RENTON – Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable says the task for his position group is pretty simple these days.
“Don’t get him hit,’’ Cable says, referring to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “That’s our mantra right now.”
Living up to that goal, though, has been maybe the biggest challenge on either side of the ball for the Seahawks this season as they prepare for Monday night’s game at St. Louis.
By just about any metric used, Seattle’s pass protection has been at best an issue and at worst a problem, especially the past month when the team has been without starting right tackle Breno Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung.
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Pro Football Focus this week stated that Wilson has been pressured on 46.6 percent of pass attempts, the most of any quarterback in the NFL — the average is 36 percent.
And in the NFL stat of quarterback hits, Seattle has 40, which stands as the ninth-most.
Giacomini, who had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 30, and Okung, out with a toe injury since mid-September, are expected back in the next month. That will alleviate much of the long-term concern about the pass protection.
Veteran Paul McQuistan, who started the season at right guard, has been playing left tackle in place of Okung, and rookie Michael Bowie has replaced Giacomini. Center Max Unger also missed two games, but has played the past two.
Cable says being without Okung and Giacomini means the goals for the line right now are pretty short-term.
“Just got to keep surviving and advance to the next play and come out of this thing with our quarterback standing up,” Cable said. “And then go to the next play and try to do it again. That’s what we are doing — don’t go beyond that. Because it would be ludicrous to go and say you are going to do that (go beyond surviving and advancing) with people who aren’t accustomed to playing out there. So just keep surviving.”
That also holds true for Seattle’s hopes for Wilson, whose supreme ability to escape pressure has been put to the severest test of his two-year NFL career in recent weeks.
Wilson, though, couldn’t get out of the way every time in last Thursday’s 34-22 win at Arizona, and fumbled three times, losing two of them.
Wilson has eight fumbles, five of which have been lost, each the most of any player in the NFL.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll states the obvious — that the number of times Wilson has been hit, and the resulting fumbles, is a concern.
“He’s been hit pretty consistently the last three, four weeks here and that’s why the ball has come out and it’s been unfortunate,’’ Carroll said. “It’s a huge emphasis for us to hang onto the football, but he’s getting clocked every now and then. So we’re working like crazy to keep that from happening. His awareness is growing and realizing that: ‘OK. It’s happening.’ ”
Carroll, though, says the team has the ultimate trust that Wilson will usually do the right thing.
“He’s a fantastic competitor,” Carroll said. “He gets it. He knows what we’re after and what we want, and so that means that there is some risk involved, and I think that he’s as much of a risk-taker out there than anybody playing the game. But I think that he can manage that risk really well.”
Wilson said he needs to continue to refine the balance of when to try to make a play and when to give in and live to fight another down.
“The biggest thing for me is just hold on to the ball,” he said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to sacrifice yourself and just get down and other times, you’ve just got to continue to step up. I’m always looking downfield, I’m always trying to find guys downfield. So it’s one of those things that it’s a happy medium, you know?”
Wilson said what isn’t an issue is handling the pounding of all those hits. Listed at 206 pounds, Wilson said he is playing this season closer to 210 and noted that he continues to work on increasing the strength in his legs to handle the rigors of his position.
“I never really get tired out there,” he said.
Carroll, though, doesn’t want to risk it any more than the Seahawks already have.
“We don’t ever want him getting hit,’’ he said. “We have to do a better job and keep improving.”
• Giacomini, fullback Derrick Coleman and safety Jeron Johnson — none of whom are expected to play this week — were all listed as not taking part in practice Friday. Also not participating was running back Christine Michael, who was ill. Receiver Percy Harvin does not have to be listed on the practice reports because he is not on the active roster, so there was no report on his participation Friday.
• Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who sat out the past two weeks with a sprained ankle, was listed as a full participant Friday, increasing the chances he will be available.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta