Seahawks offensive line reaches critical lack of mass
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
RENTON – Four and counting.
That’s how many different offensive-line combinations the Seattle Seahawks have started in seven games this season.
The Seahawks likely will make it five on Sunday. Coach Pete Carroll said rookie offensive tackle Russell Okung, who suffered another high-ankle sprain against Arizona two weeks ago, was not healthy enough to practice Wednesday. And his replacement, Tyler Polumbus, suffered a knee sprain against Oakland last week and watched practice alongside Okung.
So veteran Chester Pitts, who saw his first game action last week against the Raiders, is now Seattle’s starting offensive left tackle.
With offensive guard Ben Hamilton out for the season with concussion issues, Mike Gibson is slated to get his second start of the season at left guard.
But with center Chris Spencer also missing practice on Wednesday with a neck issue, Gibson had to take first-unit snaps at center, meaning recent addition Allen Barbre worked with the first unit at left guard.
The recent shuffling is not good news for an offensive line looking to establish some consistency and cohesion after giving up a season-high eight sacks against Oakland.
And did we mention that the New York Giants are coming to town Sunday, tied for third in the league with 24 sacks? They already have knocked five quarterbacks out of games.
Gibson knows he and his teammates have to forget about the Oakland debacle.
“You’ve got to get that game out of here because we’ve got another game this weekend against a better front and a better opponent,” he said.
The injury plague is similar to 2009, when Seattle started six different offensive-line combinations and never established a consistent unit. The trend prompted a reporter to ask lineman Sean Locklear if his unit is cursed.
“I wouldn’t say cursed, it’s just part of football,” said Locklear, laughing. “I would love to say we’re all going to play all 16 games and stuff like that, but that hasn’t happened for a long time. It’s part of football.”
Making matters worse for Seattle is the uncertainty at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck did not practice Wednesday because of a concussion.
Carroll believes the 35-year-old veteran will play this week, but Hasselbeck still had lingering symptoms and observed from the sideline, with reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst taking all of the snaps with the first unit. Practice squad quarterback Zac Robinson handled the scout squad.
“Just talking to him and being around him he feels pretty good and all,” Carroll said of Hasselbeck.
“Just to do all of the right stuff, we have to give him a good day break – which he can use at this time of year anyway. So we’ll try to take advantage of this on the other side of it and help Charlie (Whitehurst) get as many turns as he can and look forward to Matt (Hasselbeck) jumping back in tomorrow.”
Though Carroll is hopeful Hasselbeck can go, he acknowledged there’s a chance he will not play on Sunday.
If Hasselbeck can’t go, it would be the team’s first opportunity to get a look at Whitehurst during the regular season. The Seahawks gave up a third-round pick in next year’s draft and exchanged second-round picks this year with San Diego to bring the 28-year-old Clemson product in to compete with Hasselbeck for the starting job. That competition never materialized, and Hasselbeck remained the clear starter.
But Carroll wants Whitehurst to prepare as if he will be the guy on Sunday.
“Charlie’s dead serious about making sure he’s doing everything right,” Carroll said. “Watch him in the walk-through, you know, controlling the tempo and all those kinds of things that the guy playing the game has to do. They’re tuned into it. We’re telling Charlie, ‘Get ready. You’re starting the game.’ That’s how you approach this game.”
NEW STREAK FOR MARE
Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare said he’s starting a new streak after missing two field goals in a game for the first time in more than a year at Oakland.
Mare’s team record of 30 straight field goals was 12 shy of Mike Vanderjagt’s league record but tied for sixth-longest all-time.
Mare missed a 51-yarder wide right into the wind in the first half Sunday, then pulled a chip shot wide left from 29 yards out.
The 37-year-old finally shook off the frustrations and drilled a 47-yarder through the uprights into the wind in the second half.
“That’s how you start a new streak I guess,” Mare said. “That’s how I started it last time. So I just take it one day at a time, and try to make one at a time as they come.”
“Obviously, it just shows that there’s no such thing as gimme field goals, right? They all count for three points. Obviously, missing the shorter one was frustrating. I mean my best kick was the 47-yarder into the wind. That’s the positive
can you block it out and make the next one?
“The 51-yarder was into the wind, and I had enough distance to get it there. I tried to kick it a little bit different, and you don’t like to do that. But as far as the short one, I just missed it; there are no excuses for that.”
Carroll told reporters on Wednesday that defensive end Red Bryant suffered a medial ligament tear in his knee and would have season-ending surgery Thursday. Bryant was injured at the end of the first half against Oakland when teammate Chris Clemons crashed into him while attempting to make a tackle on Raiders running back Darren McFadden. Kentwan Balmer will start in Bryant’s place against the Giants on Sunday.
Carroll also said Hamilton suffered a serious concussion against Oakland, and because of his concussion issues in the past, doctors told him it would be best to not play for the rest of the year. ... Seattle had a season-high 11 players on the team’s injury report Thursday. The most significant is defensive tackle Colin Cole, who is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks with a high-ankle sprain. Also sitting out practice were Clemons (coach’s decision), Hasselbeck (head), Brandon Mebane (calf), Okung (ankle), Polumbus (knee), Michael Robinson (hamstring), Spencer (neck), Golden Tate (ankle) and Mike Williams (knee). ... Several players returned to practice, including Kelly Jennings (hamstring), Walter Thurmond (head) and Matt McCoy (hamstring). The Seahawks also signed three new players, receiver Ruvell Martin, defensive end Jay Richardson and offensive guard Chris White.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks