As I said a few weeks ago in my initial Rookie Report, I'll be paying attention closely to the Seahawks' rookies and how they perform this season, then try and rank them according to how well they play on a week-to-week basis. Let's take a look at the Week12/Week 13 rookie rankings, as they performed against Washington and in the Thursday night contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.
1. K.J. Wright - OLB
Wright took his game to the next level in Week 13 with a sack and several key run-stops against the Eagles. With each week, Wright has continued to display an improved ability to diagnose the run, maintain gap discipline, and cover a good chunk of ground, sideline to sideline.
If he's lacked anything to this point, it has been the decisiveness to take a risk and explode to the ball carrier with confidence, as the tendency has been to stay conservative and keep control of his gap and make plays when they come his way. The latter has still been a significant upgrade over Aaron Curry who lacked the instincts to be the right kind of decisive. Curry took plenty of risks and shot for the target on plenty of occasions, he just over-shot, targeted the wrong guy, or simply missed his target too frequently, and thus left a huge void on his side of the field that was exploited often.
Wright has the instincts to routinely target, close and wrap, and he showed that in Week 13. He needs to continue becoming more aggressive each week and trust that his instincts will put him in the right position to make the play, because the smarts, physical tools and fundamentals are clearly there to make him a long-term starter on this defense, which, in my opinion, is exactly what he is. His versatility is a plus as well, as you've seen him move over and play the middle in situations where David Hawthorne has been injured.
2. Richard Sherman - CB
Sherman had another key interception in Week 12 against the Redskins, to go with 7 tackles and a pass defensed. In Week 13 against the Eagles, he converted on 4 tackles and had a key batted pass in the end zone.
Where Sherman continues to have his greatest success is at the line of scrimmage, in press coverage. When he can get his hands up and jam effectively at the snap, he possesses an ability to routinely redirect and leverage his opponent at will, and blanket effectively from that point.
When he's playing off the ball, he's less effective, particularly against quick receivers with above average stop-start ability. You saw him against Desean Jackson in Week 13, as Jackson was playing a yard off the line making it tough for Sherman to get an effective jam at the snap. He backed off and played deeper as a result, and you could see how quickly he would get his hips around as if to prepare for Jackson to run a deep fly or post, and Jackson was then able to create space by coming back to the ball after Sherman had committed to turn and run.
I dont want to be overly critical here though, as Sherman is undoubtedly covering better than Marcus Trufant was before his injury. These are just some things he'll need to improve on if he's to reach his full potential, which I feel to be that of a Pro Bowl caliber cornerback.
He continues to locate the ball early, and for his size, breaks to the ball at a "plus" level. He's aggressive but isn't drawing the contact penalties that you might anticipate from a rookie with his physical style, and this is a credit to great body control, awareness and timing to the ball.
He wrap tackled better in Weeks 12 and 13, and he's diagnosing the run early. He also uses his arm length well to shed blockers and disengage to close on his target. If Sherman can become more consistent at knowing when to flip his hips in soft coverage situations, he could be on his way to becoming a legitimate shutdown corner.
3. Doug Baldwin - WR
Baldwin continues to play with great consistency and awareness. The decrease in targets over the past couple of weeks has been a result of the team shifting to a heavy reliance on the run game and Marshawn Lynch, but with every opportunity, Baldwin continues to prove his veteran-like reliability as a target in the middle of the field and in key third down situations.
His routes continue to be crisp, his concentration to secure the ball when his body is vulnerable over the middle, and his focus to play through the catch and look for opportunities to extend plays are a confidence boost to his quarterback. Look for Baldwin to line up more on the outside with Sidney Rice out and Mike Williams struggling to get open.
4. Malcolm Smith - OLB
Had one assisted tackle against the Eagles. Will continue to get the bulk of his playing time on Special Teams this season, but look for him to be worked in on passing downs from the weakside linebacker spot (behind Leroy Hill). His speed makes him a legit pass rush threat on passing downs and he should see action there, in spots. He continues to be around the ball on special teams.
Byron Maxwell - CB
Inactive in Week 13 (injury), but may be back in week 14 and should continue to play primarily on Special Teams.
Jarriel King - OG
Inactive in Week 13, but should be activated for week 14 in light of Russell Okung's season-ending pectoral tear.
Jeron Johnson - SS
Inactive in Week 13, as he has been for a good chunk of his rookie season. Chris Maragos has performed better on Special Teams and, thus far, has beat out Johnson for active playing time.
Michael Morgan - LB
Was activated from the Practice Squad for Week 13, but didn't see any action. Morgan is a UDFA out of USC who played well in preseason, but was cut prior to the start of the regular campaign. He's a bit underweight at 226lbs, but at 6'3, possesses the height and length to play on the strong side, or potentially be a groom-able LEO (rush end).
Lazarius Levingston - DE/DT
Inactive in week 13 after a couple of consecutive weeks of rotating inside on passing downs. Levingston has potential to be an interior rusher, but needs to significantly improve his hand technique and pad levels off the snap. His quickness is "plus" for his size, it's just a matter of putting it altogether. Even if he becomes a spotty reserve, the value is decent being that he was a 7th round pick.
Josh Portis - QB
Portis has been inactive for most of the season, and his only realistic shot of appearing in a game is if the 'Hawks go into a week with only one of Jackson or Whitehurst healthy/active. Chances are if Whitehurst is forced to start any game for the rest of the season due to a Jackson injury, Portis should have a decent shot at taking some snaps. Whitehurst is just bad.
Ron Parker - CB
Parker was impressive in preseason with Seattle, but was cut prior to the regular campaign. He was picked up and activated by the Raiders before being released and re-acquired for the Seattle Practice Squad. He was activated a few weeks back and has thus far been limited in action.
He possesses an impressive combination of size and speed, and could very well become a rotational corner on this roster by next season. He's a developmental guy who has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL. He needs to improve on his overall instincts in coverage, and continue to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, having come out of a small school (Newberry) and a low level of competition.
Adrian Moten - LB
Moten was just signed by Seattle off the Colts' Practice Squad for depth when David Vobora went down to injury. He comes in with 7 tackles on the season (IND), after being signed as a UDFA by the Colts prior to the season.