The rookies are showing they can play

Published on June 4, 2014 by     Seahawks.Com News (Feed)

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It appeared the 2014 rookie class was up against it as far as making an impact for the defending Super Bowl champions. But someone forgot to tell the players the Seahawks drafted and then signed after the draft.

In the final period of Tuesday’s OTA session, Paul Richardson turned a short pass into a 27-yard gain by spinning away from a closing defender and the Seahawks’ top draft choice then got behind a cornerback for a 29-yard completion.

Monday, when Richardson hooked up with Russell Wilson on a 50-yard touchdown pass, right tackle Justin Britt recovered after initially being beaten by rush-end Jackson Jeffcoat to make the block that allowed a third-down pass to be completed; and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis was not fooled by a misdirection play, allowing the fourth-round draft choice to stop the receiver just as he was taking a pass in the flat.

And one of the lasting impressions from the rookie minicamp last month was rush-end Cassius Marsh flashing past the quarterbacks he was not allowed to touch.

As Wilson put it after Monday’s practice, “The draft went extremely well to add some of the guys we’ve added.”

That it did, and that they did – and in a year where it appeared the rookie class would be up against it on a team that is so young, so talented and so deep.

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But several rookies appear capable of filling roles – and roster spots – for the Super Bowl champions. The fact that the Seahawks lost eight players in free agency, including starters in wide receiver Golden Tate, right tackle Breno Giacomini and cornerback Brandon Browner, plays into it. So does the caliber of players the Seahawks selected in last month’s NFL Draft, and even some of those they signed as free agents after not being drafted. Then there’s coach Pete Carroll’s willingness to play young players, especially those with unique qualities.

“The ones we picked, we picked for a reason,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said after Tuesday’s session. “And once they’re able to get up to speed and learn it, we hope to be able to use their skills. Coach has been known for that all the way back to his days at USC, playing guys earlier and playing them as freshmen.

“That’s one of the cool things about coach and his philosophy and his belief system. It’s what we’re all about here. We’re all about competition. Whether you’re a first-rounder, a last-rounder or a no-rounder, you’re going to have an opportunity to play. So if you’re willing to come and put your best foot forward and compete for it, you’ve got an opportunity.”

Ah, those no-rounders. It’s a group that already includes wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, safety Jeron Johnson, linebacker Mike Morgan and defensive end Benson Mayowa. This year’s group features tackle Garry Gilliam, strong safety Dion Bailey, quarterback Keith Price and Jeffcoat.

“Dion Bailey has certainly caught my eye,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “I’ve been impressed by the way he’s picked up the defense. I’ve been impressed by the way he communicates. I’ve been impressed by the way he goes after the ball.”

And they’re in addition to Richardson and Britt, the team’s selections on the second day of the draft; and third-day picks Marsh, Pierre-Louis, wide receiver Kevin Norwood, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, defensive back Eric Pinkins and fullback Kiero Small.

“They’re all still learning, but there’s definitely splash plays they’re able to make,” Bevell said. “Richardson caught a nice ball (Monday). You see Norwood catch some balls. Britt is doing a good job in there. So it’s nice.”

And the Seahawks almost have a second rookie class waiting in the wings because of the players selected in the previous two drafts that have been limited or sidelined with injuries – defensive end Greg Scruggs and linebacker Korey Toomer from 2012; and defensive tackle Jesse Williams and cornerback Tharold Simon from last year.

Richardson and Norwood are only increasing the competition at an already-competitive position, despite the loss of leading receiver Tate. Britt is competing with Michael Bowie to replace Giacomini at right tackle. Marsh and Jeffcoat are showing they can ease the loss of Chris Clemons, the Leo end who was released and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pierre-Louis can provide depth at linebacker, a position where the Seahawks have quality if not quantity. The coaches still are figuring out where to play Pinkins, but he has the size and skills to fit into one of the sub packages and also help on special teams. And so on.

“That’s the part that totally fires you up as a coach,” Quinn said. “As you go through these offseason drills it’s, OK, of these guys who’s really going for it and trying and saying ‘I want make my mark and help this team.’ I’ve felt that from some guys.

“That doesn’t come easily, there’s a lot of work and conditioning to go into that. So for those guys who are starting to understand how hard to go and to finish at practice, that’s something that’s always cool to see.”

There also was something cool to see over Quinn’s shoulder as he was talking – the veterans still out on the practice field helping the rookies.

“That part you take great pride in, too, knowing that they’re trying to help their group become as good as it can be,” Quinn said. “That’s competition at its truest sense. It’s not competing against the guy they’re going against, but competing to see how good they can be and they want their unit to be that good.”
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