Pete Carroll loves playing young guys. Early and often.
This season is another example, as 17 rookies have seen action through 11 games. But the results have been mixed and generally unconvincing.
Carroll’s theory runs counter to those traditionalists who equate rookies with loss-inducing mistakes.
But it’s worked for him: You learn what you have right off and don’t waste time sitting a potential star.
And as the season heads toward the most crucial games, they’re hardly rookies anymore and can contribute when depth is most needed.
Last year at this point, it was Tyler Lockett who was turning into a Pro Bowl returner as well as a big-play receiver, and Thomas Rawls going on a streak that allowed him to lead the NFL in yards per carry (5.6).
And defensive end Frank Clark was stepping up and showing promise and versatility.
Now is that time when the kids turn into men who can be assets.
But nobody has stepped up with that Lockett/Rawls degree of conspicuous potential so far this season.
The rookies have been plentiful (the 17 being an all-time high for a Carroll team through 11 games).
But they’ve been injury-prone (each of the top four draft picks have missed time through injury, and the sixth, Quinton Jefferson, is on injured reserve).
And they’re all pretty much still on the steep uphill portion of the learning curve.
In the loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, nine rookies got snaps on offense or defense while three others saw action on special teams. That’s 12 rookies out of 46 active players — 26 percent of the team.
The pick of the litter thus far has been back C.J. Prosise, who has played in just six of the 11 games because of wrist and shoulder injuries, but leads the team in rushing with 172 yards on 30 carries.
The versatile Prosise showed why he was expected to be so valuable as a third-down back in the win over New England, when he rushed for 66 yards and pulled in seven passes for 87 yards.
But a scapula injury against Philadelphia has him on the shelf indefinitely.
Given the draft order, most would be expected of first-round guard Germain Ifedi. He was inactive the first three weeks with an ankle injury, and his play has been spotty thereafter. At times he’s a physical and powerful run blocker, but has been inconsistent and occasionally a liability against the pass rush.
Basically, he looks like a rookie offensive lineman. Even high first-round linemen get their lumps.
Ifedi is among a group of three rookies under scrutiny for their play against the Buccaneers, a game in which quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked six times, hit 11 more, and under general duress most of the rest of the time.
Seventh-round center Joey Hunt, in his first extended playing time in place of injured starter Justin Britt, probably played better than most would have expected. His day, at least, was less disastrous than that of rookie George Fant at left tackle.
When veteran starter Bradley Sowell went down with a knee injury against New Orleans, Fant was thrust into action. Until the Tampa Bay game, he performed better than reasonable expectations for somebody who played basketball in college.
But Fant was vastly overmatched against Bucs defensive end Noah Spence on Sunday. Asking an undrafted rookie to play left tackle is almost unfair. Seahawks rookie starters like Ray Roberts (1992) and Russell Okung (2010) suffered through similar dreadful days — and they were high first-rounders with college experience at tackle.
Considered one of the best run-stopping defensive tackles in the draft, Alabama rookie Jarran Reed missed time in training camp with a variety of injuries. He’s had strong games, like the one against New England, with five tackles and half a sack.
He started the first three games, but has been in the reserve rotation the past seven. Solidifying his play will be crucial considering the lack of depth on the defensive line, a concern heightened when fifth-round rookie Quinton Jefferson was put on IR.
Tight end Nick Vannett was expected to help with depth and in-line blocking, but missed the first four games with an ankle sprain and has just one catch this season.
None of this means this rookie class can’t come around and mature. Kam Chancellor had barely gotten on the field at this point of his rookie season.
Surely though, the guys on the line have to grow up in a hurry. Hunt will be replaced by a healthy Britt, but Ifedi and Fant could be in there for the long haul.
There will be more opportunities for all of them to improve down the stretch.
But as of now, this group still has a lot to prove.