Nothing has been decided just yet, but the Seahawks appear to be closing in on a starting offensive line.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable both liked enough of what they saw in Friday's preseason game at Kansas City that the same five players—Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam—are expected to start again this week in San Diego. And while the competition is still on at multiple spots, that unit could cement its status as the starting five, or come close to it, with a strong outing in preseason game No. 3.
"They've got a chance, now," Carroll said. "We'll see if they can hold it together and hold off the guys who are battling with them, but we feel good enough about it, we liked the way that they mixed together. They have real chance. So we'll keep that intact again this week and take it one week at a time."
Asked when that decision needs to be made, Carroll said, "It's going to take care of itself. If they put tougher another good week, we'll be ready for the opener with that group."
Cable noted he was happy with the consistency the group showed and the way it communicated, especially considering that that particular group had only been practicing together for a week after Seattle moved Britt to guard and promoted Gilliam to the starting job at right tackle.
"We're getting close," Cable said. "We like where it's headed. We'll play the same way with this group, then keep the competition at the spots that are there in terms of center and right tackle—you might see Alvin (Bailey) over there some this week—but we're close."
Bailey's performance in Friday's game as a backup tackle was his best going back to offseason workouts, Cable said, so he can't be counted out yet in competition for a starting job, but if he isn't a starter, he still has a big role as a player who can fill in at guard and tackle.
"He's so valuable in that he can play four spots," Cable said.
In all, the Seahawks had different starters at three spots from their lineup a week earlier—Britt at left guard, Gilliam at right tackle and Nowak replacing Lemuel Jeanpierre at center.
On Gilliam, Cable said, "The athleticism jumped out at me. He was physical, he had some really nice finishes in the run game. You see a guy who has grown a tremendous amount, and now his challenge is to do that again this week."
On Britt, who missed Monday's practice for a personal matter but will be back for Tuesday's practice, Cable said, "It looked really, really good. He's very physical, he adds athleticism inside, power inside. I would say if we can have another great week with this, then we're really moving in the right direction there."
And on the battle at center, he said, "The competition has heated up tremendously. I think (Nowak) has proven now that he's capable of doing it. He's made the transition from being a defensive lineman to being an offensive linemen, and now from offensive linemen to playing center, snapping it." Cable wants to see Nowak do a better job "staying in a good football position with his knees bent," to avoid getting high in the second level, which keeps him from finishing blocks.
Both Cable and Carroll reiterated that the run blocking needs to improve, but overall they sounded pleased with the new-look line, which might become the everyday line if things continue to progress this week.
One other thing that could factor into position battles, however, is the possibility of adding outside help. The Seahawks had veteran guard Evan Mathis in for a visit over the weekend, a visit that, "Went very well," Carroll said. "He's a terrific guy. He would obviously bring us experience and all that, but there's a lot of issues."
Carroll also acknowledged that the Seahawks will continue to look at who else is out there in free agency if doing so can help the team.
"We're going to keep competing to figure out who else is there and available as we try to make our choices," he said. "Really we're going one step at a time, so yeah, you'll see some names come up again today. We're continuing to look, we want to know who's available."
The team took the field for the first practice of preseason Week 3, preparing for the San Diego Chargers Saturday August 29.