With left tackle George Fant lost for the season because of a knee injury, the Seahawks are scrambling to find a replacement scenario that does the least damage to the continuity they firmly believed they were building — finally — on the offensive line.
Can we really be back to the same old debate? Is this tiresome storyline being revived for one more go-round? Does another Seahawks season hang in the balance depending on the development and refinement of the offensive line?
It sure seems that way. Whatever optimism was starting to build about the line coalescing into a fully functioning and productive unit was torn asunder by left tackle George Fant’s devastating knee injury in Friday’s exhibition game.
To listen to the training-camp raves, Fant had made a quantum leap in his second pro season and was about to become the sturdy protector of Russell Wilson’s blind side. But with Fant now lost for the season, the Seahawks are scrambling to find a replacement scenario that does the least damage to the continuity they firmly believed they were building — finally — on the line.
The first man up is Rees Odhiambo, a second-year player out of Boise State about whom many nice things have been said this week. But the fact is that Odhiambo is inexperienced, unproven and far from a guarantee to be an adequate solution. And the man behind him, newly acquired Matt Tobin — such an unknown quantity that a teammate referred to him as “Corbin” on Tuesday — has NFL experience with the Eagles but little of it at left tackle.
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If they falter, it could set into motion a domino effect of compensatory moves — starting with Luke Joeckel switching from left guard to left tackle — that result in players taken out of the comfort zone the Seahawks have been working diligently to build. As offensive-line coach Tom Cable said Tuesday, in expressing a desire to keep the line as much intact as possible, “Remember last year? If you just go back 12 months, there was too much of that.”
So, yes, here we are again, wondering if what shapes up as a championship-caliber defense on one side, with an elite quarterback and improved running game on the other, will be undermined by a lackluster line.
To center Justin Britt, the rock of the Seattle line, it’s a question that’s getting old.
“Everyone needs a story,” he said with a shrug. “If we give up one sack or one tackle for loss, then we’re going to be the story for the week. We accept it, and it’s all good. We want to be the best, so they can hold us accountable. But we don’t pay attention to the media. Or at least I hope we don’t. The only people who matter as far as how good we can be is in the building and in our O-line room. We love the 12s and the fans, but we’re our biggest critics, and we understand.
“We’ve got a really good group — explosive, fast, smart. I’m excited where the room’s headed and how we’re getting there, and how hard we’re working, and how close we are as a group. It’s up to us how far we want to go.”
The Seahawks entered the season dead last in Pro Football Focus’s preseason rankings of all 32 NFL offensive lines. But that belies the progress their staff believes had been made before the Fant injury. Britt, a Pro Bowl alternate last year, and left guard Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, are the veterans. Right tackle Germain Ifedi is in his second year as a starter. The right guard, as it stands, will be either second-year starter Mark Glowinski or newcomer Oday Aboushi, who has started 18 games in his four-year career. Left tackle, as mentioned, is under construction. Behind them all is rookie Ethan Pocic.
All that is subject to change, of course. With the acquisition this week of Tobin and free agent Tyrus Thompson, Seahawks general manager John Schneider resembles Jerry Dipoto in his relentless attempt to unearth starting pitchers from any and all locales.
It’s a unit that appears to be riddled with question marks, which might have been eased somewhat through two exhibition games of robust offense, but hardly erased. Cable, on the other hand, sees nothing but growth from the Seahawks’ young players compared with last year.
“If you’re saying on a scale of one to 10, they were twos last year; they’re easily sevens or eights right now,” he said. “They’re really playing well, that’s been impressive; what they’re doing in short-yardage, what they’re doing in pass-protection, versus pressure, all of those things.”
Of course, that makes you wonder about all the gushing Cable did about the line last year. He’s a born optimist, but the rest of us have been conditioned to pessimism when it comes to the Seattle offensive line.
Maybe this is the year they change the storyline, and Seahawks fans can move on to worrying about something else. We’ll get back to you on that one.