BY Art Thiel 12:28PM 11/06/2014

Thiel: Seahawks O-line by age: 23, 24, 23, 25, 23

Against Oakland Sunday, the Seahawks’ offensive line had for a time four newbies and old man Sweezy. Said Cable to Garry Gilliam: “How many plays do you know at guard?”

Rookie free agent Garry Gilliam found himself in new territory Sunday against Oakland. /

Here’s how bad it was along the Seahawks’ offensive line Sunday against Oakland: When LG James Carpenter came out with a sprained ankle, assistant coach Tom Cable hustled up to undrafted free agent rookie tackle/tight end Garry Gilliam with a question:

“How many plays,” he said, “do you know at guard?”

Since Gilliam in his entire football life had taken exactly one snap at guard, he paused. Which was good enough for Cable, who shoved Gilliam into the game, presumably with a note pinned to his jersey for the huddle: “My boy Garry is new to school. Please help him.”

So when the question comes up as to how the game against the winless Raiders went down to the last couple of minutes before it was decided . . . now you know.

Other matters contributed, but the injury mess in the O-line bordered on the comical. As Patrick Lewis, pressed into his first NFL start as a third-string center, put it dryly,  “It was a journey . . . gotta learn the Seahawk way.”

He just didn’t know the theme song for “The Seahawk Way” was borrowed from Benny Hill.

The injury-induced chaos helps explain how the O-line drew six penalties and allowed QB Russell Wilson to be hurried on 12 of his throws, while being hit twice. He’s too polite to blame the line, but at the Clink game Sunday against the New York Less Than Giants, do not be surprised to see LT Russell Okung and C Max Unger carried by teammates onto the field in sedan chairs, led by Wilson.

Okung and Unger sat out Sunday with injuries, but are greatly wished to be back by the Seahawks. When Carpenter came out, that left second-year man Alvin Bailey, 23, at left tackle, rookie Gilliam, 24, at left guard and Lewis, 23 and signed Oct. 8 off the Browns’ practice squad, at center. Discounting a couple of starts in extra-tackle formations for Bailey, it was the first major playing time for all three in their positions.

With rookie Justin Britt, 23, barely holding down right tackle, that left RG J.R. Sweezy as the senior eminence on the line at a grizzled 25.

A BYU-Notre Dame college matchup has older linemen.

Edited for youngsters, the Seahawks playbook was more like a coloring book.

“You have to tailor things — we were in the same mode last year,” said coach Pete Carroll, referring to playing time given to Bailey and Michael Bowie due to injuries. “You have to adapt to what they can handle. Maybe more so than other positions.

“These guys have so much going on and it’s so complex. You have to keep it where they can handle what’s going on.”

Carroll labeled Sweezy’s role as critical to creating what little order there was in the kiddy corral.

“He was the only regular in there for a while, so he had to help us,” he said. “He’s done a tremendous job developing over the last few years. He’s really at the top of his game right now.”

The man in charge of the fire drill Sunday, Cable, shook his head.

“You don’t expect Sunday morning that (Unger, Okung and backup center Steve Schilling) will be up, but only for emergencies,” he said. “Then Carp gets hurt. Then you got to piece it together.

“It’s a grind in the middle of the game because of all the junk that goes on in there. But it was cool, because we got things done.”

Gilliam, playing guard for the first time, pointed out that the zone blocking scheme helps make targets easier to understand. But that wasn’t the only thing that needed mastering.

“The way we’re structured, the blocks across the board are similar, regardless of the position you’re in,” he said. “I’m sure they do that on purpose. For me, it wasn’t so much what my assignment was, but how do I do it?

“(Interior D-linemen) are bigger people, and squattier. I’m long. How do I get under him? That was more challenging than who I was blocking. Without reps in practice, I’m learning on the go.”

Additionally, the presence of Gilliam and Bailey in regular scrimmage positions meant their absence from the tight-end/third-tackle personnel groups. The Seahawks had to throw out that part of the offense.

In addition to the line’s infancy, Zach Miller’s injury absence at tight end means that Luke Willson, 24, is the new starter. He’s usually a better pass catcher than blocker, but when he was targeted five times Sunday and caught one ball, the Seahawks bosses grew uneasy.

So they hired free agent Tony Moeaki, an ancient beast of 27, who had three good seasons as a starter with the Kansas City Chiefs before injuries temporarily derailed his career. Cleared to return to play last week, the Seahawks called his agent Sunday, Moeaki worked out Monday, was signed Tuesday and met reporters Wednesday.

Asked if he had acquainted himself, he said he knew Miller from their twice-yearly meetings when Miller was with AFC West rival Oakand, “and then I met Luke, and I met . . . (pause) Cooper.”

That would be Cooper Helfet, the third tight end. Or second, against Oakland. Whatever. Remembering everyone’s names at once, that’s hard to do around the Seahawks these days.

The Seahawks may have won the Super Bowl 10 months ago, but right now they are just trying to get the Benny Hill theme out of their heads.


