Seattle Seahawks rookies look like stars, then like rookies

Published on May 2, 2010 by     

During stretches of Seattle Seahawks minicamp, Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and Golden Tate have looked like savvy veterans.

And on others, they play like raw rookies who miss their man, blow assignments, or drop balls.

Their minicamp performances with the Seahawks are the perfect example of the trials of rookies, and how breaking into the league is a difficult process, even for the most physically talented prospects.

“I feel like I’m swimming a little bit. I’m a bit overwhelmed,” said Okung, one of the team’s first-round draft picks, who has been plugged in at starting left tackle.

Okung was so impressive Friday that coach Pete Carroll marveled that he could be so competent. Saturday was far tougher.

On one play, as he tried to pass-block defensive end Nick Reed, Okung backed up so fast he tripped quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Tate, the team’s second-round pick, has been a visible addition, especially Friday, when he caught several deep balls in team sessions.

On one, he went up for a ball between safety Jordan Babineaux and cornerback Marcus Trufant and pulled down a big-gainer. On another, he beat corner Josh Wilson for a nice gain up the sideline.

But he’s had his drops, too.

“I made a few plays and also dropped a few passes I shouldn’t have dropped,” Tate said. “I was just coming out trying to show I can compete. They drafted me for a reason; that wasn’t to come in and not play, so I’m trying my best to earn my way and earn my respect on this team.”

Tate got some advice over lunch Saturday from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was sympathetic to his situation.

“I had lunch with him today and he basically said, ‘Hey, my head’s swimming right now. This offense is different,’” Hasselbeck said. “It’s hard for these guys coming in. We throw so much at them and it’s hard for all of us, but I thought that he’s done a nice job.”

Both Okung and Thomas are benefiting from having “big brothers” looking out for them on the field.

Part of the appeal of acquiring veteran guard Ben Hamilton was to tutor the young left tackle in the intricacies of coach Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme.

“You can see (Hamilton) talking to him the whole time,” Carroll said. “He understands that his role is to help, and Russell was able to take the calls and do something with them.”

For Thomas, a safety from Texas who was taken with the Hawks’ other first-round pick, the tutoring comes from an impeccable source: 15-year veteran Lawyer Milloy.

“There were some times when you could see Lawyer putting his arm around the young kid and checking him out and talking to him,” Carroll said.

And Thomas is happy for any help he can get … but especially from Milloy.

“He kind of took me under his wing,” Thomas said. “I sit by him in meetings and if I have any questions, he’d be the first person I ask.”

Thomas hasn’t yet come up with the kind of big plays that were his trademark at Texas, but he showed terrific closing speed getting to the ball on an interception that was made by Trufant in Friday’s practice.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Thomas said of the experience. “I see Julius Jones over there running the ball … I ask him for his autograph.”

Okung, meanwhile, has a low stance that looks a little out of place in the NFL; it appears to give him good leverage on run plays, but might be a liability in pass protection.

Tate gets out of his breaks quickly and looks very much the type who can make people miss after the catch.

Among the other rookies, tight end Anthony McCoy is an impressive athlete, with wide-receiver strides and nice hands at 6-foot-4, 259 pounds.

After pulling in a short pass Saturday, he met violently with another rookie, fifth-round strong safety Kam Chancellor. A huge defensive back at 6-3, 232 – probably stoked by adrenaline – Chancellor just went ahead and made a full tackle of McCoy, although the practice was not in pads.

Well, they brought these guys in to make the team more physical. Chancellor is taking it literally.

After Okung and Tate had made nice plays in Friday’s team session, another play combined a Tate dropped pass with an Okung false start.

Hey, it’s early and they’re young. So young they’re still tempted to ask teammates for autographs.

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