By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
“Let Russ Cook” — the desire for Russell Wilson to take over the offense through the passing game — is a thing of the past for the Seattle Seahawks†
With Wilson no longer on the roster, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll transported the Seahawks back in time to his first year overseeing the team with the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Seahawks appear headed for a return to smash-mouth football in the mold of Carroll’s first team in 2010. The Seahawks made nine picks in this year’s draft: two bookend offensive tackles, a bruising running back, two edge rushers, two rangy cornerbacks and two physical, athletic receivers.
“It’s pretty clear that we wanted to make sure we have all the elements together so that we can be effective running the football and complement the rest of our game,” Carroll told reporters last week. “That’s always a part of it. That’s not a change in philosophy or approach. It’s just an emphasis that we were able to hit on.”
Examining Seahawks No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross
Geoff Schwartz examines Mississippi State Bulldogs offensive tackle Charles Cross. Despite his experience in an air raid offense, typically making it more difficult for OTs to be drafted, Schwartz predicts Cross’ abilities as the “ultimate pass protector” will override any doubts for Seattle Seahawks’ fans.
Carroll is not shy about his blueprint for winning a Super Bowl.
He traded for Marshawn Lynch in his first year, bringing in a physical runner to help control the clock and provide a rest for his menacing defense.
Speaking of defense, Carroll developed hard-nosed, aggressive defense that took the ball away, which led to the birth of the Legion of Boom. It was all about the ball, which meant taking care of it on offense. And he wanted his team playing its best in the fourth quarter.
At the end of his tenure in Seattle, one of Wilson’s complaints was Seattle’s struggles to protect the passer. Ironically, with Wilson moved this offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks acquired the draft capital to address that deficiency, selecting Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross with the ninth pick in the first round Thursday.
Seattle eschewed its recent history of trading back in the first round to take the third offensive tackle selected among the top 10 draft picks. The last time Seattle took an offensive lineman that was high in 2010 — the first year with head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider — with Oklahoma State product Russell Okung.
“It’s a great place to start,” Carroll told reporters after the pick. “You are trying to build an offensive line, always, and that left tackle spot is so crucial in all of that. It’s a nice pick.”
At 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds, Cross is a former basketball player who ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, so he has athletic ability. Cross said he had conversations and a formal interview with the Seahawks at the combine, so he wasn’t surprised to hear his name called by the team.
“I know they have a great program. It’s a great organization,” Cross said. “They are a physical organization. They appreciate physicality, toughness, nastiness and, really, everything you need to do in order to be successful. I’m just excited, I’m excited for the opportunity, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Cross had more than 700 pass-rush reps in Mike Leach’s Air-Raid offense last season, and he gave up just two sacks. He also played against Alabama twice in college, holding his own against some of the top defensive linemen in the country.
“He did a great job against top, top competition playing in the SEC,” Schneider said. “He had a really nice game against Alabama, and we are just really excited that we have a pillar at left tackle.”
The Seahawks finished Day 2 of the draft by selecting Washington State right tackle Abraham Lucas at No. 72 in the third round. Before that, they took Minnesota edge rusher Boye Mafe and Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III with back-to-back picks at No. 40 and 41.
Walker totaled 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final season for the Spartans, finishing sixth in Heisman Trophy voting. Blessed with 4.38-second speed in the 40, Walker offers insurance in case Chris Carson does not return healthy from neck surgery and Rashaad Penny once again has trouble staying healthy.
On Day 3, the Seahawks took two rangy corners in Coby Bryant out of Cincinnati in the fourth round and Tariq Woolen out of Texas-San Antonio in the fifth. Woolen is a 6-foot-4 former receiver converted to cornerback, like another productive defensive back for the Seahawks, Richard Sherman.
Seattle rounded out the draft class by selecting two athletic receivers in Bo Melton (4.34-second 40) out of Rutgers and Dareke Young out of Lenior-Rhyne in the seventh and final round of the draft.
That’s right: The Seahawks did not draft a quarterback, which means they really will let Drew Lock and Geno Smith compete for the starting job (unless they trade for Baker Mayfield).
“The competition is underway,” Carroll said. “Geno has come in and is obviously ahead going in because he’s had all the background with us. He’s been with us for a number of years. He leads the charge right now. He’s in command of our system as much as a guy could be . [Jacob Eason] had a year with us, so he’s doing his part.
“Meanwhile, we’re watching how Drew comes along, and he’s going. He’s busting his tail to catch up and be right with it. All our guys, we know, are strong-armed throwers. We will not lack in the potential of our throwing game, the style and the things that we can do. We’ve been able to see Drew in great depth. We’ve seen everything. We went all the way back to all his college days and everything else — every throw he’s ever thrown to show us what he’s capable of doing.
“We’re fitting it together. It’s going to be a really strong, competitive group, and we’re going to be smart.”
The post-Wilson Seahawks will look a lot like the team did before selecting the best quarterback in franchise history in 2012. Carroll will look to recreate the stingy, Legion of Boom defense that almost won games on its own.
Carroll will lean on Penny, Carson and Walker to control the line of scrimmage and run the football. And he’ll see if Lock or Smith can connect with receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and tight ends Noah Fant and Will Dissly when the Seahawks need big plays down the field.
“It was like the first draft in that we had the picks in the first round,” Carroll said of the weekend. “We haven’t had that opportunity. John hasn’t been able to take advantage of that because of our seasons and all. But in that regard, it felt like we had a full draft that year and all.
“And so there’s just been a unique excitement about coming back in the building, and this was all part of it. So it’s been pretty fun.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams†
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