Hawks’ Charlton eager to turn potential into production

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 1, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

KIRKLAND – Ten rookie cornerbacks have started at least one game this season, and Ike Charlton isn’t one of them. That kind of thing is hard for a second-round draft choice to take.

Especially someone as confident as Charlton.

“Right now, I’m just waiting,” the Seattle Seahawks rookie said earlier this week. “When I get in there, hopefully I’ll get a lot of reps in these next few games. But if not, I’ll just wait until next year.

“Next year, I’m going to the Pro Bowl. That’s how I’m going to prepare.”

Whether or not Charlton has more bark than bite will be on display over the next four weeks. His first NFL start probably won’t come until next season – at the soonest – but at least he’ll begin to see some significant playing time on defense in the near future.

In fact, coach Mike Holmgren said one of his priorities as the Seahawks head into the final month of the season is to see Charlton in game situations. He will be on the field in “nickel” situations this week, along with starters Shawn Springs and Willie Williams.

Charlton is one of a handful of young Seahawks who will be evaluated over the last four games, beginning Sunday at Atlanta. Holmgren isn’t planning to overhaul the starting lineup, but he’d like to get spot looks at some of the untested players on his roster.

Charlton might be the most intriguing. The 52nd overall pick in the April draft, he is the team’s highest choice who has yet to see significant playing time this season. At 205 pounds, he is bigger than every starting cornerback the Seahawks have faced this season except Kansas City’s duo of James Hasty and Pat Dennis.

And Charlton claims to have run the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at a private workout – a time that potentially could have pushed him into the first round of the draft had he duplicated it at the scouting combine (he ran a 4.4 in Indianapolis).

Turning that potential into production is something Charlton has to figure out over these next four weeks.

“He’s gotten better since the beginning of the year,” said Seattle wide receiver Sean Dawkins, whom Charlton faces the most in practice. “He’s become more aggressive, he’s gotten his footwork down better. He’s going to be a good corner. He’s real strong. Once he gets into it and he works hard in the offseason, I think he’ll compete for a starting job.”

With his deep voice and quiet confidence, Charlton has bigger plans than that. But his talk of making the Pro Bowl is still a long ways off.

Playing time has been at a minimum for Charlton for most of his short professional career. After seeing some plays on defense in the season opener – a blowout loss to Miami – Charlton didn’t play cornerback again until Week 6 at Carolina. In between, he paid his rookie dues on special teams.

“I enjoy playing special teams, but I like playing cornerback, going out there and covering guys and making things happen,” said Charlton, who was named first-team All-America by Pro Football Weekly after last season. “It’s kind of hard. This is my first time ever sitting down.”

The last time Charlton saw this much inactivity, he was a true freshman at Virginia Tech, spending his first year of college as a redshirt. By the next fall, he was a valuable reserve who eventually worked his way into the starting role. Over the next two seasons, he started every game for the Hokies, who made it to the 1999 national championship game before suffering their first loss of the season.

After that game, Charlton decided to turn pro. Despite his uneventful rookie year, he hasn’t looked back on that decision.

“I feel I was ready,” Charlton said. “I graduated from school, I played for a national title. I was just ready.

“I feel I can play, and I’ve showed that at the times when I’ve got in the game. I don’t regret that at all.”

Still, Charlton’s rookie season has been hard to take. Seven corners selected after him – Kansas City’s William Bartee, Dallas’ Kareem Larrimore, Cleveland’s Anthony Malbrough, Cincinnati’s Robert Bean, Jacksonville’s Kiwaukee Thomas, Kansas City’s Pat Dennis and New Orleans’ Michael Hawthorne – have all started at some point this year. Charlton has barely played at all.

Charlton’s big break came earlier this week, when the team released veteran nickel back Chris Canty. Part of the reason for the move, Holmgren said, was to give Charlton more playing time so he could be evaluated for the future.

A physical corner, Charlton has been known to bite on receivers’ moves, but he seems to have matured on the practice field.

“He’s got heavy hands,” defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell said. “When he gets a jab, he affects the (pass) route. He just needs to be able to learn the scheme better, and he needs to go ahead and compete on a consistent basis all the time.”

Beginning Sunday, that consistent playing time will be Charlton’s for the taking. The wait is over, and now it’s time for Charlton to show what he can do.

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