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Originally published September 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 6, 2008 at 12:28 AM

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Seahawks to start rookie at defensive end

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson, the Seattle Seahawks' first-round draft pick, earned the starting job with a good training camp and exhibition season, and he's set to become the first Seahawks rookie to start at defensive end in Week One since another first-round pick, Jeff Bryant, in 1982. The last rookie to open the season as a starter for Seattle was Jackson's former USC teammate, Lofa Tatupu, in 2005.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Lawrence Jackson is a rookie, about to play in his first NFL regular-season game.

But ask the Seahawks defensive end if he feels like a rookie.

"No," Jackson said. "I constantly get reminded that I'm a rookie. There's times where I feel inexperienced. But the guys have helped me kind of catch up on a lot of stuff."

The Seahawks' first-round draft pick earned the starting job with a good training camp and exhibition season, and he's set to become the first Seahawks rookie to start at defensive end in Week One since another first-round pick, Jeff Bryant, in 1982.

The last rookie to open the season as a starter for Seattle was Jackson's former USC teammate, Lofa Tatupu, in 2005.

"He came in, he's a very talented guy, a No. 1 draft choice, and he didn't do anything to make us say, 'Hey, we don't feel good about this,' " Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said of Jackson. "He did everything right, so he's going to start."

The Seahawks will treat the defensive-end position like they normally do, rotating players depending on fatigue or for a defensive set. Jackson will start, but Darryl Tapp — whom Jackson overcame for the starting job — will see action.

Jackson, though, has a role in the team's nickel package, when he slides inside to play nose guard as the Seahawks add an extra defensive back.

"People say, 'How do you feel about your first game?' and I say, 'Well, it's my fifth game,' " Jackson said. He saw action in all of the Seahawks' exhibition contests. "Being a rookie, I can't tell the difference between preseason and regular season. So I put all I had into the preseason and prepared like it was a regular game."

Jackson will line up against Buffalo left tackle Langston Walker, a behemoth at 6 feet 8, 366 pounds. Jackson's quickness, though, could give him an advantage in pass rushing.

If Jackson has anything going for him, it would be knowing what it's like to play in big games. USC always had plenty of TV exposure.

"The spotlight doesn't bother him," Seahawks defensive-line coach Dwaine Board said. "He's been there before. He knows how to handle that.

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"He understands football. He understands when he has to drop in coverage. He has a great feel for that. He has a natural understanding of where his next block is coming from."

Jackson doesn't think he'll be nervous. Not like he was for his first game at USC.

"They had this little countdown clock that started 24 hours before [the game] and I think that made me more nervous than anything," he said.

Holmgren has never been big on starting rookies, especially at the beginning of a season.

"There's a lot on their shoulders," Holmgren said. "And they will make — as good as they are, and as smart as they are and all that stuff — there will be times when something will happen and you'll go, 'Why did that happen?' or 'How did that happen?' And it was because we're playing with young people.

"But if you believe in the player like we believe in these guys, then you kind of live with it. And hopefully it doesn't hurt you too much."

The best piece of advice Jackson has received from his more experienced teammates? Stay low, use your hands and just go out and play football, he said. Jackson has also had to digest film and game planning this week at a new level.

"When they drafted me, I was brought here to play football. Whether it's a rookie year, fifth year, fourth year, I feel like my responsibility is the same," Jackson said. "If you really understand what they [coaches] are trying to tell you, you can get the most out of it and it will help you get an extra step or two on the field."

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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