BY Art Thiel 08:12PM 08/24/2015

Thiel: Seahawks’ center looks like Drew Nowak

Barring the unforeseen, the Seahawks seem to have decided on newbies for three offensive-line positions, including center, where Drew Nowak has ascended — after a fateful conversation with John Schneider.

Drew Nowak said he’s been “climbing a mountain” to learn the center position with the Seahawks. /

RENTON — Barring unforeseen complications, such as injury or finding unspent cash under the NFL salary cap, the mystery meat of the Seahawks training camp, the offensive line, is set. Doesn’t mean it’s good, but it’s what is available. The defensive line of the Rams, whom the Seahawks play in the opener in St. Louis Sept. 13, probably couldn’t be happier.

Stomach linings around Seattle would be helped greatly Saturday in San Diego, where the Seahawks play their third fake game, if the No. 1 offense could score, like, you know, a touchdown. Even if it’s just for looks, and so Pete Carroll isn’t caught with his fingers crossed behind his back.

“We’ll see if (the starting five) can hold it together, and hold off the other guys that are battling with them, but we feel good enough about it,” Carroll said Monday, offering less than a ringing endorsement on the first day back at practice after the 14-13 loss in Kansas City. “We like the way that they mix together. They have a real chance, so we’ll keep that intact again this week and take it one week at a time.”

To review, that means having only two holdovers from last season’s starters: LT Russell Okung and RT J.R. Sweezy. That means there’s a new guy at right tackle, Garry Gilliam, a new guy at left guard, Justin Britt, and a newbie to the entire position of center, Drew Nowak.

That means a lot of green at the point of attack.

Which explains why the Seahawks Saturday had in Pro Bowl free agent guard Evan Mathis, 33, for a physical and a conversation. Monday, they did the same with veteran free agent center Samson Satele, 30, an eight-year veteran who started all 16 games for the Miami Dolphins last season.

Neither left with a contract. This is the time of the NFL calendar when teams discover where they are in trouble. So after a free-agent summer of quiet, the price for such emergency veterans takes a sharp uptick.

The players are likely to go to the highest bidder, which may not be the Seahawks, because they have only about $5 million left under the league’s $143 million per team cap. It’s never wise to spend it all before the season, because a team never knows when it might need an emergency replacement for, say, a strong safety.

“We’re going to keep competing to see who else is there and available, as we try to make our choices,” Carroll said. “You’ll see some guys’ names come up again. We’re continuing to look. We want to know who’s available.”

The Seahawks have never been bashful about starting rookies (see QB Russell Wilson), but three newbies in the same unit?

Here’s how Nowak, an undrafted free agent signed by Jacksonville in 2012, put it Monday.

“I’m at the beginning stages of learning,” he said. “There’s so much more I can do to be better at the position.

“It’s a mountain to climb in the time I’ve been here.”

This is the guy the Seahawks have all but decided on, beating out two vets, Lem Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis, each of whom started last season when incumbent Max Unger missed 10 games with injuries. Counting Stephen Schilling, who was not asked back, the Seahawks used four centers the past season — and still reached the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Nowak was on the practice squad, where he signed on a year ago after being cut by Jacksonville.

The guy is no slouch. An All-America defensive lineman at Western Michigan, he’s 6-feet-2 and 295 pounds, and to hear Carroll tell it, is a good man if you need the bumper torn off a truck.

“He’s very strong — stronger than the guys that we’ve played with over the years,” he said. “He’s got hand strength. He’s a brute in there, a very physical player. He’s really smart. He understands it.

“Of course he’s still learning. This is still new to him. He’s applied himself so well and he’s a good competitor. He made some nice plays, nice blocks, nice combination work that was really obvious.”

He was also graceful enough to avoid tripping on the learning curve.

“He’s made the transition from defensive lineman to be offensive lineman,” said line coach Tom Cable. “Now it’s from lineman to a center snapping the ball.

“Our big discussion with him the last two days is being in a good football position — bent at the knees. At the second level, he gets high and loses blocks late.”

Nowak has also been getting some learnings from Cable in managing what can be overwhelming.

“Basically what he tried to tell me was, ‘Don’t do A through Z at once — learn A, then B, then go to C,'” Nowak said. “Work so you learn something new every day. Get better at something. When you get to Z, then look at the big picture.”

Where is Nowak in the alphabet?

“Somewhere about in the middle,” Cable said.  “All these (young) guys are that way. We never talk about big picture. The challenge for the last couple of weeks is to go at one thing each day.

