The Seahawks returned to the practice field Wednesday ready to put an 0-2 start behind them and turn their focus to their home opener against the Dallas Cowboys. While Pete Carroll and his players don't like the way their season started with losses in Denver and Chicago, the Seahawks coach remains confident in his team and expects them to respond well this week.
Here are six things that stood out from Carroll's Wednesday press conference:
1. Carroll believes his team is "really close" to getting going.
While the Seahawks have a lot of new players in key roles this season, Carroll doesn't have any question about how his team will respond to the adversity of an 0-2 start.
"I don't see unknowns in here," Carroll said. "I see these guys ready to roll. We played really hard the other night and played physical and tough and all that. We just didn't quite stay out of our own way enough early on, so we have to just keep cleaning up our game so that we can reap the benefits of what we're capable of doing, and we're really close. We're really close."
In particular, Carroll expects to see his team's offense get on track after some struggles in the first two games, particularly if they can clean up the negative plays such as the 12 sacks that have helped derail drives over the past two weeks.
"There are enough positives that are showing," Carroll said. "I don't see anything but us getting really good at what we're doing. I think it's coming, I feel it, I can see it on the practice field, I can see it in the guys we're calling on to do things. They're not taxed beyond their abilities or anything. This is going to come together, we just have to get rid of the negative things that are happening that just set you back and screw you up for down and distances. It's really hard to overcome that, and we've seen the result of that, it's difficult. I think we're at our best when we're at good tempo, when we're moving and really getting (Russell Wilson) in that flow, that's always when he's been great, and we're going to continue to try to do that."
2. Carroll blames his own impatience for the lack of rushing attempts through two games.
When it comes to the Seahawks not running the ball as much as they would have liked in the past two games, Carroll says to place the blame on him, particularly for when the Seahawks passed three straight times on both of their third quarter possessions, the result of Carroll encouraging offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to try to take some shots in the passing game.
"I'll just take it," Carroll said. "My impatience a little bit, figuring that we should be on the board more than we had, and just need to throw the ball up more than I want to. I'm over that. Both games were so close throughout. We were close enough that we could have done whatever we wanted to all the way down to the end of it. I just got a little bit impatient, threw the ball a bit more than we needed to, and so you look back—and that's with limited opportunities because we weren't converting—it just kind of works together. I'm just owning up, but that's what I would say is the issue with that. I need to be a little less impatient."
3. Carroll is fine having multiple backs split the workload.
While the Seahawks leaned heavily on a single running back when Marshawn Lynch was in Seattle, Carroll isn't set on having one back carry the load in any given season. If one player takes over, Carroll is fine with that, but there are also advantages to spreading out the work load.
"I've never felt that way," Carroll said when asked if he wants one back to get the bulk of the carries. "I've never felt that way. It just depends, but if a guy takes over and he owns it, yeah, I'm fine with that too. I'm open to whatever seems to work best for us. I've said it before, it just depends on the guys. If you have a guy that so dominant, it's great, but I want to give the guys a chance to show if they are. That's the main thing, and then if not, then we just keep working our guys and stay strong and stay healthy and we'll last longer during the season if we can not show too much wear and tear on guys. There's real positives to being able to have two guys or three guys in rotation."
4. We could see more of the three-safety dime package.
Tedric Thompson was on the field for 13 defensive snaps during Monday's game, not to replace either Earl Thomas or Bradley McDougald, but rather to join them in a look the Seahawks haven't shown much of in the past, a dime package featuring three safeties, three cornerbacks and just one linebacker, Austin Calitro.
Part of the reason the Seahawks did that was to limit the burden on Mychal Kendricks, who was starting at weakside linebacker having only signed with the team on Friday. But Carroll also like the look because it got Thompson on the field and helped take advantage of McDougald's flexibility, so the Seahawks might not be done with that package even when their defense returns to full health.
"We've been really pleased with what T2 (Thompson) has done," Carroll said. "To get him back on the field with those guys and then also be able to move Bradley around—Bradley's a really savvy football player and there's a lot of stuff he can do in coverage and pressure, in all zones and man—so it gave us a nice mix and a lot of some flexibility to do some things that we'll continue to grow with. I liked the package. It looked good."
And speaking of safeties…
5. Bradley McDougald "is off to a great start."
McDougald finished Monday's game with eight tackles and also had a pass defensed that set up a Shaquill Griffin interception, and in the opener the strong safety had two interceptions. McDougald playing well is no surprise to the Seahawks who signed him as a free agent in 2017, the re-signed him to a multi-year extension this offseason, but he has nonetheless been a definite bright spot early this season.
"Everything he's doing, he's doing well," Carroll said. "He has just been in coverage well, he has tackled well, he has made big plays, he has made picks already, he has been around the football. Gosh, he's just off to a great start to the season for him. We always knew he was versatile, but we appreciate it more, and he's just so comfortable with the system now. He's making things happen, considerably more obvious than last year. I think he's already coming out and just showing us more things that he can do. That's why I will continue to move around and do some things with him."
6. Austin Calitro stood out in his first career start.
Calitro, who went undrafted out of Villanova in 2017, made his NFL regular-season debut in Seattle's opener, splitting time with Shaquem Griffin at weakside linebacker. A week later, Calitro was asked to fill in for All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, and despite very limited experience, he more than held his own, recording a team-high nine tackles while making the on-field calls for the defense in what was a strong overall performance for that unit.
"He did really well," Carroll said. "He played a really good football game, and it's more than just the plays and getting lined up and all, it was making the calls, handling situations, handling the adjustments that we made during the game, communicating to guys around him. He played like a veteran player, and I was really pleased with that. He had a good guy in Mychal (Kendricks) to work with. Mike is a good communicator and all of that as well, but when you ask a guy to step up like that, you don't know if he will, if he can or not. We expect that to happen; he did it in great fashion so it was a beautiful illustration of that."
Photos from Wednesday's practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.