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Jaxon Smith-Njigba "Doing Remarkably Well" & Other Things We Learned From Pete Carroll

News and notes from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s Wednesday press conference.


The Seahawks were back on the practice field on Wednesday, this time with a 15-player practice squad joining the 53-man roster, as they continue to prepare for next week's season opener against the Rams.

Among the players on the field once again was rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who is able to practice despite having surgery on his fractured wrist only last week. More on that, plus other things we learned from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's press conference following practice.

1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is "doing remarkably well."

Only a week removed from surgery on a fractured wrist, Smith-Njigba has been on the field with the team the past two days, and Carroll has been impressed with what he has seen out of the rookie.

"He's doing remarkably well," Carroll said. "I saw him respond to the injury at the outset and then I saw him respond to when they told him that he'd have to get operated on, so I'm not surprised at the attitude post-surgery. He's out here working, catching balls, catching punts, doing everything, and he isn't worried about it. It could have gone a number of different ways; it's gone the way of the competitor. He's not going to be denied. He wants to play football."

Of course, running around and catching passes in practice isn't the same thing as game action, and Carroll said he does not yet know if Smith-Njigba will be ready for the opener.

"I'm hoping, I don't know," he said. "We'll see what happens. He looks great right now."

And regardless of whether or not Smith-Njigba can play in Week 1, his determination to get back as quickly as possible has impressed Carroll.

"I think it's a great statement about his competitiveness and his mentality," he said. "He's not going to be held out. He's going for it. Really, you couldn't ask for more. You couldn't ask for a better approach, then his discipline about coming out working, getting everything done. He hasn't even flinched. It's awesome."

2. Cameron Young's return bolsters the D-line depth.

Following yesterday's cutdown to 53 players, the Seahawks have only two nose tackles on the roster—Jarran Reed and Cameron Young—and six total defensive linemen. Asked if he was concerned by that number, Carroll said he feels better about it with Young, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, returning to practice after missing much of camp with a calf injury.

"We got a real boost here getting Cam back out yesterday," Carroll said. "He looked really good moving around and fit in really well. We had big plans for him to be part of this rotation, and we're waiting on Mike (Morris) too, seeing if he can get back as we go into next week, because both of those guys were going to be big factors. But I was very pleased with what Cam looked like yesterday and today."

Asked again about the depth on the line, Carroll also pointed out that adding Matt Gotel to the practice squad gives them another option there if they need it, while also noting that the team will always consider all options to improve the roster.

"I'm fired up that (Young) got back out here, I'm waiting on Mike now to see what he can do," Carroll said. "We had good play from Matt Gotel in the preseason if we need him. Myles (Adams) was active and did some good stuff, so we feel like we have a pretty good group. We're always competing though, we're going to keep trying to figure out how to make it as good as we can possibly make it. Part of the issue would be whether Mike can make it back or not."

3. Carroll's thoughts on two players Seattle claimed on waivers.

A day after teams around the league reduced their rosters to 53 players, the Seahawks claimed two players off of waivers, rookie cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, and rookie linebacker Drake Thomas.

On Kelly, a fifth-round pick out of Stanford, Carroll said, "I saw him all through the (pre-draft) process, and I really liked what he looked like as a cover guy. He hit well and reminded me of another Stanford corner I'd seen back in the day. Long, looked really in control, body-control wise, so that was really cool."

On Thomas, an undrafted rookie out of NC State who was a preseason standout for the Raiders, Carroll said, "He's a ballplayer. Really instinctive, really natural, finds the football really well, hits with everything he's got. He's not the biggest guy, but he brings everything he's got, and he was a very effective special teams guy as well. So he looked like an exciting guy to add to the mix in hopes that he can find his way in special teams right off the bat, then work his way up from there."

4. The Seahawks didn't need to look far to build their practice squad.

On Saturday, Carroll said following his team's final preseason game that he hoped to keep around as many players as possible when the Seahawks trimmed their roster, then created a practice squad. And sure enough, the Seahawks built their practices squad entirely with players who spent camp with the team, giving them the best chance to build off of the momentum they've created heading into the season.

"We really liked our group, and we were hoping to keep as many as possible to keep things moving in the same direction," Carroll said. "We like what's going on. We couldn't get it all done, but we're trying to."

Among the players signed to the practice squad was veteran cornerback Artie Burns, who was released Wednesday one day after being on the initial 53-man roster (vested veterans are not subject to waivers, meaning Burns could join the practice squad right away rather than wait a day awaiting his fate on waivers). And with teams now allowed to elevated players from the practice squad for games, Carroll said Burns is still in the team's plans.

"That worked out great," Carroll said. "We're thrilled to get Artie back, we expect him to play."

5. Coby Bryant "has totally exceeded expectations" heading into his second season.

After playing nickel cornerback as a rookie, forcing a team-leading four fumbles, Coby Bryant expanded his repertoire heading into his second season, spending a lot of training camp and the preseason at safety. With only four players listed as safeties on the roster, and with Jamal Adams' prognosis for Week 1 still uncertain, Bryant's versatility is a big boost for the Seahawks, who know they can use him in multiple roles.

"He has totally exceeded expectations," Carroll said. "To jump at the safety spot and pick that up, and play nickel and play dime, he can do all those things, and he can play corner if we needed him to, so that's as valuable as a guy can get back there. He's a good football player. I think what maybe surprised us a little bit was how physical he was from the safety spot. He had a lot of hits, a lot of good hits and threw his body around, no hesitation at any time. He's got good command, and he knows our defense as well as anybody. So he's just getting started. He's taken on a great role for us, we're really excited about that."

6. The offensive line is "coming together quite well."

While many recent training camps have featured competition for multiple starting spots on the offensive line and plenty of uncertainty about that position group, this year's offensive line has felt pretty settled throughout camp. Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas are established starters at tackle after having to win those jobs in camp as rookies, guards Phil Haynes and Damien Lewis have been starters throughout camp, and while the competition at center could continue into the season, for now at least Even Brown seems to have that starting spot wrapped up, both because he had a great camp, and also because of the time Olu Oluwatimi missed due to an elbow injury.

"It's coming together quite well for us," Carroll said. "It's been really steady and solid. The tackles, certainly it's so much different than it was a year ago. Think about it, this week (last year) we didn't know, but they've grown, they're more physical than they were, they're just better situated and they're so much further ahead than they were. Evan has done a really good job. He's been rock solid in the middle. He's been strong, physical, not getting knocked around. Really smart, very consistent, very composed. He's in a leadership position there, and he's embraced that. It's been a very good camp for the O-line. They've done really well, and the consistency has been great."

The Seahawks held practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Aug. 30, 2023.

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