RENTON Garry Gilliam is heading back to work some more at left tackle.
J’Marcus Webb is expected to make his Seahawks “game” debut this week, at right tackle.
And the Seahawks’ veteran line coach has a deadline date for when he believes he needs to have five starters settled on a still-very-unsettled line.
“What day's the first game? September 11,” Tom Cable said Sunday, three weeks before that opener against Miami.
“We have a lot of work to do.”
One is seeing Webb finally play in a game. Seattle signed the free agent from Oakland this spring to a two-year contract. It guarantees him $2.75 million. Three days before the first preseason game, at Kansas City Aug. 13, Webb sprained his right knee. He’s been wearing a brace and heavy tape on it since, but the former starting tackle with the Raiders and Chicago Bears was back practicing Sunday during the team’s no-pads drills.
Webb is on track to play in Thursday’s third preseason game, at home against Dallas.
I asked Cable if it is getting too late before the regular season to move Gilliam back to left tackle. The coach shook his head from side to side.
“No. Oh, no. No. We’re not done with any of that,” Cable said. “You’re going to see a lot of different things this week before it’s over with.”
Webb needs to have his best game in a long time Thursday against the Cowboys, whose starting defense is likely to play into the second half just like Seattle’s starters. Webb’s time to show something is dwindling.
The Seahawks seem set inside on the line. Mark Glowinski drove Minnesota defensive tackle Tom Johnson 5 yards off the ball and onto his back on a 10-yard run by Christine Michael on the game’s first drive last week, more evidence why Seattle really likes its 2015 draft choice. Justin Britt has handled the transition from former right tackle and left guard to center maybe better than the coaches expected. And rookie first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi was a star of training camp.
Then there is the curious situation of having a 10-year veteran and four-time All-Pro as a backup right guard with seemingly nowhere to play in Seattle.
What about Jahri Evans, signed this month after a decade with New Orleans? He’s been a backup as low as third-string in practices and two preseason games.
“He plays right guard,” Cable said, flatly. “He is tremendously gifted in terms of his experience and his knowledge and all that. So, he’s in there battling right now.”
There are three weeks from today until the games get real. Wouldn’t the Seahawks like to determine their starting blockers way before then, such as after this third exhibition that is customarily the final dress rehearsal for starters? Starters customarily barely play, if at all, in the final preseason game. For Seattle that’s Sept. 1 at Oakland.
“I just think that we have a lot of work to do between now and then to make that decision,” Cable said of the first regular-season game. “Quite honestly, it would really be premature to say, ‘This guy should do this or this guy should do that,’ because we don’t know. We haven’t even seen Webb play yet. It looks like we’re going to this week, so I think until we can evaluate that it’s really difficult to give you that answer (on when they’ll settle on starters).”
Gilliam started all last season at right tackle. Then after the Seahawks signed Webb and left tackle Russell Okung signed in March with Denver, the Seahawks moved Gilliam to left tackle. That’s where he practiced from May’s minicamps until Webb got hurt 10 days ago.
Since then, Bradley Sowell -- who got in a fight with defensive end Michael Bennett is practice Sunday -- has started at left tackle and Gilliam has been at right tackle for the first two preseason games -- to mixed reviews from the man whose evaluation counts most.
The Seahawks allowed Russell Wilson to get sacked four times in the first half of last week’s preseason loss to Minnesota, but coach Pete Carroll said at least two of those sacks were because the quarterback held onto the ball too long. Carroll said Wilson has to help out his line better than that.
Cable said Sunday Sowell and the new linemen need to learn how Wilson plays -- sometimes improvisionally and extending plays, though the latter half of last season he got the ball out more quickly and became the first Seahawks quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season -- and the coaches need to teach the blockers accordingly.
“If you went through each guy, you would find things they need to work on,” Cable said. “Garry’s the one who’s probaby kind of really up and down, inconsistent. We’ve talked about that and addressed that, have a great plan this week. But I think the rest of them are taking steps in the right direction, really as a group. So hopefully we will continue to keep doing that, so as we get ready to make these decisions we have the right guys in the right places.”
Sowell is the former backup guard and tackle with Arizona whom Seattle signed this spring. He told me after the Vikings game he is most comfortable at left tackle, because that’s where he started in 2013 for the Cardinals and in college at Mississippi.
“He fits right in, Cable said. “He’s learning how to do our style and getting it, kind of looking for another move forward this week. But that’s two pretty solid eeks for him. He can do a lot better, don’t get me wrong, but for going over there and ‘Hey, you’re going to start...’ no problems.”
Gilliam had a cyst removed from his knee in the spring. That left him out of minicamps and organized team activities into June. He’s progressing, Cable said.
”I think that’s the right word: progression,” the line coach said. “You know, he’s still in that mode of catching up from the spring and then catching up from the early part of camp on the pitch count and all that so he needs to get better and we’ve addressed all that. And he’s ready to go."