Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks Seattle's offensive line — regarded as the team's biggest question mark entering the season — is beginning to provide some positive answers, starting with center Justin Britt.
As Seahawks rookie right guard Germain Ifedi talked to reporters following the first game of his NFL career Sunday, center Justin Britt — seated at the next locker — playfully motioned to his teammate.
“Give me a shout out,’’ Britt said. “Shout me out.’’
Ifedi plunged on with the task at hand, answering questions about his ankle and first game, leaving Britt’s request unheeded.
Britt, though, needn’t have worried.
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Coach Pete Carroll gave Britt all the shout outs he could have wanted during his regular day-after-game press conference Monday, citing the third-year player as a main reason he feels the offensive line has surpassed expectations — those from the outside, anyway — during the first four games of the season.
“One of the things that’s obvious is Justin Britt has done a really good job in the middle,’’ Carroll said. “He’s been on it. He’s done well in the run game and the pass game. He’s done very well captaining the front and making his calls and working with (quarterback) Russell (Wilson) to direct and redirect protections, and that’s not something we knew would happen. That’s a great positive for us and he’s really embraced the position. I think it starts right there.”
Also giving Britt a shout out was the analytic site Pro Football Focus, which named him as one of the top 10 players of the weekend saying he “allowed no pressure in 35 pass-blocking snaps and run blocked well, allowing the Seahawks to average 4.3 yards per carry on either side of his block.’’
Carroll, meanwhile, also noted that the Seahawks have allowed just nine sacks through the first four games compared to 18 last season. And that has come with Wilson playing three-and-a-half games with less mobility than usual, and against two teams that rank in the top 10 in sacks (Jets, Dolphins) and another generally considered as one of the better defensive lines in the NFL (Rams).
Carroll, though, laughed and added that comparisons to last season aren’t “a great marker.’’
Indeed, the Seahawks were on pace to set dubious records for sacks allowed this time a year ago before a second-half rally enabled Seattle to give up “just’’ 46, tied for sixth-most in the NFL.
Skepticism that the Seahawks could continue the second-half improvement this year, though, only grew during the off-season when Seattle lost left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy in free agency, and then decided to move Britt from left guard to center.
It marked Britt’s third position in three years, and to some on the outside seemed to reek of desperation for a team that is devoting just under $9 million to its entire offensive line, roughly $4.5 million less than anyone else in the NFL.
Four games, two of which will be remembered more for Wilson injuries suffered on sacks than anything else, is hardly enough to make a sweeping judgment that the line has moved past the huge question mark stage (and PFF, in its praise of Britt, wrote that “the rest of the Seattle line was struggling’’ against the Jets).
But the ever-optimistic Carroll says he likes the way things are coming together up front.
Not only has Britt adapted to center, but Ifedi has recovered from a high ankle sprain and showed glimpses of why the team is so high on him against the Jets.
“He’s been here one game so far but if you watch him in the game he moves people,’’ Carroll said. “He makes the line of scrimmage move and he takes up a ton of space in pass protection. We’re going to be better with him in there.’’
Carroll also says he’s pleased with the progress of second-year left guard Mark Glowinski.
“He’s really solid,’’ Carroll said.
Hearing all of that isn’t necessarily a surprise as the Seahawks have liked the work of the guard-center trio since the first few days of training camp.
Maybe more eye-opening is the praise Carroll is heaping on the tackle duo of Garry Gilliam (right) and Bradley Sowell (left).
Gilliam had been ticketed to be the left tackle, but he got off to a slow start in camp after missing much of the off-season following surgery to remove a cyst on his knee and was moved to the right side when J’Marcus Webb suffered his own knee injury early in camp. That opened the door for Sowell, who hadn’t started a game since 2013, to emerge as the starter on the left side.
“Bradley Sowell has come through,’’ Carroll said. “We didn’t know at the time, we didn’t know that was going to work out. He’s been coming through and is doing alright.’’
Carroll says the same of Gilliam, whose knee issues and subsequent missed practices in the off-season might have been more of a setback than was perceived at the time.
“I think it’s taken him a couple weeks in the season to get right,’’ Carroll said. “I think he’s needed to get out there and get a lot of play time. There wasn’t enough plays in preseason to determine that. He just needs to keep battling. Get his legs underneath him and his balance and everything right. He’s a really good athlete. He’s responded really well I think he’s going to do fine.’’
The return of Ifedi means the Seahawks can now use Webb as a utility backup at guard and tackle, and that at least means Seattle wouldn’t have to turn to an untested rookie in the event of one injury.
That the word on the line — in his eyes, at least — is better than he might have thought added to Carroll’s giddiness on a day when he also said this team has a chance to be his best in Seattle.
“We just have a chance to grow and get better,’’ Carroll said.