Battle-tested Jake Curhan holds firm in Seahawks right tackle competition

RENTON, Wash. — Becoming an instant starter as a redshirt rookie in California, Jake Curhan found immediate success at right tackle against Pac-12 competition.

Thriving in all facets, Curhan allowed just one sack in 12 starts and helped running back Patrick Laird become the 19th player in school history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. While nothing is easy in the sport of football, he made quarterback protection easy as a four-year-old starter, allowing just 7.0 sacks over 1,500 pass blocking reps, winning two All-Pac 12 honorable mention honors along the way.

But after signing with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent last spring, Curhan received a baptism of fire when he entered the lineup for an injured Brandon Shell. Starting the last five games at right tackle in the veteran’s absence, consistency proved problematic for him in pass protection as he allowed 12 pressures in those contests and received a dismal blocking rating of 37, 2 assists from Pro Football Focus for the season.

Previously excelling without having to change his passing game for the Golden Bears, it didn’t take long for Curhan to realize that the simplicity that worked so effectively for him in college wasn’t going to cut it against the passers in the NFL. .

“In college, I put myself the same way every time. And it works because no one was really good enough to figure out how to change that,” Curhan said ahead of the second practice of training camp. Seattle. “So what [in the NFL], you’re asked to do different things, depending on the games, how fast you drop, how quickly you get out, all that kind of stuff. So being more comfortable with varying things, I think that’s going to be important for me.”

Starring in a power five conference, Curhan didn’t face a hungry rush on Saturday at Berkeley. In fact, he faced future first-round picks Kayvon Thibodeaux and Joe Tryon.

But while those matchups provided valuable reps for Curhan against NFL-caliber athletic talent, nothing compares to battling with the best of the best on Sunday. After impressing throughout training camp and earning a spot on the 53-man roster, he learned that lesson the hard way when the Seahawks replaced him to replace an injured Jamarco Jones at right tackle against the Vikings.

Making his NFL regular season debut in a hostile road environment, Curhan was not going to be weaned in his first game. On the other side of the line stood former All-Pro Danielle Hunter, one of the league’s most feared passers.

As you’d expect from an untested rookie tackle, Curhan endured his share of trouble trying to block Hunter, who has caused many of the NFL’s top pass protectors problems over the years with his athleticism and its elite length. In a 30-17 loss, Pro Football Focus charged him with three pressures and one quarterback hit allowed on just 17 pass blocking snaps.

A few months later, with Shell sidelined with a shoulder injury, Curhan returned to the full-time roster from Week 14 with a chance to solidify his position as a possible option at long term in office. Several challenges awaited him, however, including facing future Hall of Famer Von Miller, whom he cited as the toughest opponent he faced during his rookie season.

In a losing effort to the Rams, Curhan gave up four pressures. A trio of those come courtesy of Miller, who has set up a clinic with his ability to make several different passing rushing approaches identical, giving the rookie a telling lesson in learning on the job.

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“A lot of people say he lost his footing here or there. And I’m sure he did. And I bet it was a really, really scary sight,” Curhan laughed. “But just the way he played the mental side of things and made things look the same and then did something different. It was just pretty impressive to the point that I had never really seen anything like this before.”

Although Curhan unsurprisingly struggled against Hunter or Miller, he performed admirably in his first extended action in the NFL and made great strides protecting the quarterback as the schedule shifted in January. In each of his last three starts, he has allowed two or fewer pressures in pass protection, a substantial improvement from his first two starts.

Bringing a physical, maiming presence to the Seattle front line and frequently winning the positioning battle, the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Curhan also cleaned up in the running game on zone and gap concepts. In four of his five starts, running back Rashaad Penny eclipsed 130 rushing yards, including a ridiculous 360 rushing yards and three touchdowns in wins over Detroit and Arizona to close the season.

During that stretch, the Seahawks went 3-2 to cap a disappointing season on a high note and Penny led the NFL with 671 rushing yards while averaging an insane 7.29 yards per carry.

“When you get off the ball and hit things the way you’re supposed to, and the five guys on the line do it and the ball carrier sees that and writes it down and then hits it where it’s supposed to In the end, it’s just a really good feeling. The more you do it, and the more successful you get, it’s easier to get through the game. So yeah, it was great to be able to get that.

From Curhan’s perspective, it took time for players to adjust to the non-traditional techniques taught by offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and offensive line coach Andy Dickerson. Compared to many of them who had been trained earlier in their respective careers, these approaches even seemed “counter-intuitive” at times, which made the transition a long process for everyone in the trenches.

But once the offensive line started to gel and a healthy Penny found his rhythm, everything started to click and the balanced offensive offense coach that Pete Carroll always wanted emerged. After struggling to score points for much of the season, the Seahawks have averaged 31.2 points per game over the past month, nearly 10 points above their season average.

“It takes time to get used to repeating that and to get used to trusting him too,” Curhan remarked. “And I really think what you saw happen at the end of last year was that all the guys on the line trusted the techniques that Shane and Andy brought with them with offense and then the carriers. also trusted their readings and running patterns and it kind of came together exactly the way it’s meant to be.”

Looking back on his rookie season, the trials and tribulations Curhan endured against Hunter and Miller already seem to serve him well. At the start of his second training camp, he held the right tackle position with Seattle’s first-team attack in four of the first five training sessions.

With a mock scrimmage coming up Saturday at Lumen Field and the preseason opener in Pittsburgh just around the corner, the next few weeks will be pivotal for Curhan as he must fend off two worthy competitors in third-round pick Abraham. Lucas and second-year tackle Stone Forsythe. At some point, Lucas will get his first chance to play with the first unit, while Forsythe has already seen some shots with the projected starters and should be given more opportunities.

But while Curhan lacks the athleticism that Lucas and Forsythe bring to the table, he is a pass protection technician and his impact in helping Seattle find its bread and butter running the football late in the game. last season cannot be overlooked. Now the ‘seasoned veteran’ in the tackle group after surviving a crash course tutorial in the trenches last season, as long as he’s playing to himself and with better consistency in all aspects he likes his chances to keep a starting place.

“There were definitely things to clean up. But you know, at the end of the day, it’s kind of football, isn’t it? The guys could be a bit faster, stronger, have better technique So you just have to raise your game at that I think I learned a lot more than anything else both about myself and what I need to improve on and also what it’s like to playing in the NFL. I think that just put me in a better place for this year to have more confidence.”

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