The results from the Seahawks' offensive line overhaul are yet to be seen
The Seahawks brought in three new faces and moved one player to a different position this year in hopes of solidifying an offensive line that has been the team's weak spot since Steve Hutchinson left in 2006.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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It could get worse before it gets better.
That became evident when the Seahawks offensive line performed more like a speed bump than a wall during the exhibition games, leaving quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in danger of becoming a pocket piñata.
Improving the line has been Seattle's premise this offseason. That is why the Seahawks hired Tom Cable to coach the offensive line, spent their first two draft picks on a tackle and a guard and made Robert Gallery one of its primary free agent targets.
No section of Seattle's roster got as much attention as the willful meat-eaters who attend the offensive-line meetings.
"For me, that's the most important room," general manager John Schneider said. "The best teams I've been on, that room is the most important room."
Rebuilding tends to be messy, and there's always some uncertainty involved. The Seahawks undertook this project in a year when the lockout prevented any minicamps or offseason team training. That meant Seattle started from scratch when practice began July 26 as it had five starting linemen, none of whom had ever started a regular-season game together.
The overhaul was as necessary as it was overdue. The line was the unquestioned strength during Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season, and that line's erosion also explains the team's decline. Steve Hutchinson left in 2006, Walter Jones was injured in 2008 and Seattle didn't draft an offensive tackle in Tim Ruskell's final four years as president.
The Seahawks tried patience. When that didn't work, they signed veterans like Mike Wahle, Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts. They changed offensive-line coaches three times — twice by choice and once when Alex Gibbs retired eight days before the 2010 regular season. They did everything short of liberal application of duct tape to buttress the line, then Seattle turned to dynamite and draft picks this offseason.
They watched and waved as center Chris Spencer and right tackle Sean Locklear left as free agents. They drafted Alabama's James Carpenter in the first round to play right tackle and two rounds later picked Wisconsin guard John Moffitt. They moved Max Unger to center — his position in college — and left Russell Okung at left tackle.
Did Seattle fix its offensive line? That remains to be seen.
"The system has to kind of start in infancy and grow," Cable said, "just like we all do as humans."
Carpenter is bull strong, someone who's already among the team's better run blockers, but the fact he spent August working on conditioning and pass protection is enough of a concern that Breno Giacomini — who has never started an NFL game — began alternating first-team practice repetitions with Carpenter two weeks before the regular-season opener.
Seattle is young. Gallery, 31, is the only starting lineman older than 25. If you take out his seven years of experience, the other four starters have a combined 27 regular-season starts.
There's only one way they're getting through this: together.
"Their struggles are going to be the same," Cable said. "They need to be able to lean on each other for a lot of problem-solving as well as encouraging each other because they'll have a lot of highs and a lot of lows."
Cable comes to Seattle from Oakland, where he was hired to coach the Raiders offensive line in 2007, promoted to interim head coach in 2008 and held the full-time position the past two years. The Raiders ranked among the league's four worst rushing offenses the three seasons before Cable arrived. They were among the top 10 in three of his four seasons with the team.
Gallery played for Cable in Oakland and experienced that success. Now, he is the salty veteran.
"If you're a tough, hard-nosed guy that likes to get after it, get dirty and do the things that a real offensive lineman should do, then you're perfect for this," Gallery said.
This won't be easy, but then, playing on the offensive line never is. Especially not in Seattle these past few years.