Back in June, when the Seahawks were just wrapping up OTAs, Pete Carroll made what seemed like a rather bold statement.
"I'm going to tell you, this might be the fastest team we've ever had," Carroll said. "This team can fly."
Over the years as the Seahawks have fielded some of the league's best teams under Carroll and Schneider, they've had a lot of fast players and a lot of team speed, so to declare in June, before a single training camp practice had taken place, never mind a game, that the 2022 team was the fastest yet, well let's just say a few eyebrows were raised.
Training camp and the preseason did nothing to change Carroll's opinion, because days before the season-opener, he said, "This is the fastest team we've had… It just seems like every part of our game seems faster. And I'm calling on it, and hopefully we'll see the factor on special teams in a lot of ways."
As Carroll alluded to back in September when he said "hopefully we'll see the factor" of that speed, players running fast 40-yard dash times or looking fast without pads on in June doesn't always show up on game film. But seven games into the 2022 season, the speed Carroll was seeing leading up to the season is showing up on gameday.
When rookie running back Kenneth Walker III broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run, he hit 22.09 miles per hour according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which made him the fastest ballcarrier in the NFL this season. Earlier in the season, fellow rookie Tariq Woolen was the fastest ballcarrier in Week 4 when he hit 21.58 miles per hour on an interception return for a score, while No. 2 that week was Rashaad Penny, hitting 20.84 miles per hour at 230 pounds.
A week later Woolen hit 22.93 miles per hour while chasing down Taysom Hill, which at the time was the fastest speed by any player since 2020. Yet by Week 7, Woolen's speed wasn't even the fastest recorded by a Seahawk this season, as cornerback Xavier Crawford hit an NFL season-high 22.97 MPH on kick coverage, with rookie safety Joey Blount clocking in at 22.40 MPH on the same kickoff, the sixth fastest speed this season.
"It's pretty obvious that these guys are fast, and they can make stuff happen and they can chase things down," Carroll said. "They're explosive, have suddenness. All of them have shown up… We really can go. It shows up in special teams, shows up in our cover guys, and other units as well. Some of the younger guys that have added in, Joey Blount has been a guy that has jumped out in special teams and really runs fast for us as well. Dareke (Young) probably runs faster and is more explosive than we thought he would be. He has been a factor too and is growing more so. I think it is pretty much what I was excited about. I went back to the offensive tackles too, those guys can run, they both run well. When do you have tackles that both run 4.9? I can't remember anyone having that. I'm sure they have, but we haven't. It's all of that combined."
The Seahawks already had quite a bit of speed on their roster prior to any offseason acquisitions, with DK Metcalf—who hit 22.64 chasing down Budda Baker two years ago—Tyler Lockett and Dee Eskridge forming one of the league's fastest receiving trios; and with Jordyn Brooks bringing blazing speed to middle linebacker and Darrell Taylor brining elite speed off the edge; and with Rashaad Penny offering a rare combination of burst and speed at running back; and with Quandre Diggs flying around the secondary at a speed that exceeds his modest 40-yard dash time.
But a big reason why this year's team is taking its speed to another level is the collection of athletes Seattle added in the draft and free agency. Marquise Goodwin, a former Olympic long jumper, is still one of the fastest players in the NFL even as he approaches his 32
nd birthday, while outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who has looked like an outstanding addition in free agency, offers great burst, speed and motor as an edge rusher. And just about everyone in the 2022 draft class who has been getting on the field has helped make the Seahawks faster, most notably Woolen, who at 6-foot-4 ran an absurdly fast 4.26-second 40 at the NFL scouting combine, and Walker, who, as mentioned above, is the fastest ballcarrier in the NFL this year. Second-round pick Boye Mafe also upgrades the level of speed at outside linebacker, while starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas are both unusually fast for tackles, something that especially comes into play in the running game.
As Carroll notes, trying to find fast players is hardly a revolutionary idea; it's some he notes "we've been trying to since the Arkansas days," referring to one of the first stops in his coaching career 45 years ago. But there's a difference between looking for fast players, and actually acquiring fast players who are also good enough football players to get the job done.
"We're always trying to get faster," he said. "We hit it a little bit here. We are going to try to keep playing off it…. Ken Walker, he's one of them and Marquise was one of them. We already know how Tyler and DK can fly, and getting Noah Fant, the tackles, and the two outside rush guys. And then Joey (Blount) makes the team, he's a 4.4 (40-yard dash) flat guy or whatever and he can fly, it's stuff like that."
And again, with this year's team we're not just talking about guys who can run fast in a straight line, though plenty of Seahawks can do just that. Woolen has used his speed and burst to block a field goal, to run with receivers on go balls, and to break on passes to record interceptions, including one he returned 40 yards for a score. In addition to Penny and Walker's big plays, receivers are consistently using their speed to make big plays, including multiple long touchdown passes to the likes of Lockett, Metcalf, and Goodwin, and the tight ends are stretching the field as well, though Will Dissly concedes that's more of a Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant thing.
"I'll be the first to admit that Noah is way faster," Dissly said. "There's no mistake there. We were doing a walkthrough and I was running a drag route and Noah was running by me. I was like, 'What the hell was that?" I felt like Ricky Bobby, and I was like, 'Are those the other cars?' We are a fast group, it starts with the young legs. Shoot, from all the way to special teams with Joey Blount, K9 (Walker), and even Dareke (Young) on our side of the ball. On the other side, you have that corner, Stretch (Woolen), who is running a 4.2 or whatever he runs. It's fun, it's a fast team, but we are also a really physical team. We like to get after it and hit people, so it's a good combo."
On the defensive side of the ball, that speed is showing up more and more on a unit that has been considerably better in the past two weeks, so much so that free safety Quandre Diggs has noticed he's getting fewer opportunities to make plays.
"Guys are flying around," he said. "For me, it was funny because I used to get mad at the beginning of the year because teams were running like toss plays. I wasn't getting tackles on the toss because it was like, 'That's my play, that's the play I'm supposed to be making.' Now as the season gets going, you see guys just flying around. Guys going over the top, linebackers, defensive lineman, screen plays, guys getting out of stacks, and DBs. So, I think it is really cool to see everybody just running fast, I used to just run fast and just play super, super duper fast, but now I can slow down. Which is good sometimes, bad sometimes, but you just slow down, see the team speed, see the defense, see guys flying over the top to try to go get a tackle on a running back, gang tackling, and things like that. We just want teams to, when they turn on the film, they see that we are flying around and are an attacking defense."
The Seattle Seahawks face the New York Giants at Lumen Field for Week 8 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at photos from the past games between the two teams.