If and when Jake Bobo takes the field with the Seahawks offense during their regular-season opener, a scenario that is becoming increasingly more certain with each passing day, it will be because of plays like the one he made that helped set up a first-quarter score in Saturday's preseason win over the Cowboys.
No, we're not talking about the 26-yard catch he had after getting open on a nifty double move, though that play certainly won't hurt his chances either. Instead, the type of play that will really help the rookie out of UCLA make the team is the job blocking he did on the very next play, a 29-yard run by Zach Charbonnet. On that play, Bobo used some savvy to fool the cornerback covering him into thinking the ball was on its way, keeping that player from potentially tackling Charbonnet, then Bobo went farther up field to block another defensive back.
"If you want to look up something really cool, look at Zach's long run in the first quarter, watch Jake, watch what Jake accomplished on that play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He took care of two guys, fooled one guy and blocked him, and blocked another guy. It was a terrific play, really subtle stuff. He's just a special football player. Hope we can fit him in."
While Bobo certainly appreciates a shoutout from his head coach, to him that play wasn't a big deal because he was simply doing what he knows he needs to do as an undrafted rookie who ran a 4.99-second 40-yard dash at UCLA's pro day.
"That's big," Bobo said of doing the little things right. "Because I'm not a guy that's—you look at me and you look at DK, a guy like DK Metcalf, OK, one of those guys is in a different category. So for me it is all about the little things, trying to get on the field—run blocking, knowing my assignments, running routes where I might not be the primary progression, but running it so I can get somebody else open. All the little things in my game are huge in order for me to have success."
Of course, Bobo has also found plenty of success catching the ball, both in training camp on a daily basis, and in Seattle's two preseason games as well as their mock game at Lumen Field. After leading the team in receiving in that mock game, including the game-winning touchdown reception on the final drive of the game, he has also been the team's leading receiver through two preseason games, recording five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. And he continues to carry that momentum through this week of practice, including a pair of spectacular catches in Wednesday's practice, one a full-extension diving grab over the middle, and other a catch off a tipped ball that required good concentration and body control to adjust to the redirected ball.
"Jake's flying pretty high right now, he's done great," Carroll said. "He hasn't just done well in the few plays in the game. He's done well in practice throughout. He's been really steady; it's not a surprise to see him play like that in the games. We were thrilled to see what would happen, because he's been making plays out here. He looks like he's part of the flow to me. I don't see any reason why we would think different. He's consistent, he's tough, he's really, really smart and savvy. He's been a real factor, and he's gotten behind people too, in both games. I feel so fortunate that we got him outside of the draft. So we will see how far he can take it but he's in the middle of everything right now."
How far Bobo can take it might just be a significant role in Seattle's offense to start the regular season. In large part because of how well he has played throughout camp and the preseason, and also because of injuries and Dee Eskridge's six-game suspension to start the season, Bobo seems like a near lock to be on the 53-man roster after cuts are made next week. And more than that, he very likely will have a significant role in the season opener against the Rams if Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Dareke Young aren't back from their injuries. It's an outcome that would exceed even the most optimistic expectations of an undrafted rookie, except that Bobo didn't really know what to expect coming into his rookie season, so it's hard for him to say he exceed any expectations.
"The thing is, I didn't have a whole lot of expectations coming in, so I didn't exactly know what was going to happen," he said. "Obviously I wanted to come out here and make plays and prove that I belong on this stage, but at the end of the day for me, it's day by day, keep getting better, be better than I was yesterday."
What Bobo did expect, however, was what unfolded during the NFL draft last spring. Despite a productive career at Duke and then UCLA, and despite his 6-foot-4 frame that has helped him make a lot of contested catches in camp, Bobo knew his speed, or lack thereof, would probably keep him from hearing his name called during the draft.
"I wasn't surprised, just because the combine process for me wasn't—let's say I don't think it showcased my best traits, we'll just say that," he said. "But I wasn't surprised… I was grateful for this organization to give me the opportunity to, and I want to come up here and prove myself."
Bobo said he has run better than what he did in the spring, but even his better 40 times, which he said were in the low 4.7s, are considered slow for NFL receivers. But day after day he has shown that there is more to playing the position that straight-line speed.
So to those who would say Bobo can't make it in the NFL because of his speed, he would simply respond with, "Watch. It's not all about speed. It's about change of direction, change of pace, how I can manipulate defenders into thinking I'm running faster than I am. It's the little things, the intricacies of playing receiver."
And Bobo has done all of those things well enough to earn praise from teammates and coaches every time his name comes up.
"I'm very impressed with Jake," quarterback Geno Smith said. "Bobo has been great. I think back to minicamp and OTAs when he was making plays, and no one really knew who he was and now it's a little bit of a mantra going with 'More Bobo.' Everybody wants to see him make plays, but every day he comes out he is consistent. He gets open and he catches the ball. Right now we just have to continue to push him and make him better, but he's doing all the things he needs to do."
Said Drew Lock, "He's been a fan favorite in the locker room, for sure. 'More Bobo' is the thing we like to say in the locker room. Get Bobo the ball. He does everything right, man. He works really, really hard. I know when you throw a rookie out there, you get zero MEs (mental errors) in practices. I'm not saying he's going to do zero the whole time, but he does the right thing. He's in the right spots, knows his job, his assignment. That's all you can ask for. His physical ability will take care of everything else."
That "More Bobo" mantra Smith and Lock mentioned earlier in camp has caught on among fans too, with the #morebobo hashtag turning up tons of results from fans who are hyped up about the rookie. And Bobo has felt that love from the 12s.
"That's been cool just to see this fanbase," he said. "They have a reputation of being one of the best in the league, if not the best, so to see that love—I think people like to root for the underdog a little bit, maybe it's a little bit of that—but I'm here for it all and very grateful as well… Just to get some of that love has been cool."
With Smith-Njigba needing wrist surgery and with Young potentially needing surgery as well for what Carroll called an abductor injury, Bobo could very well end up being Seattle's No. 3 receiver behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett when the season kicks off, and however things play out this season, he's looking to make the most of every opportunity his rookie season brings.
"It's been cool," he said. "You think of the little kid in you that was dreaming about doing something like this one day. But at the same time, I've got a role to fill. Jax is obviously going to be back and going to be a huge piece of this offense, so for me, it's what do I need to do in the meantime just to kind of keep the ship afloat until he gets back and takes his role."
The Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Aug. 23, 2023.