Will the last healthy cornerback in Seahawks training camp please stand up?
Check that: Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant are standing. Tall.
Artie Burns became the third first-team cornerback to get hurt the last two weeks Tuesday. Burns injured his groin early in one-on-one drills against wide receivers early in practice. He had been the only cornerback to start in every one of the first 10 practices of camp.
Coach Pete Carroll didn’t immediately know how long Burns may be out.
Sidney Jones remains out indefinitely with a concussion he got in practice taking on a block last Wednesday. Carroll said Tuesday it will be a couple more days before the team knows more about Jones’ progress.
Tre Brown remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He hasn’t practiced since knee surgery ended his rookie season in November. Carroll said Brown is “making progress” but that it will be “some time still” before the team’s second of three draft choices in 2021 joins practices.
Jones and Brown started last season for Seattle.
Backup cornerback John Reid is also out with a groin injury.
Amid all the hurt around them, Woolen and Bryant are prospering.
The rookie draft picks were the starting cornerbacks for most of Tuesday’s practice. They are got paired with the starting defense for some of Saturday’s mock-game scrimmage at Lumen Field.
Tuesday, Bryant got his first work inside as a match-up nickel defensive back against slot receivers. Carroll said coaches have been talking to him about that for some time, to expand the possibilities of getting him on the field.
The injuries outside at cornerback may limit how much Bryant plays inside at nickel, for now.
Woolen, 6 feet 4 with 4.26-second speed in the 40-yard dash, has constantly denied veteran receivers DK Metcalf and Marquise Goodwin position on patterns deep down field. Tuesday, Woolen stayed with Metcalf into the end zone on perhaps the toughest throw to defend, a back-shoulder throw behind him from Geno Smith. Woolen broke up the pass with perfect positioning and timing.
Later, in 11-on-11 scrimmaging in the middle of the field, Metcalf got past Woolen, by two steps, for the first time in camp on a go route down the left sideline. Drew Lock’s long pass was onto Metcalf’s hands, but he dropped it.
Woolen is loving the experience.
“Honestly, it’s just pretty cool because you are playing with guys you usually see on TV or play with on Madden,” he said. “So being out there with them and just learning new things from them and learning how much communication goes into playing football, it feels good to be out there with them.”
Carroll said Bryant and Woolen are going to play extensively Saturday in Seattle’s first preseason game, at Pittsburgh.
“Those two guys, they’ve been doing it,” Carroll said.
“They uniquely have qualities that are really very exciting, now. Coby has been all over the place. He’s made plays in the running game, the passing game. He’s been very effective. He made another play in the scrimmage at Lumen. He’s doing well. Shows a lot of flexibility and a lot of poise. Really. I’m not at all concerned about him playing a lot in this game.
“Tariq has been really, really impressive. He’s been so consistent against our fastest guys. He’s been able to hold up. He’s had a lot of reps with Marquise, and I respect the work that he’s gotten done there.”
Carroll said he hasn’t seen Woolen tackle yet. But it’s telling the coach made a point to say he’s gone back to Woolen’s college game films from the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he converted from wide receiver to cornerback in 2019.
“To try to gain some insights on what we are going to get,” Carroll said.
It was as if Carroll is envisioning what tackling will look like if — or, more to the point, when — Woolen gets substantial playing time right away in the regular season that begins Sept. 12.
Woolen will also play a lot in Pittsburgh.
“We are going to see how far these guys can take it,” Carroll said. “This is a really nice looking pair of guys, now. We are very fortunate.”