Let's get this out of the way first. It's June 1, more than three months before the start of the season, and these voluntary offseason workouts feature players practicing without pads, meaning it's very difficult to assess much in terms of line play.
"Really we're not doing anything right now but getting ready to go to camp, so right now it's a big teaching time," Seahawks offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable said. "I like where all those young kids are at, I like what Justin (Britt) is doing at center, but until you really play football, you don't really know. But in terms of preparation for camp, I think we're right on schedule."
But now that the disclaimer is out of the way, there is no getting around the fact that there is a lot of intrigue surrounding Seattle's offensive line, which will look a lot different in 2016 than it did a year ago. Gone are starters Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy, who signed elsewhere in free agency, and new to the team are rookies Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo and Joey Hunt, as well as free-agent additions J'Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell. With Garry Gilliam moving from right tackle to left tackle, and with Britt moving from guard to center (read more on that here), it's possible that the Seahawks will have different starters at all five line positions this year than they did last season. With that in mind, here are some highlights from Cable's session with the media following Wednesday's organized team activities.
1. The rookies have impressed with their minds.
While linemen are limited in what they can show from a physical standpoint this time of year, the rookies can get a good start on their NFL careers by taking the mental side of the game seriously. Asked about Ifedi and Odhiambo, Cable said both have excelled in that area.
"Both of them have picked it up well," Cable said. "I think Germain is really blessed that way, mentally. For example, we actually had him doing install last week, and he did a tremendous job in only the first week of doing it. Good brains by both of them, and they both work, they both want to be really, really, good. So it's a pretty exciting future for both of them I think.
Asked how many rookies have done install in their first week with the Seahawks, Cable said, "Just him so far."
Hunt has also stood out in terms of mental preparation.
"He does a fantastic job of calling the box, he really needs no help from anybody," Cable said. "You can tell he's well versed and has enough background to plug into an NFL system. He's doing a really good job."
With so many new faces, there is a lot to sort out between now and the season opener, but Cable isn't worried about any sort of deadline for settling on a starting five.
"When's the first game? Really, let's keep this real now," Cable said. "This is OTAs, this is a time to get them prepped for camp. We're not even practicing with helmets for the most part, so it's not real ball. This is a learning phase, and we want to get them as dialed in, and I'm really into where they're at right now—I think we're doing better than we have in a while. So we'll get to camp and put it out there, and start to do the combative part of it. Because once they're schooled in it and they get it and understand it and can talk it, then can they do it in a combative matter? That's the next big test. We're not even close to that yet."
2. Garry Gilliam has the athleticism to play left tackle.
Cable didn't hesitate when asked why Gilliam is a good fit as a potential replacement for Okung at left tackle.
"The athlete," Cable said. "There's no question about the athlete."
But what also stands out to Cable is how well Gilliam has progress from an undrafted free agent who played tight end in college to a starter last season at right tackle.
"When you look at Garry's transition from where he came as a tight end to being around making the team, and then moving to right tackle last year—from about Week 5 on, he really played well," Cable said. "So you have a good athlete, you have a smart guy who has been in it now, who's experienced, and I think his confidence is good enough to play over there, so I'm pretty excited for him."
3. Bradley Sowell is "a cool addition" to the line.
The Seahawks haven't seen a ton of J'Marcus Webb, their potential starter at right tackle, because of a calf strain, but Cable is excited about their other free-agent signing, Bradley Sowell, who signed with Seattle this offseason after spending the last three years in Arizona.
"Really the athlete that showed up on film in his time in Arizona shows up," Cable said. "He's got some toughness about him. His veteran mindset of understanding what he's asked to do and how to do it shows up. He's a cool addition."
Sowell will compete with Gilliam at left tackle and also has the versatility to provide depth at multiple positions, and Cable thinks Seattle's offense could be a better fit for Sowell's style of play than was Arizona's.
"Different style of play," Cable said. "We're more of the athletic linemen, movers; they're more kind of a downhill… so this allows him to express the athlete that he is."
4. Second-year linemen Kristjan Sokoli and Terry Poole have taken big steps forward.
It isn't just rookies and newcomers trying to make a good early impression on coaches this time of year, and a pair of 2015 draft picks have impressed Cable with how far they have come.
In the case of fourth-round pick Terry Poole, the biggest change has been the tackle's conditioning coming off a rookie season cut short by injury.
"I definitely think he has grown that way," Cable said "I think he takes much better care of his body, and his preparation, which shows in how he looks and how he's moving. It's night and day from last year. So that's a big move from him."
For Kristjan Sokoli, a defensive lineman in college, the biggest growth comes from learning the nuances of playing on the other side of the ball.
"He's another guy who has taken a big jump forward," Cable said of Sokoli, who has worked both at guard and center this offseason. "He's a guy I'm really excited to get to camp and see just how far he has come… He's on it, it's good."
5. The Seahawks have a "very cool" group of rookie running backs.
In addition to coaching the offensive line, Cable is very involved in the entire offense, and the running game in particular, so he has been keeping an eye on Seattle's three draft picks in the backfield as well as the team's new linemen.
While third-round pick C.J. Prosise and seventh-rounder Zac Brooks are limited by injuries at the moment, Cable noted that fifth-round pick Alex Collins is "showing you some really good stuff every day." And Cable added that the group as a whole is "Very cool… They all look like they can give something to this football team. I think we'll be really deep there, so that's really exciting."
Photos from the fifth of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that the Seahawks held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, June 1.