The Seahawks took a lot of heat for drafting Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett with their first two picks this year.
The media ripped them for using the 63rd overall pick on Clark, who was kicked off Michigan’s team last year after he was involved in a domestic disturbance. And some were dubious of Seattle’s move to trade four draft picks to take Lockett six spots after they drafted Clark.
Clark clearly has to keep his nose clean off the field for eternity, but the performances by him and Lockett on Friday were a nice little sampler of what Pete Carroll and John Schneider expected when they drafted them.
Lockett returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown and finished with 188 yards on four kick returns and 18 yards on his only punt runback in Seattle’s 22-20 loss to the Denver Broncos. Clark, meanwhile, was a monster along the defensive front all game, finishing with a game-high nine tackles and a forced fumble.
As Carroll said after the game, “That’s a beautiful first message they sent us.”
Neither performance should come as a surprise. Both rookies have stood out all training camp, and they figure very prominently into the team’s plans this season.
Their performances overshadowed any of the negatives from Seattle’s loss: the poor play of the offensive line, the often porous run defense, the injuries to backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (ankle) and wide receiver Chris Matthews (shoulder).
It was almost like an unspoken contest between Lockett and Clark to see which rookie could one-up the other.
Lockett started it out, busting off a 46-yard kick return on his second attempt — after Seattle held Denver to a 28-yard field goal on its first series. His return set up Seattle for its own field goal.
Then Clark started the next defensive series with a tackle for loss while showing good action on the pass rush. The Hawks’ second defense held Brock Osweiler and the Broncos to another field goal.
After the defense held the Broncos to yet another field goal, giving them a 9-3 lead, Lockett did what he was drafted to do: score.
Lockett caught the ball three yards into the end zone and cut up the left sideline, outrunning Denver’s coverage and slipping past the kicker.
“I made a choice to bounce it on the outside, and luckily it all worked out,” Lockett told reporters. “After that, it was just kinda ‘don’t get caught.’ Luckily (the kicker) missed, and I was able to celebrate with my teammates.”
Carroll was so excited about the play that he failed to get out of the way of field judge Eugene Hall, who collided with the coach and knocked them both down. That drew a penalty for sideline interference.
Carroll joked that he missed the final 20 yards of Lockett’s touchdown run, obviously because he was on his back. Asked if Hall said anything to him, Carroll cracked, “He didn’t apologize to me, no.”
Lockett and Clark sure had nothing to apologize about.
Clark dominated the first series of the second half, teaming with T.Y McGill and D’Anthony Smith on consecutive plays to stuff runs and then running down running back Monte Ball from behind on a dumpoff pass, forcing a punt.
He continued to dominate Denver’s third-string offense throughout the second half, proving his place is really with Seattle’s starters.
Asked if he was surprised to play pretty much the entire game, he said, “I just go with the flow. If it happens, it happens, If it don’t, it don’t. At the end of the day, I’m a football player. I don’t complain about playing the game, because when I was out (at Michigan) I wanted to play the game.”
It was a great effort by a guy who clearly already knows how to play the game at the NFL level.
Carroll was happy about both Clark and Lockett.
“Lock did a great job tonight. He lit it up on kickoff and punt returns. It was great to see that,” he said. “We all know that’s exactly what we were hoping to see. He looked very special tonight.
“I thought Frank Clark looked very good, too. (He was) really active, running all around. So we’re happy about the young guys coming out and doing some good things for us.”