RENTON – For as much success as the Seahawks have had with fifth-round picks, one of them hasn't so much as taken a snap during his first two seasons in Seattle.
Korey Toomer has been an exception in that regard as his NFL career to date has produced zero regular-season appearances and two stints on injured reserve. But now healthy and elevated up the depth chart thanks to injuries in Seattle's linebacker corps, Toomer has looked exceptional.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday that third-year linebacker Korey Toomer (59) has "probably has been the brightest guy of the whole camp." (AP)
That would be a nice endorsement for a highly-drafted rookie let alone someone who to many has become somewhat of an afterthought.
If strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman were home-run picks in the fifth round, Seattle's selection of Toomer out of Idaho in 2012 has to this point seemed like a rare swing and a miss as his first two seasons have been derailed by shoulder and knee injuries.
Toomer, though, has made the most of all that time spent as a spectator, and he's had an opportunity to showcase his development while outside linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith have been out with injuries.
"He's done a fantastic job not being able to be on the field," Carroll said. "We've all been impressed with his knowledge of what's going on ... his effort and the way he's flying around on the field. It shows that he's been really involved when he hasn't been able to. He's gained ground and he's giving himself a tremendous chance to make the team."
Toomer's quickness allowed him to double as a running back during his final college season, and it's what defensive coordinator Dan Quinn says has stood out the most this offseason.
"It shows up at SAM linebacker when he's buzzing to the flat, it shows up when he's blitzing where you can see his initial quickness getting right off the ball," Quinn said.
Seattle has a logjam at linebacker with four starting-caliber players vying for three spots, so any discussion of the impact Toomer could make on defense this season may be premature. More likely is a role on special teams, which Carroll mentioned Monday while saying that Toomer would be covering kickoffs if the season were starting now.
But Toomer doesn't need to look any further than Smith for an example of a linebacker who developed over time into a key contributor with the Seahawks. A seventh-round pick in 2011 who played mainly on special teams as a rookie, Smith started eight regular-season games last year then two more in the playoffs before he was named the MVP of the Super Bowl.
That's not to set unrealistic expectations for Toomer in 2014. Merely making Seattle's 53-man roster will be an accomplishment given how his NFL career has yet to get off the ground. But if this offseason is any indication, Toomer is on the right track.
"That's a lot of ground he's made up and he doesn't seem like a rookie any more," Carroll said. "He seems like a redshirt junior kind of right now, so he's in good shape to compete."