Carroll's comments Monday seemed to indicate Seattle's starting offensive line is set heading into the final week of the preseason.
Complete answers about the Seahawks’ offensive line won’t come until the regular season, when opponent’s starters play throughout.
But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll seemed pleased with the offensive line after Seattle’s 21-20 defeat against Minnesota last Friday, and as the Seahawks enter the final week of the preseason, they appear to have a set starting five offensive linemen.
Carroll said the offensive line has done well to quell concerns about its ability through three exhibition games. Even though Seattle lost to Minnesota, it led 13-6 when the starters departed. Film review of that game confirmed the enthusiasm Carroll displayed afterward for how the line played against one of the better defenses in the NFL.
Carroll liked what he saw of a running attack that had 54 yards on 11 carries — and 49 yards on 10 carries from tailbacks Chris Carson and Mike Davis — in the first half against a Vikings defense that last year allowed only 83.6 rushing yards a game, second fewest in the NFL.
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“We schemed very well and some of the stuff we have been working on showed up,’’ Carroll said. “And I think the couple of plays that we hit were really well blocked and the runners hit it right and we made good plays inside and it was great to see us execute like that. That’s our best game at the line of scrimmage, at the point of attack.’’
That comment means, foremost, that Germain Ifedi will remain the right tackle for now despite George Fant’s move from left to right tackle last week. The other four starters (left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Ethan Pocic, center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker) have been set for some time.
Carroll on Monday said some of what the team did well against the Vikings resulted from continuity, with the same five offensive linemen working as the starters throughout camp.
“I think the guys are really working together very well,’’ Carroll said. “And we’ve had the good fortune of keeping them solidly connected through the offseason and it’s helped. The communication is good, Russell’s (Wilson) communication through Justin and across the line is good. … We have a chance to keep improving. We have a long ways to go, but we are making really good progress and I think this is the most solid we have been in some time.’’
One of the well-blocked plays Carroll liked was Carson’s 6-yard touchdown, on which Pocic pulled and Ifedi moved quickly to the second level to blast a linebacker into the end zone.
Fant rotated in to work with the starters and had 12 snaps with the starting unit to Ifedi’s 23. But it was also Fant’s first game at right tackle and only his third since returning from ACL surgery, so it would have taken a lot for Fant to immediately leapfrog Ifedi.
Ifedi has usually struggled more in pass protection, and it helped that the Vikings didn’t have their best pass rusher — Everson Griffen — available for the game. Ifedi mostly went up against backup Brian Robison, and on one play, he initially got beat by Robison, and appeared to get away with a hold when he took Robison down.
Carroll said Ifedi “played a very solid game’’ against the Vikings.
“I think he’s doing well, he’s doing really well,’’ Carroll said. “He’s really cleaned up his game. He’s playing hard. He’s got some technique things that he’s working on that show up that you can tell that he is. I think he is responding well (to the competition with Fant).’’
Ifedi worked as the starting right tackle throughout practice Monday, the beginning of a short week that makes it unlikely the Seahawks will make any changes now. Seattle practices again Tuesday and will have a walk-through Wednesday before the exhibition finale against the Raiders on Thursday — in which the starters likely will play only one or two series (which often depends on how long the first series is).
What’s more uncertain as cutdown day looms this Saturday is the makeup of the rest of the line beyond the starting five.
Fant seems a lock, with his experience now on the right side making him capable of being a swing tackle (able to back up both spots) on game day. That played a factor in moving him to the right side.
Jordan Roos continues to work most consistently when Fluker gets time off at right guard, which indicates that, for now, he’s the next guard up.
Monday, Rees Odhiambo missed practice with an illness, so Joey Hunt — a backup center who has usually played only that spot — got a lot of work at right guard as well.
Veteran J.R. Sweezy was re-signed the first week of camp to compete with Fluker on the right side, but he suffered a high ankle sprain and has yet to take a snap in team drills. When he returns, he likely also will be used on the left side, and at this point, because he won’t be a starter, he needs to show he can back up on both sides.
Isaiah Battle and Willie Beavers have worked consistently with the twos, Battle mostly at right tackle, but also some on the left side, and Beavers can play both guard and tackle.
The Seahawks also are considering keeping rookie Jamarco Jones on the 53-man roster despite his recent ankle surgery — if only to keep the option of putting him on Injured Reserve later so he could return later in the season. (Players placed on IR in the preseason have to sit out the year).
But lineup questions, for now, appear over when it comes to the starting five.