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Seahawks Kickstart QB Competition Amid 'Fake Football' at OTAs

For the first time, Drew Lock and Geno Smith took reps under center against a defense in Seattle's initial OTA practice. But if anyone hopes for clarity on who will start in Week 1 to come out of these sessions, they will likely be very disappointed.

RENTON, WA - In due time, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expects a fierce battle to play out between Geno Smith and Drew Lock for the right to replace Russell Wilson under center for the 2022 season.

But while the start of OTAs on Monday marked a key step jumpstarting the competition with both passers executing plays and slinging the pigskin at the VMAC, it will be a while before the coaching staff can truly evaluate the two players due to league-mandated practice limitations. As Carroll described it, Seattle's main focus over the next several weeks to close out the final phase of the offseason program will be learning and making the most of mental reps playing "fake football."

"The first phase one, phase two section of the offseason is really in preparation for this and to get us ready when we finally get a chance to work against the other side of the ball a little bit," Carroll explained. "It's very controlled and we don't do any 11 on 11 at all other than walkthrough stuff, but we've orchestrated it so that we'll get a lot of learning done and hopefully we can see where we are as the players fit together and as the schemes come together on both sides."

As Carroll noted, the Seahawks only scrimmaged 11-on-11 during a walkthrough period in Monday's initial OTA session. While the NFL's collective bargaining agreement allows for such team drills to take place in the third phase of the offseason program, with no live contact being permitted, it's difficult to come anywhere close to simulating the real deal on the field.

"It's really situational football - this isn't the real thing - but we try to get as close as we can," Carroll said.

Consequently, most of Lock and Smith's pass attempts either came against other offensive players wearing red beanies on their helmets or during controlled 7-on-7 drills. While those reps still remain valuable, particularly for Lock learning a new offensive system after being acquired from the Broncos as part of the Wilson trade, Seattle's coaching staff will be hard-pressed to glean much from these workouts.

When asked about what he had seen from Lock, Carroll couldn't offer up many specifics after one lone practice. But with the Seahawks already familiar with what Smith can bring to the table after starting three games in place of an injured Wilson last season, they are using him as a baseline to assess their new quarterback and he seems to be handling everything that has been thrown at him so far.

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"He's right with us," Carroll said of Lock's progress. "You know, Geno really has the package nailed and so I have that to gauge him on and so he's hanging with G throughout all of this. And we're not holding anything back. We're really I've just unloaded the installation at this time. He's doing well."

While reporters are limited on what they can disclose from these practice sessions, Lock showed off his arm talent and soft touch during 7-on-7 when he lofted a perfect strike on a seam route to Will Dissly. Though the veteran tight end admitted he misses having Wilson around, he already seems to be building a positive connection with his new quarterback.

Later in the same drill, Smith, who took the first-team reps, connected with receiver Dee Eskridge on a go-ball down the left sideline. Likely to see passes come his way from both signal callers, the second-year wideout out of Western Michigan should get plenty of chances to impress over the next few weeks with veteran DK Metcalf still rehabbing from foot surgery and not expected to participate in OTAs.

"Both quarterbacks are doing an amazing job. That's kind of the whole point of our time right now is to grow and compete and get better, so each one of those guys, they're doing what they can to put their best selves forward and it's kind of spreading throughout the offense," Dissly said following Monday's practice. "All the receivers are stepping up, the tight ends are stepping up. We know it's a big year and we gotta do it right."

Of course, there were a few miscues sprinkled in there as well, including Smith telegraphing an interception over the middle that was picked off by linebacker Cody Barton. That's to be expected this time of year as teams break in a new crop of rookies and free agents/trade acquisitions work to master new schemes. There's an obvious acclimation period that has to be accounted for and that's why the mental aspect of the game must be emphasized at this time.

With it only being May, Carroll isn't going to fret about such mistakes and hopes they will provide valuable lessons for both quarterbacks to learn from before the Seahawks report for training camp in late July. Once the bullets really start flying in a couple months, then the real evaluation will commence.

"Using your imagination is a really big tool for us here and that's for the players and the coaches, and you have to picture what it is we're asking and what the situation calls for and adapt and make your decisions and show us what you know. We know there's a whole other level to come into camp and what we do now in phase three is preparation for camp and so it's all staged. We're making the progress that you can make, but you can't tell 'til we really start playing."