In two seasons, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have transformed the Seattle Seahawks from one of the oldest rosters in the NFL to one of the youngest.
Of the 53 players on the active roster, 41 were added since Carroll and Schneider took over on Jan. 11, 2010.
With the roster churn, the Seahawks have had to rely on younger talent stepping up to replace aging veterans. So far, Carroll and Schneider have hit big on young prospects, with some polished diamonds emerging from a rough, untested group.
Two who stand out most are wide receiver Doug Baldwin and cornerback Brandon Browner.
Baldwin, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Stanford, leads the team in receptions with 48 and in receiving yardage with 748. He has four TD catches. He is on pace to finish the season as the first undrafted rookie since 1960 to lead his team in both receptions and receiving yards.
Browner, a CFL standout and Oregon State product, signed a futures contract in January. One of the tallest corners in the league, Browner is tied for fourth in the NFL with six interceptions, and he leads the league in pass deflections with 26.
“They haven’t really changed our opinion much,” Carroll said. “We’re just thrilled that they’ve just been consistent factors for us. We thought that they could play a role, so we gave them opportunities. And that’s happened for us, and it’s been a big part of this season.”
Second-year pro Kam Chancellor has filled the big shoes left when veteran safety Lawyer Milloy didn’t return. The Virginia Tech product is third on the team in tackles with 89 and second in interceptions with four.
Rookie linebacker K.J. Wright quickly picked up the defense, allowing the Sea-hawks to trade ineffective outside linebacker Aaron Curry to Oakland. Wright, selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, is fifth on the team in tackles with 61 and has two sacks and a forced fumble.
The Seahawks appear to have their corners of the future in Browner and Richard Sherman.
Sherman, a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft out of Stanford, took over at left corner when Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond went down with season-ending injuries. Sherman has three interceptions in nine games, and he plays with a swagger that fits in perfectly with the rest of the defense.
And with three of the team’s projected starting five on the offensive line – rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt, and second-year pro Russell Okung – out with injuries, the Seahawks continue to churn out the yards on the ground.
The most impressive of the fill-ins has been six-year journeyman Paul McQuistan. The versatile lineman has started three games at left guard, three at right guard and three at left tackle, performing at a high level at all three spots.
“Paul’s done a great job,” Carroll said. “He’s been versatile. He’s been tough. We really haven’t missed a beat with him coming off the second-team group and jumping into a starting role on both sides. That’s a huge positive for the depth and future and the competitiveness of our team.”