BY Art Thiel 07:23PM 09/01/2015

Thiel: Cable ‘excited’ about Seahawks’ O-line (?!)

In contrast to worried fans, Seahawks assistant coach Tom Cable is bullish on his new offensive line set-up: “I think this might be, when it’s all said and done, the best group I’ve had.”

Tom Cable is bullish on his offensive line. / Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — In contrast to all the hand-wringing among 12s over the Seahawks’ offensive line’s seeming vulnerability, there is the hand of the unit’s coach, Tom Cable, held in the “stop” position.

At least, that’s how I interpreted his statements Tuesday, even if he didn’t actually hold up the shut-up signal.

“I’m really excited about where we’re going,” he said after practice. “I think this might be, when it’s all said and done, the best group I’ve had. We’ll see.”

Huh? Three guys who’ve had little to no experience at their positions starting in the NFL for the first time on a Super Bowl contender? If I didn’t know better, I’d suggest Cable mixed his alcohol with his medication.

But he was sober as he was sincere about LG Justin Britt, C Drew Nowak and RT Garry Gilliam. Cable confirmed Tuesday that, barring the unforeseen,  the newbies will start in the Sept. 13 opener in St. Louis.

“These guys are really special, and they’re just getting started,” he said. “If anyone is confident, it’s me more than anybody. I see them every day. I’ve seen where they’ve come the last two weeks. We haven’t been like that in the pre-season thus far. Pretty exciting.”

Cable may be the only one confident, based on the evidence so far. In the dozen possessions by the No. 1 unit in the pre-season, not a single touchdown has been scored. Then again, that’s what coaches  do — look though the windshield, not at the rear view mirror.

The group gets one more preseason chance at 7 p.m. Thursday when the Seahawks and Raiders meet at the Clink. But the fourth fake game is traditionally about long looks for players seeking the final 10 or so roster spots. Then again, with the amount of green in the O-line, every snap counts.

It’s hard to argue Cable’s main point — he’s seen and knows these guys more than anyone. He could well be speaking mostly for internal consumption, trying to convince players that his belief in them is worth risking his public cred. Neither would he be the first coach to hyper-inflate, simply because it’s in the DNA of coaches.

But Cable does have the track record of reaching consecutive Super Bowls with O-lines considered average at best. It helps to have arguably the best running back and best running quarterback in the NFL, but Cable has a proven ability to convince average guys that they too can be Walter Jones — for one or two plays anyway.

When it comes to Nowak, the converted defensive lineman destined for his first NFL start after the Seahawks Monday cut Lem Jeanpierre, his main competition, there is at least one indicator that he’s had some serious testing — Brandon Mebane, the Seahawks’ armored car of a nose tackle.

“I always told myself, if I can block Brandon Mebane, I can block most of the guys in the league,” said Nowak after practice. “There’s days when we have really good battles. I know if I give him a good run for his money, I can play in the league.”

Cable sees great value in having Nowak, a former defensive lineman in college, grinding against a guy that’s all rocks and cactus.

“When you get a chance to practice against one of the best at his position every single day, you have a choice to make,” Cable said. “Either you give in to it, and you don’t go anywhere, or you keep battling and battling. Brandon has been outstanding in terms of helping him, getting him to try to understand what (Mebane) is trying to do. He’s flourished.

“Brandon and I are in communication constantly. He’s going to give (Nowak) something new every day, something he has to deal with.”

Regarding left guard, Britt, converted in camp from right tackle, Cable has come to a conclusion.

“Outside (at right tackle), there’s all this space and you have to be patient,” Cable said. “Inside, you’re in a bar fight every snap. I think that mentality suits him well.”

Gilliam’s biggest issues at right tackle are strength and endurance. Which is why he’s gone long into the past two game after the first unit was done.

“We wanted him to be in that situation where he keeps going back out, and making adjustments at halftime,” Cable said. “I thought he got a little sloppy in the fourth quarter. It got easy for him. He took things for granted. Which is a great lesson for him.”

