The Seahawks knew Uchenna Nwosu was a good player. That's why they made him one of their first free agent signings this offseason.
Yet even if they liked what they saw in the outside linebacker during his four seasons with the Chargers, the Seahawks didn't know that Nwosu would be this good six games into his Seahawks career.
"You talk about a pleasant surprise," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "We knew he was a good football player, when I say surprise, but he's been more to us than—it's like some of those things where you watch him on tape and evaluate a player, you know you're getting a good football player, but then when he gets in your building, you get a chance to coach him, meet with him, see how he processes information, then you start to learn more. He's a really, really sharp and detailed guy, consummate professional. And some of the things we do gives the guys on the edge the freedom to play inside and outside as a nine technique, free him up. It was a new world for him, because he was never allowed to do that. He has grasped that and taken advantage of that to where it's allowed him to be a lot more active."
Nwosu, who is from Los Angeles and played his college football at USC before being drafted by the Chargers, was willing to leave the only city he has ever called home this offseason in no small part because he felt like Seattle's new defense under Hurtt would be a good fit. Nwosu was a solid player with the Chargers, especially last season when he took over a starting role and recorded career highs in sacks (5.0), tackles (40), tackles for loss (8) and quarterback hits (17). But as he said when he signed with the Seahawks, Nwosu felt like he was capable of more, and that Seattle was the place to show it, and sure enough, he has been a standout six games into the 2022 season, recording team highs in sacks (3.0) and quarterback hits (8) to go along with 24 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed.
In Week 1, Nwosu earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors when he had a sack and a forced fumble at the goal line to help the Seahawks beat the Broncos.
"I feel like I've been making a lot more plays here than I did there," Nwosu said. "I'm doing better, I'm playing better, my production has continuously been getting better, and I'm happy to be here."
And now Nwosu will return home to not just face his former team when the Seahawks face the Chargers, but also play in front of a large contingent of family and friends.
"It's going to mean a lot," he said. "Going back home and being able to play in front of my family and friends like I've done my whole entire athletic career, so I'm looking forward to seeing my family and friends supporting me in the stands."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll notes he has had conversations with Nwosu about handling his homecoming, as he usually does when a player is facing his former team, but Nwosu isn't worried about how that will affect him.
"I'm always amped up, so this isn't anything new," he said. "It's how I play every week in and week out, so it's going to be me playing another football game."
Like Hurtt, Carroll has been impressed with Nwosu, and not just for his playmaking ability but the leadership he has brought to a young group of outside linebackers.
"Much more obvious leadership through his play and his effort and his work habits and all, and just the person that he is," Carroll said. "It's not what he says, it's what he does. He's been an obvious leader and a real tough guy in all situations. The guys love him and they respect the heck out of him. He was just immediately one of those guys—you've got to see if he's for real, and he is—and then you go, 'Oh man, we're lucky to have on our side. You love competing with him.'"
And through his play and leadership, Nwosu showed Carroll and Hurtt and the rest of the coaching staff that he was the kind of player who could handle a little extra freedom to freelance—within the constraints of the defense—to maximize his playmaking ability. That's not a freedom Carroll gives every player, because if they can't handle it, it can really mess up a defense, but Nwosu has made the most of that opportunity.
"He has a really good sense for the game," Carroll said. "He's a ball player. The thing I started to do as soon we started to realize that is free him up: 'Take the liberties, you have the liberties to go.' It's not everybody we've coached like that—some guys you do, some guys you don't. you're going to hold him back if you don't, that's what I felt. He's having a good time playing, he likes the way we're doing it, and he's still just getting going."
Nwosu appreciates the freedom he has to operate within Seattle's defense and cites it as a factor in his improved production.
"It is a vote of confidence, you could say, when the coach says, 'Do whatever you have to do to make a play,'" he said. "Basically. I'm like, 'All right, shoot, I'll do it.' Shout out to Pete for giving me that freedom and I'm going to just keep trying to get better every week… When I came here, in that first game, I felt like, 'OK, this is how it's supposed to feel, this is how it's supposed to be.'"
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from Week 6 vs. the Arizona Cardinals on October 16, 2022 at Lumen Field. Eye On The Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.