RENTON – If you watch closely, you can see young players grow from game to game, and you can learn more about them in weekly increments.
Against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, rookie Seahawks guard John Moffitt had one particularly illustrative play in the third quarter.
The Seattle offense had been struggling and the game looked out of reach. When a screen pass was called to running back Marshawn Lynch, Moffitt pulled to the right to clear the way.
That he was agile enough to get out in front of Lynch and get a body on a safety in the open field was impressive. That he absolutely clobbered the Falcons’ William Moore was another point to note.
After the hit, though, Moffitt slumped, and his dangling right arm was the earmark sign of a “stinger” neck injury. He returned to the line of scrimmage and dropped to his knees for a moment.
He was helped off the field, examined, and almost immediately was back at his position, which was the most significant development of Moffitt’s day.
Those who pay attention to the men who make their living on offensive lines in the National Football League come to realize that great careers aren’t always the monopoly of the most talented or physically gifted.
So much has to do with durability, the capacity to stay on the field week after week … in other words, being a big-time tough hombre.
I wanted to explore that with Moffitt, and use that episode to project him as a guy who fits that description.
And Moffitt would not buy into it.
“I only have four games under my belt, so I wouldn’t dare consider myself anything but a rookie,” he said.
By dodging the premise, Moffitt even more eloquently proved the point, because the guys who are really tough don’t need to go around telling people they are.
It was the perfect answer for a rookie offensive lineman.
Moffitt and rookie right tackle James Carpenter are expected to be around here a long time. They were named starters when they were drafted in April – Carpenter in the first round, Moffitt in the third.
General manager John Schneider saw in Moffitt an appealing combination of toughness and intelligence. In his 42 career starts at Wisconsin, Moffitt played almost 3,000 snaps and was penalized only twice and surrendered 31/2 sacks. Yes, one sack per 1,000 snaps is acceptable.
But Schneider had an even closer look at Moffitt as a leader when he was on the sideline before the Rose Bowl game between Wisconsin and TCU when he saw Moffitt pull the Badgers together and issue a fiery pep talk.
After the draft, coach Pete Carroll summed it up: “He’s got a great mentality about him that he’s not backing down. He’s a leader, a tough-minded, take-charge kind of guy.”
Without the typical offseason schedule of workouts to ease their assimilation into the league, both Moffitt and Carpenter have had to learn on the run and, as would be expected, it has not always been smooth.
Their improvement was obvious in the second half as they rallied to a narrow loss to Atlanta. The Seattle line put together its best game, keeping the Falcons from sacking quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in 38 pass attempts.
The massive Carpenter is not only finishing his blocks now, but at times driving his man into the turf. And the two are functioning better as a tandem on the right side.
“I’m getting more familiar with James, and that will come the longer we play together,” Moffitt said Wednesday. “I’m trying to focus on growing every week. I feel like I’m getting it and understanding things better and better.”
He said he has no effects from the stinger.
“The arm went numb, but that was it,” he said. “I’m fine, it was nothing. I knew it was going to be fine, so I went back in.”
OK, so maybe he only has four games to his credit as an NFL offensive lineman, but he’s already learned how to talk and think like one. And those are important early steps.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com