Even though the Seahawks boast arguably the league's most talented roster, general manager John Schneider and his staff continue to mine the collegiate ranks for young players who can help. Part of the reason for that success is that once the players are selected, there is no preferential treatment for highly drafted players over undrafted free agents. So, who are the rookies catching the eye of Pete Carroll and his coaches this year?
In a feature we've been updating throughout training camp and the preseason games, SeahawkFootball.com ranks Seattle's most impressive rookies. Draft status and positional depth on the team mean nothing. Athleticism, toughness, competitiveness and coachability? They mean everything.
To this point I've ranked Seattle's top 10 rookies. With the first roster cut downs looming next week, however, I've chopped the list in half and upped the analysis on the five rookies who have impressed me the most thus far.
Through my initial Rookie Report Card, to the training camp scrimmage, preseason game against Denver and last Friday's second preseason game against Kansas City. I'd rank the Seahawks rookies in the following order.
1. DL Frank Clark: A nagging ankle injury limited Clark in practice and even had him listed among Seattle's inactives prior to kickoff vs. the Chiefs but he managed to convince the Seahawks to play and once again his disruptive ability shined through. Though he only played a handful of snaps against Kansas City, Clark was easy to find because he played with terrific energy. His effort showed up early on a tipped Alex Smith screen pass to Jamaal Charles, slowing up a play that looked destined to be a big gainer vs. the Seahawks' aggressive defense. Instead, Charles had to wait to catch it, allowing fellow versatile defensive lineman Michael Bennett time to lasso him for just a gain of two. It showed up later when he fought through multiple blockers and turned upfield to pursue and ultimately stop a scrambling Smith a yard short to force another third down. Clark isn't as quick or polished as Bennett but he's similarly versatile, winning because he's strong, alert and aggressive. I expect Clark to quickly emerge as a formidable part of Seattle's rotation a rookie.
2. WR/RS Tyler Lockett: It would be silly to call a 14-yard punt return vs. the Chiefs as impressive as the 103-yard kickoff return for a score that Lockett enjoyed a week earlier vs. the Broncos but the decisiveness, burst and courage shown by the rookie on KC's first punt of the game was impressive. Further, unlike Kansas City's rookie returner Chris Conley (who brazenly attempted a return out of his own end zone at the end of the game). Lockett also showed good awareness for a young player, letting booming kicks go that would wind up going as touchbacks. He led the Seahawks with 42 yards on three catches against Kansas City, showing a quick jab-step release to get off press coverage and hauled in one of R.J. Archer's better throws for a 25-yard gain in the third quarter. In terms of the regular season, Lockett's impact will mostly be felt on special teams but as he's demonstrated consistently now in the preseason, he could prove quite the force.
3. CB Tye Smith: With most of Seattle's secondary held out vs. the Chiefs nursing minor injuries, Smith saw lots of time on the field. He played inside in the nickel early on with starters Cary Williams and DeShawn Shead operating outside but moved to the edge as the second unit came on. Long and athletic, Smith looks the part of a Seattle corner with a tapered frame and long arms but he must improve his open-field tackling if he is going to see much time come the regular season. He was "beaten" for a big gain on a rub route to veteran slot receiver Jason Avant (though the late second quarter play was called back due to offensive pass interference) and saw quarterback (Alex) Smith, running back Knile Davis and receiver Frankie Hammond all run through low tackle attempts by the rookie. He also struggled fighting through the blocks downfield by Kansas City's receivers, failing to funnel former Seahawk Spencer Ware back inside on a 28-yard catch and run that wound up being Kansas City's longest play from scrimmage in the game. Smith didn't play poorly against the Chiefs but he certainly didn't shine despite some aggressive nickel blitzes called by new defensive coordinator Kris Richard that put the rookie in position to make an impact.
4. DT T.Y. McGill: After collecting four tackles, including a tackle for loss against Denver that had Pete Carroll gushing, McGill again flashed versus the Chiefs, penetrating through the line to create tackle for loss opportunities. Officially credited with just two tops against Kansas City, McGill was robbed of a tackle for loss in the third quarter when he slipped through to trip up second-year running back Charcandrick West to force a 3rd and 12. Stumpy, powerful and surprisingly quick off the ball, McGill is a tough draw for opponents. He's lined up mostly at nose guard and appears to have the power to hold up there and his quickness projects nicely as a rotational three-technique defensive tackle, as well.
5. RG Mark Glowinski: I thought Glowinski was the most pro-ready of the three offensive linemen Seattle drafted and unlike tackle convert Terry Poole and former defensive tackle Kristjan Sokoli, Glowinski has been able to remain at the same position - right guard - in which he started in college. He was the best of Seattle's rookie linemen against the Broncos and again vs. the Chiefs. Though polished in comparison to his fellow rookies, Glowinski still loses his technique too often to trust at this point, however. He's quick enough off the ball but occasionally drops his head on contact (leaving him vulnerable to swim moves) or stops moving his feet as he attacks, leaving him off-balance. His play still has an element of "deer caught in the headlights" to it and I believe Glowinski would struggle if thrown into the fire as a rookie. Given a year to adapt to the speed, power and technique of the NFL, however, I believe Glowinski could push for playing time.
FS Ronald Martin
LB Tyrell Adams
WR Kevin Smith
CB Triston Wade
RB Rod Smith