A good portion of Pete Carroll’s press conference Wednesday addressed the continued issues of piecing together an offensive line to accommodate injuries. The surgery to Max Unger’s left big toe (plantar plate) means a third position on the offensive line is open for the taking.
Carroll’s plan is to give newly acquired tackle Stacy Andrews the shot at Unger’s right guard spot. Tyler Polumbus will go again at left tackle, Mike Gibson and Ben Hamilton will contend for left guard, with holdovers Chris Spencer at center and Sean Locklear at right tackle (although he missed practice Wednesday with a family issue).
Carroll said he checks daily on the health status of rookie left tackle Russell Okung, and he’s working his way back on the treadmill, but obviously not ready to return. Chester Pitts has been an option at left tackle, but Pitts, recovering from knee surgery, is not yet fully operational.
Carroll noted that Andrews played some guard at Philadelphia, and will be asked to learn the responsibilities “on a racehorse pace.” The “up” side is that Andrews is 340 pounds and actually could be an upgrade over Unger as a run blocker. With just 77 rushing yards in the opener against San Francisco, the Hawks can use all the run-blocking they can get.
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By resigning Mansfield Wrotto, the Hawks add a backup who, at the very least, knows the plays and where to line up. Wrotto, for instance, handled the right tackle duties Wednesday in Locklear’s absence.
To what degree does the shuffling limit the offensive game plan? “It’s not going to affect us in general,” Carroll said. “We’ll stay with the basic principles of what we’ve been doing all along. There’s always protection issues, depending on personnel. We’re not going to have to do anything drastic at this point.”
In the long run, if Andrews works out at guard, and Pitts can return to health and take over at left guard, they’re looking at a more physical line than was the one projected at the start of the season. Depending how long Okung and Pitts need to return, an eventual front of (left to right) Okung, Pitts, Spencer, Andrews and Locklear is 55 pounds heavier than with Hamilton and Unger at guards. This could help with the run-blocking problems we’ve seen.
My column for the paper tomorrow morning will expand on this topic, with insights from tight end John Carlson and running backs Justin Forsett and Leon Washington.