The 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ifedi likely didn't suspect his starting job would be in jeopardy so soon. But when you lead the NFL in penalties, as Germain did with 20 last season, job security tends to evaporate.
Nobody knows for sure what’s going on in Germain Ifedi’s head. All we can go on at this point is what’s coming out of the Seahawks right tackle’s mouth.
Three days after Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram baked, broiled and braised Ifedi in Saturday’s preseason game, the Seahawks shifted left tackle George Fant to the right side for some reps in Tuesday’s practice. Said coach Pete Carroll of the move: “The comp(etition) is on.”
The 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ifedi likely didn’t suspect his starting job would be in jeopardy so soon. But when you lead the NFL in penalties, as Germain did with 20 last season, job security tends to evaporate.
So now the first-round pick who once played guard is up against the undrafted Fant, who once played … power forward. Any reaction?
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“We’re all competing. We’re both pushing each other to be the best players we can be,” Ifedi said. “Whatever comes of it, we’ll be happy for each other.”
Really, no reaction at all?
“No, it’s business as usual. I don’t let things pull me out of my center,” Ifedi continued. “I can’t worry about what’s going on with the competition. When Coach puts me in, and says, ‘Germain you’re in,’ I’m gonna do my job. I can’t go out there and try too hard. … I just need to play my game.”
This is about the answer you would expect from any media-savvy athlete. Ifedi isn’t going to suddenly demand a trade or complain of being disrespected.
But you have to wonder how much longer the Seahawks are going to allow the 24-year-old to start when there have been minimal signs of improvement. And you have to wonder if their long line of line gaffes will affect their decision.
Despite the narrative that Seattle neglects to invest in its boys up front, the Seahawks have drafted a league-high 17 offensive linemen since Carroll and general manager John Schneider came on board eight years ago. But of those 17 picks, only center Justin Britt was given an extension. And in the ego-driven world of professional sports, there is only one thing worse than suffering a loss: admitting a mistake.
That’s essentially what the brass would be doing if they shelve Ifedi. As a result, he might get a few more hash marks’ worth of rope than your average right tackle.
But the correct move is to give the job to the man best-suited to protect the forever fleeing Russell Wilson. And based on the hype surrounding him before his injury last preseason, Fant may very well be that man.
To Ifedi’s credit, the turbulence hasn’t seemed to detrimentally affect his demeanor. The on-field instigator who regularly fought teammates during practice in his first couple of years has vanished.
And whether he actually is getting better, he at least seems self-aware.
What do you think you can improve upon from last year?
“Everything. The presnap penalties, holding on too long, punching, running your feet — everything,” he said. “When you’re a first- or second-year tackle in the league, you’re not that good at anything that you’re not going to want to improve it. So you go into the offseason saying, ‘I need to get better.’ And if that’s not your approach, then you’re doing your team and yourself a disservice.”
Ifedi’s critics have been abundant for some time. Google his name, and the majority of front-page results will be stories about how to replace him.
Even defensive end turned radio host Cliff Avril — Germain’s teammate last year — went in on him last month, citing complacency as a means of holding Ifedi back.
“Most players nowadays, they have this attitude of feeling like everything should be given to ’em,” Avril said on KJR (950 AM). “That’s what his approach has been the past few years, and I think that’s why he hasn’t taken that next step.”
Regardless of your field, competition is generally the most effective impetus toward improvement. Ifedi is experiencing that now. When the Seahawks take on the Vikings on Friday in Week 3 of the preseason, both he and Fant will have an opportunity to showcase their ability.
Perhaps that’s when we’ll see Ifedi truly take that next step. He’s just hoping it isn’t one toward the bench.