Cable has the running game connected

Posted Aug 29, 2012

The Seahawks have been able to run the ball, regardless of who’s doing it and who’s blocking for them. The tie that binds is the way offensive line coach Tom Cable approaches the game and his players.

What has been obvious from the moment he first walked into the offensive line meeting room is palpably apparent all over again: Tom Cable can coach.

The statistical evidence is undeniable.

Entering Thursday night’s preseason finale at CenturyLink Field against the Oakland Raiders – the team Cable coached for from 2007-10 – the Seahawks are averaging a league-best 184 rushing yards. Last season, Marshawn Lynch led the NFL in rushing over the last nine games en route to compiling career-best totals in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (12).

Last year, Lynch’s stretch run came with three backups (Breno Giacomini, Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre) replacing three injured starters (Russell Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt).

This summer, the Seahawks have continued to run the ball no matter who’s carrying it, or blocking for him.

Friday night in Kansas City, rookie Robert Turbin ran for 93 yards and a 25-yard touchdown as the Seahawks rolled up 189 rushing yards against the Chiefs. Rookie QB Russell Wilson scrambled twice for 58 yards and backup-to-the-backups back Kregg Lumpkin had 24 yards on five carries while running behind a No. 2 line that included the since-released duo of guard Deuce Lutui and tackle Alex Barron.

The week before, against the Broncos in Denver, it was 228 rushing yards in a by-committee assault – 48 yards from since-released Tyrell Sutton; 38 yards from Lumpkin; 37 yards from Lynch, in his only stint of the preseason; 34 yards from Turbin; 33 yards from Wilson; and 20 yards from Leon Washington.

Still not convinced that the Cable connection is the primary reason? Look at the composition of the team’s No. 1 line that will start against the Raiders.

Cable inherited two former high draft choices – Okung, the left tackle and a first-round pick in 2010 who missed 10 games in his first two seasons because of ankle and shoulder injuries; and Max Unger, a second-round pick in 2009 who played his first full season at center in Cable’s first season. Giacomini, the right tackle, was signed off the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad in 2010. McQuistan, who started 10 games at three positions last season, is at left guard – and last time he had started was in 2007, Cable’s first season as the Raiders’ offensive line coach.

Then there’s rookie J.R. Sweezy, a defensive tackle at North Carolina State who is making the move to right guard look easier than it should. General manager John Schneider was the first to believe Sweezy could do it, but it was Cable who was dispatched to Raleigh and really had to decide that taking Sweezy was worth the effort – and the draft choice.

This year, last year. This back, that back. This lineman, that lineman. It doesn’t seem to matter.

“I think Tom has a great deal to do with it,” said coach Pete Carroll, who hired Cable last January as his offensive line coach, but also assistant head coach and running game guru. “He’s a fantastic coach. He’s won these guys over. They’ll listen to everything he says. They do everything that he calls on them to do.”

Carroll will get no argument from the players who work most closely with Cable.

“It was pretty immediate,” Unger said when asked the moment he knew Cable was something special. “The knowledge that he has with this offense and what he’s able to do; that came out right away. When we watch film, it’s unquestioned superiority with who’s got the information. It’s pretty cool.”

And even though that video is in color, Cable is a black-and-white guy.

“There are no gray areas. It’s either this or that, and he makes that pretty clear,” Unger said. “It’s awesome.”

Cable carries that this-or-that approach to the practice field, as well, which then translates to the performance of the line in the games.

“Tom has a real powerful presence about him,” Okung said. “You know he definitely understands what he’s doing, and what the defense is doing, as well as the scheme. So you really have to respect his wisdom.

“We knew immediately that he had a plan, and that it would work.”

Part of that is getting his players in situations where they can do what they do best.

“He helps you understand your strengths, and how to improve your weaknesses,” Unger said. “Just from that perspective, I’ve gotten better and I’m taking it to my game.”  

All of this from a guy who came late to the sport. Cable did not start playing football until his sophomore season at Snohomish High School – and then only at the urging for Keith Gilbertson, Sr.

“I wasn’t ‘born’ into football,” Cable said. “I was a baseball guy, and I was too big for Pee Wee football. So I was a baseball player. Loved baseball.”
But even before stepping between the white lines in his new sport, Cable knew he had found his niche.

“From the first time, just getting dressed in your gear, I was in love with it,” Cable said. “To me, it was like, ‘This is unbelievable.’ ”

After high school, Cable played at the University of Idaho, first for former Seahawks head coach Dennis Erickson and then for Gilbertson’s son, Keith Jr. Cable blocked for QB Scott Linehan, now the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, and the Vandals won the Big Sky championship in 1985 and also advanced to the Division I-AA playoffs in 1986.