Seahawks tackle concerns on their offensive line
Seahawks’ tackles are their biggest concern this year, but guards seem set. That’s the opposite of this time last year.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Defensive tackle Jesse Williams left Wednesday’s practice on a cart. While the specifics or severity of his injury isn’t known, it’s not a good sign for Williams, a second-year player who missed all of last season because of injuries. Williams has had a history of injuries, which partly caused him to drop to the fifth round in the 2013 draft. He’s part of a crowded battle for a backup spot along the defensive line.
The play of the day goes to wide receiver Bryan Walters, who went sprinting across the end zone and managed to tap his toes before flying out of bounds. Walters, who is battling for a roster spot and is in the competition for the punt return job, has made a number of difficult catches during training camp.
Seemed like today was the most I’ve noticed Spencer Ware, who is another whose official roster designation — fullback — doesn’t really indicate his role on the field. Ware appears basically just a tailback now, and as such could become a factor with Marshawn Lynch still holding out. Ware had a couple of nice runs during a red-zone drill. Ware is listed at 5-10, 229 and definitely looks the part out there. And recall the team liked him a lot last year — he got hurt getting some carries in mop-up duty in the second game of the year against the 49ers and never played again, sitting out the rest of the year with a sprained ankle. Ware seems like a good bet to the make the roster anyway. But depending on what happens with Lynch, his role could take on greater importance.
Jayson Jenks, Bob Condotta
RENTON — Steady on the edge, uncertain in the middle.
That was the scouting report on the Seahawks’ offensive line a year ago.
Fast-forward 12 months — and one Super Bowl title — and the script is essentially flipped.
“Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s the opposite of last year,’’ said offensive-line coach Tom Cable earlier this week. “We feel really good about where we are at inside, and then we need to get healthy at the tackle spot and we need to keep developing (the younger guys). So we have work to do there.’’
Soon after Cable spoke, the Seahawks signed free agent Eric Winston, an eight-year veteran who started all 16 games last season at right tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.
Winston, who debuted Tuesday, has spent his first two practices working with the second unit at right tackle behind Justin Britt, a rookie taken in the second round from Missouri.
Britt entered camp competing with second-year player Michael Bowie for the right tackle spot, which became open when last year’s starter, Breno Giacomini, signed in the offseason with the New York Jets.
Bowie, though, suffered a shoulder injury on the first day of camp, though he’s thought to be close to returning to the field. Bowie had showed up for spring Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) in less than optimum shape.
The signing of Winston gives Seattle some wiggle room in case Britt isn’t yet ready and Bowie continues to have issues with his shoulder.
Once Bowie returns, he’ll join a three-player position battle that looks to be as fierce as any on the roster.
The hope is that left tackle will eventually return to the capable hands of Russell Okung. But Okung remains sidelined after having had offseason surgery to fix the toe ailment that hampered him most of last season, including an eight-game stint on the injured list. He’s likely out at least another week. With Okung sidelined, second-year player Alvin Bailey is working with the first team at left tackle.
Last year at this time, a then-healthy Okung and Giacomini were considered the rocks of the offensive line. The guard spots were uncertain, with James Carpenter, Paul McQuistan, J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt all competing.
Now, Carpenter appears entrenched at left guard and Sweezy at right guard, with McQuistan now in Cleveland and Moffitt in retirement.
The performance of Carpenter, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, hasn’t lived up to his high draft status, in part due to knee issues.
But Carpenter is now healthy and in the best shape of his career. He credits a running program, as well as eating better, to getting down to about 324 pounds, and more important, ramping up his stamina.
Cable, in fact, says the difference between Carpenter this year and last is huge.
“You are talking about the other end of the spectrum,’’ he said. “He’s in great condition, and his confidence is very high.’’
It’s a critical year for Carpenter. The team did not exercise an option on his contract for 2015 for $7.4 million. He is playing this year for $1.4 million and can become a free agent after the season, though Seattle could re-sign him at any time. Carpenter said he was not surprised by the team’s decision.
“I figured it because I’ve been hurt a whole bunch of times and I’m just now getting back to where my knee is right,’’ Carpenter said. “So I understand it. I respect it.’’
Sweezy, meanwhile, is up to about 310 pounds after playing last year at about 295. Cable says his improvement has been evident in camp so far.
And solidifying things is that center Max Unger is also healthy after battling a series of nagging injuries last season. The Seahawks hope he can return to his 2012 Pro Bowl form.
“We are really excited about the inside three,’’ Cable said.
Eventually he hopes to say the same about the outside.