The calendar has rolled to October, and for the Seattle Seahawks that means the first long road trip of the year. This weekend sees the Hawks traveling east to take on the Detroit Lions in an early slot game Sunday, though not the earliest slot, as that will be the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints playing in the 6:30 AM Pacific Time Zone slot in London.
However, when the Seahawks get around to taking the field Sunday afternoon in Detroit, they’ll be faced with several questions regarding the roster, not the least of which will be at cornerback. Through the first three weeks the defense has struggled, both in allowing opponents to throw the ball well while also failing to consistently apply pressure to the quarterback. The result is a defense that is 31st ranked in the NFL in net yards per attempt (NY/A), and now the question becomes what the Hawks will do in order to attempt to change that.
Fans already heard from Pete Carroll earlier in the week that he would like to get youngsters Boye Mafe and Darryl Johnson more involved, which could mean a loss of playing time for third year man Darrell Taylor. However, the question then becomes what the defense would be how the defense plans to address the issues on the back end of things. With Justin Coleman still recovering from a calf injury and listed as doubtful for the game against the Lions, the starting cornerbacks could once again be Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson on the outside, with Coby Bryant continuing his role as the nickel back.
The play from the youngsters at cornerback has not been perfect, but that’s to be expected from first year starters still learning how to play their position. With that in mind, though, the veteran free agents the Hawks signed in free agency in the spring, Artie Burns and Sidney Jones, are both fully cleared and back up to full speed, per Carroll.
Artie Burns is back to full speed, Pete says. He’s ready to go, as is Sidney Jones. Pete said they had a good, competitive week of practice with so many guys at CB back healthy.— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) September 30, 2022
That’s not all that different from the update Pete provided heading into Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, a game for which both Jones and Burns were healthy scratches.
So, Jones was “sitting on the third spot” heading into Week 3, after having seen the field for a dozen defensive snaps against the Denver Broncos in Week 1 before failing to see the field in the Week 2, in spite of being active, in the drubbing taken at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Except, from that third spot Jones became a healthy scratch as the team opted to start Woolen and Jackson, with Xavier Crawford and Isaiah Dunn providing the depth.
It certainly raises the question of not just who will start at outside cornerback Sunday against Detroit. Will it again be Jackson and Woolen? Or will Carroll opt for a more veteran presence on the outside against a Detroit offense that was highly productive both on the ground and through the air during the month of September? The Hawks currently have eight cornerbacks on the roster, including:
- Mike Jackson
- Tariq Woolen
- Artie Burns
- Sidney Jones
- Xavier Crawford
- Isaiah Dunn
- Coby Bryant (nickel)
- Justin Coleman (nickel; doubtful for Week 4)
How the team opts to address the cornerback position in Week 4 could shed a lot of light on how the team plans on addressing the remainder of the 2022 season. If Jackson and Woolen are again the starters on the outside, it could be an indication the team is content to build for the future and less concerned with immediate on field results. On the flip side, if the team opts to start either Burns or Jones, or potentially both, it would seem to signal that Carroll is not yet ready to write off 2022 and wants to give himself the best opportunity to win now.
A third option could be for the Hawks to have the veterans split time with the youngsters, so don’t be surprised if the duos are alternating or rotating between possessions. This would be very similar to how Carroll worked Tre Brown into the lineup starting in Week 3 of the 2021 season, and would likely serve multiple purposes. First and foremost, it would force the Lions to react to something they have yet to see this season, while at the same time giving Jones and Burns an opportunity to show what they can do in the new system.
Now, getting Jones and Burns an opportunity to show what they can do is likely a far less important goal than letting guys like Woolen, Jackson and Bryant develop, but letting Jones and Burns play could generate other returns. Namely, putting what they can do on tape could give the Hawks the ability to John Schneider to work his trade deadline magic and deal one or both of them should the Seahawks opt to be sellers come Halloween. Neither would be likely to see the team receive more than a Day 3 pick in return, but a Day 3 pick is a whole lot more return than they would be getting from a player (or two) who could potentially be healthy scratches down the stretch, especially if Tre Brown returns and adds his name into the competition.
In short, don’t be surprised if the Hawks give some playing time to Jones and Burns to throw a wrench in the Lions gameplanning for Woolen and Jackson, while also setting up the possibility for some trade deadline dealing should the team decide in a few weeks they are unlikely to be contenders in 2022.