The latest change to the Seahawks' offensive line has a pretty simple, two-part explanation.
First the positive. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable have been very encouraged by the play of second-year tackle Garry Gilliam throughout camp, so when he put together a strong performance in Friday's preseason opener against Denver, they decided to give Gilliam a look with the starting offense.
As for the negative?
"I did not like the pass protection at all, it was pretty simple to see that," Cable said.
So yes, the Seahawks are changing things up with their starting offensive line. Again.
Gilliam, a former tight end who signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent last year, worked with the first-team at right tackle in Monday's practice. Gilliam's promotion also meant a change for Justin Britt, who last year started all 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, but who on Monday worked at left guard for the first time.
Cable noted that it's too early to say if either move is permanent, but for now it's his latest attempt to get the best line combination possible on the field.
"We'll see how the week goes," he said. "What we're trying to do is get the best guys out there in the huddle, then figure out where they fit. Right now Garry has had a really nice camp, then put it together Friday night. It showed up pretty good.
"Garry played really well the other night. Justin played well except for a play. We're just trying to get the best guys out there. We're still mixing and matching."
The next question then becomes, how much longer can the Seahawks continue to mix and match? Cable won't put a deadline on setting a starting line, but he hopes it is coming soon.
"I think we're really close," he said. "So what does that mean? After this week, middle of next week, somewhere in there."
If Britt's move to guard is permanent, it wouldn't surprise Carroll or Cable, as they discussed the possibility of him playing guard before drafting him in the second round out of Missouri. Carroll even noted they considered Britt as a possible center. Gilliam is adjusting to a new position as well, having worked as the backup left tackle in training camp so far, but he says the move from left to right isn't a huge one, especially having made the switch from tight end to tackle as a senior at Penn State. After spending most of last season as a backup guard and tackle who played limited snaps as an extra blocker in heavy packages—and after making one very memorable catch in the NFC Championship Game—Gilliam feels much more comfortable in his second NFL training camp, and it has shown in his play.
"Confidence level is a lot (higher), whether that's me knowing the playbook or just knowing what I'm going into," he said. "Once you get the confidence to go hit somebody, then you can actually hit them when you have the confidence and you know you can."
The Seahawks' latest line change comes at a time when, as Carroll puts it, "We can't wait much longer" to settle on a line. But despite the uncertainty—Britt is the fifth player to take first-team reps at left guard, while Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak continue to split time at center—Carroll remains confident things will work out by the start of the regular season.
"Really, I think it's a process we have to go through," he said. "It's not like it's a surprise. We knew that some young guys were going to play, so we're competing to figure it out… We're just going to have to wait and see how it turns out, like I said it's going to take a whole camp for sure."