After a decade with a meticulous, risk-averse perfectionist with the ball as his Seahawks quarterback, can Pete Carroll accept having “a gunslinger” as his new one?
The answer to that is going to answer whether Drew Lock wins the competition with Geno Smith to become Seattle’s first new quarterback in 10 years.
On Friday, Carroll was as expansive about his thinking on how he’s going to decide the QB battle for this season as he’s been since the team acquired Lock in the mammoth trade of Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos in March. Wilson took many bigger sacks by extending plays rather than throwing the ball away, but he was preternaturally against throwing into coverage.
Smith remained the first-team quarterback for all but one, short series of training camp’s seventh practice.
Lock’s one series with the starting offensive line came early, in a red-zone scrimmage Friday. He’s had just seven plays of 11-on-11 scrimmaging with the starting offense in the four-plus months he’s been a Seahawk. He had two snaps with the starters at the end of last week’s first practice of camp.
Lock seems to be paying for his cardinal sin on day one of training camp, July 27.
It reminded Carroll and the Seahawks why Lock led the NFL with 15 interceptions for Denver in 2020, his second NFL season.
On the last play of that first practice, Lock took the snap and ran outside to his left to escape pass rushers. He kept running and threw back across his body and the field, to the right side between the painted yard-line numbers and the opposite sideline to surprised running back DeeJay Dallas. The wobbling, underthrown pass should have been intercepted.
To compound the bad play, the official on the line near where Lock threw the ball threw his penalty flag. Lock had gone 2 yards past the line of scrimmage before he threw. The pass was not only ill-advised, it was illegal.
It was a play Wilson almost never made in his 10 seasons as Carroll’s quarterback in Seattle.
After Lock’s trying-to-do-too-much gaffe, Carroll had seen enough. He had his assistant blow three horns to end the practice.
“I’m really glad that play happened in the first practice, because that was as bad of a play as you make,” Carroll said Friday. “He’s running over here, and he threw the ball over there, and it was a terrible play. And it was so obvious. It was like ‘OK, that’s the example of what we’re never going to do again.’
“He has some gunslinger in him.”
Carroll, with his quarterbacks over 12 years in Seattle, has not.
“That’s how he’s played his whole career,” Carroll of Lock, Denver’s second-round pick out of Missouri in 2019. “You go all the way back, I’ve seen all his college stuff, he’s made a million big plays and a million special plays, on the move, in the pocket, any which way you look at it.
“So, we have to see how that all fits with us, and when he makes his choices to go for it, does he come through or not? And so far, he’s done a pretty darn good job. He’s been very effective when he’s moving out of the pocket.”
But it has been with no real consequences of games lost, playoff chances gone.
Can Carroll put up with Lock’s gunslinging when the games get real Sept. 12, when the Seahawks host Wilson’s new — and Lock’s former — Broncos?
“I’m watching to see how it swings,” Carroll said on his first day back after five days in quarantine watching live streams of practices following his positive test Sunday for COVID-19.
“We are working hard to match up the reps with the guys who play up in front, and the receivers. We are working to get that done, and that will happen.”
It hasn’t happened yet.
Lock knows his weakness. He knows what he’s being judged most closely for in this competition.
“Playing smart football,” he said. “Biggest thing for me that I think people, including myself, have analyzed my play over the last couple years is turnovers, taking care of the football.
“That was one thing in those last games that I got to start in Denver, that was a big piece. I wanted to be able to show that I can take care of the football and play really smart football and that’s a goal of mine this year. With all the weapons that we have...and our running game, and our offensive line, the only way we can hurt ourselves is if we turn the ball over.”
Carroll hinted the 25-year-old Lock, 8-13 as a starter in part of his first three NFL seasons with Denver, will finally get a series or two alternating with the 31-year-old Smith behind the starting offensive line Saturday. That’s when the team holds its annual mock game in full pads at Lumen Field.
“You’ll see how it happens again (Saturday) how the reps are handed out, just so we can make it a really even competition,” Carroll said.
