RENTON — The evidence indicates that Drew Lock is closing the gap a little on Geno Smith in the competition to replace Russell Wilson as Seattle’s starting quarterback.
But for now in the opinion of the person whose opinion matters most — head coach Pete Carroll — Smith remains in the lead.
“Yeah, he’s still going with the ones,” Carroll said after Tuesday’s practice at the VMAC in Renton adding that Smith is “going to start the game this weekend” when the Seahawks play at 4 p.m. PT Saturday at Pittsburgh.
Smith also continues to take most of the snaps behind the No. 1 offensive line in practice.
On Tuesday, he got all but five snaps behind the No. 1 offensive line with Lock getting the other five. Smith also got five snaps behind the No. 2 offensive line with Lock getting the rest.
But as Carroll noted, the Seahawks did more rotating of the starting receivers, tight ends and running backs Tuesday to make sure each quarterback gets enough throws with all of the receivers.
“We are trying to make sure that that balances out just so that the evaluations are evenly set,” Carroll said.
That change in emphasis came in the wake of Saturday’s mock game when Lock had the better statistical day, going 18-27 for 185 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions while Smith was 10 of 19 for 94 yards and no touchdowns.
That came with Lock getting four of his five series working behind the No. 2 offensive line against the No. 1 defense and Smith getting four of five with the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense. Lock led a TD drive with the second team offense against the starting defense.
But if on paper the day seemed a pretty clear win for Lock, Carroll seemed to indicate his evaluation of the film — he had said after the game Saturday that he wanted to wait to review the film before saying anything about how he felt the two QBs played — provided a more nuanced verdict.
Carroll noted that Smith began strong — he completed six of his first eight passes in leading a quick TD drive on his opening possession — before the offense got a little sloppy.
“He’s still doing it,” Carroll said of Smith. “He played well, too. He was really solid. He really started well. Had a couple great drives right off the bat [he led a march to a field goal on his second drive]. In the second half, we weren’t quite as clean with the stuff we were doing. A little raggedy at the line of scrimmage and it showed. But he had a really good start.”
But Carroll also said that Lock had “his most solid performance” and that it could have looked a lot better had Lock not overthrown a wide-open Bo Melton on his final possession for what could have been a 64-yard touchdown.
“He was on time, quick with the football, made good decisions,” Carroll said. “It’s unfortunate he missed the chance on the ball down the middle late in the game — that would have made it a nice little topping to the day’s work. But he was really comfortable and poised.”
That Lock has mostly avoided turnovers in camp has also impressed Carroll. Lock has just one interception in camp in 11-on-11 situations, and Carroll said he has mostly made the right decisions with where to go with the ball following a play on the final snap of the first practice July 27 when Lock made a wild throw across his body from the left side of the field to the right under heavy pressure.
Lock tied for the NFL lead in interceptions thrown in his one season as the full-time starter with Denver in 2020 with 15 and has on several occasions admitted cutting down on turnover-worthy plays is one of his biggest areas of needed improvement.
But Carroll said taking care of the ball hasn’t meant that Lock is “out of whack” in trying to balance limiting turnovers with still trying to make big plays when they are there.
“He had a forced ball on the first day of practice out there, and he hasn’t had one like that since,” Carroll said. “… He’s been really clean for the most part. He hasn’t thrown many bad balls in this camp.”
Lock mostly threw shorter passes Saturday but made a deep attempt on the throw to Melton and also took a shot on what was his only TD, when he tossed it to Cody Thompson on a fade route down the sideline. Thompson was closely covered by Tariq Woolen, who tipped it before Thompson then caught it.
While Carroll said Smith will start against the Steelers — where Smith also started a regular-season game last October in the first of his three starts in place of an injured Wilson — he otherwise declined to say how the QB reps will be divvied up going forward.
But the decision Tuesday to make sure each QB got ample reps with both first- and second-team receivers seemed somewhat telling.
That allowed both to make some plays Tuesday with DK Metcalf, though each also missed on one attempt to complete a deep pass to Metcalf — who got consistently behind the defense all day.
Smith also capped his series with the backup offense by completing about a 30-yard TD pass to Marquise Goodwin on what might have been the best throw of the day.
Carroll said that “it’s going to take us a bit” to balance out the number of throws Smith and Lock get with each group of receivers but that it will be a priority over the next few weeks, not only to create a fair evaluation but also to make sure both QBs develop the needed chemistry with all receivers.
“We did a lot of switching and changing to make sure everybody is getting work with everybody,” Carroll said. “It’s a factor [developing chemistry] and want to make sure that we are really good on it. It’s worked out a little heavier in Geno’s favor to get those guys their work so far. But we’ll pick up on it as we are going and I’m really aware of that. Want to make sure that that’s not a factor that’s out of balance.”