After the Seattle Seahawks’ scrimmage on Saturday, offensive line coach Tom Cable said he was eager to get into the office and study the video of what went on.
No wonder. Given the dizzying number of combinations and permutations of players who saw action on the line, it would be impossible to keep it all straight in real time.
And so the situation along the offensive front is similar to recent years when the Hawks head into the preseason with something of a hypothetical offensive line. This year, there’s a little bit of Rookie Roulette tossed in to spice up Cable’s challenge.
Since Pete Carroll hit Seattle in 2010, the Seahawks have had 23 offensive linemen start games. Only the Colts and Chargers have had more (25).
If someone demanded a nickname be applied to the offensive front, most seasons it would be something like The Random Five. The Least Injured. Starters By Attrition.
It’s wrong to think you need a bunch of Pro Bowlers or first-round picks up there; you need five tough guys who play consistently together in a collaborative unit.
And when you examine what the Seahawks have had up there the last few years, it only stresses how exceptional have been the performances by elusive quarterback Russell Wilson, who turns sacks into first downs, and back Marshawn Lynch, who creates yards whether there’s blocking or not.
The reasons for the line issues are varied. Some draft picks didn’t meet expectations (James Carpenter, John Moffitt); some guys have been solid but at times diminished by injury (Russell Okung, a Pro Bowler who has missed 15 games in five seasons); and a top-level center, Max Unger, was traded to help Seattle get tight end Jimmy Graham.
Pretty much everybody else is young and a project.
Particularly the three draft picks from this spring: two fourth-rounders (Terry Poole, San Diego State, and Mark Glowinski, West Virginia) and a sixth-rounder (Kristjan Sokoli, Buffalo).
Glowinski plays a little high but moves well when asked to pull; Poole is strong but sometimes drops his head and loses his man; and Sokoli is extremely athletic but as raw as one might expect a player who was recently a defensive tackle.
All three of them, at times, have those “Where Am I?” moments where they take a step, nobody’s there, and they look around befuddled.
Along with Alvin Bailey, a young veteran with five starts on his résumé, all three of the rookies saw some action at left guard.
At center, Drew Nowak, who has played in a total of two NFL games, spent a lot of time with the No. 1 unit, perhaps indicating that he has edged in front of returner Lemuel Jeanpierre.
It’s not totally grim up there, though. J.R. Sweezy at right guard looks like the pick of the litter, strong and athletic and increasingly more comfortable. Justin Britt, at right tackle, made it through 16 starts as a rookie, and has benefited from the experience.
With the young guys, Cable is shuffling the deck to see if he can come up with the best hand.
Right now, he’s looking for consistency.
“When they can come out and just do the right thing day after day, drill after drill, that will show they understand it and their confidence will grow,” Cable said. “When that comes, whoever it is, I think they’ll take it and run with it.”
The three rookies are all athletic, as is second-year tackle Garry Gilliam, backing up Okung at left tackle. Somebody is going to get the chance to step up and earn playing time.
“When your whole identity is to compete, you have to keep mixing and matching, and see who can take those steps, who can handle the opportunity the best and then rise with it,” Cable said.
One week into training camp, the 2015 offensive line looks like many of its predecessors, a piecemeal collection in spots, held together by Spackle and hope.
The Seahawks have made it to consecutive Super Bowls nonetheless.
The only thing certain is that the lengthy list of offensive line starters is going to grow by a few more by the time the season rolls around.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440