The Seahawks got back to work Monday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center a day after a tough road loss to the 49ers. And starting with Monday meetings, the Seahawks are hoping fix some of the issues that plagued them in what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and players called a humbling loss. Carroll met with the media Monday to talk about the game, and here are five things we learned from his press conference:
1. The contributions of the rookie class are "a real positive" for the Seahawks' future.
The Seahawks have had three rookies start and play every-down roles in their first two games: tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, and cornerback Tariq Woolen. And on Sunday they got significant contributions from three more rookies, with Coby Bryant taking over the nickel corner role from an injured Justin Coleman, with Boye Mafe seeing more playing time at outside linebacker, recording his first sack, and with Kenneth Walker III making his debut and serving as the No. 2 running back behind Rashaad Penny.
While some growing pains will be inevitable for rookies thrown into big roles, all have shown plenty of promise to earn those roles, and them getting this experience right off the bat as rookies bodes well for both the team's future and for their individual futures.
"It's important stuff," Carroll said. "These guys are going to gain the comfort of being in these moments in these games and these settings. And it's going to help them as they make their decisions and the choices they make under pressure and under the speed of the game and all that. They're just going to continue to get better. As we press them into play, the sooner they will be acclimated. It's a real positive for us and there's nothing but the highest of hopes. These guys are going. They are doing a great job and they're really holding on to their own. We're all but overdoing it with the tackles. They're out there and living with it. They're learning at the fire line so it's going to really help us. But there's some growing pains in there. I never go that route. I'm not going to spend any time on that. That's part of the process, but it's going to be worth it."
2. Fixing the offensive issues could involve opening up the passing game.
The Seahawks started off the season with two impressive touchdown drives early in their win over the Broncos, but the offense has cooled off since then, failing to score in the past six quarters. Obviously multiple factors contribute to that, from struggles in the running game to penalties to a couple of costly turnovers on Sunday, but one thing Carroll thinks will help is putting more on Geno Smith's shoulders after two straight games completing 80 percent or more of his pass attempts to start the season.
"We want to get the running game more active and make it more part of the game," Carroll said. "In this game, we needed to take what they were giving us more so. They were really laying off and giving us some room. Geno was popping the ball around, and he was in good shape to throw it. The protection wasn't bad, we should have gone that way a little more. It's such a broken record when you don't convert, and you don't get enough chances. We needed more opportunities, but we have to create them ourselves by the execution, so we had a chance to throw the ball a little more than we did."
Carroll later added of Smith, "He's clearly in command of it, poised, and we need to not hold back at all. I kind of implied that we could have thrown the football more with the opportunities that we had, and with the trust that we have in him, we need to do that. When it's given to us, we need to take advantage of it, and we don't have to hold back at all…(The rookie tackles) are holding up, they did a nice job in general, Geno is really in command of what is going on, and he is really accurate in his decision making. I think it is just more freely taking advantage of what is going on rather than being concerned about our ability to hold up."
3. The Seahawks want to clean up some inconsistent run defense.
The Seahawks allowed 189 rushing yards on Sunday, but 123 of those yards came in a first half in which the 49ers averaged 6.5 yards per carry, including a 51-yard run by Deebo Samuel on which Darrell Taylor had a shot to make a tackle for loss in the backfield before Samuel, one of the more difficult players in the NFL to tackle, turned a potential negative play for his offense into a huge gain.
"We've been inconsistent," Carroll said. "We've been inconsistent on the running game. It was all or nothing. We knocked the heck out of it and stuffed it at the line of scrimmage or we gave them some run space. It's about the discipline of the fits and the consistency of that. At times we were alright. The big play that gets into us, the 50-something yard play. We got the guy in the backfield. We have to get him down. It was Deebo Samuel and he's pretty notorious for getting loose and getting out of it. But that was the play that really rocks us with the numbers overall. We have to be more consistent in our fits and I think that's a little bit of the newness. We are still working together to get stuff right. In these games now, the teams are so good and they are so equipped. If you have a hole there, they are going to take advantage of it. And the 49ers were able to figure that out. So, we can see the same plays that we stopped at other times of the game. We've got to find our consistency and it's not there yet. And there's no time, we have to get it done now. Atlanta runs the football. Their big guy back there, he hammers it too. And they have a similar type of running game and offense and all that, so we've got to get our act together quick."
4. Cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson are still finding the balance between great coverage and penalties.
Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson won starting jobs in no small part because they are big, physical corners who are sticky in coverage. But through two games, officials have determined that they are being too physical, leading to multiple pass interference calls, many of which have extended opponents' drives when the defense thought it had a stop. So what's the teaching point for Carroll and the defensive coaching staff?
"It's really comfort in the moment that they've got the coverage, and they don't need to do anything beyond that you know," Carroll said. "Our calls have all been really judgmental, close calls one way or the other, so our guys need to be a little more finesse-oriented. Both our guys are big and strong. They have an effect on the receiver and you can tell it and you can see that. And we just got to lay off just a hair more at the right moments at the end of the play and be really poised about that we are in good enough shape to make the plays where we are. It's a little frustrating because they are doing a really good job, but we just have to lay off so there's not a call to be made.
"A lot of it is learning how the calls are made. We work on this stuff, and we have officials at practice and we're always on it. But they still have to learn what you can do and what you can't do in games. There is a considerable amount of jostling that's allowed with the hand fighting and stuff. And there is a point there when the official doesn't see you look back to the football, that they are more apt to call a penalty on you even though the jostling is still happening. If that's happening and you're looking back then you get away with a little bit more activity, that's something that we have to learn and make those decisions at the right time at the right moment, so we don't get called. But those are some devastating penalties. When you have a team stopped and you're getting off the field, it's almost like a turnover. We've been on this topic, so we just have to get better at it."
5. Injury updates.
The Seahawks had two players leave Sunday's game with injuries, defensive end Shelby Harris and guard Damien Lewis. Carroll didn't have updates on either in terms of how long those injuries might keep them sidelined, but did say both are still feeling the effects of their injuries on Monday.
"Damien is pretty sore," Carroll said. "He has a good thigh bruise going here, so we will have to see how that transitions the next few days. Shelby, I called it a hamstring by the way that they pointed at it, but it's really a glute. We will have to wait and see; we don't know about that yet. He's no better today."
The Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 for their first road matchup of the 2022 Season.