News and notes from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's Wednesday press conference.
The Seahawks were back on the practice field to begin getting ready for their Week 5 game in New Orleans. Before his team took the field, Pete Carroll met with the media to provide some updates on his team, discuss his excitement for Mariners playoff baseball and more.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's press conference:
1. Ryan Neal "is going to play more." Will he start?
Safety Ryan Neal, who started nine games over the past two seasons in place of an injured Jamal Adams, has not been the one filling in for Adams so far this season. A big reason for that is that Josh Jones had a great preseason and training camp to earn that role, but the other issue was an ankle injury that kept Neal out for most of the preseason before he was able to get back just in time for the opener.
But now that Neal is back to full speed, he saw his most significant playing time of the season on Sunday, playing 36 of 74 defensive snaps, including some in place of Jones late in the game, but also in dime and three-safety packages.
Carroll was asked if Neal is a candidate to take over a starting role, and while Carroll didn't give a clear yes or no answer on that, he did say, "Ryan is going to play more. He deserves to play more. He's doing well and he's officially back. He's a little sore today but he's officially back and I really like him on the field. Whenever he's played for us, he has always been active and in the midst of the action and all that. He had a couple big plays down by the goal line that got away that he could have won. That would've been really great wins for us. He'll make those plays. He was close enough to do that. I really like what he brings. He will be playing and involved more."
2. The Seahawks need to clean up the penalties in the secondary.
The Seahawks have a number of things they want to do better on defense, from stopping the run more consistently to eliminating big plays to improving the pass rush. What Carroll sees as perhaps the easiest immediate fix, however, would simply be to eliminate the penalties on cornerbacks that are the equivalent of big plays that change field position and extend opponent's drives.
"One of the areas that we really need to improve on is to get rid of these penalties," he said. "We had 10 penalties on three guys all in coverage issues. We can fix those. It's not like you have to be faster or stronger; you can fix those. I want those out of our game and let's take those 10 plays out. They turn into explosive plays that don't really show up in the stats and all that. I think that's a major area of focus to us to get better… We can really clean those up, because there hasn't been a drastic one that we needed to do to survive the play at all, it hasn't been like that. Michael (Jackson) had a couple of rough ones down the sideline against the 'Niners, but he was just being physical and all. So it's a real point of emphasis, and I think it's going to be a major factor if we play the next couple of games and we don't have five or six of in the secondary, we'll be in way better shape."
3. Austin Blythe's leadership has "really been obvious."
When it comes to the improvements made to Seattle's offensive line, which on Sunday did not allow a sack while also paving the way for 235 rushing yards, a lot of the attention, understandably, has been on the play of rookie tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross. But while those two rookies have been great, people also shouldn't overlook what center Austin Blythe, a free-agent addition, has brought to the line after reuniting with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and offensive line coach Andy Dickerson, with whom he worked in Los Angeles.
"It's really been obvious," Carroll said of Blythe's leadership. "Both Andy and Shane, who knew Austin from their travels, said it was going to be able to take command of it and be in control and help guys around him and help the quarterback. They were exactly on point and to me, he's as big of a surprise as anything that has happened. He's not only done that, but he has blocked really well, and he has been effective and has made some terrific efforts downfield. Remember the fumble he recovered that (Rashaad) Penny dropped on the ground. He's led in many ways."
Blythe missed Wednesday's practice, but for a very good reason.
"He's a really proud dad today too by the way," Carroll said.
4. L.J. Collier returned to practice and could play on Sunday.
Defensive end L.J. Collier, who has been on injured reserve since the start of the season with an elbow injury, returned to practice on Wednesday. And while players coming back from IR can practice for up to three weeks without being added to the roster, Carroll said Collier's return to game action could come quickly, perhaps even this weekend.
"Yes, it's realistic," Carroll said. "He's got to put together a great week. Generally, we'd like to go a couple weeks getting the guy back. He's been working very hard, and it's an elbow injury, it's not his legs and all that. He's in really good shape right now. So, we got to see what happens though. We'll see how the week goes."
5. The Seahawks are "jacked up" about the Mariners returning to the playoffs.
Several Seahawks players, including DK Metcalf during his Wednesday press conference, have been spotted in Mariners gear in recent weeks, and Carroll gave a shout-out to their Sodo neighbors on Friday before the Seahawks left for Detroit. And now with the Mariners in the postseason for the first time in 21 years, Carroll and the Seahawks will be following along as closely as their schedule allows.
"This is so exciting," Carroll said. "We've been building it up throughout the offseason and following them and all that… (Players) are having to be interested in it because I keep putting it in front of them all the time. The Mariners thing is going to be real fun. We'll be jacked up for them."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from Week 4 vs. the Detroit Lions on October 2, 2022 at Ford Field. Eye On The Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.