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Ted’s Talk: Time for Seahawks to sink or swim with the youngsters

The Seahawks have a slim chance to make the playoffs this season and the most important development for the rest of this year should be evaluating the young talent.

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks playoff chances for the 2023 season are hanging by a thread. It’s not completely out of the question, but it’s also not very likely. As such, it’s time to start increasing the snaps for some young players to properly evaluate them prior to the offseason.

This isn’t throwing in the towel on the season, don’t get me wrong. I want to see the young guys play in high leverage situations and make assessments based on that. If they do well and spark something with the entire team, that’s a bonus.

Let’s exclude the rookies that are already playing significant snaps like Devon Witherspoon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Zach Charbonnet. We can already see how these guys fit into the future of the Seahawks. I’m also going to include Anthony Bradford in this group. He’s already started five games and – health permitting – should start the rest of the games at right guard with Phil Haynes on injured reserve.

That leaves three players currently spending more time on the bench than on the field that I want to see get extended looks for the rest of the season. Let’s talk about each one in a little more detail.

Cameron Young

When Young was drafted in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the assumption was that he would have an inside track on the nose tackle job in Seattle’s defense. Then, we found out that the Seahawks were playing the returning Jarran Reed in that role – where he, admittedly, is exceeding expectations.

Young played 25% or more of the snaps in four of the first five games but hasn’t reached that mark since. In fact, he’s only been on the field for 16 total defensive snaps in the last four games and was inactive against San Francisco – a game where you’d think the team would utilize his ability as a run stuffer.

Seattle’s trade deadline addition of Leonard Williams certainly impacts the number of snaps Young could get as the Seahawks are also deciding on whether to bring “Big Cat” back after this season. Still, Young should be getting more play to see how he fits in with the defensive line rotation. His strength is stopping the run and it’s not like the Seahawks have been lighting the world on fire in that category recently.

Derick Hall

The first of Seattle’s two second-round picks is in a similar scenario to Young. He’s played 33% or more of the defensive snaps in five games this season, though all of them occurred in the first eight games.

Look at the precipitous drop in snaps the last four games per Pro Football Reference.

The Seahawks lost Uchenna Nwosu for the season and brought in Frank Clark. Hall also has been battling a shoulder injury which could be factoring into his snap counts…but only four of them against Dallas? There’s no good argument for that.

Let’s compare Hall’s snap count with last year’s second-round EDGE Boye Mafe.

Hall is playing more on special teams, but Mafe was consistently on the field for the defense more often. Carroll has compared Hall to Mafe and look at the jump Boye made this season. There’s no reason Hall should have less snaps at EDGE than anyone besides Mafe for the rest of the year. Don’t let this be another case where the coaching staff laments not getting him more involved – something we went through with Mafe last year.

Olu Oluwatimi

Oluwatimi is the poster child for my argument, so I saved him for last. Many people, me included, predicted that Olu would win the starting center job in training camp. He lasted until the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft despite winning the Rimington Trophy given to the best center in college football and the Outland Trophy for the best interior (offensive or defensive) lineman. That seems pretty good.

Big Olu was nicked up in training camp which certainly didn’t help his case and the starting job was given to Evan Brown. It’s not that Brown has been bad. He’s been fine.

And that’s the rub.

Nothing that Brown has done this season screams “center of the future” for Seattle. He’s a free agent in the offseason, so the Seahawks will need to make a decision there. Has he played well enough to secure another contract from Seattle or will the Seahawks be looking for their fourth starting center in four seasons?

That’s why Oluwatimi should start for the rest of the year. We don’t know if he’ll be the long-term center either, but now is the time to figure that out. He played 38 snaps against the Giants when Brown had to slide over to play guard and played the whole game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6 while Brown was out with an injury.

Did you notice any tangible difference when Olu was in there compared to Brown? Theoretically, Olu should also get better with more experience whereas what you see is probably what you get with Brown. Wouldn’t it be nice to know going into the offseason that you have 80% of the offensive line locked down with first or second-year players in Cross, Lucas, Bradford, and Oluwatimi? The team might be able to decide that if they play together for the rest of the season.

Seattle has two very tough games coming up. What better way to test the mettle of these young players than against the top tier teams like San Francisco and Philadelphia? They will either thrive and put away any questions of their place on future squads or will show the front office that they may need to take another crack at filling those positions with other talent in the offseason. It’s time to see what the young pups can do.