RENTON It’s the biggest Seahawks’ issue. Was in March. Will be in September. And probably November, too.
The offensive line. It is likely to have new starters at all five positions this season. And it changed again on Thursday.
The full story to the latest version of this team’s iffiest part: It happened because presumed starting right tackle J’Marcus Webb was out of training camp’s 11th practice, the final full one before Saturday’s first preseason game at Kansas City. Wednesday, Webb had an ice pack on his right knee.
Coach Tom Cable, leader of the NFL’s lowest-paid line, said the team didn’t yet know the full extent of Webb’s injury but hoped to soon.
Without Webb, Garry Gilliam moved from being starting left tackle to right tackle, where he started all last season. Bradley Sowell, signed in the offseason from Arizona where he also played guard, was the first-team left tackle. Justin Britt was still the center, with Mark Glowinski at left guard and Germain Ifedi the right guard.
Sowell has had a great week of training camp, after a poor first week in which he appeared slow in moving his feet to reach outside pass rushers. Thursday, he stymied Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett to begin a pass-rush drill. Bennett responded in the rematch with two of his lightning-fast hand slaps to get past Sowell for a would-be sack.
Gilliam said after practice “you’d have to talk to Coach Cable or Coach Carroll” about his move back to the right side.
So we did.
“The only guy that’s not playing on both sides is J’Marcus,” Cable said. “So they are all doing it, other than him. It’s really more just to see the different combinations. Maybe we missed something; ‘this guy’s better at left than he is at right, and vice versa.’ So this is the time to do that, obviously.”
As a further example: rookie draft choice Rees Odhiambo was the second-team right tackle and former Western Kentucky college basketball player George Fant was the backup left tackle Thursday. Odhiambo, the third-round pick from Boise State, has played every position on the offensive line but center through offseason minicamps and 11 camp practices.
Britt has been the center since the first minicamp after May’s draft. The former Seahawks right tackle and left guard keeps getting Cable’s praise for his progress at his third position in three years. But, the line coach added, “you’ve got see to see play (in a game) to know.”
Webb hasn’t exactly wowed in the first two weeks of his first camp with the Seahawks, after arriving from Oakland and signing a two-year contract in the spring with $2.75 million guaranteed. And now he’s hurt. Availability and dependability remains the most important assets
Ifedi has been a star of the training camp so far, as much for his attitude and willingness to go after veterans before and often well after plays. Cable said the rookie first-round pick is still learning how to deal with mistakes without getting overly emotional about them.
“His intensity and the way he plays, you don’t change any of that. That’s exactly where you want it,” Cable said.
As for Sowell, Cable seems to be seeing whether he can be the “swing” tackle for both sides, if need be. And usually in an NFL season, need does be. Last season the Seahawks started eight different offensive linemen.
For now, Sowell is competing with Webb and Gilliam for a starting tackle job.
“You have some experience that you bring to the group, which is really important right now,” Cable said. “He’ll get a lot of work as we go through this. I think he is right in the middle of the competition.”
Jahri Evans was back on the second team at right guard to end his first week with Seattle, after he signed on Saturday following 10 seasons and four All-Pro selections at right guard with New Orleans. He appears to be a couple weeks aways from being in game shape, but Cable said Evans will play Saturday against the Chiefs.
“Our plan is to get him in the game and go for it,” Cable said.
It appears Evans, who turns 33 this season and signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of just over $1 million, will be a second guard with Mark Glowinski starting on the left and Ifedi and the right in Kansas City.
Cable said the coaches haven’t discussed how long starters will play Saturday. Usually, coach Pete Carroll keeps a few veterans off the field or even off the trip for the exhibition opener and plays the rest of the starters a couple series.
If there was ever a time and position group for an exception to what’s been Carroll’s general rule in six seasons leading Seattle, it’s Saturday for this far-from-settled offensive line.
▪ As he promised on Twitter Wednesday, rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed was the starting defensive tackle again. Wednesday he scared many by going off the field in a cart after he got his lower leg stepped on in a pass-rush drill.
▪ Doug Baldwin was full go in practice after a week out with an Achilles injury. One interesting thing the No. 1 wide receiver said after practice: No. 3 quarterback Jake Heaps has been, “on paper,” the most accurate passer in Seahawks camp so far. Yes, that includes Russell Wilson.
▪ Cable said No. 2 QB Trevone Boykin had his best day of communicating with his offensive line. On one play in the red zone, the undrafted rookie from Texas Christian recognized an imminent blitz, changed the protection at the line and fired a quick out to recently signed tight end Clayton Echard at the sideline for a gain rather than a sack. Those are the plays Boykin must show he can make in the preseason games to win that backup job and keep Seattle from buying a veteran QB off the street to backup Wilson this season. Boykin will get a ton of playing time Saturday.
▪ Thomas Rawls took a day off after the lead running back had practiced his first two days off the physically-unable-to-perform list.
▪ Kam Chancellor got another rest day, after he practiced for the first time this week on Wednesday. Kelcie McCray was again the strong safety.
▪ Yet again, DeShawn Shead was the starting right cornerback, Jeremy Lane was the nickel back inside, and Tharold Simon was the No. 2 left cornerback behind Richard Sherman.
▪ If this week’s practices are any indication, Cassius Marsh is passing Mike Morgan as the first-team strongside linebacker. Or, this week is just Marsh’s turn to go first in the competition that also includes Eric Pinkins.