Discover more from Seaside Joe
Seahawks rookie Christian Young: Who is Seattle's newest "linebacker"?
Young predicted that Monday would happen at his Arizona Pro Day, can he keep the momentum going? Seaside Joe 1620
The Seahawks released a depth chart on Monday, their first of 2023, and the most surprising placement of any name on it was Christian Young as a second team linebacker. My initial thought was “How could I miss this?” because Seattle has had a lot of developments at the linebacker position this offseason and at no point did Young’s name come up.
Then I go double check OurLads depth chart and sure enough Young isn’t listed with the linebackers. Until Monday, I had just assumed that Young was fighting a hopeless battle to make the team as an undrafted free agent safety.
From a position in which he would surely not get any closer to making the team than you and I…to leapfrogging Vi Jones and Patrick O’Connell for the time being until Jordyn Brooks returns from PUP. And that’s probably the end of the matter; Brooks could be activated any day now and Young could be back to seeing himself as the sixth option of a unit that might only need four options.
That’s even assuming he’s a legitimate fifth option this week—Young is listed behind starters Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush, sharing the backup spotlight with holdovers Jon Rhattigan and Ben Burr-Kirven—but Young’s got one advantage in his favor.
Well…he’s young. Young Young.
Pop Quiz Hot Shot: Can you name, without looking it up, a single player in Seahawks history who went to the University of Arizona? If you can cite the one who had the most games, props to you, but there are six names that played at least two seasons with Seattle and personally I found the question so hard to answer that I’ll give you credit for naming any of them. I’ll post the answers at the bottom.
It’s not so much literal age that plays a factor in Christian Young’s case, but the ability to mold him as a linebacker and carve in good habits without having to erase bad habits. This may have played a significant role in some of Pete Carroll’s success stories, such as Tariq Woolen or Quandre Diggs, although in Diggs’ case he had already made the move from nickel to safety while he was still on the Detroit Lions.
For more on Diggs origin story, you can read this.
For more background on Christian Young, the potential surprise of the 2023 roster if he has a strong month in training camp and preseason, continue here.
Thank you to ALL subscribers, whether you’ve just been reading the free posts like this one to test Seaside Joe out, or you are a paid member in either the Regular Joes or Super Joes club. Because of your support, this SEAHAWKS newsletter is ranked 40th among all sports publications at Substack, and I’m grateful that you’ve found this place to be worthy of your investment in me.
If you have the means and inclination to join the premium section for over 100 bonus articles per year, we hope to reach the top-30 this season and to keep climbing. Seaside Joe: The “undrafted free agent giving it his all to earn a starting role” of Seattle Seahawks media.
High school recruit
A member of the 2018 class, Christian Young was a three-star safety recruit out of Foster High School in Richmond, Texas who initially committed to Iowa State but then flipped to Arizona.
Foster went 14-1 in Young’s junior season and yet despite his presence on an NFL roster today, he was hardly the one getting the most credit and attention for their success in football at that time. Instead, it was a four-star receiver who ended up committing to Oklahoma and helping three different quarterbacks win or almost-win Heisman trophies*:
(*Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts.)
Young was by no means a bad recruit as few high schoolers make the jump to division-I football, he just wasn’t CeeDee Lamb. On his Hudl profile, Young updated his own highlights to try and get more attention, therefore nicknaming himself the “BALLHAWK”.
Per Young and his bio page at Arizona, he was a three-sport athlete at Foster, also playing basketball and track and field, with Texas State recruiting him to run track if he didn’t get a football offer that he wanted. That didn’t turn out to be an issue, as Young decommitted from Iowa State, chose the Wildcats, and got an immediate opportunity by appearing in 11 games as a true freshman.
Young committed in November, 2017, when the head coach was Rich Rodriguez, but instead ended up playing for former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin when he arrived in 2018. Sumlin coached a number of former Seahawks at Texas A&M, including Steven Terrell, Germain Ifedi, Christine Michael, Patrick Lewis, and Cullen Gillaspia. Coincidentally to this article, he also recruited Murray before he transferred to Oklahoma.
As bad as Arizona is historically, they’ve been even worse over the past five seasons. (Apparently not bad enough to be less attractive to conferences than Washington State and Oregon State though.)
Young didn’t play that much in 2018, making two starts at cornerback, then he started the first six games at safety in 2019, forcing two fumbles against Hawaii, but it seems he fell out of favor as the season went on and the Wildcats lost their last seven games and ranked 118th out of 130 in points allowed.
