After watching rookies lead the Seahawks in receptions, rushing and sacks in the team’s win over Minnesota, a realization arose.
Tyler Lockett may be turning into the player Percy Harvin was supposed to be.
Thomas Rawls isn’t just who Christine Michael was supposed to be, he looks much, much better.
And Frank Clark is becoming what? A combination of talents the Seahawks hadn’t before drafted. Maybe even the long-range replacement for Michael Bennett?
The emergence of these three players in recent games supplies more than just a late-season infusion of energy and talent, but a sense of roster renewal that hasn’t been felt, to this degree, for a long while.
A lot can happen to derail young players, but Lockett and Rawls have provided enough evidence that they have star potential, while Clark certainly hints of a rare capacity to pressure passers from an interior launching point on the defensive line.
There wasn’t this kind of high-end talent in the 2013 and 2014 drafts combined.
“It was really exciting to see those guys able to contribute in such a good way,” coach Pete Carroll said after the 38-7 road win last weekend.
“That was good for us; that’s exactly what we hope happens, and we’re going to need a lot more from them as we go down the stretch here.”
Lockett already has more receptions (35 for 436 yards and three touchdowns) than Harvin had for the Seahawks in 2013-14 (23 catches for 150 yards). Lockett’s kickoff return average, at 26.2, is identical to Harvin’s.
Lockett was a third-round pick the Hawks targeted and traded up to get, a pittance of the cost of Harvin (first-, third- and seventh-round picks, and $25 million in guaranteed money). Harvin had injuries and attitude, and was shipped out of town after playing in a total of six regular-season games.
Although Lockett is only 5-10 and 182 pounds, he’s proven he’s a seriously tough cookie.
On one catch Sunday against the Vikings, he was sandwiched between a pair of defenders on a savage hit that drew a personal foul penalty. But Lockett not only held onto the ball, but popped up without damage.
“I didn’t even see the guy; it shocked me when he hit me, but the biggest thing was holding onto the ball,” Lockett said. “Obviously, I didn’t end up with a concussion. I thought it was a legal hit, but I’m not going to complain with another 15 yards.”
On a regular basis, other receivers tout Lockett for his willingness and aptitude to block for them on breakaways and deep balls. A team-first guy. So maybe he’s not like Harvin after all.
Rawls is the biggest surprise of the season, maybe in the entire league. He’s the second-leading rookie rusher (behind St. Louis first-rounder Todd Gurley), but has the league’s best rushing average (5.6 yards per carry).
An undrafted free agent, Rawls was passed over by 32 teams in all seven rounds. But with 786 yards on 141 carries, he’s already well past the career production of the 2013 second-round pick, Michael (67 carries for 305 yards), who was traded to Dallas when Rawls showed so much potential in the preseason.
Rawls, too, has displayed a capacity for doing the dirty work, running through defenders when necessary, while also catching the ball or stepping up to block blitzing linebackers. He’s a bully with the ball, and unrelenting in his leg drive.
“I love the game, so being out there is a blessing,” Rawls said. “I will do whatever I have to do to help this team. I don’t want to let anyone down. If that’s going out there running the ball, catching the ball, or just blocking, that’s fine with me.”
Clark was the last of this trio to flash in the regular season. After a stunning preseason, the second-round pick saw limited time early. But in the last few games, as injuries shortened the defensive-line rotation, Clark has been getting increasing playing time, and has come up with three sacks in wins over the Vikings and Steelers.
Bruce Irvin had six sacks as a rookie in 2012, a figure Clark could match at this pace, although he’s seen far less action than Irvin, a first-round pick who eventually was moved from the Leo rush position to strongside linebacker.
“The biggest thing is they trust us,” Lockett said. “They know we’re going to go out there and play our games, and they try to put us in the best position possible.”
A number of veterans have mentioned the energy and enthusiasm the rookies are bringing, particularly valuable as the season lengthens and the players with young legs and low-mileage provide a needed boost.
“Even though we’re rookies, we don’t play like rookies,” Lockett said. “It’s too deep into the season to play like rookies.”
They played like veterans Sunday. Like veteran stars, at that.