RENTON, WA — When the time comes, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll anticipates a bitter battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock for the right to replace Russell Wilson at center for the 2022 season.
But while Monday’s launch of the OTAs was an important step in kickstarting the competition with both passers running games and hurling the pigskin at VMAC, it will be a while before the coaching staff see the two players due to league-mandated can really evaluate training limitations. As Carroll described, Seattle’s primary focus over the next few weeks as the final phase of the offseason program concludes will be learning and making the most of mental replays playing “fake football.”
“The first leg of the first and second phases of the off-season is really to prepare for that and to get ready for when we finally get a chance to work a little bit against the other side of the ball,” Carroll explained. “It’s very controlled and we don’t do 11v11 at all except walkthrough stuff, but we’ve orchestrated it in a way that we can learn a lot and hopefully see where we stand as the players fit together and like the schemes on both sides getting together.”
As noted by Carroll, the Seahawks fought just 11-on-11 during a walkthrough period in Monday’s first OTA session. While the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows for such team drills to take place during the third phase of the offseason program without live Contacts are allowed, it is difficult to even remotely simulate real business on the pitch.
“It’s really situational football – it’s not the right thing – but we’re trying to get as close as possible,” said Carroll.
Consequently, most of Lock and Smith’s passing attempts came either against other offensive players with red caps on their helmets or during controlled 7-on-7 drills. While those reps still remain valuable, especially for Lock, who is learning a new offensive system after being acquired from the Broncos as part of the Wilson trade, the Seattle coaching staff will have a hard time getting much out of these workouts.
When asked what he’d seen of Lock, Carroll couldn’t give many details after a solitary exercise. But since the Seahawks already know what Smith can bring to the table after three games in place of an injured Wilson last season, they’re using him as a base to judge their new quarterback, and he seems to be able to handle anything thrown has been with him so far.
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“He’s right with us,” Carroll said of Lock’s progress. “You know Geno really nailed the package and that’s how I have to rate him and that’s how he’s related to G all along. And we hold nothing back. We are really, I just unloaded the installation at this time. He’s fine.”
While reporters are limited on what they can divulge from those workouts, Lock showed off his arm talent and soft touch in the 7-on-7 as he lofted a perfect shot on a seam stretch to Will Dissly. Though the veteran tight end admitted he misses Wilson, he already seems to be forming a positive bond with his new quarterback.
Later in the same drill, Smith, who handled the first-team reps, connected with receiver Dee Eskridge on a go-ball on the left touchline. Passports from both signal callers will likely be on display, the sophomore from western Michigan should get plenty of chances to impress over the next few weeks as veteran DK Metcalf is still rehabilitating from foot surgery and is unlikely to participate in OTAs.
“Both quarterbacks are doing a great job. That’s the crux of our time right now, to grow and compete and get better, so each of these guys is doing what they can to be at their best and it kind of spreads down the offensive line.” Dissly after Monday’s practice, “All the receivers step up, the tight ends step up. We know it’s a big year and we need to get it right.”
Of course, there were a few errors as well, including Smith telegraphing an interception down the middle that was intercepted by linebacker Cody Barton. That’s to be expected at this time of year as teams introduce a new breed of rookies and free agents/commercial acquisitions work to master new plans. There is an obvious adjustment period that needs to be taken into account and therefore the mental aspect of the game needs to be emphasized at this point.
Since it’s only May, Carroll won’t fret over such mistakes and hopes they’ll provide both quarterbacks with valuable lessons to learn from before the Seahawks report for training camp in late July. As soon as the balls really start flying in a few months, the actual evaluation begins.
“Using your imagination is a really big tool for us here and that’s for the players and the coaches and you have to imagine what we’re asking and what the situation calls for and adapt and make your decisions and show us what you do know. We know there’s a whole other level coming to camp and what we’re doing now in phase three is preparing for camp and so it’s all staged. We’re making whatever progress you can, but you can’t tell until then, we’re really starting to play.”