Lost in the lightning delay, blizzard of penalty flags and tornado-like shuffles in the offensive line Thursday night in the 21-16 loss to the Broncos in Denver, was the calm appearance of Stephen Schilling, one of the best in Bellevue High School’s football history, as a backup center.
“He does a nice job at center,” coach Pete Carroll said Sunday after the first practice since the return home. “He played pretty well at right guard too. That flexibility is real valuable to a guy trying to make the team. It’s helped with his cause.”
Outside of long snapper, NFL jobs don’t get much less glamorous than backup center. But this fall with the Seahawks, anyone who can handle any offensive-line position without fainting is going to be gold.
There’s no doubt the unit was Seattle’s weakest the past season, and it became weaker with off-season surgery for RT Russell Okung (foot) and the departures of RTs Breno Giacomini (free agency) and Michael Bowie (injured/waived). The ability to play more than one position will be nearly mandatory to cover depth issues.
Schilling (6-5, 308) played on three state championship teams at Bellevue and skipped becoming a Washington Husky under Tyrone Willingham to be a four-year starter and a two-time honorable mention All-Big 10 pick at Michigan. But his NFL career, starting with a sixth-round selection by San Diego, has been modest, playing in 16 games with two starts (both 2011) in three years with the Chargers.
Schilling, who was recruited in high school by Carroll for USC and by assistant coach Tom Cable at UCLA, signed with Seattle in free agency in March and saw some time in OTAs and mini-camp at center. With starter Max Unger out Thursday and Sunday, but expected back this week, Schilling has had important reps.
“It’s extremely valuable to have guys that have flexibility,” Carroll said. “When nine or 10 guys make the (O-line) roster, guys have got to move around. Stephen has really done a very good job. We are really pleased. He played very solid at the line of scrimmage.”
Playing right guard, he and rookie right tackle Justin Britt busted on one pass-protection play in the first quarter and was pulled.
“He went in early in the game and got squeezed out of there,” Carroll said. “We want to make sure we got him out of the game. We made a big mistake on one play, but other than that, he did a very nice job for his first time out with us.”
The offense was largely a mess Thursday due to all the personnel changes on the line. QB Russell Wilson was sacked twice in his 18 plays and had to drop deep and swivel out of two more potential sacks.
“We’re just surviving right now,’’ Carroll said in Denver. “We had guys playing the second team that have only been here three, four days. We’re not very sharp right now. It all showed.’’
Carroll did have good things to say about the pro debut of Britt, a second-round pick from Missouri.
“He did well; he made the plays he had to make,” he said. “On that (busted) play, both those guys made a mistake on the call they made on the pass protection.
“For his first time out, he looked comfortable. He got more aggressive as the game went on. We’re real pleased at this point. First game, really couldn’t have done a whole lot more for us.”
RB Marshawn Lynch, who held out of camp eight days and didn’t make the trip to Denver, apparently is getting into the swing.
“He’s getting a lot closer,” Carroll said. “He had a very good practice today. We’re just trying to do it properly. I really liked the way he got after it today. He got stuff in all phases of the practice. Caught some balls well, blocked well, ran the ball real nice, This is really the first week he has a chance to compete and he brought a great attitude today.
“He doesn’t need a lot of carries. We need to get him some work. He’s in great shape, he looks just as fit as he ever has. His weight is way down. He’s really worked hard to get here. Even through a trying time, he really kept his focus and did a nice job of getting ready.”
The Seahawks have the first of two home exhibitions at 7 p.m. Friday at the Clink against San Diego . . . CB A.J. Jefferson, who captured the Seahawk’s only turnover with an interception Thursday, had a “substantial” sprained ankle and will be out awhile . . . LB Malcolm Smith, who sat out Thursday, is closer to returning than LB mate Bobby Wagner, but his hamstring injury is not a threat to keep him out of the regular season, Carroll said.