Seahawks 2022 Training Camp Preview: Who Takes Torch From Russell Wilson at Quarterback? – Sports Illustrated

Midway through the third quarter with the Seahawks trailing the Rams 9-7, Russell Wilson dropped back to pass as he has thousands of times since entering the NFL in 2012. After a quick one-step drop, he scanned the field and noticed receiver Tyler Lockett streaking open downfield after a well-executed double move.
Forced to throw off his back foot with multiple pass rushers bearing down on him, Wilson's follow through struck star defensive tackle Aaron Donald's arm, leading to an overthrow on a potential touchdown. But the missed opportunity on the scoreboard was the least of Seattle's concerns as a nationally televised audience quickly caught a glimpse of the quarterback's mangled right middle finger on the FOX broadcast.
Hoping to gut out the injury, Wilson played one more drive, but he couldn't properly grip the football due to a ruptured tendon in the finger. One of the league's renowned iron men didn't return for the remainder of the game, giving way to backup Geno Smith, whose efforts orchestrating a comeback came up just short in a 26-17 defeat. He finished 10 for 17 in relief, throwing a touchdown pass to DK Metcalf to cap off a 98-yard scoring drive, along with a late interception intended for Lockett.
While Wilson recovered from surgery on injured reserve, Smith compiled a 1-2 record as a starter in three starts, failing to close out close games against the Steelers and Saints. But more than four years removed from his last NFL start, the former West Virginia standout impressed coach Pete Carroll in his first extensive action since 2017, giving the Seahawks an opportunity to win all four games he played in and turning in a near-perfect outing in a 38-7 victory over the Jaguars.
In four games, Smith completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and took great care of the football running coordinator Shane Waldron's offense, throwing only one interception compared to five touchdowns. He posted a 103.0 passer rating, easily the highest mark of his career, while averaging a healthy 7.4 yards per attempt.
"He showed us a good deal of command of our offense when he played last year and he has a terrific understanding of it so he's out in front of the other guys that are involved in the competition in that regard," Carroll said in an interview with Seattle Sports 710 earlier this offseason. "By the time he got a couple games under his belt after sitting for three or four years, he functioned in the Jacksonville game as well as you can function and he had a beautiful game there… He popped the ball around, he was fast with the football and got it out and did some really cool things."
Carroll's comments on the air came only a few weeks after Seattle stunned the NFL world by trading Wilson to Denver in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, and a trio of veteran players, including quarterback Drew Lock. At the time, Smith remained an unrestricted free agent.
Fast forwarding three months later with Wilson now in the Mile High City and the Seahawks facing questions at quarterback for the first time in a decade, Smith will report to training camp later this month with a legitimate chance to start for the first time since flaming out with the Jets in 2015. His top competition will come in the form of Lock, another former second-round draft choice who failed to emerge as a franchise quarterback with the Broncos and fell out of favor with the organization.
From the outside looking in, pitting two journeymen veterans with losing records as starters against one another may seem like malpractice at the sport's most vital position. But throughout the offseason, Carroll and general manager John Schneider have genuinely seemed intrigued by the looming quarterback battle between Smith and Lock and the decision not to trade for Baker Mayfield or draft a signal caller in April spoke loudly about their intentions.
How can Carroll and Schneider be optimistic about the situation when few others share such sentiments? Especially when they will be filling huge shoes vacated by the greatest quarterback in franchise history?
For one, the 31-year old Smith already shown the Seahawks what he could do as the caretaker of Waldron's offense, playing the point guard role effectively in Wilson's absence a year ago. Along with being decisive with the football and limiting turnovers, he quickly developed a strong rapport with Metcalf, throwing four touchdowns to the star receiver in four games.
On the flip side, Schneider touted Lock for his "hose" of a throwing arm and underrated athleticism when discussing the 25-year old quarterback's skill set with reporters on March 16. Despite losing his starting job in Denver to Teddy Bridgewater last season, both he and Carroll believe his failure may have been caused in part due to poor circumstances with coaching changes and the COVID-19 pandemic and think a fresh start could work wonders.
Coming out of mandatory minicamp last month, Carroll continued to rave about Lock's physical tools and stressed the importance of showing the young signal caller that the organization believes in him and supports him.
“He's really competitive, he has all kinds of plays in him, really a natural athlete, natural thrower, and a natural movement guy. He had his best day yesterday on the move, he had some big scramble plays that he hit, it was great to see. We've seen it on film, so it's just nice to get it validated here," Carroll said of Lock. "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 and now we just have to play the thing out." 
As expected, Smith took the vast majority of first-team reps during Seattle's offseason program with Lock working primarily with the second unit and Jacob Eason seeing limited reps behind them. With camp rapidly approaching, he looks to be in the driver's seat thanks to his familiarity with Waldron's scheme and his backing in the locker room and Carroll said as much at last month's minicamp.
But Carroll also insinuated the gap between the two quarterbacks has narrowed some, opening the door for Lock to still drive into the passing lane and rocket past his veteran counterpart next month.
Entering a new era without Wilson, there's plenty of pressure on Smith and Lock to make the most of their opportunity. After both washed out with their original teams, this may be the last shot either has to carve out a starting role in the NFL. For the Seahawks to have any hope of defying low external expectations, while they don't need either to replicate Wilson's production, they will need one of the maligned signal callers to step up and prove capable of managing the offense at a high level.
The race to find that capable caretaker under center will begin in earnest on July 27 when the yellow caution flag used during organized team activities drops and the green flag replaces it in padded training camp practices and preseason games. While he's not giving anything away in regard to who will win the job, Carroll eagerly awaits the chance to see Smith and Lock duke it out.
"It's going to be a real battle. It's going to be really an exciting time for our team, for those guys in particular, and for our people watching. I'm pumped about it, I really am.”

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