The Seahawks’ seemingly endless search for a backup quarterback to Russell Wilson — a role that has been held by five different players the past five seasons — found them in Houston Saturday scouting XFL standout P.J. Walker as he led the Roughnecks to a 32-23 win over the Seattle Dragons.
ABC announcer Steve Levy mentioned during the opening of Saturday’s telecast that the Seahawks had scouts in attendance to check out Walker, who has become the early sensation of the fledgling league in leading the Roughnecks to a 5-0 start.
The Seahawks do not have any quarterback under contract for the 2020 season other than Wilson. Last year’s backup, Geno Smith, is now an unrestricted free agent. Seattle went with just two QBs last season after Smith beat out Paxton Lynch for the backup job in the preseason.
Walker has proven a perfect fit so far for the run-and-shoot offense of June Jones, having completed 92 of 147 passes for 987 yards and 12 touchdowns — leading the XFL in both categories — and two interceptions heading into Saturday’s game against Seattle.
Walker then threw for a season-high 351 yards against the Dragons, completing 27 of 38 passes for three touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown — as well as losing a fumble that Seattle turned into a score.
Walker, who turned 25 last month, played at Temple University where he became a starter as a freshman and led the Owls to a 10-4 record as a senior in 2016.
He went undrafted in 2017 but was then signed by the Colts and spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons on and off the Colts’ practice squad (current Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was the Colts’ QB coach in 2017). Walker was waived by the Colts last September and then signed with the XFL and was allocated to Houston in October.
It was reported that the Steelers inquired about signing Walker last October but the XFL blocked the signing.
However, Walker would be eligible to sign with an NFL team following the completion of Houston’s season. The XFL will play its championship game on April 26, a day after the conclusion of the NFL draft.
Walker, listed at 6 foot, 207 pounds, has also shown good mobility throughout his career and had 104 yards on 17 carries in the first four games of the season for Houston, as well as a touchdown.
The Seahawks have had something of a merry-go-round at backup quarterback since moving on from Tarvaris Jackson following the 2015 season.
Jackson, who was Seattle’s starter in 2011, the year before Wilson was drafted, returned in 2013 to back up Wilson and held that spot for three seasons.
Seattle then signed Trevone Boykin as the backup in 2016 and then Austin Davis in 2017, but with Boykin still in the organization on the practice squad. Seattle released Boykin in March 2018 after he was arrested on a domestic-violence charge and then traded for Brett Hundley prior to the 2018 season to hold the backup job after deciding that rookie Alex McGough — who was drafted in the seventh round that year — was not yet ready for the job.
McGough spent the 2018 season on the practice squad but decided to sign with Jacksonville in 2019 while Hundley signed with Arizona.
That compelled Seattle to sign Lynch and Smith last offseason to compete for the backup job with Smith winning. But Smith, who turns 30 in October, could be looking for a place where he’d have a chance to win a starting job while the Seahawks may also be looking for someone younger to keep around for a few years.
The one tough selling point for the Seahawks when it comes to their backup QB job, though, is that they have basically never needed one since Wilson arrived in 2013 (and conversely, it hasn’t made much sense for the Seahawks to devote much salary to a backup QB with Wilson in place and now making an average of $35 million a year).
Wilson has missed only two plays due to injury during that time having started all 128 games of his Seattle career, the seventh-longest streak for a QB in NFL history and second among active players behind the 224 of Philip Rivers.
Wilson has played every snap the past two seasons and has not missed a snap due to injury since having to come out for one play in a game at Arizona in 2017 when he was taken to the sidelines after being hit in the jaw.
Walker got off to a rough start against the Dragons Saturday throwing a pass on the first series that could have been intercepted and then losing a fumble on the second series.
But he got the offense going later in the half, throwing a touchdown pass in the second quarter and a two-point conversion as Houston rallied to tie the game at 14 at halftime after the Dragons took a quick 14-0 lead.
Interestingly, the Dragons’ quarterback for the game was B.J. Daniels, who was with the Seahawks off and on from 2013 to 2015, on the 53-man roster for five games in 2014 when he served as a third QB behind Wilson and Jackson.