  • John M

    I knew it was a mess up front, but your description makes me like ’em more . . .

    • art thiel

      Sometimes a different angle makes things clearer than a straight-on view.

  • jafabian

    It’s painfully obvious Wilson doesn’t fully trust this patchwork O-Line and you can’t blame him. He’s taking off and running after the snap instead of making good reads and making a snap throw. His number of sacks are low because of that. Granted, with the sure-handed Golden Tate and the threat of Percy Harvin gone the WR corps doesn’t have the respect it had in the playoffs. Baldwin and Kearse have great hands but lack the separation skills that Tate and Harvin have. I’m surprised Lockette isn’t used more.

    With management all but saying that Wilson is the franchise they need to address the O-Line deficiencies that have carried over from last season. The WR’s are good but Wilson needs to find a way to elevate them into being great, much like Tom Brady and Eli Manning have done with their fairly average WR corps over the years.

    • eYeDEF

      Has Eli really elevated his receiving corps that much? His most recent iteration of successful receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks while he was still playing for the Giants, were flat out studs that didn’t require Eli to elevate them.

      I’m with you on Brady, there’s not a QB in the league that has elevated mediocre receivers with the consistency and regularity that he has.

      And I agree with you that great QBs raise the level of play of their receiving corps. Unfortunately, last Sunday it appeared the inverse was true. Kearse and Willson started dropping passes in the first quarter, and Wilson’s accuracy seemed to follow suit from the 2nd quarter on. Instead of raising his receivers he sunk to their level.

      I don’t put that all on him because of how truly pathetic the offensive line was. There were a number of snaps where the raiders sub par end rushers had a straight path unblocked to Wilson. It was horrific.

      Unfortunately Kearse is not getting it done this year and has been a liability out there. He’s only caught 51.5% of the catchable balls thrown his way, which is pathetic and his blocking has been terrifyingly even more horrendous. It’s the reason why the bubble screens have failed so often is the inability of Kearse to execute his blocks. I’m not sure what happened to him, this aspect of his game was one of his strengths last year but he’s regressing to his UW days. I think it’s time to demote him and put Norwood in his place. He’s looked very good so far.

      • art thiel

        Norwood could well be Kearse’s successor. But he needs playing time. Not sure Richardson is more than a speed guy. Gotta be a football player, as was Tate.

        • eYeDEF

          Richardson has made significant contributions already in his role as Percy’s replacement as the primary kick returner. He also seems to be the primary Z receiver used in 3 wide receiver sets now with Baldwin moving back to the slot. It would be nice to see Russell throw to him more often though. I expect the rapport to grow. Tate didn’t really turn into a football player for us until his 3rd season. I would hope PRich’s curve isn’t so steep.

    • art thiel

      If Baldwin can’t go, you’ll get your wish on Lockette.

      I think the Seahawks know they need more investment in the line. “How many plays do you know? ” is never good question from a coach at midseason.

      • jafabian

        Unfortunately this is the same problem as last season though the injuries to the line are even more than last season. At least they did draft Britt this season. Wish they could have brought in a veteran as well.

      • eYeDEF

        That’s what really shocked me more than anything. On a line with such a consistent history of injury every season how does a backup like Gilliam not get at least some exposure at playing guard during all of OTAs and training camp, not to mention first half of season? It makes me wonder where Cable’s head has been during that time while assuming the front line starters are capable of staying healthy. Such historical precedent, especially with this group, has been so very rare.

  • Effzee

    Man, what a half-season! Reminds me of last season, but more extreme in every way. Its fun to watch them piece guys together and still (mostly) win. If we ever get healthy all at once, we are going to be an unstoppable monster.

    • art thiel

      Even with current pieces together, I don’t see a monster. But I do see a playoff team.

  • 1coolguy

    excellent expose on the offensive line troubles Art. With this information hopefully some of the readers will realize just how difficult a situation this has been for the offense. I can also see that there is real hope once the offensive line comes back to full strength hopefully in time for the Cardinal game

    • art thiel

      Even at full strength, the line is barely average. But it worked last year. But without Tate, Miller, Giacomini, Robinson and yes, Harvin, different deal.

  • Gerald Turner

    Was the O line on the cover of Madden? Did I miss something? My brother keeps saying “Where is Lockett?” Where is he? Kerse is more of a go to every now and then when you need a big spectacular catch receiver. Russ, do not ever throw to that new fullback again. Have you seen him snag a ball in practice Art? Can he catch?

    • art thiel

      Without a reliable O-line, few good things happen.

      If the FB can catch, they will throw to him. If not . . . shovel passes only.

  • Jim

    Reasonable, rational and humorous sports commentary. Just listened on KPLU to your comments re: Chris Petersen (I’m still a BSU fan). Thanks for your insight…makes watching more enjoyable.

  • Russell Wilson is the man. That he’s still walking and talking proves it.