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Originally published May 11, 2012 at 8:04 PM | Page modified May 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM

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Starting jobs harder to come by for Seahawks rookies

The Seahawks' depth, talent mean fewer starting positions are available for the team's rookies, who began a three-day minicamp Friday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Seattle's rookies reported for their first day of work under a cloudless sky and their coach's relentless optimism.

The forecast for playing time, however, is significantly more hazy this year.

"Our depth is so much better than a couple years ago," coach Pete Carroll said. "These guys are going to have to fight for their playing time."

That reality stands in sharp contrast to the plug-and-play program Seattle followed in Carroll's first two years in town when first-round picks were starters the first day on the job. That was true for left tackle Russell Okung and free safety Earl Thomas in 2010. It was true for offensive lineman James Carpenter a year ago when he was one of three rookies to start Week 1, along with guard John Moffitt and linebacker K.J. Wright.

The path to playing time is not nearly so clear this year. Maybe first-round pick Bruce Irvin will force his way into the lineup, and perhaps linebacker Bobby Wagner is ready to step in immediately at middle linebacker, but neither of those is a foregone conclusion in Seattle. The Seahawks had a top-10 defense a year ago and lost only one starter in the offseason, middle linebacker David Hawthorne.

There aren't any more openings on offense. Guard Robert Gallery is the only starter Seattle must replace on offense, and the Seahawks also added quarterback Matt Flynn to compete for the starting job though rookie Russell Wilson — the team's third-round pick — looked mighty accurate during his first practice as a Seahawk.

For now, Seattle is trying to figure out where all these rookies fit into the bigger picture.

"We'll see how these guys go," Carroll said. "We can't tell right now — it's too early, but every snap is surely important for them."

Seattle's young legs are certainly faster. Of the 10 players Seattle drafted, the slowest was timed at 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash and that was J.R. Sweezy, a 300-pound defensive lineman from North Carolina State the Seahawks are going to convert to a guard.

Running back Robert Turbin — a veritable Seahulk at 222 pounds — showed great quickness with legs that are surprisingly lean for someone whose biceps could be mistaken for footballs. Linebacker Korey Toomer from Idaho looks very fluid and athletic.

Irvin's speed off the edge, though, really stood out. Twice, he came virtually unblocked he was so quick off the ball. He is a pass-rushing specialist whose immediate role projects to be the one veteran Raheem Brock filled the past two years as a third-down pass rusher in addition to spelling starter Chris Clemons.

"I'm gonna get in where I fit in," Irvin said. "I'm going to come in and work hard every day, and when it's time for me to go in I'm going to make the most out of the situation."

In terms of opportunities, no one had more than Wilson on Friday. The quarterback took every snap of the team drills during Friday's two-hour practice.

"He did really well," Carroll said. "We wore him out."

He hasn't grown in the two weeks since Seattle chose him, standing at 5 feet 11. Well, it's 5-10-5/8 if we're getting picky, but on Friday, he showed incredible accuracy and great confidence throwing the ball, though he also had four passes tipped — one of which was picked off — and two fumbled snaps.

In the past, rookies have worked alongside a team's veterans during the three-day minicamp that follows the draft. Not this year. Under terms of the new collective-bargaining agreement, veterans were not allowed to participate in the camp. Some watched, though. Thomas came out to see a portion of practice. So did receivers Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette.

They watched the new employees get oriented in a practice stocked with Seattle's 10 draft choices, the 10 undrafted rookies signed as free agents and 34 players invited for a three-day tryout.

The players on tryouts ranged from rookies like defensive lineman Renard Williams from Eastern Washington to players who were a year or two removed from college hoping to catch on, like E.J. Savannah, the former Bellevue High graduate and Washington linebacker. Then there was a seven-year veteran, offensive tackle Alex Barron, a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, hoping to find a home in Seattle.

He's just like Seattle's draft picks in a sense, trying to play his way into a role, which is going to be harder this year than it has been recently.

Notes

• Safety Winston Guy, a sixth-round pick of Seattle, is not practicing as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

• Defensive back DeShawn Shead did not practice because of an undisclosed injury.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil

Young workers
Rookie starters under Seahawks coach Pete Carroll:
2010 2011
LT Russell Okung OL James Carpenter
FS Earl Thomas RG John Moffitt
OLB K.J. Wright

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