Geno Smith still leading Seattle Seahawks' QB battle, but is Drew Lock gaining ground?

RENTON, Wash. -- Shane Waldron deadpanned his delivery until he couldn't help but crack a smile.

The Seattle Seahawks' second-year offensive coordinator was asked last week whether the team has any timeline for deciding the winner of the quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Drew Lock.

"Uh, Denver," Waldron said, referring to the Seahawks' Sept. 12 season opener on Monday Night Football against the Broncos and Russell Wilson, whom Smith and Lock are vying to replace. "Yes, we do have a plan, though."

The Seahawks have kept mum on that plan, but it has been clear that they're in no hurry to settle on a starter. Because if they were, they'd have already started giving Lock more of the first-team reps necessary to adequately assess him against Smith.

Instead, Smith has gotten almost all of the work with the No. 1 offense while Lock has remained with the twos, occasionally getting a series behind the starting offensive line and/or with the first-team receivers. That was to be expected in the spring, when Lock was still getting his feet wet in a new offense while Smith was back for his second season in Waldron's system and his fourth in Seattle. But it has remained that way through the first two weeks of training camp, even after Lock outperformed Smith in the team's mock game Saturday at Lumen Field.

"They both make plays every day," coach Pete Carroll said a day before the mock game. "I'm watching to see how it swings, if it goes heavy one way, heavy the other way. The guys are doing a nice job ... Geno continues to be on top. He's ahead. He's been in the lead for all the obvious reasons, and he's holding onto it and doing a really good job of battling."

Based on the naked-eye observations, though, it hasn't been all that obvious as to why Smith has remained in the lead. Neither quarterback had distinguished himself until Lock did so Saturday. Before that, both had been equally displaying the arm talent and mobility that made them second-round picks but also the flaws -- occasional lapses in decision-making and accuracy -- that have kept them from holding down starting jobs.

Lock has done the slightly better job of taking care of the ball, even counting the "boneheaded" throw -- as Carroll called it -- he got away with at the end of the first practice, when his ill-advised, back-across-the-field heave fell incomplete. Smith has thrown three interceptions in 11-on-11 periods to Lock's one.

So why has Smith been ahead?

"He's just doing things right," Carroll said Friday. "He handles the system, he's making the checks at the line of scrimmage, he's able to control the protections working with [center Austin Blythe]. Those guys are hitting it really well. And he's just really talented. He's made great throws every day. I'm still looking for them to really come in, and really own it, and put days together where they don't have any negative plays, any plays that they could wish they had back."

The closest thing to that for either quarterback was Lock's performance Saturday. He completed 18 of 27 attempts for 185 yards and a touchdown via a juggling catch in the end zone by a well-covered Cody Thompson. While most of his damage was done on shorter throws, Lock did well to keep the ball out of harm's way and take what the defense was giving him without forcing throws downfield.

Lock said he was "pretty close" to the best version of himself in the first half and that he wanted some plays back in the second half. One was his slight overthrow to rookie receiver Bo Melton on an open deep shot.

The five possessions Lock led ended with two touchdowns, a field goal and two punts. Smith, meanwhile, went 10-of-19 for 94 yards. He got away with an errant deep ball that was nearly picked. His five drives resulted in a touchdown, two field goals and three punts.

Lock's day was even better by comparison when you consider that four of his five possessions came with the No. 2 offense and against the No. 1 defense. Smith got the inverse, playing with the starters on offense and against backup defenders on four of his possessions.

On one play during Lock's drive with the No. 1 offense, he showed the discretion that has sometimes eluded him when he wanted to throw deep but checked the ball down to rookie running back Kenneth Walker III for a short gain when neither DK Metcalf nor Tyler Lockett were open down the field.

Lock went 5-of-5 on that drive before Walker ended it with a touchdown run. He felt he showed his feel for playing quarterback with that kind of success in his lone series with the No. 1 offense despite the limited work he's gotten with that group.

"It's what I wanted to do with those guys," he said. "It's what I wanted to show today. I'm happy I did that."

Carroll offered only vague observations about the quarterbacks' play on Saturday, deferring any assessment of individual performances until he watched the film. He didn't speak to reporters after Sunday's walk-through -- during which Smith got every first-team rep. That seems to suggest Smith will start in this Saturday's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers (4 p.m. ET Saturday, NFL Network).

"As far as the competition, I'm not the one judging all that, so I'll leave it up to the coaches," Smith said after the mock game. "But I think Drew played really well. I will go on record and say I have his back. No matter what, I have Drew Lock's back. I want that to be known. We're teammates, we're competing, but we're in the same offense, we're in the same room and we're going to make each other better."

Lock echoed Smith's sentiment, saying he did that last year in Denver after the Broncos named Teddy Bridgewater their starter.

"That's what that job is," Lock said. "I'd give everything I got for him if that ended up being the case."