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Seahawks 2012: Offensive line
Over the final nine games of the 2011 season, the Seahawks averaged 134.9 rushing yards and allowed 21 sacks.
That followed averaging 77.7 rushing yards and allowing 28 sacks in the first seven games of the team’s second season under coach Pete Carroll.
As much improvement as those numbers indicate – as the Seahawks rallied from a 2-6 start to finish 7-9 – Tom Cable says you haven’t seen anything yet. He should know, as Cable is entering his second season as the assistant head coach/offensive line coach/running game guru, and coming off his first offseason in those roles.
“The progress we’ve made this spring has been tremendous,” Cable said before heading out for the coaches’ extended break prior to the start of training camp in late July.
“I think we’ve brought ourselves up to a level that we never reached during last season.”
The reasons for Cable’s optimism are obvious. For starters, he and his linemen had an offseason – after the 136-day lockout last year erased the spring minicamps and OTA practices. Then there are the starters, as seven linemen on the current 90-man roster started at least five games last season.
Of course, Breno Giacomini (eight starts at right tackle for James Carpenter), Paul McQuistan (10 starts at three spots, including left tackle for Russell Okung and right guard for John Moffitt) and Lemuel Jeanpierre (five starts at right guard) were forced into the lineup because of season-ending injuries to starters.
But all played well, which bodes even better for this season – with Okung healthy after tearing a pectoral muscle, Moffitt very close to a full recovery after damaging a knee ligament and Carpenter remaining the one question mark entering training camp because of the severity of his knee injury.
Okung, Carpenter and Moffitt, that’s three of the team’s top five picks in their first two drafts under Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
“It’s really a case of getting healthy – in terms of Carpenter and Moffitt in particular,” Cable said of the team’s top two draft choices last year, who were selected to start on the right side of the line. “I think once we’re ready to go there we’ll be pretty complete and we’ll just see how far we can take it.”
Just in case, and also to up the competitive aspect across the line, the team also signed veterans Deuce Lutui, Frank Omiyale and Alex Barron in free agency. Each has started in the league.
“The thing about it is, everyday you’ve got to compete for your job,” Cable said. “We just leave it at that.”
As well as Cable’s backup-infused unit played last season, he knows there’s more.
“We were OK. We weren’t dominant,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re closer to it.”
Especially in pass protection. “The place I’m getting excited about is our protection,” Cable said. “It’s been a huge emphasis. I think we’re getting everybody on the same page – the line with the quarterbacks; the line and the running backs and tight ends in terms of protection and calls.
“We’re just a long way ahead of where we were last year in that area. And that has to be, because it’s a big point of emphasis.”
With that said, here’s a closer look at the line:
Linemen on the 90-man roster: 15
Linemen carried on the 53-man roster: 10 last season, 10 in 2010
Incumbent starters: LT Russell Okung, C Max Unger, RG John Moffitt, RT Breno Giacomini
Linemen who also started games last season: Paul McQuistan (four games at LT, three games at LG, three games at RG), James Carpenter (eight games at RT, one game at LG), Lemuel Jeanpierre (four games at RG, one game at C)
Incumbent backups: OG Paul Fanaika, OT-OG Allen Barbre
Veterans signed in free agency: OG Deuce Lutui, OT-OG Frank Omiyale, OT Alex Barron
Former CFL player: OT Edawn Coughman
Draft choice: OG J.R. Sweezy
Rookie free agent: OG Rishaw Johnson
Outlook: It’s all about competition, of course, but the primary question here involves when Carpenter will be ready to return and where will he play. No one can answer the first, but it would appear that last year’s first-round draft choice steps in at either right tackle, the position he was drafted to play and where he started eight games last season; or left guard, where McQuistan has been working with the No. 1 unit. Okung and Unger are the building blocks in this unit, while Giacomini played well last season after stepping in for Carpenter and only solidified his status with his play this spring.