DANNY ONEIL

Five Seahawks rookies who could be starting by the season opener

May 5, 2016, 12:54 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm
Undrafted rookie Christian French from Oregon has a shot to replace Bruce Irvin at strong-side line...
Undrafted rookie Christian French from Oregon has a shot to replace Bruce Irvin at strong-side linebacker. (AP)
(AP)

There was one thing missing when Seattle took the field to begin the 2015 regular season.

A rookie starter.

For the first time since Pete Carroll became Seattle’s coach in 2010, the Seahawks didn’t have a single rookie in the starting lineup for Week 1.

To say that set the tone for the rest of the season would be more than a little misleading. Running back Thomas Rawls and receiver Tyler Lockett had outstanding rookie years and guard Mark Glowinski showed great promise in the one game he started.

You can expect this year’s rookie class to have an even more immediate impact after Seattle drafted 10 players, five of whom were among the first 100 selections.

Here’s a look at the five rookies who are most likely to earn a starting job in Week 1:

1. DT Jarran Reed (2nd round, No. 49 overall)

It would be a surprise if Reed isn’t starting this season. Seattle regarded Reed as the best run stuffer in this year’s draft, making him a natural choice to replace Brandon Mebane in Seattle’s early-down defense. Mebane was Seattle’s longest-tenured player, someone who’d started in the middle of the defensive line since his rookie season in 2007. He signed with San Diego this offseason. The Seahawks signed Sealver Siliga in free agency and they have pass-rushing tackles like Jordan Hill and rookie Quinton Jefferson, but Seattle saw Reed as a top-15 talent in this draft. The biggest question is where Reed will play: nose tackle, which was Mebane’s position, or the three-technique, which would mean sliding Ahtyba Rubin over to the nose. “Rube can go both ways,” Carroll said after Seattle chose Reed. “We’ll see how these guys work, work together. We’ll find out. Both of them have the flexibility.”

2. C Joey Hunt (6th round, No. 215 overall)

Center is the single most unsettled position on Seattle’s roster. Drew Nowak won the starting job in training camp last season, but he was waived this week, the second time in a year Seattle has let him go. Patrick Lewis was a significant improvement when he entered the starting lineup in the middle of last season, and he’s back as a restricted free agent. At 6 feet 1 and 299 pounds, Hunt is undersized by anyone’s measure and the Seahawks have gotten markedly bigger along their offensive line this offseason. Yet there was one comment general manager John Schneider made after the draft that pointed to how badly offensive-line coach Tom Cable wanted the team to take Hunt. “I don’t know if Pete and I would be able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey,” Schneider said.

3. OL Germain Ifedi (first round, No. 31 overall)

Carroll initially said Ifedi was expected to compete with free-agent addition J’Marcus Webb at right tackle. On Monday, he told SiriusXM NFL Radio that Ifedi will begin working at right guard, which is where it was assumed that Glowinski would play. Then there were pictures from Seattle’s workouts this week that appeared to show Glowinski playing left guard, which makes you wonder just where Justin Britt might wind up. All that uncertainty makes it really hard to accurately handicap Ifedi’s chances of cracking the starting lineup. We should know more after this weekend’s rookie minicamp.

4. LB Christian French (undrafted free agent)

Bruce Irvin’s departure leaves a starting spot open at strong-side linebacker. Veteran Mike Morgan is first in line, having re-signed with Seattle even after Pittsburgh had offered him a contract. French and Montese Overton, also an undrafted free agent, are going to compete for that spot. The Seahawks’ pitch to French is the same one they made to Rawls a year ago: Because they didn’t draft a linebacker, he has a clear path among the rookies. In Carroll’s first six seasons as Seattle’s coach, eight undrafted rookies have made the opening-day roster, including five in the past three seasons. None of those eight have ever started the season opener, though Rawls did start seven games last year.

5. RB/FB Tre Madden (undrafted free agent)

The Seahawks used three of their 10 draft picks on running backs, so how do you figure that an undrafted guy might slip into the starting lineup? Well, none of those guys played fullback, and neither of the two fullbacks Seattle had on its roster last season – Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu – have been re-signed. Expect Seattle to take a look at how Madden might fit in as a blocking fullback during the rookie minicamp.

Here are all the rookies who have started regular-season games during Carroll’s six seasons as Seattle’s coach:

2010: FS Earl Thomas (16), LT Russell Okung (10), CB Walter Thurmond (1). 2011: LB K.J. Wright (12), CB Richard Sherman (10), LG James Carpenter (9), RG John Moffitt (9), WR Doug Baldwin (1). 2012: QB Russell Wilson (16), LB Bobby Wagner (15), RG J.R. Sweezy (3). 2013: OT Michael Bowie (8), TE Luke Willson (7). 2014: RT Justin Britt (16), WR Paul Richardson (6), WR Kevin Norwood (2). 2015: WR Tyler Lockett (8), RB Thomas Rawls (7), RG Mark Glowinski (1).

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Five Seahawks rookies who could be starting by the season opener