Gregg Bell on Seahawks' next move with Fant's major injury, more from Friday night
The worst case for any team in any preseason game has happened to the Seahawks: A starter lost to injury.
Worse on top of worst, that injury is at a position group that already had major issues.
George Fant is out for the season facing reconstructive knee surgery. Teammate Justin Britt fell on the back of last year’s undrafted Western Kentucky University basketball player’s leg as they pass blocked Friday night against Minnesota.
That leavs Seattle back to scrambling on its already-iffy offensive line.
“It was upsetting to see George go down. He has worked so hard,” Wilson said of the most unlikely starting tackle in football -- I mean, Fant wasn’t even in the sport until last spring. “He has done everything he could to prepare at the highest level this whole offseason.
“It was just kind of a freak play, and unfortunate for him. And unfortunate for us.”
So very unfortunate.
I feel for Fant, who has made himself, his young family with two babies at home and the entire state of Kentucky proud.
And it seems the entire Seahawks organization is rooting for -- even more so now.
"It’s heartbreaking. It’s so unfortunate,” coach Pete Carroll said late Friday night following the Seahawks’ 20-13 exhibition win over the Vikings that meant even less than preseason games normally do because of Fant’s injury.
“It’s unfortunate that George doesn’t get to play football. And the rest of it ... there’s other things that follow that.”
Many other things.
“We have some choices,” Carroll said, “and we’ll figure that out in time."
Time’s a wasting. Overnight the line has gone from biggest key to this season to biggest key and unknown to this season. Just two preseason games stand between the Seahawks and their real season starting Sept. 10 at Green Bay.
Here are the in-house choices:
1. Move Luke Joeckel to left tackle: Joeckel has started the first two preseason games at left guard. He was drafted second overall in 2013 by Jacksonville to be a franchise left tackle. He played that position for the Jaguars for 34 games -- until 12 months ago. That’s when they moved him to left guard. Jacksonville signed free-agent left tackle Kelvin Beachum and thought Beachum was better there.
“We’ve very fortunate that Luke Joeckel is on our team,” Carroll said after Fant got hurt. “Luke can start at left tackle or left guard. We’re just fortunate that he’s with us.”
But Seahawks general manager John Schneider said upon signing Joeckel in March to a one-year, prove-it deal with $7 million guaranteed that he thinks Joeckel was better with Jacksonville at left guard. Line coach Tom Cable has said he thought Joeckel was the NFL’s best guard last season, at least in the five games before Joeckel was lost to the season to his own knee injury and surgery.
If the Seahawks move Joeckel to left tackle it will be because of his experience there. The domino effect would be the resulting vacancy at left guard.
Mark Glowinski started at left guard last season, his second in the league after Seattle drafted him in 2015. The Seahawks moved him to right guard this offseason. He played that side in college for two years at West Virginia and the Seahawks thought familiarity would lead to better performance. He started there Friday night, and has been in a camp-long battle with veteran Oday Aboushi to be the first-team right guard.
It was telling -- about Glowinski and about struggling right tackle Germain Ifedi -- that Carroll said this Friday night when asked about Ifedi’s play: “He had the one rush on his side, but other than that I thought he did OK, but I don’t know until I see the film. I thought Glowinski played better. Mark had a pretty good game, by accounts from talking to Cable, and Mark felt real good about it also.”
More about Glowinski than Ifedi.
If Joeckel moves out to left tackle, Aboushi could move to left guard. Or Jordan Roos could become the left guard.
The undrafted rookie from Purdue signed for $20,000, a princely sum for a rookie free agent. Based on his experience at Purdue — he made 43 starts at right guard — Roos easily could have been drafted on the final day.
He was not, however, and Seattle moved quickly to sign him to a three-year rookie deal. He has been the second-team left guard this month behind Joeckel.
Carroll’s been praising Roos since rookie minicamp in May. He did it again late Friday.
“He’s done very well,” Carroll said. “He’s been a guy that we’ve been very excited about. He’s really tough, and he’s smart.
“He fits very well. He could definitely play left guard for us."
It may happen sooner than later.
2. Try Ethan Pocic at left tackle.
Heck, the rookie second-round pick has played everywhere else but left guard in training camp. He played center, guard and tackle in college for LSU. When the Seahawks drafted him Schneider quipped he got like “2 1/2 players in one guy.”
How about 3 1/2?
Pocic has been the second-team right tackle increasingly pushing Ifedi there this month. He’s 6 feet 6, height that Schneider believes suits Pocic well for tackle.
Moving Pocic to left tackle would be a risk of the unknown; all his starts at LSU were at center. Yet it would be less disruptive across the entire line than creating the second vacancy at left guard by moving Joeckel outside. At this later point in the preseason whatever is left of continuity up front is important, and something Seattle lacked the last two seasons.
And spending a second-round pick on Pocic signals the Seahawks think he should be starting soon somewhere, on a front that’s hasn’t exactly been the Dallas Cowboys’ blue-chip lineup to break into recently.
The Seahawks drafted Justin Senior in the seventh round from Mississippi State to be a tackle. But he can’t get on the field. He’s on the physically-unable-to-perform list and seems destined for injured reserve.
3. Going shopping and importing from outside the team.
The former was already happening Saturday morning, maybe Friday night. Carroll and Schneider and the 250-plus transactions in multiple years of their regime prove they are always shopping.
The latter, signing an import, is even riskier than starting Pocic at left tackle.
"We’re always competing on that. We’re always looking, and we’ll always be in pursuit of trying to get better,” Carroll said. “That’s what competing’s all about, so we’ll continue to look.”
But Carroll added: “We have to settle our issues with the guys that are here. "
We could go into Branden Albert, an accomplished, two-time Pro Bowl tackle -- who told Jacksonville he was retiring July 31, then got released after he let it be known that maybe he wants to continue playing, after all.
Signing him? At age 32. At a presumably steep cost Seattle has never shown under this regime they will pay for a free agent? Especially a semi-retired one?
Point is, there are reasons guys are available on the eve of the third preseason game, the usual final full dress rehearsal for the season that for Seattle is Friday at home against Kansas City. And none of those reasons are good.
Here is NOT a choice, at least not if they want to keep Wilson healthier than he was in 2016: Have Rees Odhiambo the left tackle.
The Seahawks drafted Odhiambo in the relatively high, expect-him-to-eventually-play spot of the third round last year. But he has struggled -- last year, last month, last week and last night.
Odhiambo entered Friday night in the second quarter immediately after Fant went off on the back of a cart with an air cast over his right leg. He held his ground on the first snap, a pass rush from the outside the Minnesota burned Seattle’s tackles with much of the night. But Odhiambo gave up two sacks within the first three plays after halftime. The second time was while he was being flagged for holding Ifeadi Odenigbo and the Vikings’ defensive end was going through him on his way to dumping backup quarterback Trevone Boykin. Odhiambo had another holding penalty -- and enough alarms that Cable’s assessment before the game of “inconsistencies” with Odhiambo make one wonder when the good times have been to keep him from the assessment of “consistently subpar.”
He’s been slow, both with his feet and getting out to edge pass rushers and in showing why Seattle drafted him.
"He’s been a little bit up and down,” Carroll said late Friday, which for the always-sunny coach is the equivalent of “bad.”
“He’s been playing both spots, guard and tackle of the left side. We like his physicality. He’s a good athlete. He’s strong and tough and all that. Just cleaning up his game so he can be real consistent is what we’re concerned about, and how soon will that come. And, will he be able to clean it all up in time to win one of these spots?
“We’ll see what happens.”