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For Second Straight Year, Rookies Are Playing A Big Role In Seahawks' Success

Seahawks rookies made big contributions in Seattle’s Week 8 win over the Cleveland Browns.


On a day the Seahawks celebrated their past, unveiling their 90s-era throwbacks for the first time, they also saw a good reminder that their future is as bright as those gorgeous silver helmets shining in the autumn sunlight.

The Seahawks opened the scoring in Sunday's game, an eventual 24-20 win over the Cleveland Browns, with a touchdown run by rookie receiver Jake Bobo, who has had several weeks of going in motion to block for a running play, instead got the handoff to score his third touchdown of the season.

Seattle's last touchdown of the game, a game-winner with 38 seconds left on the clock, came on a 9-yard touchdown reception by rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who like Bobo has scored in each of the past two games.

In between those two plays, the Seahawks saw rookie guard Anthony Bradford, who was making his fourth start, contribute to an overall strong effort by the offensive line that limited one of the NFL's best pass rushes to one sack and three quarterback hits, while also paving the way for a rushing attack that averaged 6.7 yards per carry; they saw first-round pick Devon Witherspoon barely targeted by Cleveland quarterback P.J. Walker, a sign of respect after such an impressive start to the season for a player who is emerging as a defensive rookie of the year candidate; they saw running back Zach Charbonnet rush for 53 yards on five carries while adding 11 more yards on two catches; they saw Derick Hall take on a bigger role at outside linebacker with Uchenna Nwosu out for the season; and they saw safety Jerrick Reed, who is emerging as one of Seattle's best special teams players, make another big tackle on kick coverage. 

Add to that a solid effort by Olu Oluwatimi in his first start last week, filling in at center for Evan Brown, and the expected return of running back Kenny McIntosh, who had a great training camp, solid interior line play by Cameron Young, and the Seahawks are getting or expect to soon be getting contributions from every member of their rookie class aside from an injured Mike Morris, with Bobo, an undrafted rookie, emerging as an unlikely playmaker as well.

If this all sounds familiar, well, it should. It was only a year ago that a Seahawks draft class, buoyed by extra picks that came Seattle's way in the Russell Wilson trade, made huge contributions to a winning season. And one season later, players like Riq Woolen, Kenneth Walker III, Boye Mafe, Charles Cross are all making big contributions once again, including in Sunday's win that featured another sack by Mafe, his fifth in as many games, an interception by Woolen, a standout performance by Cross who spent much of his day blocking All-Pro Myles Garrett, and 66 rushing yards on just eight carries for Walker.

With so many rookies and second-year players starting or playing significant roles on offense, defense and special teams, the Seahawks are 5-2 and in first place in the NFC West. Yes, that kind of youth means the future is bright, but the young talent assembled by general manager John Schneider and company also has the Seahawks looking like one of the NFC's top teams in the present.

"It's a beautiful topic for us to be on because it shows the continuity of how we work and how we choose the players on the team and all John's side of the world that he owns," Carroll said. "To have the obvious success last year, come back and top it off again and figure it out again and here we're going again. I mean, what's going to happen next time is what's really exciting. So it's fantastic for us. You can see rookies all over the place, playing, contributing, and doing things. That is such a boost to us entering the second half of the season."

And while the success of this year's and last year's rookie classes might have Seahawks fans looking to the future, the young players themselves can't help but also look to the past. It was just over a decade ago that a three-year run of drafts from 2010-2012 brought to Seattle players like Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Golden Tate in 2010, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Malcom Smith in 2011, and Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane and J.R. Sweezy in 2012. Those draft hauls were crucial in setting the team up for the most successful run in franchise history, a stretch that included two trips to the Super Bowl, a Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Denver, and win 10 or more games for five straight seasons while winning the NFC West three times from 2012-2016.

"I like it because, it gives me flashbacks of the old Seahawks teams," said Woolen, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie after tying for the league lead with six interceptions. "They had a class with Russ, and they had other classes around that time, and they went on and make a legacy for themselves. I feel like we can reach that level or go beyond that level. We just continue to work, continue to play as a team, continue to play off each other, and get closer as a family. Having that extra class coming here, it shows that the culture throughout that building, it works. Whatever the coaches are teaching us, we just buy into it and do our thing."

Whether the current crop of young talent can help the Seahawks match or exceed that level of success maintains to be seen, but what was on display Sunday, and has been evident over the last two seasons, is that the Seahawks once again have a foundation of young talent that can be the nucleus of something special.

Check out some of the best action shots from Week 8 vs. the Browns at Lumen Field on October 29, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.

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