Jeremy Lane steps in and plays well

Posted Dec 28, 2012

No Brandon Browner. No Marcus Trufant. No Walter Thurmond. No worries, as Jeremy Lane has stepped in and stepped up at right cornerback, even with opponents targeting the rookie.

When Jeremy Lane stepped to the podium in the hallway outside the Seahawks’ locker room on Wednesday, the first question involved the first thing the St. Louis Rams might do on their first play in Sunday’s game at CenturyLink Field.

“Pretty sure my side, again,” Lane said with a smile.

There has been a pick-on-the-new-guy pattern in his first two starts. And it’s definitely understandable, because Lane will be making his third NFL start at right cornerback against the Rams for an injured Walter Thurmond, who was subbing for an injured Marcus Trufant, with one of them supposed to step in for the suspended Brandon Browner.

So the Buffalo Bills tested the rookie cornerback on their first play two weeks ago, just as the San Francisco 49ers went after Lane on their first play last week. Both passes were deep throws, with the Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick going to T.J. Graham along the sideline and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick giving Mario Manningham a chance to test Lane. Both times, however, Lane was more than up to the challenge.

“What I’ve learned is that the game is easier than practice,” Lane said.

If Lane talked to reporters on Wednesday, why is this obvious story appearing on Friday? Because the Pro Bowl selections where announced on Wednesday, with the Seahawks landing five players on the NFC squad – left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger, running back Marshawn Lynch, free safety Earl Thomas and kick returner Leon Washington. Thursday, the big story was cornerback Richard Sherman winning his appeal of the league’s four-game suspension.

While overshadowed by the news, the job Lane has done cannot be diminished. What has allowed Lane to step in as a fourth option but step up like someone drafted much higher than the sixth round?

“First of all, he’s really blessed with great speed,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “He’s got really good speed and that’s first and foremost one of his greatest assets for us in our ability to stay on top.”

It was Lane’s speed that first caught the eye of coach Pete Carroll in training camp.

“He showed on deep balls an extraordinary burst at the end of the play that was rare,” Carroll said when asked about the first time Lane impressed him in practice. “It called me to go back to him and talk to him about his track times because his 40 (-yard dash) time was not a time that would be indicative of a guy that can do that.”

Lane ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds in bad-weather conditions at his Pro Day workout at Northwestern State in March, when he also popped a 42-inch vertical leap. But Lane has a time of 21.5 seconds in the 200-meter dash, 48.0 in the 400 meters and a 23-foot long jump on his resume from Tyler (Texas) High School, as well.

As Carroll said, “I think he’s a 4.3 guy. If he would’ve run what I think he could probably run, I think he’s a 4.3 guy.”

For a case-in-point moment, Carroll points to the burst Lane displayed on a play while covering Randy Moss last week.

“He’s got really, really big-time speed,” Carroll said. “If you look at the throw to Randy Moss, he makes a tremendous burst to get back in that play, in the back of the end zone. That was the first thing that jumped out to me.”

And what was it like lining up across from Moss, who was putting up 1,000-yard receiving seasons and going to the first three of his seven Pro Bowls (1998-2000) when Lane was in elementary school?

“Pete Carroll said to me all week, ‘Don’t get star struck. Just play him like a normal guy, then after the game get his autograph,’ ” Lane said.

And did he? “No,” Lane said. “I couldn’t find him.”

Just like Kaepernick had problems finding Moss during the game (three catches for 44 yards on six targets) because of Lane’s coverage.

“It was pretty cool holding him,” Lane said. “I never thought I was going to hold Randy Moss, but I did.”

Lane also has proved to be a fast learner.

“As he came along he became more and more a student of the game,” Bradley said. “With those guys in the backend – Richard Sherman, Kam (Chancellor) and Earl – I think those guys have really speeded up the learning process for him. Along with the coaches, who met with him extra.

“He already had our principles down, but it’s just really putting it all together to use it on the field, which is where I think he really grew a lot.”

But not everything has fallen Lane’s way. Sherman pointed out – good-naturedly – that the rookie should have had a pick-six against the 49ers.

“I should have,” Lane said. “I should have gotten the pick and still be running right now.”