On Saturday, tackle Sean Locklear became Seattle's fifth starting lineman to be placed on injured reserve this season. So, five chairs sat empty, one for every starting offensive lineman the Seahawks have lost to injury this season.
Five chairs sat empty at the front of the room.
Those five chairs were where Seattle’s starting offensive linemen sit for the team meeting the night before a game. Well, it was where they used to sit, until injuries started to pile up like rush-hour accidents on the freeway.
On Saturday, tackle Sean Locklear became Seattle’s fifth starting lineman to be placed on injured reserve this season. So, five chairs sat empty, one for every starting offensive lineman the Seahawks have lost to injury this season.
“None of the current starting linemen wanted to sit in those chairs,” coach Mike Holmgren said.
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They would have filled those seats quite capably if Sunday’s game was any indication, because Seattle’s offensive line didn’t give up a sack in the 13-3 victory over the Jets.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of that group,” Holmgren said. “They did a marvelous job.”
No Walter Jones nor Mike Wahle. No Chris Spencer, Rob Sims nor Locklear, and yet Seattle had no problem keeping quarterback Seneca Wallace standing. The Seahawks held an opponent without a sack for only the second time this season and five of the most anonymous players on Seattle’s roster became the unlikely heroes of a most unexpected victory.
Kyle Williams began this season on the practice squad. He started at left tackle Sunday. Floyd Womack managed to stay healthy the entire season and was at left guard. Steve Vallos was at center, a position he hadn’t played in anything other than a college all-star game before the Seahawks drafted him in 2007. Mansfield Wrotto was the right guard, Ray Willis the right tackle.
None of those players was considered a starter when training camp began. Only Womack had started an NFL game before this season.
“We’ve all just had to come together,” Womack said. “We’ve got to do it pretty fast.”
The weather on Sunday was too cold for a baptism by fire, but Seattle’s offensive line figured to have little better than a snowball’s chance in the sporting hell that the city has been in this year.
Turns out those odds weren’t so bad on Sunday and neither was Seattle’s line.
“The protection was good,” Wallace said.
And when it wasn’t great early in the game, Wallace relied on his feet to buy him time until the Seahawks made adjustments in how the running backs helped in the blocking assignments.
“After we made that adjustment, they did fine,” Holmgren said.
Actually, they did better than that. And as the Seahawks prepare for the final game of a disappointing season, they provided a glimpse of one of the more positive developments this season. Namely, the development of the offensive line under assistant coach Mike Solari. He took three second-year players — none drafted higher than the fourth round — and held off a Jets team playing for its postseason life.
There were plenty of unexpected performances against New York. Receiver Courtney Taylor made the kind of catches everyone hoped for when he began the season as a starter. Cornerback Josh Wilson picked off two passes and had the first sack of his NFL career.
But it was the offensive line that made a win possible by standing its ground. Five men, filling in for the starters whose chairs they wouldn’t sit in at the team meeting, stood front and center in this victory.
“We don’t change because now we’re in a starting role,” Womack said. “We still feel we’re backups in a sense, we’re just out there playing.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org