The Seahawks wrap up their regular season this week with a game against the 49ers that will take place in Arizona thanks to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County. Prior to Wednesday's practice, Seahawk coach Pete Carroll met with the media to talk about that upcoming game and plenty of other topics.
Here are five things we learned from Carroll's Wednesday press conference:
1. Carroll likes what he has seen from the 2020 draft class.
Back when in April when the Seahawks finished off selecting their 2020 draft picks Carroll and general manager John Schneider mentioned that one thing they liked about this class is that it was, for the most part, made of players with a lot of starting experience playing for bigtime college programs, the thinking being that said experience would help them adjust to the NFL more quickly in an offseason without on-field OTAs and minicamps.
And with their regular season almost finished, Carroll really likes the results he's seen from this class. With the exception of second-round pick Darrell Taylor, who has been out all season due to an leg injury sustained in his final season at Tennessee, just about every rookie has contributed, led by first-round pick Jordyn Brooks, who took over the starting spot at weakside linebacker early in the season and has played very well, including an 8-tackle performance Sunday that might have been his best performance yet. Third-round pick Damien Lewis won the starting job at right guard in camp and has been outstanding in that role; DeeJay Dallas has looked explosive in limited playing time, has scored three touchdowns, and has been a big contributor on special teams; Alton Robinson has 4.0 sacks, including late-game sacks in each of Seattle's past two wins; Freddie Swain has been Seattle's No. 4 receiver and made the most of limited touches; and while he hasn't played a lot since coming back from injury, Colby Parkinson has impressed coaches with what he's shown in practice. Other than the injured Taylor, tight end—and for a brief stint, defensive end—Stephen Sullivan, a seventh-round pick has played the least, spending most of the season on the practice squad before going on injured reserve last month, but he was also the player that Carroll and Schneider said from the beginning was more of a development project.
"We have got really good results from these guys," Carroll said. "These guys have all factored in and done something to help us win. Other than the fact we haven't been able to get Darrell out, all the rest of the guys have really fit in. It hasn't been too big for any of them. They've been able to handle it, they've responded well, they've played well early, they're growing now. Guys are experienced players for us and contributing, so I think there's nothing to change moving forward from that. The care that we took in the individual guys and who they were in their makeup, it was really important for us. I don't know why we would change. We really like this class. If we could do it again, we'd be thrilled."
2. D.J. Reed "checks all the boxes."
The Seahawks claimed D.J. Reed off of waivers this summer despite him having a torn pec that would keep him out for a significant portion of the season, a move that has paid off in a big way with Reed starting at both outside cornerback spots and the nickel role. Reed has been starting at right cornerback for the past four weeks with Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar out with injuries, and has played so well that he very well may keep that job even when Flowers returns.
Reed will be facing the team that waived him this summer—49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on a conference call with Seattle-area media that the move was one his team wishes it could have back—and will be looking to show off the skillset that has made him such a good cornerback despite not having the usual measurables for that position.
"He's got great awareness," Carroll said. "He's got great quickness. He's got world class quick feet. You put that with the awareness and the savvy that he has, he can get to places, he can stick to guys. He's got a knack for making plays. He's got a really good hand-eye coordination in the timing on the ball and all that. So he makes himself available for play-making. He's got a lot of great attributes. He's just a different package guy than we've had. But he's a ballplayer, and all of us have seen that. We've seen it in the kick returns. Everything he's done and special teams and all of that, he just makes good decisions and good choices. He gets it. He's really bright. He checks all the boxes there."
Carroll again praised general manager John Schneider and his staff for recognizing the versatility and talent Reed possessed, leading to them making that claim of a player the 49ers were hoping to stash on injured reserve for the year.
"John knew," Carroll said John had it. "John and his guys that do the evaluations, they knew he was a good enough football player to play nickel, safety, or corner. That's what came right in from the first day we were talking about him. I think the quickness of his transition is what we're really surprised by, how easy it was for him to learn and to jump in, but our guys thought he was going to be a big factor for us."
3. The Seahawks are expecting a championship effort from the 49ers.
This season has been an incredibly challenging one for the defending NFC champs, who have dealt with a ton of injuries all season long, and who have spent the month of December calling Arizona home. But despite a losing record, the 49ers have still be competitive in almost every game, and showed last week that they plan to finish the season giving it their all, beating the Arizona Cardinals in game that Arizona needed to clinch a playoff spot.
"This is a championship team," Carroll said. "They have all that in their heart and their background and their experience, their coaching staff, all of that. For them to withstand all of the challenges that they've had and to hold it and be able to come back and keep playing football games where they play really good across the board, that's just a statement of who they are. Kyle (Shanahan) has done a great job with them. (Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh) has done a great job with the defensive side. They're very together. They're a tough football team regardless of what their record is. That's deep in the makeup of the players and the coaches and all that. They've got it."
4. The Seahawks would love to re-sign Chris Carson.
Chris Carson has been outstanding ever since he joined the Seahawks, but his rookie contract is up at the end of this year, meaning he and the Seahawks will have a decision to make about his future. Carroll made it clear Wednesday that he'd love to see Carson in Seahawks uniform next year and beyond, but also acknowledged there's the business side of things and Carson will be looking for a well-earned big payday in free agency if he gets to that point.
"Chris is really one of us, and he's fit into the program great," Carroll said. "Chris has good to look out for himself, so he's got to see what the situation is, but we would love for him to be with us. He's been a terrific part of our team, and hopefully we can keep that going. In my mind, I can't imagine anything else happening. But from the business side of it, he's got a chance to see what's going on, and so hopefully we'll be able to figure it out and keep him."
5. Updates on Marquise Blair & Phillip Dorsett II.
Defensive back Marquise Blair was unfortunately lost for the year early in the season due to a torn ACL, but while the 2019 second-round pick doesn't factor into Seattle's plans this season, Carroll said all the news on his recovery has been positive.
"I haven't seen him in about ten days now, but his spirits are good," Carroll said. "He's working really hard. He's doing great, he's doing great on his recovery. There's not going to be any problems for him getting back as far as everything I heard. The thing I like about it is his spirit is really positive and upbeat about returning, and he's working real hard at it."
Receiver Phillip Dorsett II, who has been on injured reserve all season with a foot injury, and who is working his way back from surgery he had last month, hasn't completely been ruled out for the postseason, though Carroll acknowledged it would take a deep playoff run for Dorsett to have a chance to get back.
"I don't think Phillip is going to make it—I hate to cut him out, if we were fortunate to be playing a month from now, but he's working hard," Carroll said. "I saw him working again today in the weight room. He's busting it. He's doing a lot of good stuff, but it's going to be a haul for him to make it back."