SEATTLE -- Heading into this week's game against the Vikings, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Salk" that receiver, cornerback, and running back were three of the team's most talented position groups at this point in preseason. At the wideout spot in particular, Carroll identified rookie seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler as one who could challenge for a roster spot, with Lawler coming off what Carroll called "a terrific game" in the preseason opener against the Chiefs that saw him make two catches for 14 yards.
"You've seen Kenny Lawler has done a beautiful job in the second week," Carroll said Tuesday on 710 ESPN. "First week he was just kind of finding his way. The second week he just caught on fire and had a terrific game."
With Kevin Smith (hamstring) and Kasen Williams (hamstring), players who were on Seattle's active roster last season, still working back to full health, Lawler has made the most of his opportunities. On Thursday against Minnesota, he hauled in three balls for 47 yards, including a long of 23 on a third-quarter pass from rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin. Lawler even saw time with the first-string offense, making an impressive 16-yard catch on a comeback route near the sideline on a ball from starting quarterback Russell Wilson, plays that prompted Carroll to note postgame that Lawler has taken another step forward.
"Without question," Carroll said. "We came out of the first week and he was just kind of in the mix, and he was having some issues and figuring stuff out, and then he just popped on the scene and played really good football for us throughout the week last week. We came in this week, he was fine again this week, he looked good in the game again."
Lawler, along with Smith, Williams, Deshon Foxx, Montario Hunter, Tanner McEvoy, Douglas McNeil III, E.Z. Nwachukwu, and Antwan Goodley, who led all Seahawks pass catchers with five grabs for 65 yards Thursday, is part of a competitive stable of receivers battling for roster spots behind last year's leading trio of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett, as well as Paul Richardson, who has enjoyed a strong preseason in his return to health.
The top target of 2016's No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff last year at Cal, Lawler left the Bay Area tied for second on the school's all-time list in touchdowns (27), while making 143 catches for 1,706 yards in 35 games played. A hyperextended knee slowed him during the team's mandatory minicamp this past spring, but as Seattle's summer workouts have rolled on, Lawler has caught the attention of his head coach.
"He gives you the confidence," Carroll said. "He's a real natural football player and he really kind of gets it and makes things look easy. He's done a really good job the last week and a half."
For Lawler, part of adjusting to the NFL has been in adapting to a more physical game. Thanks to guidance from the Seahawks' strength and nutrition staff, Lawler said he's gained 10 pounds since arriving at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
"I feel like I'm at the right weight and I'm running fast, catching the ball," said Lawler, who's listed at 203 pounds. "The strength coaches do a good job of helping us. The nutritionist does a great job as well. That's where I've been getting my gains from."
Seattle has two preseason games to play before it must trim its roster down to 53 players, which means the next two exhibitions will be important for receivers like Lawler to make an impact as they continue to compete for playing time at one of the Seahawks' deepest positions.
"I don't really think about that," Lawler said. "I don't let that weigh down on me. I just think about what's at hand, what's present, and I just go. Try to stack my days and that's what I've been doing so far."
Check out some photos from Preseason Week 2: Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field.