Will Opportunity Knock for Seahawks Top 2 Draft Choices?
Achieving four victories in five games, the Seahawks have bucked recent trends of starting slow under coach Pete Carroll and look poised to push for a seventh playoff appearance in eight years.
If one thing hasn’t gone according to plan for Seattle, however, it’s been the lack of contributions from a hyped rookie class that has been dogged by injuries. Most notably, defensive end L.J. Collier and safety Marquise Blair have struggled making up for lost reps after missing extended time in the preseason.
Between Seattle’s top two draft choices, Collier and Blair have dressed for a combined five regular season games and produced four tackles. Over the past three weeks, both rookies have been inactive as healthy scratches twice apiece.
That’s far from what the Seahawks hoped to see from their top two draft choices, but rolling towards the midway point of the season, their time to shine may be coming soon. Specifically, Carroll anticipates it’s only a matter of time before Collier starts to make an impact.
“We’re going to play him.” Carroll said on Wednesday. “When he’s up, he’s playing. We don’t have any hesitation to play him in the games. He’ll just continue to play better. He’s really practiced hard.”
Back in late July, Collier suffered what Carroll classified at the time as a “rare" ankle sprain and as a result, Seattle didn’t know when he’d return. He wound up missing the entire preseason as well as the season opener against Cincinnati before finally making his NFL debut in Pittsburgh the following week.
Since then, despite being fully healed, Collier has only played in one of the Seahawks past three games. He recorded his first tackle in a 27-10 win over the Cardinals, but as a victim of the team’s impressive defensive line depth, he was deactivated against the Rams on Thursday night.
Continuing to show progress, Carroll has seen Collier’s focus and conditioning improve over the past several weeks. With veteran Branden Jackson dealing with a neck injury, his best opportunity yet may await on Sunday against the Browns and Carroll is “planning on him being a factor this week.”
“He’s getting there. I’m really anxious to get him to play and contribute. He’ll do some good stuff for us.”
While Collier could see significant defensive snaps this weekend off the shores of Lake Erie, Blair appears to have a ways to go before he finds his way onto the field away from special teams.
During the preseason, Blair looked to be on the fast track to potentially ousting Tedric Thompson as the Seahawks starter at free safety. He delivered several big hits during an exhibition win over the Broncos, including one that questionably was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver.
But Blair exited Seattle’s next preseason game in Minnesota during the first half with back spasms, preventing him from unseating Thompson. When he tried to return for the exhibition finale, he only played a handful of snaps against Oakland before being forced out again.
Mastering the playbook has been an obstacle for Blair after he missed so many valuable practice and preseason game reps. Without directly saying it, Carroll made it sound as if the former Utah standout still has work to do gaining trust of the coaching staff before he’s given the green light.
“He just missed so much and he’s behind guys that have all played here and given us a lot of confidence in their background. It’s hard to get him in there. When do you work him in these games? There’s not much time to do that.”
Though Blair hasn’t made a splash to this point as many expected, Seattle remains confident the hard-hitting safety will figure things out and he’s right in the middle of the competition this week.
It’s still only Week 6, providing plenty of time for Collier, Blair, and other rookies to step up and show why the Seahawks drafted them. Still glowing about his team’s latest draft class, Carroll isn’t worried at all and it simply may take a bit more time for some players to break out than anticipated.
“I think it’s an excellent group. Every one of the guys are contributing in a way that they show us they belong. There’s no doubt in our mind. It’s really going to be good for the long haul here.”