Then in 2020, an injury caused Young to opt out and miss four out of a possible five games in the shortened Pac-12 season.
But Young finally caught a break, sort of, when Jedd Fisch replaced Fisher in 2021. That season, Young started 12 games at the “Viper” position.
The junior, who opted out of the last handful of games last season due to a nagging ankle injury, is in line to serve as the “Viper” in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defensive scheme. It’s a hybrid between the safety role Young has played for much of his UA career and linebacker, and it’s arguably the most important position in Brown’s pressure-filled attack.
“He’s a guy who’s got to do all three phases,” linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski said Saturday of the Viper spot. “He’s gotta be able to rush the passer, he’s gotta be able to stop the run, be on the second level, first level, and also be able to go back on the third level, handle some man coverage.”
“During all the workouts and watching him, we’ve liked his athleticism,” Dudzinski said. “The thing we didn’t know was how physical he’d be on the line of scrimmage. I’m real happy with what he’s done so far. He’s been outstanding. He’s got good weight room numbers. Great burst. Real good COD, change of direction.”
As a Viper, Christian Young had 67 tackles, three batted passes, and two tackles for a loss. He was one of the only bright spots on a 1-11 team that will feature few, if any, notable NFL players. Teammate receiver Stanley Berryhill was arguably the best and he’s currently serving a six-game suspension for gambling, but is a free agent because the Lions released him after the news.
Young then took on a more traditional safety role in 2022, starting 12 games and recording 76 tackles, 6.5 TFL, and two more passes defensed.
I don’t want to phrase it as “what team’s didn’t like about Christian Young” but instead point out the obvious reasons that he went undrafted: Played at Arizona, didn’t have gaudy stats, didn’t even have a “traditional” position until his fifth year in college.
He’s just one of those unknowns who doesn’t have a resume that is demanding to be drafted. Not even Young could say what position he should play at the next level. He did, however, have an astute prediction: “I’ve been switching positions since I got here, so I feel like it might be the same way in the NFL.”
Young, a 6-3, 225-pounder who played safety and 'viper' linebacker over five years, totaled 182 tackles and 11 pass breakups as a Wildcat. Young said he "enjoyed playing Viper a lot, but "can't really pinpoint a position I can play" in the NFL.
"Wherever I can fit and play the fastest, learn the fastest, I'll be comfortable playing that. I've been switching positions since I got here, so I feel like it might be the same way in the NFL.
"The game is evolving. They're moving corners to safeties, safeties to linebacker. The game is getting way faster, a lot of the positions are getting faster, and that 'tweener position for guys like me is going to help me get to the next level."
Young’s reported measurements at his pro day were 6’1, 221 lbs, 4.60 40-yard dash, 1.62 10-yard split, 31.5” vertical, 4.43 20-yard shuttle, and 7.40 three-cone drill. Unfortunately, I can’t say that those numbers stand out for a safety and they might be even worse for a 220 lbs linebacker. Especially given that he has made an appearance on Bruce Feldman’s “freaks list” for his high school track reputation.
He doesn’t seem to be a “freak” relative to his peers and on top of that, it seems like Young would need to add at least 10 lbs to play linebacker, which slows him down even more.
The Seahawks signed Young after he went undrafted and he’s flown under the radar until now. Why Seattle even opted to make the position change is a little mysterious, other than maybe just feeling like they were too deep at safety and not deep enough at linebacker.
However, that wouldn’t explain why Young might be ahead of someone like Vi Jones, who until now was expected to have the highest ceiling of all the unproven linebackers. Unlike Young, Jones does have exceptional athleticism.
I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of Monday’s depth chart and Young’s shocking place on it. As noted, it could be that by next week, Brooks is back and Young has one foot out the door. If not two. Seattle has been rotating players at the backend of the roster like crazy since camp started.
A lot should be revealed when Carroll next meets with the media (he didn’t do that on Monday, so I am guessing he will do it on Tuesday) and after the Seahawks play the Vikings on Thursday. Perhaps he will continue to surprise us…the season is young.
Answers (by games played with Seattle): LB John Kaiser (48), LB Marcus Bell (45), P Ruben Rodriguez (44), C Joe Tofflemire (33, but had the most starts with 16), RB Michael Bates, DE Joe Tafoya (28). There are a few others but they had significantly short stints with the Seahawks.