RENTON, Wash. (AP) Acquiring Jimmy Graham this season came with the realization that the Seattle Seahawks would need a new starting center for the first time since 2009.

Seattle traded Max Unger to New Orleans in exchange for Graham this offseason and the search for his replacement is one of the more heated battles of training camp.

Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak have been splitting first-team reps on a daily basis for the majority of the first two weeks of camp.

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''It's still very competitive,'' head coach Pete Carroll said. ''Drew is a little bit ahead right now. (Jeanpierre) is ahead in all of the assignments and all that stuff. Drew looks really good physically. We're just going to keep working it and see what happens.''

Jeanpierre had been Unger's backup for the last four seasons and was re-signed to compete for the starting job. Nowak, a former defensive lineman, began taking snaps at center during OTAs and has taken a slight lead over Jeanpierre as the team prepares for the preseason opener on Friday.

''I just think we're kind of creating as much competition as we can with it,'' offensive line coach Tom Cable said. ''(Nowak) has been in the first huddle a little more the last couple days, but that will even out.''

Jeanpierre was placed on injured reserve and released with an injury settlement after injuring his neck at the end of the preseason last year. He returned to the team midseason and started three games in place of Unger down the stretch. He's played in 53 games for Seattle with 11 starts over the last four seasons.

Despite getting one of his first opportunities to start in his career, Jeanpierre has been instructing Nowak and rookie Kristjan Sokoli - another defensive line to offensive line convert - regularly during practices.

''I'm trying to help them out. I'm wanting to bring them along. I want them to be at my level of knowledge,'' Jeanpierre said. ''If I compete and I win, whoever I compete against I want them to be at their best. That's how you want it. If I win, when I win, it was at their best. It wasn't a fluke.''

Nowak won the 2011 Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year award at Central Michigan as a defensive tackle. After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent, a pair of injuries along the offensive line led to Nowak being moved to guard. Following his release, he signed with the Seahawks and was a guard on the practice squad last season.

''The whole process of learning center and switching positions definitely has been a battle,'' Nowak said. ''I really think I have progressed a lot. There's definitely so much farther I can go. There's no ceiling, I know that, but I really think I have improved.''

Nowak has played in just two games in his career, both coming with the Jaguars in 2013.

Practices can only show so much. While Nowak has earned the confidence of the coaching staff on the practice fields, they need to see how he can handle the responsibility of snapping the ball and communicating along the offensive line in real game situations.

''We like the young kids, but we've got to see them play now,'' Cable said.

Cable said there isn't a rush to declare a winner for the job but that they'd like to give the projected starting offensive line a couple of weeks to get used to playing together before the start of the regular season.

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