Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had the exact right words about rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba after Smith-Njigba was back at practice on Tuesday after breaking his wrist a couple of weeks ago and then having surgery a few days after that. Carroll said Smith-Njigba is "a tough kid." And that is certainly true.
Smith-Njiga cracked a small bone in his wrist but had to have what Carroll called "elaborate" surgery to help fix the problem. At the time, Carroll put an estimate on the time Smith-Njigba would miss as 3-4 weeks. This put his return at about the time that the Seahawks would play their first regular season game of 2023. That is on September 10th against the Los Angeles Rams.
But while Smith-Njigba was catching passes on Tuesday, he still might not be able to play in Week 1. He still has a bit of a brace on his wrist but that allows him to catch balls. Where Seattle has to worry about Smith-Njigba's wrist is everywhere else but the act of catching a football.
Seattle Seahawks had Jaxon Smith-Njigba back at practice on Tuesday
Wide receivers, in any system, and not just the Seahawks, have blocking assignments as well. This might come in run support or during a pass play, but a receiver has to be able to use their hands to help keep an opposing defender away from whoever has the ball. If Smith-Njigba cannot keep his hands on a defender, he basically should only be on the field on plays designed to get him the ball.
But then if Smith-Njigba does catch the ball, is his wrist ready to try to keep defenders from tackling him and is his wrist strong enough to be able to take the punishment of being hit hard and then landing on the ground? The hope is that he can, but is there a reason to rush him back on hope alone?
Thankfully, while Smith-Njigba could develop into one of the best receivers in the NFL, he doesn't have to be that now. The Seahawks still have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, of course, and those guys remain options one and two (or two and one - however you view Metcalf and Lockett) for Geno Smith. Plus, Jake Bobo has been decent enough in the preseason to get some looks.
No, Bobo isn't likely as good as Smith-Njigba, but then having Smith-Njigba for most of the season instead of potentially risking him to re-injuring the wrist by rushing him back for Week 1 would be the wise way to go. Or who knows? Maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a bit of Jordyn Brooks in him and can just be a superhero and bounce back in record time.