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Seahawks 2022 Training Camp Preview: Will Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas Make History as Day One Starters? – Sports Illustrated

The Seahawks' 2022 offseason can only be characterized as a transformative one with the roster undergoing immense changes on both sides of the football. Amid this franchise shakeup, the offensive line wasn't exempt from the turnover.
After rolling with veterans Duane Brown and Brandon Shell as their starters at the tackle spots during the past two seasons, Seattle decided to initiate a youth movement in the trenches. Rather than re-sign either veteran or sign another player in free agency, general manager John Schneider invested a pair of draft picks in the first three rounds on Mississippi State's Charles Cross and Washington State's Abraham Lucas, two of the premier pass protectors in college football a year ago.
With Brown and Shell still unsigned and most likely not returning, the Seahawks look poised to kick off training camp with the youngest, most inexperienced tackle group in the NFL. After making five starts to close out his rookie season in Shell's place, second-year blocker Jake Curhan stands out as the "elder statesman" in a group featuring three players who have yet to play a single snap in the league.
Playing in a rugged NFC West division featuring All-Pro rusher Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Leonard Floyd, and of course, future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald, starting two rookie tackles right off the bat may not seem like an ideal development. But given the lack of experience on Seattle's roster at the position and the obvious talent both Cross and Lucas possess, as indicated by coach Pete Carroll, they will be given every opportunity to carve out an immediate starting role.
"The tackles, to nail both those guys, both those guys have a chance to play and they're competing. They'll be competing to start," Carroll said after the conclusion of Seattle's mandatory minicamp last month. "When they come back to camp, if they hold their own and they make the right progress, they have a chance to start for us, which is huge. That would be huge. I don't know that they will, but they've got a chance and they give us every indication that they have what it takes to do that to this point."
If the Seahawks do start Cross and Lucas in Week 1, they will make history by becoming only the third NFL team since the AFL/NFL merger to start two rookie tackles in the season opener. Most recently, the Jaguars started first-round pick Eugene Monroe and second-round pick Eben Britton right out of the gate in 2009. Back in the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Cardinals also threw rookies Luis Sharpe and Tootie Robbins into the fire as day one starters.
In those two prior instances, Jacksonville finished dead last in the AFC South with a 7-9 record, while St. Louis snuck into the playoffs with a 5-4 record before getting blasted by Green Bay in the wild card round.
Looking back at how both franchises fared long-term by starting two rookie tackles, Monroe started 62 games for the Jaguars in four-plus seasons. While he never played in a Pro Bowl, Pro Football Focus handed him overall grades of 80.0 or better three times and likely didn't receive the recognition he deserved. Injuries derailed Britton's career after a quality rookie season and he was out of the league after the 2014 season. Neither player played in a playoff game in Jacksonville.
As for the Cardinals, though the franchise didn't make it back to the playoffs after 1982, Sharpe started 189 games in 13 seasons and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl along with a pair of Second-Team All-Pro selections. Robbins turned in an excellent career for a fourth-round pick as well, starting 121 games in 10 seasons before wrapping up with two seasons as a starter for the Packers.
Like any rookie, even as a blue chip prospect selected in the top 10, Cross faces a significant learning curve entering the league. In particular, he played in a pass-happy Air Raid offense under coach Mike Leach over the past two seasons and while he only allowed 16 pressures on more than 700 pass blocking reps against SEC competition, questions persist about his ability to fire out of a three-point stance and excel as a run blocker in a pro-style offense.
The same concerns have been raised for Lucas, who also started his college career playing for Leach before transitioning to a Run N' Shoot offense during his final two years with the Cougars. In that scheme, he didn't surrender a single sack in pass protection as a senior, but he admitted to reporters at the NFL combine that aside from special teams, he never worked out of a three-point stance prior to receiving a crash course at the Senior Bowl.
However, new offensive line coach Andy Dickerson, who was elevated to replace Mike Solari back in February, didn't echo those same apprehensions when asked about Cross and Lucas acclimating to the NFL. Having watched both players extensively on film and breaking down their movement skills as well as technique, he was able to visualize each of them being successful in Seattle's offense and didn't share concerns about their ability to block from three-point stances.
"Air raid, they still run and they still throw. There's more passes, but they both ran, had the run game," Dickerson said. "When you're evaluating those guys, you see them move and see how their bodies move so you try to project how that would cover, show up in the NFL in our different schemes. At the end of the day, you're still blocking a guy in either protection or the run game."
While Carroll won't publicly hand him the job right off the bat in training camp, Cross already looks to have a starting job cemented at left tackle as the franchise's new blindside protector. He received the vast majority of first-team reps during Seattle's offseason program and former undrafted rookie Greg Eiland isn't a threat to beat him out. After being selected ninth overall, barring an injury, it would be a huge surprise if anyone else started in Week 1.
The same likely can't be said for Lucas, though the third round pick did receive extensive first-team reps during the closing stages of OTAs as well as mandatory minicamp and may be the favorite to win the job. Curhan and 2020 sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe could turn the competition into a legitimate three-way battle with each player having a real chance to start against the Broncos in Week 1.
When asked about who holds the edge at right tackle heading into camp, Dickerson didn't offer any intel and indicated all five jobs will be handed to the five players who display the most consistency up front.
"We're looking for guys who are smart, tough, and reliable, and we have all those guys in the building," Dickerson said. "It's just going to be when the competition comes and we get through the training camp and the preseason games, who's the person, who are those five that we think are going to make the best offensive line. Not just the right tackle, but who are those guys who've earned those jobs?”
With training camp set to open on July 27, it remains to be seen whether or not the Seahawks will become the third team to follow this path. After getting stronger and working on technique this offseason, Curhan and Forsythe will be formidable competitors for Lucas, who will have his hands full trying to wrangle a starting job away from either of them next month. Even with his job all but secured, Cross will endure his share of "welcome to the league, rookie" moments too.
On one hand, sending the rookies to the wolves creates a sense of hope and optimism about the future. If they succeed, Seattle could be set at the two tackle spots for the next decade as Arizona once was with Sharpe and Robbins. But at the same time, it's frightening thinking about untested youngsters potentially getting dominated by Bosa, Mack, and other talented pass rushers week in, week out. It's a risky roll of the dice personnel-wise.
But while Cross and Lucas will undoubtedly experience growing pains as they gain experience in a pro-style system against NFL talent, going through those lumps on the field likely will be more beneficial to their development and the future of the franchise in the long run. In ideal circumstances, rather than winning their jobs by default, both will earn their jobs by outperforming the competition and demonstrating they are indeed ready for the rigors of playing on Sundays.


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