RENTON, Wash. – This was a no-contact, non-padded minicamp practice three months before the actual start of the NFL season. So not a great deal should be interpreted from subtle, vignette moments of interaction.
But this was interesting: For perhaps 20 seconds during the Seattle Seahawks’ first day of mandatory minicamp action at their VMAC headquarters, as the offensive unit returned to its huddle between plays, head coach Pete Carroll hustled over to rookie right tackle Abe Lucas and offered a few technical tidbits.
Nobody on the sidelines could hear the details of the brief private tutorial Carroll presented. More important than the substance imparted was the intent of the person who delivered it. If the head coach wants to stop what he’s doing to share his wisdom with a rookie tackle, it indicates both high expectations of that player and an impulse to get him coached-up as quickly as possible.
It seemed to signify Carroll’s belief that Lucas, a four-year starter at Washington State, will be an important cog in the Seahawks’ retooled offense this season.
The conventional architecture of offensive lines calls for the tackles on each end to be the strong anchor columns for both the pass and rush attack. After last season’s 7-10 slump, Carroll and GM John Schneider used first- and third-round draft picks on Mississippi State left tackle Charles Cross and Lucas.
Carroll claimed his Seahawks clubs have never had a pair of tackles so mobile and athletic. “It’s a most fortunate opportunity to get two guys that can really move their feet,” Carroll said on draft week. “Both these guys can run under 5 flat (over 40 yards) and they’re athletic and smooth and quick and all that.”
All that? Yes. It’s a vague but significant addition to the list of qualities good NFL linemen need. Durability, sure, that’s a part of “all that,” and it’s only revealed over the course of a career. But Lucas certainly has good indicators, having started 42 straight games at right tackle for the Cougars.
Evidence of toughness, nastiness and intelligence – other “all thats” – also requires live action to become visible. We won’t see any of that until training camp in late July. So far, though, Lucas and Cross have been convincing.
“The tackles jumped out right off the bat,” Carroll said after a rookie minicamp practice. “Both guys look well-equipped, physically. They look like they can move like we would hope they can move. They’re both bright kids, and will pick up their stuff, so the process is underway.”
Lucas looked comfortable working with what appeared to be the first unit of offense. At 6-foot-6, he’s a fairly lean 322 pounds. He plays with good balance and seems adept at feeding off stunting defenders to his neighboring guard when necessary.
A staffer on the sideline said Lucas has quickly impressed with athleticism and competitiveness. And he is nimble enough to thrive in the zone-reach blocking schemes this year’s offense will feature.
Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron last week said that both Cross and Lucas have “shown they could come right in, and have studied hard. There’s a long way to go, a lot of understanding left to gain in the offense, but they’ve been able to get in right away and be able to operate at a high level for this time of year.”
Both Lucas and Cross played in coach Mike Leach’s pass-reliant “Air Raid” offense, and both are known for their pass protection skills. But after the draft Carroll pointed out that the Seahawks selected two offensive linemen and a running back (Ken Walker III) in the first three rounds. “I think it’s pretty clear that we wanted to make sure we have all the elements … so we can be effective running the football and complement the rest of our game.”
Competition for Lucas as a starting right tackle may include Jake Curhan, a second-year player out of California who started the last five games at that position last season, and Stone Forsythe, a sixth-round draft pick last season.
Tuesday, Curhan saw considerable action at right guard next to Lucas, which also might be an early indicator the Hawks recognize Lucas’ promise as the right tackle of the future.
Another former WSU tackle, undrafted free agent Liam Ryan, also is on the Seahawks roster, but has recently been in a protective boot for an undetailed injury.
Lucas, an Everett native, said after the draft that it seemed “surreal” to be invited to play for his favorite team as a kid. At least in the early months of his career with the Seahawks, though, he appears to be comfortable and feeling very much at-home.