RENTON — Asked this weel his thoughts on possibly starting three rookies, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he wouldn’t answer because it would be a de facto confirmation that the team was, in fact, starting three rookies.
“You’ll have to wait and see on who’s playing,” he said.
But if the depth chart released by the Seahawks on Tuesday proves accurate, the Seahawks will indeed start three rookies against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos on Monday.
The three listed as starters are left tackle Charles Cross, right tackle Abraham Lucas and right cornerback Tariq Woolen.
And if all three start, it will be just the second time the Seahawks have started three rookie draft picks in the season opener since 2012, according to official lineups on Pro Football Reference.
That year, Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner and guard J.R Sweezy started against Arizona, a 20-16 loss.
The only other time since then when three draft picks were listed as starters in the first game was 2018 — linebacker Shaquem Griffin, cornerback Tre Flowers and tight end Will Dissly.
But Griffin, starting because KJ. Wright had been injured in the preseason, was benched midway through the 27-24 loss at Denver. He never started another game for the Seahawks.
None of the three rookies listed as prospective starters this year is a surprise.
Cross has manned the left tackle spot since the day he arrived in May after being drafted ninth overall, while Woolen has been a starter most of camp with veteran cornerbacks dealing with injuries. Lucas started the preseason finale against Dallas.
Lucas, a third-round pick out of Washington State, had been competing with second-year player Jake Curhan for the right tackle spot throughout camp. But Curhan injured his elbow against Dallas and has not practiced this week.
Woolen began working with the starters at right corner early in camp after Artie Burns, who entered camp as the starter, suffered a groin injury.
Woolen, a fifth-round pick out of University of Texas-San Antonio, started all three preseason games, and after some rocky moments in the opener at Pittsburgh, acquitted himself well.
The other cornerback listed as a starter is also noteworthy — Michael Jackson — slotted ahead of Coby Bryant and Sidney Jones IV on the left side.
However, Jones might still get the nod there as he returned to practice last week after missing all three preseason games because of a concussion suffered in practice on Aug. 3.
The rest of the depth chart showed no surprises, and as the Seahawks enter their first game week of the season, the cornerback alignment looks to be the only real question.
Still, the possibility of three rookies starting could help validate the lofty reviews Seattle received for its nine-man draft class of 2022, which included three picks acquired in the trade with Denver for Wilson (with another trade then acquiring another pick).
The picks Seattle got for Wilson were Cross, second-rounder Boye Mafe, fifth-round edge rusher Tyreke Smith and seventh-round receiver Dareke Young.
Smith is out for the year after being placed on injured reserve with a hip injury.
But the Seahawks hope to get significant contributions from the other three with Cross a starter, Mafe expected to be a key part of the team’s pass rush rotation and Young having made the roster as one of six receivers.
Lucas and Woolen were taken with original picks. But having the picks from Denver helped Seattle to take some shots at some players in the later rounds, and Woolen in particular is a player the Seahawks might not have targeted if they had not had some additional selections. He was taken a round after Seattle selected Bryant.
And it also validates how much more of an impact Seattle should get from this rookie class than recent seasons.
The Seahawks had just three picks in 2021, due in part to the trade for Jamal Adams, and got just three starts from it — all from cornerback Tre Brown, who appeared on the verge of earning a permanent starting job before suffering a knee injury against Arizona that has him still sidelined. Receiver Dee Eskridge played 10 games in a reserve role and tackle Stone Forsythe played sparingly (14 snaps on offense).
Seattle also had just one full-time rookie draft pick starter in 2020 — guard Damien Lewis — though linebacker Jordyn Brooks started six games and became a full-time starter in 2021.
The Seahawks also had just one immediate starter out of its 11-man 2019 draft class — receiver DK Metcalf. Defensive end L.J. Collier and nickel back Ugo Amadi later emerged as starters, and linebacker Cody Barton is listed as a starter at one inside linebacker spot this season.
Cross, Lucas and Woolen, though, are all players the Seahawks could envision starting Monday and holding down those spots for years, with other rookies such as Mafe, Bryant, running back Ken Walker III and Young playing key roles far into the future.
“We’re making it known to them on what we expect and what we’ve learned over the years and how to help guys keep things in the proper perspective,” Carroll said of preparing rookies to start immediately and in a marquee setting such as “Monday Night Football.” “We want to make sure that we have covered everything that will help us stay clear and poised and at our best.”