Garry Gilliam hopes to reclaim the starting right tackle spot for the Seahawks for good beginning Saturday against Arizona.
Can a few weeks off help Garry Gilliam more properly channel his inner beast?
The future of the Seahawks’ right tackle position may well depend on it.
Gilliam, who was unceremoniously replaced as Seattle’s right tackle on Nov. 27 at Tampa Bay after the first three plays of the game, will be back in the starting role at that spot for Saturday’s game against Arizona as the Seahawks continue to tinker with their offensive line.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable acknowledged this week that making yet another move with just two games remaining in the regular season is not ideal.
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“You’d like to be more settled than that, but unfortunately it’s not working out that way for us,’’ Cable said.
When Gilliam was benched, the Seahawks thought Bradley Sowell might take the job and run with it. But with Seattle struggling to get any kind of a running game going last week against the Rams, the Seahawks went back to Gilliam for the fourth quarter of last Thursdays 24-3 win over Los Angeles.
While Gilliam played just 15 snaps, it was enough to convince Cable to give him another shot.
“I like his approach to this coming back to it, so we’ll go forward,’’ Cable said.
First, though, Gilliam admits he had to take a step back and do some self-reflection on how he had lost the starting right tackle job he had held for 27 straight games before being benched. Not only did he not start, but he was inactive for the first two games after he lost his job.
“You’ve got to re-evaluate again and be like ‘okay, let’s see what’s really going on here,’’’ he said. “They are trying to get the best guys in there, get the best out of all of us — that’s really it. That’s what the organization is based out of is competing and that’s really it. You lose a spot or a spot is taken from you it makes you reevaluate lot of things. For me it was just like ‘all right, okay, what you are being asked here? Why did it happen? What’s going on?’ Humble yourself. Come to work every day and just handle your business. ‘’
For Gilliam, that meant trying to figure out how to become more physical, which Cable cited as the main reason the change was made to go to Sowell last month.
“That’s more just going harder, really,’’ Gilliam said. “That’s really all that is. I tend to be a player that thinks a little bit more. I read people a little bit more. Just do less of that and just react more. Which isn’t a problem. It’s just a matter of telling myself to do it.’’
The tricky part, Gilliam said, is that physicality can be hard to work on during NFL regular season practices, which often feature little real contact.
The snaps against the Rams, though, he felt were promising.
“It was nice to get in there a little bit,’’ he said. “It felt good, excited to move forward and really work on the stuff that they wanted me to work on.’’
If Gilliam can show a new side of himself consistently, then it would go a long way towards solidifying the future of the offensive line.
A third-year player from Penn State, Gilliam was regarded as the potential left tackle of the future when he was moved to that spot in the spring after Russell Okung signed in free agency with Denver.
But a spring surgery to remove a cyst from his knee stunted his development in the off-season and he was moved back to right tackle early in training camp, with Sowell taking over at left tackle.
An injury to Sowell against Arizona in October opened the door for undrafted rookie free agent George Fant to take the left tackle spot, the team deciding to leave Gilliam on the right side.
When Gilliam was benched, it was tempting to wonder if he’d ever see the field again for the Seahawks.
Now he’s getting what could be a two-game re-audition to prove his worth to the team. Gilliam will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season (meaning the Seahawks can almost certainly keep him if they choose) while Sowell will be an unrestricted free agent.
So some decisions will have to be made in the off-season, and Gilliam’s play the next few weeks will go a long way toward helping the Seahawks make those calls in one direction or the other.
For now, Gilliam’s just happy to be back in the lineup this week.
“They’re just trying to get us to be the best us for the team,’’ Gilliam said of his benching and re-elevation to the starting spot. “I have no problem with that.’’