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Jake Curhan: Defying the odds

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Jake Curhan — the Undrafted Rookie Free Agent from California — made his first start of the season, playing right tackle in place of the injured Brandon Shell. And before we dig into his performance, I want to acknowledge not only how amazing it is that he has managed to become a spot-starter as a rookie, but also how incredible it is that Curhan is currently playing in the NFL, as a rare heart irregularity could have prevented him from even getting a shot in the league.

The Seattle Seahawks have back-to-back wins for the first time this season. And what is something that both of these wins have in common? Among other things, they were the first two games of the season where Curhan saw extensive action along the offensive line, as 75% of his 162 snaps so far this season have come over the last two weeks. And while the bag has been mixed, I have ultimately been really happy with what I have seen.

You may recall that Curhan was one of my “Preseason Performers.” Well, this undrafted tackle out of Cal performed his way right onto the final 53, and eventually into an active designation for six games thus far as a rookie. This detail in and of itself is worth lingering on for a moment; while Curhan has yet to demonstrate that he is a long-term NFL starter in the making, he has certainly shown that he is capable of playing at a professional level, and identifying and developing quality depth players out of the undrafted free agent pool is an underrated and low-key way to stay relevant in the salary cap era. Seattle has had their fair share of UDFAs who have ultimately become cornerstone players, including Doug Baldwin, DeShawn Shead and Jermaine Kearse, and whether or not Curhan will ever approximate the heights reached by these players in their primes is less relevant right now than whether or not Jake Curhan can continue to make a positive impact this season. Early returns on this front are tepidly positive, as such.

Curhan’s performance on Sunday was good enough to earn a positive mention in Sam Gold’s breakdown of Rashaad Penny’s game against the Texans, as well as landing in the honorary Winner’s Column in Mookie’s post-game Winners/Losers. And they were not alone in their assessment;

Now, before I get ahead of myself and anoint Curhan the long-term solution at right tackle, I think that it is only fair to acknowledge that he has had more than his fair share of struggles over the last two weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, he surrendered two sacks and three pressures while playing out of position at left guard against the San Francisco 49ers. He again surrendered three pressures on Sunday, but did not allow any sacks. And while the Houston Texans are having an absolutely terrible season, to put it lightly, they still have a couple talented EDGE rushers in Jonathan Greenard and Jacob Martin. Greenard was held without a sack, a QB hit, or a hurry for only the second time this season, as Seattle as a team allowed zero sacks or QB hits on the day. And while Curhan obviously doesn’t get all the credit for this, he certainly did his part against an underrated Texans pass defense.

Of course, everything written above also comes with a fair amount of skepticism; Curhan’s lone start to the season came after a largely uneven stint playing inside against the 49ers, where he struggled against the interior pressure from the division rivals. And again on Sunday, he still looked like a developmental prospect in pass protection. But this is largely to be expected from any rookie offensive lineman, as it is a particularly difficult position to play at a competent level in the NFL. What remains to be seen is if the Seahawks will feel good enough about Curhan’s play going forward to consider him a potential long-term player, and if so, how this will affect an offseason in which they may need to start really addressing the offensive line. Duane Brown, who has been the cornerstone of this line since joining the team in 2017 has struggled at times, and he is just one of three starters set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Curhan is certainly not going to seamlessly slide into Duane Brown’s position as a bookend left tackle, and in fact, he seems likely to be much better cast as a right tackle where he played on Sunday. However, even that may be enough to give the team some options in how they approach free agency and the draft.

Of course, this is speculative at best. So rather than continue to ponder the future, I want to return to the present and simply congratulate Curhan on a solid first start. Hopefully, it will be the first of many in a Seahawks uniform.