The season-ending loss of LT George Fant was as hard an injury punch to the gut as the Seahawks have taken in awhile, made irksome because it came in a meaningless game. Fant’s trajectory was so positive, after an off-season physical makeover, that he already had locked down the vital O-line spot despite only eight regular-season games of NFL and college experience.
“It’s heartbreaking — so unfortunate,” Pete Carroll said following the Seahawks’ 20-13 win over the Vikings Friday night. “It’s unfortunate that George doesn’t get to play football. But my first thought is about George.”
In the second quarter, Fant was holding off a rusher when teammate Justin Britt, making a block himself, was pushed down and onto Fant’s legs, tearing an ACL that must be surgically repaired.
Carroll’s likely second thought is the identity of his replacement. Newcomer Luke Joeckel is the obvious choice. But he is coming off major knee surgery himself, and the Seahawks coaches insisted upon his signing in free agency after four years in Jacksonville that the former tackle looked better at guard, where he started Friday.
Naturally, Carroll fired up the positive spin machine.
“We’ve very fortunate that Luke Joeckel is on our team,” he said. “Luke can start at left tackle or left guard. We have some choices.”
One choice seemingly on a fade is Rees Odhiambo, the second-year guard from Boise State who hasn’t had a good training camp. He took Fant’s spot and gave up two sacks and had a holding penalty.
“He’s been a little bit up and down,” Carroll said. “He’s been playing both spots, guard and tackle on the left side. We like his physicality. He’s a good athlete. He’s strong and tough.
“(He needs) cleaning up his game, so he can be real consistent. (That) is what we’re concerned about, and how soon will that come. Will he be able to clean it all up in time to win one of these spots?”
Over at right tackle, second-year Germain Ifedi also continues to struggle. He gave up a big sack in the second quarter when he appeared to be on roller skates.
“He had the one rush on his side, but other than that I thought he did OK,” Carroll said. “But I don’t know until I see the film. I thought (right guard Mark) Glowinski played better. Mark had a pretty good game, by accounts from talking to (coach Tom) Cable.
“This is a very important film for us to watch because of the guys we just played against. Those guys are good.”
If Joeckel takes Fant’s spot, the Seahawks could move Glowinski back to left guard, where he played last year, and promote Oday Aboushi, a veteran free agent, to right guard.
For whatever it’s worth, the offense had 406 yards, including 153 on the ground, a big uptick from the opener against the Chargers. In his first action of the preseason, Doug Baldwin caught four passes for 59 yards in the first quarter.
The first unit played most of the first half and scored touchdowns on drives of 77 and 80 yards. The second half was filled with reserves and rookies who mostly struggled, setting up just two Blair Walsh field goals.
Part of the O-line’s answer may rest with Ethan Pocic, the second-round draft pick who has impressed with his ability to play tackle, guard and center. Obviously, the Seahawks have never been bashful about starting rookies in the line, and Pocic was an accomplished three-year starter at Louisiana State.
There’s always a chance the Seahawks will look outside the roster for help, although average O-linemen are in short supply and sought by many teams, much like starting pitchers in baseball.
“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. We have to settle our issues with the guys that are here.”
The Seahawks get a chance to start settling some of those issues at 5 p.m. Friday when they host the Kansas City Chiefs, but the O-line flux seems to have morphed into more than a problem. It’s now a tradition.