Smith threw a long, showy touchdown pass Friday across the field to Tyler Lockett on a long-developing play during the main 11-on-11 scrimmage. But in a game, outside linebacker Darrell Taylor would have planted Smith for a sack. Taylor blew straight to Smith unblocked past rookie right tackle Abe Lucas.
Smith also had a pinpoint pass on a line deep over the middle to Penny Hart against the second defense.
The next play, offensive linemen committed a false-start penalty as Smith was trying to change the play before the snap. That was one of four false-start fouls with Smith quarterbacking the offense, a continuing issue early in camp. Two of those four pre-snap penalties were on the left edge of the line around rookie left tackle Charles Cross.
Lock’s best throw was deep across the middle to tight end Tyler Mabry against the starting defense, in front of safeties Josh Jones and Jamal Adams. Lock’s best rhythm of the day and perhaps camp was five straight completions during 7-on-7 scrimmaging without linemen. The first three were to tight ends Colby Parkinson, Will Dissly and Noah Fant, Fant longer on a seam route.
“Geno continues to be on top. He’s ahead,” Carroll said. “He’s been in the lead for all the obvious reasons, and he’s holding onto it, and doing a really good job of battling. ...
“There are no issues here where we have to ‘Oh, we can’t quite do this or that with this guy or that guy.’ It isn’t like that. They’re very talented, arm-wise, and the ability to throw the ball down the field is there. “
Smith is the known, the safer choice.
Lock is the wild card. Carroll believes he and his Seahawks environment can maximize’s Lock’s potentially huge upside. But he knows Lock’s career so far proves he’s capable of a big downside.
“So, let the games begin. Getting out there, now we’re in the middle of it, and we’ll see what happens. It’s a really big day (Saturday). It’ll be a really big day (Saturday).”
New starting corner for the day
Rookie Tariq Woolen was the starting right cornerback Friday. That’s while Sidney Jones was sidelined with a concussion he got taking on a block in Wednesday’s practice, Carroll said.
Artie Burns was the other starting cornerback, as he’s been the entire camp. He began the day on the left side, then moved to the right cornerback later in the practice. Rookie Coby Bryant entered as the first right cornerback then. Bryant was the number-two left corner for most of Friday.
Tre Brown, a starting cornerback as a rookie last season, is running on flat ground.
“He’s chomping at the bit” to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list after knee surgery last year, Carroll said.
“Not yet,” the coach added.
Lucas at right tackle
Lucas, the team’s third-round pick from Washington State and Everett, was the starting right tackle for the first time in camp. He now joins Jake Curhan and 2021 rookie draft choice Stone Forsythe in the competition to win that job opposite rookie starting left tackle Cross.
“Abe has done a nice job so far,” Carroll said. “He’s really equipped physically. He has a great body to play right tackle now. ...
“We have to see if he can make the right decisions at the right time, use the coaching, use the system properly to help him battle.”
Carroll said of safety Jamal Adams in his return to practice with a broken finger: “He’s OK.”
The coach doesn’t know if Adams will need to wear the cast he now has over his left hand all season. The team will reassess that in four to six weeks as the finger bone heals — and as he keeps practicing.
Pete Carroll says Jamal Adams and his broken finger: “He’s ok.” doesn’t know if Adams will need to wear the cast/covering over his left hand all season. Seahawks will reassess that in 4-6wks as he keeps practicing/playing @thenewstribune pic.twitter.com/hZVIOPwNmJ
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 5, 2022
*Carroll said linebacker Jordyn Brooks “tweaked” his hamstring at the end of practice the other day. The team is holding him out of practice as a precaution
“He’s been extraordinary” as the new signal caller of the defense onside post-Bobby Wagner, Carroll said.
*The team signed rookie linebacker Joel Dublanko. He was Seahawks rookie cornerback Coby Bryant’s teammate at the University of Cincinnati last season. Dublanko is from Aberdeen. He played at Aberdeen High School, then attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as a high school senior.
Dublanko signed this spring with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent.
Seattle waived tight end Jake Hausmann, signed last week.