SEATTLE — Pete Carroll isn’t making a change at quarterback after Geno Smith’s second uneven performance in as many starts as Russell Wilson’s injury replacement.
Carroll said as much on his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show Tuesday morning when asked if Smith is still the Seahawks’ starter for this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Sure,” he said a day after the Seahawks fell to 2-5 with a 13-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “Yeah, he is. And we’re counting on him to just keep getting better and us to play better around him.”
Carroll said Smith has been “solid” and called it a “phenomenal accomplishment” to protect the ball as well as he has in the two-plus games he’s played since Wilson injured his finger in the second half of Seattle’s loss 26-17 to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. But he made it clear that the ninth-year veteran needs to do a better job of avoiding unnecessary sacks.
“He’s managing the game well,” Carroll said. “I would like him to get the football out, be more open to throw the ball away. We talked about it in the locker room after the game. Sometimes those situations happen so fast, and to make that declaration to give up on the play is something that takes experience. That experience for Geno right now, it’s not quite settled in the way he needs to be satisfied with, ‘I’ve got to throw the ball away, we’ve got to punt the football.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that. We took two or three sacks last night that we shouldn’t have taken.”
Wilson has to miss at least one more game before he’s eligible to come off injured reserve. With the Seahawks on their bye after the Jacksonville game, the earliest Wilson could return is in Week 10 at the Green Bay Packers.
The only other quarterback on their 53-man roster is Jacob Eason, a second-year player they claimed off waivers last week. Seattle has two quarterbacks on its practice squad in Jake Luton and Danny Etling. Luton, also a second-year player, made three starts as a rookie. Neither Eason nor Etling have started an NFL game.
Smith completed 12 of 22 passes for 167 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions Monday night. He was sacked five times, with two coming on consecutive plays during the Seahawks’ final drive. Another sack on third down earlier in the fourth quarter pushed them back 11 yards, leading to a 53-yard field-goal try that Jason Myers missed.
Since taking over for Wilson, Smith has completed 45 of 71 attempts for 507 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. That came late against the Rams, when Tyler Lockett fell down before Smith’s throw arrived. Smith lost a fumble in overtime of Seattle’s 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week after helping the Seahawks rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit.
Monday night’s loss was the Seahawks’ third straight. In all three, they’ve had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes of regulation or overtime and failed to do so.
They’re now five games back of the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West standings, and they’re three games under .500 for the first time since 2011.
“We have to keep battling because it’s so close,” Carroll said. “We have to just keep clawing and scratching and we’ve got to keep building the game around Geno and making sure that he can function at a high level.”
Carroll said defensive back Marquise Blair fractured his kneecap Monday night and will “have to get that cleaned up.” Blair had been splitting nickelback duties with Ugo Amadi, who figures to take over that role. Carroll said he’s counting on defensive end Darrell Taylor (neck) and left guard Damien Lewis (shoulder) to play against Jacksonville after both were inactive Monday night.