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Rookie Class Making Strong First Impression on Pete Carroll, Seahawks

While few true football activities happen on practice fields in May, OTAs remain a key component of an NFL offseason, especially for incoming rookies. Less than a month after being drafted, Seattle's latest crop of first-year players has gotten off to an encouraging start.

RENTON, WA - The Seahawks' incoming 2022 draft class hasn't even been part of the team for a month. But all in all, the nine-player group has hit the ground running with the final phase of the offseason program starting on Monday.

Taking the field with veterans for the first time to partake in the latest step before their initial training camp opens in July, as is the case every year, coach Pete Carroll and his staff were curious to see how Seattle's latest crop of rookies stacked up. While it was just one non-padded "fake football" practice, so far, the group as a whole has left a strong first impression in a brief period of time.

"Really, that is the first thing that we have to do, is to figure out where they are," Carroll told reporters after Monday's session. "However, they’ve been with us enough and they just had a section out here of about 15 plays or something. They can run a ton of the offense already, and the defense, so the guys have come along."

Rookies entering the NFL have little time to prepare before being thrown to the wolves. Shortly after being drafted, they are already on the practice field participating in rookie minicamp and in the classroom trying to learn a playbook in quick order. The process can be a blur for many players and each organization handles the acclimation period a bit differently.

But while players such as first-round pick Charles Cross and second-round pick Boye Mafe won't truly be tested until the bullets start flying for real in August, Seattle's latest batch of rookies hasn't been fazed by anything thus far. As Carroll noted on Monday, his assistants have done an excellent job instructing and getting their new players up to speed, setting them up for a successful first offseason.

"It is really a statement about the teaching, we’ve done a nice job, the coaches have really been on it to get these guys prepared and learning," Carroll said.

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Since the Seahawks don't conduct 11-on-11 drills during OTA practices due to strict contact prohibitions, trying to evaluate players this time of year can be a futile task.

When second-round pick Ken Walker III takes a handoff out of the backfield, he isn't going to be tackled or even wrapped up. Along the offensive line, Cross and third-round pick Abraham Lucas will be drive blocking pads, not defensive ends. The same can be said for Mafe and fifth-round pick Tyreke Smith, who won't be taking any full speed reps against offensive linemen and will work near-exclusively against sleds and dummies.

If there are players who benefit more from these sessions with so many restrictions, seventh-round picks Bo Melton and Dareke Young should have ample opportunities to make plays in the passing game during 7-on-7 drills, especially with star DK Metcalf not in attendance. But even for them, playing against cornerbacks such as fellow rookies Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen who can't play press coverage and are discouraged from making plays on the football sullies the evaluation process.

Again, this isn't real football and Carroll emphasized that on numerous occasions during his press conference on Monday. There are clear limitations put in place by the league and the Seahawks do their best to maximize on what they are allowed to do this time of year in a controlled environment.

Still, these quick-hitting practice sessions in May and June remain invaluable for rookies adjusting to playing at the highest level. Mental reps are just as important as physical ones and over the next few weeks, Carroll hopes to see Cross, Mafe, and the rest of Seattle's first-year players continue to learn play calls, sharpen their technique, and stay healthy building up to the start of camp in late July.

"They are working hard at it, so I have no complaints at all. We are moving, we can see a lot of stuff, we’ll be able to see guys in situations, and we will be doing a lot of down and distance situations just to get the looks we need, so everything is moving along fine.”