“If they worry about everything, they screw most everything up. Stay on task. Keep making these steps forward and in a couple of weeks, he’ll be ready to go.”

Two weeks to starting NFL center? If that happens, Cable is assistant coach of the year.

But Nowak is big on the improbable. He likes to tell the story of how he became a Seahawk. A native of the mean dairyland streets of De Pere, WI., same as Seahawks GM John Schneider, both men found themselves on the dais for honors at an annual sports awards dinner in the hometown in June 2014.

“I sat right next to him talking for three hours,” he said. “I knew he was from my hometown but didn’t know him personally. So when I got cut from Jacksonville, he signed me.

“Maybe that (awards dinner conversation) had something to do with it. I’m really lucky he thought enough of me to sign me.”

And if he makes it through the next two fake games to make his first NFL start in St. Louis as a center, the film rights to his story won’t be far behind:

Straight Outta De Pere.


The Seahawks are hopeful that Tarvaris Jackson’s sprained ankle will be healed for the season opener. Carroll seemed unlikely to try to play Jackson in the next two fake games . . . At day 25 of his holdout, Kam Chancellor shows no sign of showing up to the preseason, Carroll said: “Things remain the same at this point.’’



  • SeaRaays

    I am totally flabbergasted. How many offensive lineman have we gone through in this tenure of coaches. Okung is basically the only lineman drafted for what he actually does LT. This is a front office and coach that does not value a dominant or decent O Line. We have learned in watching Seattle Seahawks in the past that it is a lot easier to plug in new off the college boat defensive players ..but a few years to season for the Offense and a line to gel.

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    • art thiel

      The salary cap rules force all top teams to make hard decisions once it comes time to pay for success. PCJS have made the call that they can invest the least resources in the OL unit because decent athletes can be coached to be effective. Even if they had picked better than Carpenter, that player would likely have been let go into FA. As it was, they were prepared to cut Unger to save his salary.

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    Thanks, Art, fun read as usual.

    • art thiel


  • 1coolguy

    We had 4 centers last year yet the most rushing yards were when Unger was in.
    I have faith in Pete and John yet the non-Unger games were challenging in the run game. Fortunately he was back in time for the playoffs.
    I am very surprised there is no talent available among those O-linemen who are retiring or about to that would sign for one final year. John knows where the talent is and how critical these positions are, so hopefully he will pull a few rabbits out of the hat.
    No question RW will have to be in great running shape this year – hope he lasts, otherwise it’s over.

    • eYeDEF

      It’s not about talent, it’s about money, which the seahawks have none to sign free agents. Chris Myers would have been an ideal player to sign if the team had the cash but he retired instead.

      • art thiel

        True. They are betting on Cable’s ability to coach up these guys to minimum productivity.

    • art thiel

      That’s why they invited in Mathis and the Dolphins center. They are looking over that class of talent.

  • Pixdawg13

    re: Kam
    If the Seahawks told him “we won’t pay you until you take a cut in pay,” he’d have the players’ union, the government, and everyone else out there to talk about how hard done by he is when they don’t honor his contract.

    But let him not honor the contract…

    • art thiel

      I think the heckling for either position is large.

  • jafabian

    The O-Line seems at least as good as last years on paper. They need to play together and become familiar with one another and last year that didn’t happen until later in the season. Some concerns about depth if anything. Hopefully players from the Developmental Squad are read to step in.

    Very disappointing that Kam seems to be going down the road of Joey Galloway. If he misses the season opener I think even if he returns this will be the last year he’ll be a Seahawk. Schneider might even trade him in season as he did with Percy Harvin.

    • eYeDEF

      Schneider won’t trade him this year. 1.8 mil cap hit from dead money charge will prevent that from happening. Hard to say the o-line is as good on paper as last year with 3 starters playing the position for the first time. This is the worst o-line on paper they’ve had in a long time, and as bad as the line’s been in the recent past, that’s saying a lot.

      • art thiel

        It is the least experienced line in a long time. They had to go bargain basement somewhere.

        The dead money cap hit is a good point, but not enough to stop a deal now if Chancellor’s value is at its apex.

        • eYeDEF

          I just don’t see how they’d afford a 1.8 mil cap hit when they’re slammed up against the cap. They’d have to cut someone just to be able to trade him.

    • art thiel

      If he’s going to trade Chancellor, Schneider probably will do it now.

  • John M

    O, O, here we go, go again . . .

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    • art thiel

      I would anticipate a slow start for the offense. Look for a couple of 9-6 games early.