SEATTLE – At some point in nearly every season of Pete Carroll’s tenure in Seattle, someone unexpected, or undervalued in another place, finds his way into being an important reason the Seahawks have success.
The Seahawks aren’t unique in finding overlooked players and it could be just for a single game, or a specific package or role. But the frequency by which Seattle unearths these gems has become part of who the Seahawks are year after year.
The latest discoveries appear to be running back J.D. McKissic, cornerback Justin Coleman and defensive end Marcus Smith. Those three were deemed expendable by others. Whether through injuries or earned opportunity, they have already been important additions for the Seahawks.
“I would never say the bottom of the roster,” Carroll said. “I would say guys who have come to us; the new guys in the program.”
The success of the Seahawks will always be foremost due to the play of their stars, as has been the case this season. It’s been Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner or Michael Bennett or Earl Thomas at the core of why Seattle sits at 3-2 at the bye, coming off one of the more important road wins of the past few seasons by knocking off the Rams last weekend.
But throughout Carroll’s tenure, it’s often unsung players that came through. In previous years it’s been the likes of Thomas Rawls, DeShawn Shead and Jermaine Kearse that have been this year’s version of Smith, McKissic or Coleman. Guys that were on the fringes to make a roster who earned prominent roles when given a chance.
“We have always pretty much had the mentality that the next guy is going to do all right,” Carroll said. “We are never really worried about that. I think the indication is to show you why, and here we are again. So we will count on those guys to do a nice job whether they are coming off the bench or starting. We do have good depth and have a roster that we have felt strongly about for some time. I think that kind of shows.”
The latest trio to make a mark all found their way to Seattle with varied histories.
Because of his position, McKissic has a chance to become the most impactful of the three. After being let go by Atlanta and inactive for the first three weeks, McKissic has flashed his skill as a runner and pass catcher in the previous two games. McKissic’s two touchdowns against Indianapolis provided a jolt to Seattle’s lagging offense, and he followed with three receptions in the win over the Rams.
“I’m comfortable. Whatever role they have for me, I have to do my best,” McKissic said. “Special teams, running the ball, catching the ball, I’m just going to do the best I can.”
Coleman was part of New England’s championship roster a year ago even though he was inactive during the postseason. Coleman felt his time with the Patriots was coming to an end when he was traded to Seattle on Sept. 1, nine days before the start of the regular season. Less than six minutes into that first game, Coleman was thrown in as Seattle’s nickel cornerback after Jeremy Lane was ejected.
His role has grown since as Lane has been slowed by injury. He’s also done well at picking up the technique Seattle asks its cornerbacks to play, one that veterans signed by the Seahawks have struggled to learn.
“It’s definitely something different that I wasn’t used to. I try and practice it every single day, every night when I can,” Coleman said. “I watch it over and over what I’m doing wrong. I can tell when I get it right, it’s right. It’s perfect for you to cover a receiver. But when you get it wrong it puts you a little step behind. That’s something I’m working on every day.”
Smith had the highest profile of the three. When he was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Smith was expected to be the next great pass rusher for Philadelphia. Instead, in 37 career games in Philadelphia – with zero starts – Smith had four sacks and was cut loose by the Eagles over the summer.
Already in five games with Seattle, Smith is nearly halfway to his career sacks total. He had 1 1/2 sacks in the Seahawks Week 4 win over Indianapolis, and with uncertainty if Cliff Avril will return from a neck injury, Smith’s role is only going to increase.
“How Pete handles his players and how he allows them to have the opportunity to make something of themselves even if they didn’t have a great start of a career,” Smith said. “I know I didn’t have a great start of a career, but I knew over time eventually I could revamp it and get back to where I want to be.”
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