With Seahawks training camp kicking off next week, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today we wrap things up with a look at the quarterback competition.
In 2012, the Seahawks went into training camp with three quarterbacks battling for the starting job.
Now, for the first time in a decade, the Seahawks again open camp uncertain who will be their starting quarterback when the regular season begins.
Ever since Russell Wilson won the starting job as a rookie, beating out Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn for the job, the next nine training camps might have featured competition for the backup job, or intrigue about how a change in the offense or to the team's personnel might affect Wilson's game, but there was no mystery when it came to the starting job.
But with Wilson now in Denver following a big offseason trade, the Seahawks will open camp next week with a wide-open battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock taking place for the starting job, with Jacob Eason also pushing to get into the mix.
Smith, who spent the past three seasons backing up Wilson and who started three games last season, comes into camp with a slight lead in the competition, which as Pete Carroll explained throughout the offseason, has to do with Smith's familiarity with the offense, and not their opinion of Lock. Lock, who came to Seattle as part of the Wilson trade, simply hasn't had enough time with the Seahawks to show whether or not he can overtake Smith for the job, but even in limited offseason work, both he and Smith have shown coaches enough that they're excited about their options at quarterback
"They've been impressive," Carroll said after last month's minicamp. "They've been really impressive, and it's not been any one sequence here, or one day here, they have just been solid throughout. We've shared a ton of reps, Geno has gone with the first group throughout, but they've had very close to equal reps in situational opportunities throughout. They really have been very impressive. I can't tell you anything other than that, but they've done a terrific job so far and they look in control. Geno's still ahead, you can tell that, but it's not going to be too much for Drew to be caught up. By the time we get through camp, he'll be there. He's really bright, it makes sense to him, he's really sharp in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and all of that, so it's just time that he needs and there's nothing we can do, but just, gain some more of that. The competition is in great shape and you can tell that Geno has been here, you can feel that, and he's taken full advantage of that. It's good for us, we didn't hesitate to do anything. We can do everything we've done in the years past, so we're off and flying, here we go."
While Smith comes into camp the more known commodity, having spent three seasons in Seattle, Lock is a player who the Seahawks hope will benefit from a change in scenery after an up-and-down start to his career in Denver. The idea that a fresh start could be good for him is notion Lock agrees with heading into his first season in Seattle.
"From fresh faces in the quarterback room to the offensive coordinator, from, 'who's my center?' just meeting new people—whether that's the training room, or the equipment staff, it was just needed," he said. "It was time… Just from an all-around perspective, it was much needed and it feels really, really good to be here."
And though Lock will need more practices and preseason games to really state his case for the job, he has made a good early impression on his coaches.
"He's really competitive, he has all kinds of plays in him, really a natural athlete, natural thrower, and a natural movement guy," Carroll said. "… This is not too big for him. He's ready for it, he is. He's primed up, ready, has learned a lot in the years past, and he seeks this kind of support, and he's getting it. We're showing him that we believe in him as a player and we believe that he can get it done, get the job done, and now we just have to play the thing out. I don't know that he always felt like that. He's responded really well, and the coaches are really thrilled about it, so we're in good shape at the position and we just have to see what happens. The games are going to be important, and everything will be important. This is just, we're in t-shirts and stuff out here, so it's not the real deal, however, we can see all of the mental side of it come to light, and we have no reason to restrict our thoughts in any way at this point."
Smith, meanwhile, is trying to take advantage of the opportunity to compete for a starting job for the first time since the early stages of his career. After starting his first two seasons with the Jets, Smith lost that job in year three due to circumstances beyond his control, breaking his jaw when he was punched by a teammate. Smith eventually moved on and spent much of his career as a backup to three of the most durable quarterbacks of their era, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Wilson. And while this camp certainly represents a different opportunity for Smith, his plan is to come into camp with the same approach he has had throughout his career.
"As far as the reps go, yeah (it's different)," Smith said. "Getting a lot of reps with the ones, being able to actually rep with the guys I'm going to play with in the game, that's the difference. But as far as my mentality, it all stays the same. I've always prepared the same way since Day 1, and I think that's the reason I even get this opportunity is because of that."
Smith added that, despite spending much of his career as a backup, he knew his chance to compete for a starting job would come again. And with that opportunity finally here, he has every intention of taking advantage.
"Of course, I knew it," Smith said. "That's why I prepare the way that I do, train the way that I do. I believe in myself and my abilities, and I also know that things happen. I was sitting behind three iron men with Eli (Manning), Philip (Rivers) and Russ, those guys don't miss games. But I always knew I had the ability to play in this league. I've done great things in the preseason, and even when I did start, I had good games. I knew the time would come, and it did."
And it's worth noting that whoever wins the starting job, Carroll and company have every intention of being a competitive team even after trading away the best quarterback in franchise history. The goal isn't for Lock or Smith to come in and be Russell Wilson, but rather to do what is necessary to run the offense efficiently, which is just part of a winning formula that also involves a strong running game, a stingy defense that creates turnovers, and a top-notch special teams unit that puts both the offense and defense in better positions.
"What we need in our offense is the same thing we've always needed whether it was Carson Palmer or Russell Wilson—we need a point guard," Carroll said last spring after the trade. "We need a guy that plays the game and moves the football around to the guys that are open and does all of the things that manages the game so that we can play great football. Because we're going to win with defense. We're going to win with how we play on special teams. We'll run the football to help the whole thing fit together. That's never changed. It's never been a philosophy that we needed to alter, other than to continue to grow and make it dynamic and present and current and all. And that's what we're looking for. We need to take care of the football."
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