little bit. I hope – I already talked to him about it – he can make the kind of jump that Rasheem (Green) made from year one to year two. I thought Rasheem had a terrific season this year to help us out and start to get his career rolling. Hopefully L.J. will make the same kind of advance.”

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Green battled some injuries in his rookie season last year and when he was healthy, he was often a healthy scratch. When he was on the field, he failed to make much of an impact. In 2019, he had more of a role and led the team with four sacks in the regular season.

Second-round pick DK Metcalf, meanwhile, had 900 receiving yards in his first season and emerged as a true No. 2 option for quarterback Russell Wilson.

He was one of a few Seahawks rookies who played regularly on offense or defense. Many rookies played considerable snaps, but they were on special teams.

Safety Marquise Blair and linebacker Cody Barton started on defense at different points of the year, and will look to earn more playing time next season.

Blair started before the team acquired Quandre Diggs in a trade, but while he made some big hits and plays, he was benched in favor of a Diggs-Bradley McDougald safety tandem. Still, he made his mark on special teams.

Barton was a special teams contributor throughout the season, and when linebacker Mychal Kendricks tore his ACL in Week 17, he started the Seahawks’ two playoff games and did a solid job.

Overall, Carroll said his assessment of the rookies was positive.

“All of them found a way to contribute at some time,” he said. “L.J. probably needs more opportunities to get him involved. Look at what DK did. I just think that Cody and (linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven), they just helped us throughout the season. We counted on them early, and they factored in … If we make the progress with L.J., I think it’s a fantastic group. I’m really going to be excited about what (seventh-round receiver John Ursua) can bring playing in the slot for us next year. He looked terrific during the second half of the season in all of the work that we did and the more time he got with us. I think he’ll come back really competing for stuff. A pretty exciting group.”

Haynes, an offensive guard taken in the fourth round, was hurt for the first half of the year and was on injured reserve. He was activated but didn’t play until the playoffs. Starting left guard Mike Iupati missed both playoff games, and second-year player Jamarco Jones started in his place.

Against the Green Bay Packers in the Seahawks’ final game of the year, Jones left the game with a concussion and Haynes entered in his place. Carroll was pleased with his performance.

“Phil did a good job,” Carroll said. “What we’ve seen in Phil is that he’s really strong and he plays real square. He did it in that game. He did very well. Was really pleased to see him. He has had such little playtime since he’s been here. It was great to see him do well.”

The offensive line, like the defensive line, could look quite different next season.

Veteran left tackle Duane Brown will be back, but other than him, the other four starting spots are a bit of a question mark.

Center Justin Britt tore his ACL midway through the year and has just one year left on his deal. He is scheduled to have a cap hit of more than $11 million next season, per Spotrac.com, meaning he could potentially be released to save money. The same could be said of right guard D.J. Fluker, whose cap hit is more than $3 million on the final year of his deal.

Starting right tackle Germain Ifedi is a free agent, as is backup left tackle and occasional sixth lineman George Fant. Left guard Mike Iupati, who was a Pro Bowl alternate this season, is also an unrestricted free agent.

Carroll said continuity on the offensive line is important and that a few players like Jordan Simmons and Demetrius Knox were injured and will come back competing for spots next season. He also pointed back to Haynes as a guy who could make a big step forward.

“To see Phil play like that too, that was really, really helpful for us going forward,” Carroll said. “I think the whole group could be a really solid group coming back. I would like to see the guys who have been playing for us to stay with us.”

Another bright spot, at least in Week 16 and Week 17, was the play of rookie running back Travis Homer.

Homer was the team’s fourth running back on the depth chart throughout the season and mostly played special teams. But when the three backs ahead of him were all injured in a three-game span, he was thrust into a larger role. He played well in the final two regular season games but struggled in the wild card round against the Philadelphia Eagles’ stout run defense, then had minimal snaps against the Packers.

Carroll is excited about the young back out of Miami.

“Homer really helped us out with the playing time he got,” Carroll said. “A classic example, what does a guy have to do when he doesn’t need to play? Homer did. He showed us what he could do. I think it should be a strong group.”

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