Drew Nowak: Seattle Seahawks new starting center?


Aug 9, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars guard Drew Nowak (64) during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key position battles this off season is at Center.  As soon as Max Unger was traded to New Orleans in the Jimmy Graham deal the question of who will be snapping to Russell Wilson moved…. wait for it……front and center.

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Throughout the early part of the off season the assumption was the Seahawks would sign someone to take Unger’s spot. Then after checking out free agents Stephen Wisniewski and Chris Myers they opted to stay in-house and open up a competition between Patrick Lewis, Lemuel Jeanpierre and……….Drew Nowak.

Drew Nowak?

“Who the @%#& is that?!?!?!?!” said most of you. (Unless, of course, you read my early look at potential deep sleepers 4 months ago.)

When he took most of the first team snaps in mandatory mini camp it hardly caused a stir.

When he opened training camp last week alternating starter reps with Jeanpierre it raised some eyebrows.

Then came these comments from Pete Carroll yesterday and now it’s full-blown Things That Make You Go Hmmmm:

"Drew’s off to a really good start. He’s right in the middle of it. He’s gonna get a great shot, to show us what he can do. Interesting…. another guy from defense to offense, so he’s got the mentality.  We like those defensive guys."

But we shouldn’t really be THAT surprised by this development, should we?  In many ways Nowak is the prototypical Seahawk developmental candidate.  He attended a smaller football school (Western Michigan) and had a lot of success, appearing in 8 games as a true freshman and becoming a full time starter by his senior year.

As…… a Defensive Tackle.

And he was a damned good one at that level.  Earning MAC Defensive Player Of The Year and 3rd team All America honors. He was signed as and UDFA by Jacksonville after the 2012 draft. He spent parts of his first two pro seasons on Injured Reserve and the practice squad, and it was the Jaguars who actually began Nowak’s conversion to the offensive line.  When they released him last August the Seahawks snatched him up and kept him on their practice squad all year.

A lot of attention has been paid recently to the Seahawks approach to their salary structure, and part of what allows them to keep handing out mega-deals to their superstars is their willingness to give opportunities to cheaper players. Players like Nowak appeal to them because they come at a minimum cost, and provide the kind of athletic upside they have shown to be so adept at coaching up.  Tom Cable loves the defensive lineman’s mentality in his offensive linemen, and they were successful in making a similar conversion with J.R. Sweezy, and are in the midst of another such project with newly drafted Kristjan Sokoli.  In Nowak’s case, the Jaguars did Seattle a favor by beginning the conversion, and clearly Cable, Carroll and the rest of the staff like what they see.

I haven’t seen enough of him up close to comment on how he projects at this level from a scouting standpoint, but I obviously trust the Seahawk evaluators. Based on what we’ve heard and seen so far, my gut feeling is that Jeanpierre will begin as the starter because of his experience, but at some point Nowak’s youth and upside will enable him to take the reigns, and the oppportunity exists for him to be a long-term answer at that spot.

And that possibility may become reality sooner rather than later.

Next: Could Red be back in style for the Hawks?

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