RENTON — As the quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Geno Smith rages on and captures the bulk of interest at Seattle Seahawks training camp, it’s easy to forget there’s a third member of their QB room.
It’s a familiar name — Jacob Eason — in a familiar place.
“I’ve been in a few situations like this,” he said this past week.
Eason, though just 24, has seen quarterback competitions from every conceivable angle. At the University of Georgia, he won the job as a freshman, only to get supplanted by Jake Fromm his sophomore year after suffering a knee injury. That led to a transfer to Washington, where Eason beat out Jake Haener in a tight camp battle in 2019. And after getting drafted by Indianapolis in the fourth round in 2020 as a potential “quarterback of the future,” Eason became a quarterback of the Colts’ past when they waived him in October 2021. Eason couldn’t gain traction in a crowded room that included Carson Wentz, veteran Brett Hundley and rookie Sam Ehlinger.
The Seahawks, the team Eason grew up rooting for in Lake Stevens, swooped in and signed the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder to be their developmental quarterback behind, at the time, Russell Wilson and Smith.
The dynamics changed dramatically in March when Wilson was traded to Denver for, among others, Lock. That left the Seahawks’ QB job wide open for the first time in a decade. Eason is well aware that his role in this Lock-Smith competition is a peripheral, supportive one — but he’s embracing it.
“Just like Geno said to media the other day, he’s got Drew’s back, and Drew’s got his, and I got both their backs, too,” he said. “I think it’s a great dynamic we’ve got going on, and everybody cares and appreciates each other. But we’re all pushing each other to make each other better, too.
“That’s the beauty of playing quarterback — there’s only one guy that can play,” he added. “So when you’re one of the other guys, it’s about, what can I do to make myself better each day, whether it’s hanging out after walk-throughs or after practice and working on my game, and not focusing as much on what’s going on in the bigger picture.”
Indeed, our conversation came after Eason had stayed to work with assistant quarterback coach Kerry Joseph on his footwork, the last player left on the field after everyone else had gone in for lunch. Eason needs to seize every chance he can, because there aren’t many snaps left for him as the coaching staff homes in on Smith and Lock.
Eason said he’s excited about Saturday’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh, where he might see late action, though the coaches primarily want to take long looks at Lock and Smith. Virtually all of Eason’s NFL experience has come in the preseason, including two starts in 2020 as Wentz battled a foot injury. Eason went 41 for 62 for 389 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and was unable to lock down the backup job. The lone regular-season action of Eason’s career came in the second game of last season against the Rams when he was 2 for 5 for 25 yards with one interception in five snaps of a 27-24 loss. He hadn’t played in his rookie season while backing up Philip Rivers.
Last year, Eason was the Seahawks’ third-string and scout-team quarterback after his arrival in Seattle. The Seahawks gave him a vote of confidence, of sorts, by not bringing in any competition (other than Levi Lewis during rookie minicamp) for the third-string role this year after coach Pete Carroll had indicated they planned to do so. The Seahawks know if they waive Eason, with his prototypical frame and strong arm, he’ll likely be claimed. So he could remain on the squad as the third QB.
Eason, of course, would one day love to get his own legitimate shot to win a quarterback battle. He was asked if there was a success story of a QB in his role that he uses for motivation.
“Not necessarily,” he replied. “I was a fourth-rounder. I know the Tom Brady story, last-pick-type thing. But I don’t really focus on those type of things. I try to tackle each day, and whatever is on my agenda that day specifically, I’m going to go attack it.”
Eason said that in that day’s team meeting, Carroll had conveyed a message about the importance of optimism, and how it can help manifest good outcomes if you believe in them. It’s a mindset he’s trying to embrace.
“I understand the situation I’m in, and I’m just staying optimistic, staying engaged and continuing to learn,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s about being ready and being a great teammate. I’m still a quarterback, so I can still continue to be a leader if there’s younger guys who need this or that.
“If I’m a scout-team guy, then help the team get better, get ready for Sundays. If I’m a backup, I’m a backup, but there’s always opportunities to help other guys out and continue to be engaged and be a leader. So, the role doesn’t change much. You’ve still got to be ready to play. It’s just preparing like I am the guy and helping out any way I can.”
Eason, meanwhile, is thrilled he’s doing it for the Seahawks, an opportunity he calls “surreal.” His career seems to have a knack for bringing him back to Seattle, after starting collegiately in Georgia and professionally in Indy.
“I get to have my folks down every game whenever they want, playing in front of the crowd that I used to be a part of,” he said. “I’ve been a lifelong Seahawks fan, so it’s really special. Obviously, knowing my whereabouts in the area of Seattle, too, is pretty cool, going to school across the pond there. I couldn’t ask for more to be in a better spot with a better group. I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish this year and get this thing rolling.”
As the Seahawks’ competition for the starting QB job heads into the final stretch, Eason has the best seat in the house.