The Seahawks are going with Bradley Sowell at right tackle against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, replacing Garry Gilliam.
The starting right tackle for the Seahawks Sunday against the Carolina Panthers will be Bradley Sowell, who will replace Garry Gilliam in what is the first change on the offensive line made this season purely for performance reasons.
Next week, though? Who knows?
“We are just trying to find the best five guys,’’ said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “. …. If it changes every week, then it changes every week. But we are going to try to get the best five guys up there for us.’’
Sowell replaced Gilliam after one series of Sunday’s 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay in what was his first action since suffering a sprained knee against Arizona on Oct. 23. Sowell had been the left tackle before being injured. That spot now belongs to rookie George Fant, who despite some struggles last week will hold on to that position for now.
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The Seahawks also will stick with the rest of their line — Germain Ifedi and Mark Glowinski at guard, with Justin Britt returning to start at center after missing last Sunday’s game due to an ankle injury (rookie Joey Hunt started in his place). Going with Sowell at right tackle will be the fifth different starting offensive line for Seattle this week. But the other moves were all made due to injuries.
And while offensive line coach Tom Cable said frankly that the performance against the Bucs was “not good enough’’ he also said he didn’t think one rough game after what had been three pretty good ones merited panicking.
“I see it as a bad night at the ball game and don’t like it, don’t want it,’’ Cable said. “We are working on it. But do I worry about it? No. Do I think we will continue to move forward? Absolutely.’’
Still, that the Seahawks are making a switch for strictly performance reasons this late in the season wasn’t exactly in the plans.
In the spring, the team had high expectations for Gilliam, a third-year player from Penn State, tabbing him as the heir apparent to the departed Russell Okung at left tackle.
But a surgery to repair a cyst in his knee cost him significant work in the off-season program and a late start to training camp, and he was eventually moved back to right tackle, where he started all of last season.
Now he’s lost that job after being replaced after just three snaps against the Bucs.
The plan against Tampa Bay had apparently been for Sowell to get some work at right tackle at some point in the game and not necessarily to replace Gilliam that early and then stay in the rest of the way.
“It was more than I thought I was going to play,’’ said Sowell, who had been with Arizona the previous three years before signing with the Seahawks as a free agent in the off-season. “But for whatever reason they did that and they just kept it going.’’
Asked what Sowell showed against the Bucs, Cable said: “You see his physicalness, his strength. Obviously his length and size (listed at 6-7, 309 compared to 6-5, 315 for Gilliam). All those things, they kind of fit for what we are trying to do and it was pretty obvious right when he went in that it was a good thing.’’
Sowell said not having played in a month took a little of a toll and he anticipates playing better this week.
“I felt okay,” he said. “Not going to lie — felt like a first game of the year for me after having a month off and then to come back to football. But it will get better as time goes with my wind and my legs were a little heavier there. But it felt good getting back.”
Gilliam had made 27 straight starts, which with Britt sitting out last week was the longest active streak on the team.
Cable had said of Gilliam in October that “we want to see more physicality out of him’’ and reiterated Wednesday that led to the decision to go for now with Sowell.
“I think this game at this level, to play on the line of scrimmage at this level, it has to be a part of your makeup,’’ Cable said. “So we continue to stress that to him and work with him on it. Obviously for every guy and everyone involved, it’s up to you to do what is asked of you and do it the best you can.’’
Cable, asked if the switch to Sowell is for the rest of the season, echoed Bevell’s words, saying “we compete here.’’
Meaning, things could change quickly.
For now, though, the Seahawks don’t have many other options for switching things up on the offensive line.
Hunt impressed with his start at center, with Cable saying “it was solid.’’ But his only position has been center, where Britt — who moved there from guard in the off-season — has been a stalwart all year.
And after the release last week of veteran J’Marcus Webb, the only other offensive lineman on the current 53-man roster is rookie Rees Odhaimbo, who has just 10 snaps this season.
The decision to release Webb, who was the team’s most-experienced and highest-paid offensive lineman after signing a two-year deal worth $5.75 million as a free agent in March, seemed like a significant vote of confidence in the line after the offense had scored a combined 88 points in the previous three games.
Having to go with Hunt Sunday meant the Seahawks started three rookies along with a second-year player in Glowinski who is in his first year as a starter.
As much as getting beat physically, Seattle coaches felt the biggest issue was that the line didn’t handle well Tampa Bay’s stunts and twists.
Fant, Cable said, was “really out of whack early” but got better as the game went on. Ifedi, Cable said, had a tough matchup often going against Tampa Bay All-Pro tackle Gerald McCoy “and didn’t really answer it. Now he knows what he’s got to do to fix it and that’s where we go.”
In general, Cable said, the Seahawks “kind of looked like young guys, to be quite honest with you.”
And young guys, Cable said, inevitably have some ups and downs. For now, that’s all Cable hopes Sunday was.
“It’s disappointing because you are kind of on this trajectory to get right and consistent and then to have that happen,’’ Cable said. “So we all take it very personal and we’ve got to get right and that’s really the only way to do it.