RENTON, Wash. — In the early days of the Legion of Boom-era Seahawks, the team’s first-year players didn’t hit the proverbial “rookie wall” late in the season so much as run right through it.
And it was the ability to get the most out of rookies in those early years that was a key to the fast finishes that quickly became a Pete Carroll trademark.
Since 2012, the Seahawks are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the most regular-season wins in November, December and January with a record of 61-29.
The Seahawks will need to replicate that success to try to complete their so-far-surprising playoff run, let alone hold off the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
But Carroll is predictably confident that Seattle’s heralded nine-man draft class is not only ready to pick up where it left off before the bye week but take off even higher thanks in part to getting some much-needed rest following the trip to Germany to play Tampa Bay.
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Carroll felt the bye came at a particularly good time for the rookies, who with preseason games thrown in have already played what is basically a full college season — 13 games — and now will play seven more, with the Seahawks hoping there will additional games to follow.
“Hopefully, we can make it into that,” he said of the bye week providing a boost to the rookies. “We’ve talked that way with them. Just stepping away from it can give you a chance to see things differently, a little more clearly. I’m hoping that is what takes place right now, but for them, I think it is really a convenient opportunity for them just physically, too.”
That happening is especially critical for the Seahawks this year as almost no team in the NFL is leaning on its rookies as much as Seattle.
Seattle’s rookies have played a combined 2,880 offensive and defensive snaps, second in the NFL behind Houston’s 3,047.
And Seattle has had six rookies start a game — all six starting at least three — the most in the NFL.
As the season hits the stretch drive, here’s a quick update on each rookie:
Left tackle Charles Cross (first round, ninth overall): The Mississippi State product has played all 625 offensive snaps for the Seahawks and is rated this week 48th out of 80 tackles by Pro Football Focus but judged by PFF to have played his best game of the season against Tampa Bay. Via PFF he has allowed four sacks in 388 pass-block snaps.
Linebacker Boye Mafe (second round, 40th overall): Mafe, out of Minnesota, has started three games with 274 snaps. Mafe has 25 tackles and two sacks but has played almost evenly on run and pass downs, with the Seahawks using him more in the base defense ahead of Darrell Taylor, who is being used more on passing downs. Mafe’s ability to set the edge has been cited as a key to the defensive turnaround the last five games.
Running back Kenneth Walker III (second round, 41st overall): Walker has played 325 snaps in nine games (he missed the opener due to injury) in taking over the starting running back job following an injury to Rashaad Penny. Walker was held to 17 yards on 10 carries against Tampa Bay but he still has the second-most rushing yards of any rookie this year with 587, behind only the 780 of Houston’s Dameon Pierce.
Right tackle Abraham Lucas (third round, 72nd overall): The former WSU standout has also played all 625 offensive snaps, and is ranked by PFF even higher among tackles than Cross at 34th overall, and with the 20th-best pass blocking grade.
Cornerback Coby Bryant (fourth round, 109th overall): Bryant has emerged as the team’s starting nickel, and has played in every game with four official starts and has played 456 of a possible 695 defensive snaps overall. Bryant remains first in the NFL in forced fumbles with four and also has two pass defenses. PFF ranks him 86th of 120 cornerbacks in the NFL, with a passer rating allowed of 111.3.
Cornerback Tariq Woolen (fifth round, 153rd overall): The University of Texas-San Antonio product remains a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, having locked down Seattle’s right cornerback spot from day one. He’s played 676 snaps and is second in the NFL in interceptions with five and has already tied Earl Thomas (2010) and Michael Boulware (1994) for most interceptions in a season by a rookie. Woolen is rated 32nd of 120 CBs by PFF with a passer rating allowed of 71.7.
Linebacker Tyreke Smith (fifth round, 158th overall): The Ohio State product was placed on injured reserve before the season with a hip injury and is out for the season.
Receiver Bo Melton (seventh round, 229th overall): Melton has been on the practice squad all season and has not seen action.
Receiver Dareke Young (seventh round, 233rd overall): Young has played in six games as a reserve, including each of the last five, with 48 snaps overall. He does not have an offensive stat having been used primarily on run downs — he has 35 snaps on running plays, according to Pro Football Focus. But he has made four tackles on special teams, three solo.
Seattle also has three undrafted rookies who have seen action. Safety Joey Blount has not played on defense but has 103 special teams snaps and has six special teams tackles, third on the team. Linebacker Vi Jones played in one game against Tampa Bay as a practice squad elevation and played 10 snaps on special teams without recording a stat. Linebacker Josh Onujiogu played in one game, against the Chargers, and played 11 defensive snaps and six on special teams, making three tackles overall.