Seahawks line getting healthier by the practice

Posted Aug 12, 2014

The Seahawks played their preseason opener without three starters on the offensive line. But Max Unger, Russell Okung and James Carpenter were back where the offense needs them in practice on Tuesday.

It was former Seahawks guard Bryan Millard who once described an offensive line as five fingers forming a fist.

Carrying that analogy Millard used in the mid-1980s to the Seahawks’ training camp practice field on Tuesday, offensive line coach Tom Cable got his three most experienced fingers back into the fist as Pro Bowl center Max Unger, Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle Russell Okung and left guard James Carpenter were back where they’re supposed to be.

Maybe that’s why Cable looked like he was ready to offer fist-bumps all around as he walked off the field after the 12th practice at the Seahawks’ Training Camp presented by Bing – but the first where the offense had Unger, Okung and Carpenter comprising the left side of the line for prolonged periods.

“It’s been really good, because we need to do that,” Cable said. “We need to get to playing together.”

Tuesday provided three giants steps in that direction. Whether Unger, Okung and Carpenter are ready to play in Friday night’s preseason home opener against the San Diego Chargers at CenturyLink Field remains to be seen, but having them back on the practice field is a needed next step.

“That’s football,” said Cable, who had Okung, Unger and since-departed right tackle Breno Giacomini miss a combined 18 games because of injuries during the run to the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl championship last season.

“We’re kind of getting there. But we want to be smart in terms of making sure Max is ready, and Russ is ready, and James is ready. They’re all stepping back into it, and we’ll increase those reps as we move along here.”

Okung returned to practice late last week, as he was completing his recovery from offseason surgery on the foot that forced him to miss eight starts last season. Carpenter also was back last week, on a limited basis, as he was sidelined with a knee injury. Unger had not practiced since last Wednesday because of a sore groin.

All three sat out Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Broncos in Denver, which elevated Lemuel Jeanpierre (for Unger), Alvin Bailey (for Okung) and Caylin Hauptmann (for Carpenter) to the starting unit.

Offensive line play is all about continuity, but it’s difficult to achieve when key fingers in the fist are missing. But the positive to this negative is the time Bailey, Hauptmann and Jeanpierre got with the No. 1 offense.

“The nice thing that’s happened is we’ve built a couple guys up in terms of depth with as much work as they’ve got,” Cable said. “It’s really improved Alvin Bailey and he’s really starting to get his conditioning right. Lem is getting a bunch of work, too.

“So that has kind of been going on this whole time. Not by choice, but it’s the way it is.”

Or was, hopefully.

“Getting Max and Russell and James back is big,” Cable said. “Now we can get to work with the whole group.”

On the right side of that group are guard J.R. Sweezy, who has started 18 regular-season games and five postseason games since being selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft in 2012 and converted from defensive tackle to offensive guard; and tackle Justin Britt, a second-round draft choice this year who continues to not only work with the starters but look like a starting-caliber NFL tackle.

Asked about Sweezy, Cable said, “I think he’s taken another big step. Both he and James have. It’s so nice to watch them play. Today is about the fourth day in camp I think they’ve both been in the same huddle. It’s just really impressive what they’re both doing.

“So I’m pretty fired up about our guards.”

Put Unger and Okung in that same huddle, at the same time, and it’s really something to get fired up about.