RENTON The Seahawks are apparently more than halfway to settling on a starting offensive line.
Seattle’s line coach and assistant head coach Tom Cable all but named center Justin Britt, left guard Luke Joeckel and left tackle George Fant as starters for the opener Sept. 10 at Green Bay. He spoke following the 14th practice of training camp on Wednesday about not thinking he will have to wait through the entire preseason to settle on a starting five up front.
“No, I don’t. I hope we don’t have to (wait that long). I don’t think we do,” Cable said.
“Really, I think the biggest pressing issue right now is to solidify that right side. I think we’re pretty solid at center, left guard, left tackle. So now we just want to make sure the opportunity is there for everybody to compete, get their opportunity on the right side and then we’ll make that decision. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
It was Mark Glowinski’s turn to take the majority of first-team reps at right guard in team scrimmaging Wednesday. Oday Aboushi started there last weekend in the first preseason game. Those two have been alternating by the practice day, almost by the scrimmage, on the first team.
Germain Ifedi, last year’s first-round pick and the right guard as a rookie in 2016, has been the first-team right tackle this offseason and training camp. That was primarily his college position at Texas A&M. Cable and the Seahawks have not been as clear-cut in their assessments of Ifedi at right tackle as they have with Fant on the left.
Cable attributed part of that to Ifedi missing four days of practice with the starting offense while recovering from teammate Frank Clark punching him in the face and bloodying him during a pass-rush drill two weeks ago. Clark apologized publicly Wednesday, after telling Ifedi and the entire team he was sorry.
“I think he’s probably on schedule,” Cable said. “I’m a little disappointed in that week he missed. I think that would have really kind of been a big deal for him. So we’re trying to play catch up a little bit.
“But he seems to be doing fine.”
Rookie second-round draft choice Ethan Pocic has been the No. 2 right tackle, and this week he’s been getting more work at right guard. Cable said Pocic will play more Friday in the second preseason game, at home against Minnesota. Pocic played center most of his time in college at LSU.
“Yeah, he’s going to play more this week,” Cable said. “He’s doing fine. Again, if you remember when we drafted him, that’s what we talked about – he could do a lot.”
The Seahawks had been eager to see if the 25 pounds Fant gained in the offseason and his exponential growth in learning not just the offense but the game of football would translate into better blocking from the 2016 undrafted rookie college basketball player.
Cable said, so far, so good.
“Just like you would hope that was,” Cable said of Fant’s performance last weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers in the 33 snaps he played.
Cable kept his starting linemen in longer than the rest of the starting offense. He is likely to do that again Friday against the Vikings.
“Really didn’t get to talk about it: That’s probably my biggest question going in, is how would all this fit now? What would it feel like to him? How would be able to display it?” Cable said of Fant’s offseason growth.
“And it was really exciting to see what came of what he’s done in terms of his learning curve and his training and all those things.”
Fant says it’s been a benefit having Joeckel’s NFL experience next to him on the left side. Last year Fant had Glowinski next to him, when Glowinski was in his first season as a full-time starter and second year in the league.
That was part of what general manager John Schneider was talking about this offseason when he said “I think we got in a position where we probably got a little bit too young” last season on the offensive line.
Joeckel’s not ancient: he’s 25. But Jacksonville’s former second-overall pick is entering his fifth season. On the youngest line in the NFL, that might as well be his 15th.
“I think there’s something to that,” Cable said of Joeckel’s experience helping Fant. “We’ve talked a lot about his calmness and his experience level and some of the things he’s faced in his own career. Not much different than George in a lot of ways, other than he had a football background.
“So I think it’s having a great positive effect in regards to their great communication, being able to settle down, keeping them kind of on point.”
Cable wasn’t exactly glowing about Rees Odhiambo’s performance behind Fant and Joeckel as the No. 2 left tackle and guard. Odhiambo, a third-round pick in 2016, was the first-team left guard for many team scrimmages throughout offseason practices and in the first days of training camp. That was when the Seahawks were limiting Joeckel’s participation in team scrimmages. Joeckel has season-ending knee surgery last October after he started the first five games of his career at left guard for the Jaguars, but Seattle’s limiting of his snaps is ending.
“Inconsistencies,” Cable said of Odhiambo. “He’s definitely, I think, talented-wise enough to do it. But I think sometimes the mental errors, being on the right page of communication, needs to be cleaner. We’re counting on him and so we need to bring that along. If he’s ever going to be a part of that conversation to maybe to go over and start on the right side, he’s got to clean up his game. He has some moments where it looks great, and some moments where we’re like ‘OK, we have work to do.’”
“I think the biggest question is who is six, seven and eight? That’s really the most important thing. As they start to play together, they start to fit together so I think that answers both those questions. If there’s an obvious issue, then you got to address that. I don’t think we have that issue this year. But what’s really important is, who’s our sixth, our seventh and our eighth going forward? We usually only dress seven, so it’s going to be a very important decision.”
Right now, the sixth lineman is Pocic, the seventh is Odhiambo, the eighth in undrafted rookie guard Jordan Roos. Joey Hunt, last year’s seventh-round draft choice and backup to Britt at center, is at risk of not making this team because he plays just one position.
The Seahawks know Pocic can play center. There is no need to have both him and Hunt active on game days, three centers at the expense of a backup guard and/or tackle being active. Pocic’s experience playing all three of those positions makes him valuable -- so valuable the team spent a second-round pick on him.
Cable said he’s excited about this line.
Of course, he says that every year.
“Yes,” he said. “I think there was a lot of, a lot put on them last year. Very inconsistent. But the fact of the matter is, the two playoff games maybe played their best football of the year. So then you add Joeckel, you add Aboushi, you add Pocic into that. Not only has the group grown a lot mentally as NFL players, but physically we’re more comfortable with who we are and what we’re capable of.
“And I’ve said it before, very excited about this group. Hopefully, they’ll be able to stay together and play together for a good while.”