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One of few competitions in Seahawks camp has Evan Brown leading race to become starting center

Rookie Olu Oluwatimi may be Seattle’s future

By SHANE LANTZ, Associated Press
Published: August 8, 2023, 6:25pm
2 Photos
Seattle Seahawks center Evan Brown (63) walks off the field with offensive tackle Abraham Lucas (72) after the NFL football team's training camp, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Renton, Wash.
Seattle Seahawks center Evan Brown (63) walks off the field with offensive tackle Abraham Lucas (72) after the NFL football team's training camp, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Photo Gallery

RENTON — Evan Brown hasn’t been handed anything during his time in the NFL.

He’s had to earn every minute of playing time in his five-year career, and going into his first season with the Seattle Seahawks it appears Brown may finally get the chance to start the season at his preferred position of center.

“Evan is ahead. He’s ahead just because of his experience, and if we were playing today, he would go first,” coach Pete Carroll said.

Brown is involved in one of the few competitions in Seattle’s camp. The Seahawks selected Olu Oluwatimi from Michigan in the draft after he won the Rimington and Outland trophies in his one season with the Wolverines.

Oluwatimi may be Seattle’s future. But for now, Brown has the edge.

After going undrafted in 2018 out of SMU, Brown played sparingly during his first three NFL seasons. He had brief stints with the New York Giants, Miami and Cleveland, but got his chance in 2021 with Detroit, where he started 12 games at center after starter Frank Ragnow went down with a season-ending foot injury.

Brown made the shift to right guard last season upon Ragnow’s return but is back at his preferred spot after signing a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Seahawks in March.

“I just think it’s a more comfortable, natural position for me,” Brown said. “It’s something that I’ve had a lot of experience at through my time growing up, and just kind of where I’ve become set in the skill.”

The Seahawks are clearly happy he feels that way, as the team signed the 26-year-old to take the reins at a spot that has been a roller coaster since the departure of Max Unger after the 2014 season. Last year’s starting center, Austin Blythe, retired in February after one season in Seattle.

It’s a rare benefit for Seattle to feel confident in Brown and allow Oluwatimi time to develop.

“Olu is doing a great job. He hasn’t had anything negative about him other than his wrist being sore for a couple of days which held him back,” Carroll said. “Other than that, he’s right in there, and the competition continues.”

Brown’s teammates have noticed the value he brings to the line, both with his vocal style of leadership and his on-field smarts.

“Evan brings a lot of experience,” tight end Will Dissly said. “Diagnosing defense is a big thing at center, and so he’s able to pick it up and communicate really, really well — really, really clearly. And I think that’s the most you can ask for out of a center, just great communication, and the guy is a physical dude. We love having him out there in the run game.”

While he is only signed for one year, Brown’s relative youth and versatility could make him a crucial piece for Seattle this season, and maybe into the future. It’s not easy to bounce between positions on the offensive line, but that experience makes Brown a valuable option up front.

“Undrafted guys, you’ve got to come in with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, wherever you’re at,” Brown said. “You don’t get many opportunities in the league. So when you do get one or two, you’ve got to make the most of them, and I feel like I’ve done that.”