Seattle Seahawks

Justin Britt’s move to center another result of Russell Wilson’s 2015 battering

Defensive end candidate David Perkins, gets coached up by Pete Carroll at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seattle Seahawks training facility, in Renton during OTA's.
Defensive end candidate David Perkins, gets coached up by Pete Carroll at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seattle Seahawks training facility, in Renton during OTA's. dkoepfler@thenewstribune.com

Remember the first half of last season, when Russell Wilson was getting sacked more than Idaho’s potatoes?

The franchise quarterback sure does. So does Pete Carroll, every blocker the Seahawks still have from 2015 — and absolutely, especially the guy who coaches them.

“It has a lot to do with, ‘Let’s make sure we are all on the same page in doing what’s best for our quarterback and what’s best for our football team,’ ” offensive line coach Tom Cable said Wednesday of Seattle’s changes since.

“So in that regard, I think it’s impacted everybody, for sure.”

Wilson getting sacked 31 times in the first seven games of 2015 is why all five of the starters on the Seahawks’ O-line during ongoing organized team activities are new.

That includes the latest and potentially most impactful change: Justin Britt to center.

Carroll has said the Seahawks recall all too well the siege of Wilson at the beginning of last season. That is why his offseason priority for Seattle has been revamping the line. Pronto.

Britt was the Seahawks’ second-round draft choice in 2014. He started that rookie season at right tackle, including in Super Bowl 49. He wasn’t good enough there to keep that job. Cable moved him to left guard for last season, after former first-round pick James Carpenter left in free agency for the New York Jets.

Now — in these no-pads, no-helmets practices before this month’s mandatory minicamp — Britt is replacing Patrick Lewis. Lewis was the reason Cable and Carroll cited for the turnaround in Wilson’s protection late last season. Lewis replaced Drew Nowak at center while Seattle allowed just 15 sacks over the final nine games.

So why is Britt now replacing the man who U-turned the Seahawks’ 2015 up front?

“You just want to find the best five. Where are they? Who are they?” Cable said. “We’ve messed around with it kind of as a backup thought in the past, so now it creates more competition there.

“Again, it’s just getting everybody ready for camp.”

Cable said of Britt’s fit at center: “Smart. Tough. Gets it. Good communicator. All those good things.”

Britt is in competition with Lewis, rookie sixth-round pick Joey Hunt and second-year former college defensive tackle Kristjan Sokoli. If he wins it, Britt will become the fourth man to play center in a regular-season game for the Seahawks since they traded Max Unger to New Orleans in the spring of 2015.

But this and the other four competitions for starting jobs across the remade line is likely to continue through training camp past the opener Sept. 11 against Miami.

Seattle changed its starting O-line four times after Week 1 last year.

Asked Wednesday when he’d like to have his starting linemen settled, Cable flashed a wry smile and said: “When’s our first game?”

Cable came to Britt early last month, immediately after the Seahawks drafted Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi in the first round to play right guard and Rees Odhiambo in the third round to compete with Mark Glowinski, the team’s 2015 fourth-round pick, at Britt’s old spot of left guard.

“After they moved me to guard, I said to myself, ‘Man, I better not put anything past them,’” Britt said, before a small chuckle.

Britt’s only dabbled at center in one spring practice while playing collegiately for Missouri and again some in practice last season. Yet he said of the change: “Love it.”

“I’m capable of doing the job. I know the offense in and out. The hardest part is really seeing it from the center’s perspective, and getting the calls out quick. I’m so used to seeing it at guard and tackle and I listen for the center to make the call and — boom — I know what I’m doing.

“Now I’m the one that has to see it. People are waiting on me to get the call out. It’s definitely getting better and more rhythmic, and I’m getting more comfortable with it.”

Britt has been doing iPad research with film cut-ups of Unger’s plays. That’s a great place to start; Unger was Seattle’s center for six seasons.

He also called a good friend, another former Seahawks center who is playing a large role in Britt’s bid to be their latest trigger man.

“Shoutout to Lem!” Britt said.

Lemuel Jeanpierre, 29, has remained unsigned since Seattle released him following last season.

“I talk to Lem a lot, whether he is here or not,” Britt said. “He’s always helped me, ever since I got here. He taught me the offense in, like, two weeks. He’s been a great tool for me.”

Britt and his wife, Alicia, have a 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Navy. They had her when Britt was 20 and playing at Missouri. So he’s used to being home. A lot.

That’s coming in handy now. Home is where he’s learning most of how to make Seattle’s line calls and blocking reads just before the snap. That was Lewis’ strength and the weakness of Drew Nowak, the failed starter to begin last season.

“I’m really just studying more, just doing more (preparation) at home than I ever have,” Britt said.

“The more you can do.”

EXTRA POINTS

Thomas Rawls was behind Britt and his linemen at the start of practice, walking through blitz pick-up blocking. It was the latest incremental step in the progress Rawls is making from a broken ankle and torn ligaments suffered in December. It’s another good sign Marshawn Lynch’s replacement as lead running back will be ready when the games get real, if not much of training camp. … WR Paul Richardson was practicing kick returns and caught a touchdown pass from a scrambling Wilson. Richardson looks smooth six-plus months after season-ending hamstring injury. … Rookie RB Alex Collins got first-team plays with Rawls and rookie third-round pick C.J. Prosise (hip flexor) out injured. Collins picked up a free blitzer on a touchdown pass from Jake Heaps to Kevin Smith. … The starting offensive line was the same it was last week to begin OTAs: Britt, Ifedi at right guard, Rees Odhiambo at left guard, Bradley Sowell at left tackle and Terry Poole at right tackle. … J’Marcus Webb, the presumed right tackle Seattle signed from Oakland in March, did some individual step drills but otherwise watched. Cable said Webb had a “pretty severe calf strain” and may get on the field next week for the final three OTAs. … New starting LT Garry Gilliam watched practice one week after surgery to remove a cyst in his knee. He was wearing a black sleeve over most of his left leg. … Cable is impressed with how quickly Ifedi is grasping Seattle’s playbook. Ifedi led the installation teaching to the rest of the linemen last week. Cable said that’s the first time a rookie has done that in the first week of OTAs in his six years with the Seahawks.

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