Whitehurst showing comfort, confidence at QB
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
RENTON – Sink or swim.
When Pete Carroll abandoned his overriding philosophy of competition, announcing at the opening of training camp that Tarvaris Jackson – a guy who had never taken a snap for his new team in practice, let alone a game – would be the team’s starting quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst could have gone one of two ways.
He could have moped and coasted through camp, blaming his coach for not getting the nod after Seattle chose not to bring back Matt Hasselbeck in free agency.
Or, Carroll’s decision could have served as a wake-up call, with the demotion working as motivation to get back into contentio for the starting job.
Judging by how he’s played in the first two exhibition games, Whitehurst picked the latter.
Whitehurst, who turned 29 on Aug. 6, hasn’t exactly been Mr. August in exhibition play.
Prior to this season, Whitehurst had completed 52.2 percent of his career exhibition passes, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
But this year has been different. Whitehurst led Seattle on three scoring drives in a game’s worth of work in two exhibition games. He’s 28-for-39 passing for 212 yards and a touchdown, and he’s completed 71.8 percent of his passes for a respectable 93.1 passer rating.
Whitehurst has settled for dump off passes instead of forcing the ball down the field; he’s only averaging 5.4 yards per attempt.
One of the reasons Carroll said he named Jackson the starter was his familiarity with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense from their time together in Minnesota, which in theory should help Seattle jump-start the offense.
But halfway into exhibition play, Whitehurst appears to have command of Bevell’s version of the West Coast offense.
“You get the book when you show up, and you’re trying to learn it as fast as you can,” Whitehurst said. “Each day you get more comfortable. The eight or nine days we had in-between games was very helpful. We had a bunch of practices, and the walkthroughs and mental stuff has been important to us, especially at quarterback trying to learn the system.
“As many reps as you can get is the way it’s done, and the way you learn things. So I feel more comfortable now, and it’s just a process of moving forward.”
Whitehurst also is bubbling over with confidence. He earned some of that by playing well in the final regular-season game last year, helping to lead the Seahawks to a playoffs-clinching 16-6 win over St. Louis at CenturyLink Field.
However, the Seahawks’ brass questioned his leadership skills when he failed to be front and center in getting fellow players together for offseason workouts during the 136-day lockout, as the only quarterback under contract. Instead, Justin Forsett and Hasselbeck shouldered that responsibility.
But Whitehurst has shown over the past few weeks that he’s ready to take on a leadership role with the team.
How’s his confidence? “Pretty high, most of the time,” Whitehurst said. “You have to, that’s the only way to play this position.
“I think I’m a better player than I was last year.
I feel more comfortable now. I feel like I’m seeing the field and what the defense is trying to do, and making good, quick decisions.”
Doug Baldwin, an undrafted rookie free agent receiver out of Stanford who has mostly played with Whitehurst on the second unit, says the Clemson product has a presence in the huddle.
“Personally I feel like I have more chemistry with him just because I’ve had more reps with him,” Baldwin said. “Charlie’s a great guy. He’s a great quarterback who does some tremendous things on the field.”
Carroll has noticed the improved play, but said he’s uncertain if Whitehurst will get an opportunity to play with the first unit at Denver on Saturday.
“It depends on how the game goes,” he said. “I have got to wait and see how it works out. Right now I don’t know that yet. But I’m not worried about that. Charlie is functioning beautifully.”
But Carroll’s not ready to proclaim the quarterback job up for competition. At this point in the season, just 18 days before Seattle’s regular-season opener at San Francisco, Carroll’s more concerned with his offense developing some chemistry and an identity.
And announcing a quarterback competition midway through that process doesn’t help that to happen.
Further, Carroll understands that Jackson’s play has been hampered by a young, inexperienced line playing together for the first time.
“I love that Charlie played well, and we need to give Tarvaris a chance to play well, too,” Carroll said. “I felt like he was out there fighting for it, and he did a good job of competing. So, we’ll see.”
CB THURMOND BACK
Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond returned to practice Tuesday and was full-go after sitting out for three weeks with a sprained ankle. Thurmond looked as if he had his speed back in team drills, and he could play against Denver on Saturday
“He was just lightning quick when he came out at the start of camp, and he looked it again today,” Carroll said. “We tried to keep control of his reps and stuff. We want to ease him through this week and see where we are with him, but it’s great to have him back out.”
Thurmond had been penciled in as the starting cornerback opposite Marcus Trufant once training camp began, but now he’ll have to compete for that spot with incumbent Kelly Jennings and CFL veteran Brandon Browner.
“I’ve got the bug,” Thurmond said. “I haven’t been out here in awhile, so I just missed playing.”
Carroll addressed the recent news about Aaron Curry restructuring his contract, saying that it has had little affect on the team because it happened months ago, before the lockout began in March.
All three of Seattle’s starting linebackers in Curry, David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill sat out of Tuesday’s fully padded practice because of sore knees. Carroll said that Curry and Hill likely will play Saturday, but Hawthorne will be held out. Rookie K.J. Wright is scheduled to start in Hawthorne’s place.
Offensive tackle Russell Okung suited up and went through a couple of individual drills at the beginning of practice. Carroll said he will not play this week, but that he’s getting close.
Safety Kam Chancellor also sat out practice with a sore foot; his status is uncertain for the Denver game.
Tight end John Carlson (shoulder) is doing better and improving, and will try and play in the team’s last preseason game against Oakland.