Young players seizing the spotlight

Throughout the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era in Seattle, the Seahawks have shown a willingness (perhaps even a preference) to gamble on youth. That philosophy is once again being played out in 2015 as center Drew Nowak, 25, safety Dion Bailey (23) and outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (23) are emerging as legitimate starting candidates with their eye-opening play in training camp.




Renton -- Most of the attention at Seahawks' training camp is dedicated to established players like Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch or Richard Sherman. Those fans passionate enough to look past the bright lights of these megastars often focus on the new splashy rookies like Frank Clark or Tyler Lockett.

Meanwhile, a couple of other young players are vying for critical roles and given their performances thus far in training camp, they might be the next wave of Seahawks that leave opposing scouts and coaches wondering, 'Where did John Schneider and his scouts find this guy!?'

Specifically, center Drew Nowak, safety Dion Bailey and outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis have caught the attention of the Seahawks scouts and coaches. Each could be playing himself into contention for a starting role.

Nowak played defensive tackle at Western Michigan, earning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011 with an eye-popping 91 tackles including 20.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Despite the big numbers, Nowak went undrafted and was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who asked him to make the switch to the offensive line after injuries wiped out others on the roster. Nowak spent time on Jacksonville's practice squad and Seattle's a year ago but has steadily improved under the guidance of Seahawks' offensive line coaches Tom Cable and Pat Ruel.

Physically-speaking, at 6-3, 292 pounds, Nowak is every bit the equal of veterans Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis. He's boosted his cause throughout camp by improving his communication with linemates, alternating with Jeanpierre as a starter.

Carroll talked about Nowak following Monday's practice, characterizing the 25 year old as "a little bit ahead" of the veterans at this point.

Bailey, 23, is another young player stealing the spotlight from veterans. While Kam Chancellor remains in a holdout, it has been DeShawn Shead taking his place at strong safety throughout much of camp. Bailey, however, has steadily earned more playing time and practiced with the "starters" throughout much of Tuesday's practice, ending the scrimmage against the first team offense with a brilliant deflection on a deep ball down the middle.

Bailey's impressive play doesn't surprise me as I was quite high on him when he left Southern Cal after his redshirt junior campaign. The instincts and playmaking ability he's shown with the Seahawks were also evident in the Pac-12 where he recorded 11 interceptions in three seasons despite shuffling between safety and linebacker.

Speaking of linebacker, Seattle's need for speed could be satisfied with sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis, who continues to make splashy plays.

Affectionately referred to as KPL, the former Boston College product has impressed with his athleticism and awareness thus far, standing out on special teams and on defense. He's seen snaps at outside linebacker when the Seahawks have moved Bruce Irvin down to defensive end and has even allowed Seattle to toy with packages in which there are four traditional linebackers on the field.

With the first game of the season only a few days away, be sure to keep your eyes on these young Seahawks. The team's scouts and coaches certainly will be.

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