TNT's Gregg Bell on what to expect from Seahawks in Saturday's exhibition in Kansas City
Trevone Boykin insists he hasn’t taken a moment of his first four months as a Seahawk to contemplate what everyone else who knows Seattle has an NFL team realizes.
Boykin, the undrafted rookie from Texas Christian, is the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind Russell Wilson. That’s with neither Tarvaris Jackson nor any other veteran backup in sight — or, apparently, in mind.
“It’s crazy you say that,” Boykin said with a chuckle this week before the Seahawks left for their first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs (1:30 p.m., Channel 13).
“I haven’t done that, at all. I am just trying to push forward with my teammates, and learn from Russ and learn what he does. Just try to learn this offense and execute it the best I can.”
Boykin’s going to get a lot of chances at Arrowhead Stadium to do that against the Chiefs in his first professional “game.”
A lot of chances.
Coach Pete Carroll said following Friday’s short walk-through practice at team headquarters in Renton that J’Marcus Webb will not play against the Chiefs. The veteran signed in the offseason from Oakland has a twisted knee, Carroll said.
Garry Gilliam is moving from left tackle, where he’d switched to in May, back to start at right tackle Saturday. That’s where Gilliam started all last season. Bradley Sowell, the former Arizona backup Seattle signed this spring, will start at left tackle.
It’s yet another switch on an offensive line that was already likely to have new starters in all five positions. The Seahawks are more likely to bus back to Renton on Saturday night than they are to keep Wilson, their $86 million quarterback, in for long against the Chiefs behind a line still so jumbled and concerning.
So Boykin is likely to enter in the first half, perhaps the first quarter, and play a series or two with that starting line. Those blockers are probably going to be the last of the starters to leave the exhibition. That fits, given they are the ones who have the most to prove.
Carroll said Webb may not play the second preseason game, either, because the Seahawks have a quick turnaround before Thursday’s home exhibition against Minnesota. So Wilson may not play so much then, either.
These next five days could be Boykin-palooza.
He’s used to that. Back when Boykin wasn’t huddling, back when he placed fourth in college football’s Heisman Trophy voting while running his hyper-speed spread offense at Texas Christian, he could afford to waste a few plays.
What’s a throwaway here, a scramble to nowhere there, when you’ve got 98 more chances to move the ball?
“In college, we ran almost 100-some plays a game. And I guess you could say every play really didn’t matter,” Boykin said. “In this league, every play matters. Every down matters. There’s a lot more at stake when you are out there on first, second and third down than in college. I mean, in college we got I don’t know how many first down, or I don’t know how many third-down opportunities. But it was a lot. You won’t get as many in the league.”
Yes, Justin Britt is trying to prove he can be an NFL center. Cassius Marsh and Mike Morgan are battling to replace departed Bruce Irvin as the new strongside linebacker. DeShawn Shead is so far holding off Tharold Simon to be the starting right cornerback. Brandin Bryant is one of several undrafted rookies trying to break into first-team consideration, at defensive tackle.
But perhaps no Seahawk has as much to gain in these four preseason games ending Sept. 1 at Oakland as Boykin.
As recently as the draft in May, Carroll had stated his preference for a veteran backup quarterback — specifically Jackson. Seattle’s thought for the last four seasons has been if Wilson were to get hurt, Jackson was a proven former starter (for the Seahawks and Vikings) who could win a game or two.
But after Wilson finished his fourth season in the NFL without missing a practice, let alone a game, the Seahawks let the 33-year-old Jackson leave as a free agent when his contract ended in January. They didn’t draft any QBs. Instead, they signed Boykin with a $15,000 inducement that is high in this league for undrafted free agents.
Then, as general manager John Schneider was in touch with Jackson’s agent on possibly bringing Jackson back for 2016, the quarterback was arrested in Florida last month for allegedly pointing a loaded gun at a woman believed to be his wife. The state attorney’s office there reportedly dropped the aggravated-assault charge against Jackson. Yet he remains a free agent.
But now, the Seahawks may not feel the need to call.
Boykin has been impressive in spring minicamps and this month’s training camp. Not only has he shown a strong arm and Wilson-esque athleticism and ability to extend plays, Boykin is also showing signs of mastering the offense’s pre-snap calls and next-level understanding.
Now, Carroll has become intrigued by having a backup in the same style as Wilson; Jackson was more of a drop-back, step-and-throw passer.
“Something good every day. Really, he’s handling it,” Carroll said of Boykin. “He is in command of the huddle. He has got a terrific physical ability. He can throw. He can run. He can do all that stuff in similar style. He can do the same things that we try to do with Russ.
“He has got the makeup, it appears, and I am really excited about him. We know, we have watched him play enough, he’s got football kind of playmaking abilities. He is always able to make things happen and in a very similar fashion as Russell (Wilson0 did. We’re very confident that he has a chance to help us.”
Wednesday during a red-zone scrimmage, he noticed a blitz imminent up the middle. He stepped back, changed the line’s protection call with an audible, then threw outside right to the “hot” receiver at the sideline, newly signed tight end Clayton Echard. Boykin ensured a six-yard gain to the goal line instead of a sack back near the 20.
What’s helped Boykin is in the latter half of last season, the Seahawks required their quarterbacks to get rid of the ball more quickly after the snap. That was a change offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and line coach Tom Cable made after Wilson got sacked 31 times in his first seven games.
The idea is to take some of the onus off the offensive line that was new in key places last year and is likely to have new blockers in all five positions this season. Throw quicker, lessen the need to pass protect for very long.
That’s the same way Boykin played at TCU. Shotgun snap and quick throws.
How much has he grown since those May minicamps and organized team activities?
“A lot, man,” Boykin said. “And most of it came from watching film and just learning from Russ, honestly. I mean, he’s a guy I just try to stay in his hip pocket and learn from everything he does. Because he’s one of those guys who leads by example. He will lead you in the right direction.
“I’ve made huge strides from rookie minicamp to today, just in gaining team trust and chemistry, getting guys in and out of the huddle and getting them to the right spot so they will know what to do.”
Carroll said Boykin can run the entire offense Saturday — no limitations.
We’ll get ample chance to see the first results, to see if these Seahawks really may enter the regular season with an undrafted rookie as their No. 2 quarterback.
“He can do everything, no hesitation…,” Carroll said of Boykin. “Some things he won’t do as well as others, but he’s been exposed to the whole offense and he’s handled every aspect of it.
“Tre has done really well and he’s impressed us in all of the ‘Can the new guy handle it? Can he hold up the integrity in the huddle?’ and all this stuff. He’s been great at that. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play. He’s going to play a lot, and we’re looking for some good things.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle