Roughly midway through his Wednesday press conference, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll jokingly referred to his weekly session with the media as an "offensive line meeting" because of all the questions he was fielding on the play of the position group.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 18 times through the Seahawks' first four games, a number that's tied with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for the most in the League. The Seattle coaching staff has said not every single one of those sacks can be pinned on the offensive line's issues in pass protection, noting Wilson can get the ball out quicker on some occasions, or pass catchers can do a better job of getting open. But after watching Wilson get sacked six times against the Lions, a team that had four sacks coming into this past Monday's game at CenturyLink Field, Carroll admitted the unit needs improvement.
"We had some issues and it wasn't just any one guy," Carroll said. "Stuff happened and we needed to help them better. I really will tell you the reality of it, there's a lot of things that enter into it and sometimes it's getting the ball out when we have the chance to before the rush gets there, we missed a couple blocks, missed a couple looks at stuff, and they did a nice job with the pressures that they brought, too. So I'm really thinking about pass protection when I'm saying all that and we need to get better there. It's just ongoing and we'll continue to work at it.
"We have some thoughts about things we adjust a little bit as we go in terms of helping guys and the way we have to look at the opponent and how they fit together with our matchups, so we're doing all of that."
Seattle's 2015 offensive line features returning starters in left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy, two new starters in right tackle Garry Gilliam and center Drew Nowak, and a left guard in Justin Britt who played all of last season at right tackle. Carroll said the youth of the unit has led to some inconsistent play, particularly at center where there were a few errant snaps against Detroit, one of which resulted in a Wilson turnover. It's a fundamental aspect of the game Carroll said the team needs to get cleaned up.
"That's not the timing we're counting on," Carroll said of Nowak's snaps. "There's not an area for lost time in there and we can still function the way we want to, so we just have to be sharper."
Carroll said that as it stands "right now" the team will use the same starting five against the undefeated Bengals (4-0) on Sunday in Cincinnati, but reminded that changes are "always imminent," just as they are at every other position on Seattle's roster that emphasizes Carroll's "Always Compete" philosophy.
"Because of the competitive way we look at it the changes are always imminent," Carroll said. "They're always there. It could happen. That hasn't been different in any position for our football team. Some guys after a while they obviously establish a grace period, but the young guys that are coming up they've got a competitive aspect right there hanging with them. These guys up front are in that situation."
With Nowak's errant snaps in question at Wednesday's press conference, Patrick Lewis' name was brought up, and Carroll acknowledged the backup center who started four games for Seattle last season is still in competition for the job.
"Patrick's not out of this thing," Carroll said. "He's a good player. He has won games for us in the past, we know that. He continues to stay very close and the competition is good there. There will be a time if the opportunity opens up for him, he'll be ready to jump at it."
Despite the offensive line's recent issues, Carroll insisted the position group hasn't regressed since the start of the season.
"No, I don't think so at all," he said. "I think this is all putting money in the bank and trying to figure it out. We can use the experiences that we've had effectively. It takes a while. There's some things that they saw for the first time that an experienced group might be able to identify a little bit earlier, a little quicker, and adjust a little bit sooner. It's just part of it. We're just growing through it."
This weeks photo essay of Eye on the Hawks by team photographer Rod Mar showcases the behind the scenes excitement surrounding the Monday Night Football match-up against the Detroit Lions.