Pete Carroll met with the media on Wednesday afternoon ahead of his team's first full practice prior to Sunday's road game against the Dallas Cowboys. Here's five things we learned from the Seahawks head coach:
1. Paul Richardson Should Put Together a Good Week of Practice
Wide receiver Paul Richardson, Seattle's first pick in the 2014 draft who injured his ACL in the Seahawks' divisional round playoff win over the Carolina Panthers this past January, started the year on the team's physically unable to perform (PUP) list but returned to practice this past Monday.
Richardson is now eligible to practice for up to three weeks before Seattle either needs to move him to its 53-man active roster, or leave him on PUP, which would end his season. Carroll commented on what he would need to see from Richardson in order to add him to the active roster before Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
"I just want to watch him, see how he feels, and how he comes out of each day," Carroll said. "We've already seen how explosive he looks. He looks really fast. He's got fresh legs, plus he's extremely fast anyway. Just going to really just kind of feel it. Take it day-to-day. I don't know what he could show other than if he's making mistakes, if he's unsure of himself, and those kinds of things. If he feels uncomfortable, or if he gets particularly tightened up or sore from the workload, which we don't think because he's worked really hard.
"I think he's going to be OK. I think he's going to be able to put together a good, solid week, and we'll just judge it at the end. So it's nothing specific, it's more of a feel."
When Richardson does return, the question will become what can he add to a Seahawks offense that on top of starting wideouts Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse also includes rookie standout Tyler Lockett, the big-bodied Chris Matthews, the speedy Ricardo Lockette and Luke Willson, and Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham. Carroll said Richardson has "all kinds of strengths" and noted there's "no limitations" to what he can do.
"He's just a great fit I think for anybody," Carroll said. "He can do all of the stuff that you like to see. He's not going to be the big guy, but he's going to run his routes really well, he's got terrific speed, and he has a great catching range, and he's a very competitive-minded kid. So he's his own guy, but yet he can do things that other guys can do as well. He can run like the fast guys, he can get in and out of those breaks. Probably the thing that's most special about him is that. He showed that late in the year and he started to run some really good precision routes and make some big catches for us as he got comfortable with everything. So he just fits kind of because he is the way he is."
The Seahawks return to a normal practice week with "Competition Wednesday" in full stride inside at VMAC as they prepare for the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.
2. Why The Seahawks Signed RB Bryce Brown
The Seahawks added fourth-year running back Bryce Brown to their 53-man roster on Tuesday, waiving wide receiver B.J. Daniels in the process. Carroll shed some light on why the move was made, and as expected, it has to do with the status of rookie running back Thomas Rawls, who hurt his calf in last Thursday's 20-3 win over the Niners.
"Just securing the position not knowing about Thomas Rawls, how he's going to come out," Carroll said. "He may be OK by the end of the week. It's kind of a nasty calf thing he's got going on. The trainers are trying to determine whether it's a strain or it's just a bruise and they're trying to figure that out. He did run a little bit yesterday. He's going to run a little bit today. He may have a chance to even return this week, we don't know that yet. But it was really that uncertainty."
Brown, a 2012 seventh-round pick out of Kansas State by the Philadelphia Eagles, ran for 564 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. He was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2014, where he was teammates with current Seahawks running back Fred Jackson. Released by the Bills this past September, Brown has been a player Carroll has kept his eye on.
"Watched him growing up and coming out and recruiting and all that," Carroll said. "So we have a little background in that. Watched him play and as we looked at him on film, John [Schneider] and I both thought we saw a real spark there running the football. He's a strong, tough kid too, kind of fits our style. So we'll see how that fits. I really can't tell you much about it until we get him on the field the next couple days."
3. Dallas' O-Line Is As Good As Seattle Will See All Year
The Seahawks notched a season-high six sacks in last Thursday's win over the 49ers. Defensive end Michael Bennett had 3.5 of them and took home NFC Defensive Player of the Week in the process. Defensive end Cliff Avril chipped in 1.5 more sacks and defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and David King earned a half-sack each.
Seattle's pass rushers will face a stiffer challenge this week against the Cowboys offensive line, a unit that has given up just 12 sacks on the season compared to San Francisco's 25. The Cowboys' group features three former first-round picks in left tackle Tyron Smith (2011), center Travis Frederick (2013), and right guard Zach Martin (2014), as well as a left guard in La'el Collins who was a projected first-round pick in 2015 but went undrafted after his name was linked to an ongoing police investigation.
"It's just a really good group," Carroll said of the Cowboys O-line. "I think that they made a commitment to it and they're benefiting from it. I don't know if they're the best one. I don't know, we won't see everybody particularly. But they're as good as we're going to see all year long."
Dallas' offensive line is a force in the run game, too. Last year they paved the way for NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency this past offseason. In 2015, with Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and former Seahawks Christine Michael and Rod Smith in the mix, Dallas ranks seventh in the League in rushing yards per game (127.7).
4. The Reason For Seattle's Struggles With Opposing Tight Ends
The Seahawks have faced their share of talented tight ends this season.
Jared Cook led all St. Louis receivers in the Rams' Week 1 win over Seattle, recording five catches for 85 yards. Tyler Eifert led all Cincinnati receivers in the Bengals' Week 5 victory against the Seahawks, making eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner. And Greg Olsen led all Carolina receivers in the Panthers' Week 6 win over Seattle, hauling in seven balls for 131 yards and the game-winning score. Seattle will face another talented tight end this Sunday in Dallas' Jason Witten, a 10-time Pro Bowler who leads the club with 344 yards receiving and whose 36 grabs double that of the Cowboys' second leading-receiver (Terrence Williams, 18 catches for 293 yards).
With Witten on deck, Carroll was asked why his defense has had trouble defending standout players at the position.
"I think you look at it the other way," Carroll said. "I think it's because we do play aggressive outside and the ball does get pushed inside a lot, pushed inside and underneath. We've played very good players and all that. We would like to do better against those guys, but I think that's the first thing I think of. We're lining up on those wide guys as much as we can and getting right up in their face and trying to make it hard on them outside and the ball gets pushed inside a little bit more because of that."
5. It's Huge To Win This Game
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given the treat-every-game-like-a-championship-game mentality Carroll exudes. With the Seahawks owning a 3-4 record, two games out of the division lead in the NFC West, it's huge to win every game at this point of the season. Carroll said he feels "horrible" that the team isn't back to .500 yet, but if Seattle can snag a win this weekend in Dallas, it could start a streak the team will hope to continue when it plays three straight games at CenturyLink Field after the Week 9 bye.
"In particular, just because it's this week, it's huge to win a game," Carroll said. "This week is everything. But I think we'll kind of utilize it at the midway point to keep going and keep moving ahead. I feel horrible about that we're still there, we're still trying to get there. It's too long into the season, but if we can turn it now and get that going then we'll try to make a big push and keep focusing.
"It's one week at a time," Carroll added. "None of these games are more important than the only one we've got right now. So we're going to crank it up for that one and we'll see where we are after that. But we're not really talking – it's not like the battle cry, like 'Let's get to .500!' Not really the way we talk."