Unless there’s an abrupt uptick this week in Seahawks’ health news and/or contract talks, the starting left tackle in the first preseason game Saturday night in Las Vegas against the Raiders will be Stone Forsythe.
Anyone who saw that coming four months ago would be advised to join the Seahawks in Vegas and head to the high-roller blackjack tables before your luck runs out.
The rookie sixth-rounder’s appearance is by no means permanent, and largely a function of temporary attrition. Still, not only will Forsythe be in some charge of protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side, he will experience his first game, pro or college, from a three-point stance in order to block for rushers.
Fortunately, he is a large man (6-9, 310 pounds) for the large agenda. Still, Seahawks fans might have appreciated entrusting Wilson’s safety to someone who had done it before. Like, say, Duane Brown.
Certainly, Wilson would appreciate it.
“Not having Duane Brown out there is a pretty significant deal,” he said after Sunday’s mock game at the Loo. “I think he’s as good as it gets. There’s nobody more athletic, more talented than he is. Age is just a number. He looks like he’s 28-30 out there.
“So we definitely want to be able to get him back out there. We’ve got to figure that out.”
Forsythe did get a shot, sorta, Sunday, along with another newbie, undrafted free agent rookie Greg Eiland, at right tackle. Here’s what coach Pete Carroll had to say Tuesday about the bookend rookies:
“Those guys hung well. They did a nice job for two young guys.”
Carroll is always careful with his public criticism, especially in training camp. “Nice job” is entry-level on the positive side.
Up until now, having youngsters occasionally running with the No. 1 unit wasn’t a big deal. It’s partly why training camp exists. But now that games are imminent, the “hold-in” by Brown, 36, has taken a turn toward the serious.
Up until recently, these contract impasses were called hold-outs, because unhappy players didn’t show up. Lately, apparently to be less disruptive, players show up to do meetings and some workouts, but don’t participate in practice. That’s what Brown and SS Jamal Adams are doing, and what LB Bobby Wagner has done.
The problem now is that with coincidental mild injuries to tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jamarco Jones, the Seahawks are out of veteran backups for Saturday. So Forsythe, the very definition of a project player, is suddenly vaulted forward.
Brown, a daily presence in camp, hasn’t acted as if he sees Forsythe as a threat.
“He’s been nothing but helpful,” Forsythe said before practice Tuesday. “Every time I come off the field, he’s got a little coaching tip here and there.
“I kind of just watch him, pick up things he does. He’s a 14-year vet, so something that works for him might not work for me, but I use what I can.”
One of the reasons Forsythe dropped in the draft was because the pass-happy University of Florida offense under coach Dan Mullen finished 96th in the NCAA in rushing. For good reason: The Gators had at quarterback Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kyle Trask and three others on offense who went to the NFL: TE Kyle Pitts and WRs Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes.
But the Seahawks didn’t figure Forsythe was incapable of run blocking.
“There is a bit of a transition in that,” Carroll said. “He played three solid years starting the whole
time in a two-point stance. We took care of that in the off-season. We’re already past that. He’s very
comfortable with it now, it’s not a big deal.
“It’s not like, ‘Maybe two months from now he’ll get it.’ He’ll be fine.”
Here’s what longtime NFL scout Rob Rang of Tacoma, writing in si.com, had to say about Forsythe in the mock game:
“Performed admirably in pass protection, demonstrating the impressive initial quickness, balance and length which helped him allow just three sacks in nearly 500 pass attempts last year for the University of Florida. Forsythe even demonstrated better leverage and grip strength than expected, latching onto the jersey of opponents and doing a nice job of ‘sitting down’ and dictating the action, rather than panicking as edge rushers get to him.
“Unfortunately, Forsythe’s inconsistencies in the running game were just as clear. While massive and surprisingly light on his feet, the rookie does not yet anticipate where defenders are headed. He whiffed badly against backup linebacker — and fullback — Nick Bellore on a second quarter run by Alex Collins, resulting in the play getting stuffed.”
Forsythe’s little first-game drama may be the thing to watch Saturday. Unless Brown and the Seahawks come to an agreement to extend his contract that might allow him a few snaps.
Doesn’t sound likely.
Asked after the mock game if there was progress toward getting Brown another year beyond the $10 million he’s scheduled to receive in 2021, Carroll wouldn’t acknowledge any negotiations.
“Duane and I are doing great,” he said. “In our conversations about stuff, he’s been great. He’s making a statement about what he feels he needs to have happen.”
Asked specifically Tuesday whether Brown was in talks, or was anything even on the table, Carroll said, “Nothing new has happened with that to this point.”
If I had to guess, I’d say the Seahawks have no plan to offer another year, and will wait for Brown to show up ready for the Sept. 12 season opener.
Meantime, Forsythe needs all the reps he can get. With rookies potentially at both tackle spots, Saturday might be a great time for a long look at backup QB Geno Smith.