SEATTLE – Fresh from the shower in the Seahawks locker room Sunday afternoon, and wearing only his gray WSU shorts, Abe Lucas was asked if he had watched Washington State’s heartbreaking loss to Oregon the day before.
“It is what it is,” the rookie right tackle said. “They did some good stuff but they’ve got to finish.”
Lucas, apparently something of an existential philosopher, used the same phrases to summarize his feelings about the Seahawks’ 27-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Lumen Field on Sunday. It was what it was, and that wasn’t entirely good.
For a guy just starting his NFL career, Lucas has a precocious grasp of the importance of closing out an opponent.
Atlanta was the kind of foe they needed to defeat this year, when wins are expected to be hard to come by. Now 1-2, the Hawks go on the road for games at Detroit and New Orleans.
But there is consolation to be had. If a professional team is not able to win now, they should, at the minimum, be building toward winning in the near future. Abe Lucas looks like a substantial part of that for the Seahawks.
A third-round draft pick, Lucas already looks like a full-grown, ready-made NFL right tackle. He looks solid and efficient. Nobody is coming in and steam-rolling him or fooling him on blitzes or stunts.
On one indicative play in the first half, outside linebacker Arnold Ebiketie executed a twist with a defensive end. Lucas, balanced and patient, held his ground until Ebiketie, speedy at 250 pounds, tried to sneak through the gap.
Lucas shoved him like little kid, sending him flying into the pile. He then turned at the other Falcon in the stunt and just stonewalled him, giving Lucas a rare two-fer on one play.
“He’s a very talented guy,” said right guard Gabe Jackson, a veteran of nine seasons in the NFL. “He’s still growing but you can see the growth in him; he’s taking coaching and working hard. I’m really excited to see what his future holds because he’s going to be a helluva player.”
Lucas chuckled when a reporter suggested he looked comfortable in the game.
“Sometimes, yeah, other times it’s painful,” he said. “The biggest thing is to continue to build so that I can get as comfortable as possible, because you go against some really phenomenal players on the defensive side of the ball every week.”
For the most part, Lucas looked strong against San Francisco’s Nick Bosa last week, certainly for a rookie, but what he called a “mental error” – an illegal downfield block – caused a 52-yard completion to receiver D.K. Metcalf to be nullified.
“It’s my job, and I screwed up and I’m learning from it,” he said. “To my mind, if you win, you did some good stuff and if you lose you did some bad stuff. We have to be able to finish regardless who we’re playing and what their record is. The thing I’m figuring out about the NFL, any team can win or lose any Sunday.”
I would say Lucas is selling himself a little short. The Seahawks have spent quite a bit of high-round draft capital on the right tackle position in this century, Chris McIntosh (first round, 2000), James Carpenter (first, 2011), Justin Britt (second, 2014) and Germain Ifedi (first round, 2016).
Having watched all of those tackles struggle early in their rookie seasons, I’d say that Lucas is playing much better, much quicker, than any of those players. Add first-round pick Charles Cross starting at left tackle, and the Seahawks line could be solidly anchored for the next decade.
“I don’t know if anything really has been a surprise so far,” Lucas said. “I used to be in school, of course, so there’s no classes now. The football operations building is my office. I go in and sit at my desk and study it and then go to practice every single day.”
Nutrition, injury prevention, etc., are all part of the expanding focus for a rookie making the transition to the pros. One has to think of every possible edge when Nick Bosa and the like are in a track stance only a few inches across the line.
Former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch advised young players to “take care of y’all’s mentals and y’all’s bodies and y’all’s chickens.”
Lucas offered his own translation on that concept.
“As dehumanizing as it sounds, your body is your product,” Lucas said. “And you have to take care of your product to make sure it can be worth something down the road.”
The game for an NFL lineman is about far more than just blocking and learning the playbook. The fact that Lucas has a handle on the complexities already has put him on sound footing three games into his young and promising career.
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