Focus on: The offensive line

Posted Nov 7, 2013

Tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini have returned to practice, but aren’t ready to play yet. So the Seahawks will go with what has become their offensive line against the Falcons on Sunday and look for continuing improvement.

After the offensive line paved the way for 198 rushing yards and prevented Russell Wilson from being sacked for the first time this season in Sunday’s overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Pete Carroll proclaimed, “Our guys really did a great job of blocking.”

Upon further review, line coach Tom Cable was more reserved in his assessment.

“There was some improvement, yeah,” Cable said as the Seahawks continue to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Falcons in Atlanta. “But it’s just a start. We have to play better this week.”

And the Seahawks likely will do it without three of their best linemen. Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini have returned to practice this week after missing the past seven (Okung) and six (Giacomini) games because of injuries. But Okung, who is on injured reserve, is not yet eligible to be added to the 53-man roster and Giacomini isn’t ready to return this week. And, All-Pro center Max Unger has not practiced this week after getting a concussion in Sunday’s game.

That leaves a starting unit of – from left tackle to right – Paul McQuistan, James Carpenter, Lemuel Jeanpierre, J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie. It’s the same unit that started in Weeks 4-5, when Unger was out with an arm injury. It’s also a unit that includes only one player who’s where he’s supposed to be – Sweezy, who will be making his 13th regular-season start against the Falcons.

Not ideal, but that’s life in the NFL. It’s next man up.

Still, just having Okung and Giacomini back on the practice field is enough to make quarterback Russell Wilson smile.

“Having Russell and Breno back in the huddle, those are basically 6-7, 6-8 guys,” Wilson said of Okung, who is actually 6 feet 5; and Giacomini, who is 6-7. “To have them in there, they’re just a force. So to have them back potentially pretty soon is exciting.

“I think the guys who have stepped up in terms of Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie; you think about Michael Bowie, he’s a rookie player but he’s gone against some of the best defenses you could possibly face. So I think he’s done a tremendous job. Same thing with Paul McQuistan, from playing guard to left tackle. He’s just a guy who battles. So you respect that. You love that about them, and they’ve done a great job so far.” 

But Okung and Giacomini were the starters for a reason, and will be again once they’re healthy.

“I’m looking forward to it, yes,” Cable said. “But right now we have to stay the course and keep trying to do better each week with who we’re playing with. They’re getting better, which helps.”

The positive to this situation is big picture and long range.

“In the big picture, we’re developing some really cool depth,” Cable said.