The Seahawks' offensive line coach says he likes the way his group has picked up the playbook but so far. But until the team gets into full pads, it will be hard to really assess a line that could feature new starters at all five spots.
RENTON — Asked Wednesday about a timeline for when the Seahawks would like to settle on a starting offensive line, position coach Tom Cable responded with a question of his own.
“When’s the first game?’’ he asked after the Seahawks’ organized team activity (OTA) at the team facility.
The message: It’s early, and a lot of work remains as the Seahawks reshape a line that bore the brunt of the criticism for offensive struggles that led to a 4-5 start in 2015.
In fact, the line could have five new starters in the season opener. The Seahawks are counting on significant contributions from three rookies and a handful of other players who are in their first three years in the league.
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As Cable said, the goal remains the same: “Find the best five. Where are they? Who are they?’’
But the way the Seahawks went about doing that a year ago could compel them to take their time this season.
Last year they essentially settled on a starting five after the first preseason game, when Justin Britt was moved from right tackle to left guard, Garry Gilliam installed at right tackle and Drew Nowak at center.
Nowak barely had played in a regular-season game at that point, and he struggled early. The Seahawks went with Patrick Lewis at center after the sixth game.
Cable acknowledged that the way the line was assembled last season and the changes that were forced later will influence how decisions are made this year.
“I think it has a lot to do with, ‘Let’s make sure we are on the same page of doing what is best for our quarterback and our football team,’ ’’ Cable said. “So I think in that regard I think it’s impacted everybody, sure.’’
If the Seahawks were to play a game today, the starting five likely would feature free-agent signee J’Marcus Webb at right tackle, first-round pick Germain Ifedi at right guard, Britt and/or Lewis at center, second-year player Mark Glowinski at left guard and Gilliam at left tackle.
But the Seahawks are without Gilliam (who had a cyst removed from a knee last week) and Webb (who suffered what Cable called a pretty severe calf injury before the off-season program began), leaving second-year man Terry Poole at right tackle and free-agent signee Bradley Sowell at left tackle.
Cable also said where guys line up now doesn’t mean much, and added that players such as rookies Joey Hunt (center) and Rees Odhiambo (left guard) and second-year man Kristjan Sokoli (who has been working at guard and center) remain in the competition.
“Until you really play football (meaning in full pads, which the team cannot do until training camp) you don’t really know,’’ Cable said.
With so many new and young pieces, the key is how well players are picking up the offense and learning to work together — the latter even more of a priority in the zone-blocking scheme the Seahawks run.
In that regard, Cable said, “I think they are doing better than we have in a while.’’
One player who has impressed him is Ifedi. Cable said Wednesday that Ifedi has picked up things so well he helped lead the installation period of the playbook to the rest of the linemen. Cable, who has been with the Seahawks since 2011, said no other rookie has done that during the first week of OTAs in his time here.
“Germain is very blessed that way mentally,’’ Cable said.
Cable also said that so far, so good with one of the most significant moves the team has made this offseason — switching Britt from left guard to center. It’s the third position in three years for Britt, who started at right tackle as a rookie in 2014. Britt joked that the moves have made him lose his hair but otherwise spoke enthusiastically of the switch to center. He said he is embracing the challenge and added that it will be good for his career if he can show he can play another spot on the line.
“I like what Justin is doing at center,’’ Cable said, adding Britt is “smart, tough, gets it, good communicator.’’
Cable said the move of Britt wasn’t a reflection on Lewis, who emerged into the starting lineup full time last season in Game 8. Lewis was credited with leading a turnaround in which the team drastically cut down its sacks in the second half of the season (the Seahawks gave up 31 sacks in the first seven games, 15 in the last nine).
“You kind of know what they have done,’’ Cable said. “But every year is a new year. Some guys get better, some guys drop off. So we just want to create the best group that we possibly can.’’