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Wait until they see the rookies now
A lot has happened since the Seahawks and Cardinals squared off in their season opener in Arizona.
More good than bad for the Seahawks, who at 7-5 are very much in the NFC playoff picture. More bad than good for the Cardinals, who have lost eight in a row after starting 4-0.
“It seems like it was last year,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week. “It seems like it was a whole different experience when we did that.”
For Russell Wilson and the other rookies on the roster who will play increasingly important roles in Sunday’s rematch at CenturyLink Field, that 20-16 loss was a career ago.
Or as Wilson put it this week, “I have 12 times the experience. … I’m 12 times more prepared. I just feel so much more confident out there understanding what they’re trying to do, and just getting used to the speed of the game. Playing those live games really helps.”
Wilson and his fellow rookies are about to do something they’ve never done – play the same team in the same season. And several will play large roles in determining whether the Seahawks improve to 8-5, or take a step back:
Bruce Irvin – The Seahawks’ first-round draft choice leads all NFL rookies with seven sacks. But he has none in the past two games, and no solo tackles that aren’t sacks. Generating pressure on John Skelton, who returns as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback for the first time since Week 10, is imperative.
“With Bruce, you are starting to see him become more consistent,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “And hopefully he can put together a whole consistent game this week. He’s had a great week (in practice.”
Bobby Wagner – The second-round pick doesn’t just lead the team with 100 tackles from his middle linebacker position, he has produced half of them in the past five games. And with the consistency that Bradley mentioned – 12 against the Lions, 10 against the Vikings, nine each against the Jets and Dolphins and 10 more in last week’s upset of the Bears in Chicago.
“Bobby Wagner, I’m really impressed with,” said linebackers coach Ken Norton, a former Pro Bowl linebacker during his career who is not easily impressed. “He’s really athletic. He’s really strong mentally. He’s really smart. He really cares about what he does – his work ethic, about being a really good professional.”
Wilson – Can this kid play any better than he’s already playing? A third-round pick, he was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after leading 97-, 94- and 80-yard touchdown drives against the Bears – with the 80-yarder coming in overtime. Over the past four games, three of them victories, his passer rating is 120.4 because he has completed 67 percent of his passes (72 of 107) for 878 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
“This is fourth-quarter time. This is the time to finish as a great contributor to this team,” Carroll said, looking at next week’s game in Toronto against the Buffalo Bills and the home games that follow against the division-rival San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams as well as Sunday’s rematch with the Cardinals.
“I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. I think he’s going to pull it off. I think he’s going to be really solid throughout the end of the schedule. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t.”
Robert Turbin – He was selected in the fourth round of the draft to give the offense a physical presence when leading rusher Marshawn Lynch needs a rest. Turbin’s touches have been limited (45 carries for 182 yards and 15 receptions for 152), but he is learning how to make the most of the opportunities that do come his way.
“Turbin’s doing a great job,” Wilson said. “He has been able to make some important plays for us when he’s in the game.”
J.R. Sweezy – A seventh-round draft, and former college defensive tackle, Sweezy started the opener at right guard and got a baptismal by blowtorch against the Cardinals’ blitz-crazed defense that showed him looks that have become the stuff of nightmares. But Sweezy has been working at the same spot with the No. 1 line this week for the first time since that first week, and he could see action on Sunday.
“He’s ready to go,” Carroll said. “He’s practice with the (No. 1 line) quite a bit this week to make sure he’s prepared. He and John (Moffitt) will play that spot. We’re in good shape there.”
Jeremy Lane – The contributions of the sixth-round draft choice have been limited to special teams in the first 12 games. But that’s about to change, in a big way. Lane will step in as the nickel back on Sunday because Walter Thurmond, who stepped in for an injured Marcus Trufant last week, is moving to right cornerback to replace Brandon Browner, who was suspended by the NFL on Wednesday for violating the league’s performance enhancement policy.
“For Jeremy, it’s a first shot,” Carroll said. “It’s a little more newness you can feel, but he is a very talented kid and knows what he’s doing. He’s been practicing well all year at the spot, so it’s not that big of a transition for him in that regard. We just need to see how he responds to the game.”
Much like they got that first look at Wilson, and Wagner, and Turin, and Irvin, and Sweezy in that first game against the Cardinals that seems so long ago.