RENTON — The last few years of Seahawks success have been remarkably ordinary when it comes to annual personnel replacements. A cornerback here, a wide receiver there, and always an offensive lineman. But three starters in one group? Rare as an unpracticed comment from Russell Wilson.
That’s why the Seahawks’ second exhibition game, at 5 p.m. PT Friday in Kansas City against the Chiefs (KCPQ, Ch. 13), has actual intrigue. Never have so many starting positions been unclaimed in one group as the three in the offensive line.
LT Russell Okung is set, as is RG J.R. Sweezy. Applications are being taken at center, left guard and right tackle.
It’s always hard to evaluate O-line performances immediately in the game. But applicants easily can be scored quickly on one telltale: Wilson curled up fetally behind the line of scrimmage. That means a sack has happened to the $21 million man.
The line was also responsible for a hit on backup QB Tarvaris Jackson that sprained his ankle and will cost him at least two weeks of action.
It’s why Justin Britt is now trying out at left guard instead of right tackle, where he was when the Broncos’ Von Miller blew past to commit mayhem. Britt was in for 11 snaps, and had three missed assignments. That’s all it took to move a 16-game starter as a rookie to a a safer position.
But all seven sacks weren’t on Britt. As assistant coach Tom Cable put it:
“I did not like the pass protection. At all.”
Britt becomes the fifth player to spend practice time at first-team left guard this month, preceded by formerly presumptive starter Alvin Bailey, rookie draftees Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli and former practice squadder Keavon Milton.
Bailey is now a backup behind Okung. Undrafted free agent Garry Gilliam replaced Britt at right tackle. Still undecided is the starting center job between vet Lem Jeanpierre or Drew Nowak, another practice-squad guy from last season.
The new lineup practiced together for the first time this week and will get to test out against one the most formidable pass-rush groups in the NFL in Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford.
After just four days together, coach Pete Carroll Thursday pronounced them fit for the task.
“They’ve looked very solid,” he said after practice. “I think very quickly the transition took place. Garry’s been working on both sides for some time as a swing guy. For Justin to move over there, it’s a little bit of an adjustment for him. But, he just turned to it immediately, so I think we’re in really good shape.
“We’ll get better. We’re going to continue to improve as we move through this. It’s a good group we’re going against. They’ll check us out early. It’s a good start to gauge where we are.”
The goal is to find the five best linemen and put them in their five best positions. Carroll thinks Gilliam is a good fit because, as a former tight end at Penn State, the 305-pounder moves his feet better than Britt. As for Britt, he’s more of a brawler — he was a high school wrestling champ — but hasn’t played guard since his freshman year at Missouri.
“Talent-wise, we’re OK,” Carroll said. “This is about them communicating really well. We need to make sure this unit is coming together. I’m anxious to see how they do. Things looked very good in practice.”
The offensive line under Carroll has been the least invested position group, which nevertheless has worked well enough to make two Super Bowl appearances, due in no small part to playmaking abilities of Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch after the line has been breached.
It doesn’t seem as if that script will change in 2015. Only the actors.