Should things go wrong in the new plan, it might be worthy to not forget about Jeanpierre. As with numerous vested veterans cut at this time in the NFL calendar, there is some salary cap maneuvering at play.

His $745,000 base salary would have been guaranteed as a fifth-year veteran if he had been on the opening-game roster. If he is not picked up by another team, the Seahawks can re-sign Jeanpierre after week 1 and pay him week to week, free of guarantees.

The maneuver means he could go elsewhere, but the Seahawks on the final cutdown Saturday could also sign a free agent who might be better than Jeanpierre. If poor results warrant, Jeanpierre could be back.

But to hear Cable tell it, that doesn’t seem likely. He’s all in on the new guys. If you don’t like it, talk to the hand.


  • 1coolguy

    Cable is one of the best – If he’s in, so am I!

    • dingle

      I just want to know who stole his neck.

      But, yeah, when he’s not punching other coaches and hitting women, he’s a pretty good line coach.

      • art thiel

        Give Cable some credit for admitting he messed up and turning around his personal behavior.

        • Bayview Herb

          Please give Graham the same slack.

          • eYeDEF

            When did Graham punch coaches or hit women?

  • coug73

    RW quote: in Cable we trust.

  • Jeff Shope

    What is he smoking?

    • art thiel

      The drug of positivity. It’s new in Seattle sports.

      • eYeDEF

        Actually Cable says this sort of thing every year about his guys. I remember him saying it last year.

  • jafabian

    I’m looking forward to seeing how Britt has progressed from last year. He was a very good player in college and it wouldn’t surprise me if he reaches the Pro Bowl someday. Gilliam looks to be more mobile than the usual O-Lineman despite his weighing more than 300 lbs. The jury is out if this is going to be the best O-line in the Pete Carroll era but I don’t think it’s as bad as some make it out to be. Center is going to be the question mark if anything.

    • art thiel

      Britt was never going to work on the outside long-term. He can be OK inside.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Probably THE most Alice in Wonderland coach we have, on a staff of several of them. Kafkaesque or surreal might be at least equally accurate terms. He keeps insisting Britt is a “great player”. Britt graded out as the WORST pass blocking OT in the league last year, according to PFF. PFF is not the final authority, of course, but it is certainly one of them. This pre-season continued to demonstrate that Britt was anything but “great” at OT, and they had to move him inside. But at LG, he is showing the same problems–good drive blocker and mauler, but requiring him to execute blocks consistently that require good footwork and balance, run or pass, is a recipe for disaster. Maybe, they can hide him inside, we’ll see. But there were still some glaring examples of his challenges in the San Diego game.

    And as for the OL as a whole, San Diego was a good game from the putative starters? Holy crap, they gained 40 yards up to the last two minutes!! The left side was a disaster! Not because they were incapable of blocking well, but because they were also quite capable of whiffing like nobody’s business.

    All that said, I think Nowak, Sweezy and Gilliam may work out well enough. Sweezy is nowhere near good enough as a pass blocker to earn Cable’s designation as “best in the league”, but he is a good drive blocker, and a better-than-good second level blocker, with excellent competitiveness. Nowak is young and inexperienced, but he looks like he could develop. Gilliam has the size, feet and athleticism to play OT in this league. I would not be surprised to see him switched over to LT next year, if this year goes well and Okung tries to get Treat Williams money out of the Hawks.

    So, reasons for optimism. But also reasons to wonder just how much smoke Cable is blowing now on the current state of the line as a whole, and where it is being blown–just up ours, or also up his own?

    • art thiel

      As I mentioned, part of it is for internal consumption. He’s selling them publicly because it will do no good for them if Cable is as honest as you, Bruce. There’s no getting around that these first two games will be close to brutal regarding line play. That’s where playcalling and Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch come in.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    I can just see you falling of off of your wheeled computer chair when you read that Art.Hey maybe the O line rises above and makes Cable look like a genius not a Pinocchio.
    Stranger things have occurred…this is the franchise who limped to 7~9 but made the play offs…. then promptly dispatched the Reigning super bowl champions after many laughs from ESPN et al that they had no business being a play off team (beast quake anyone?).
    No one is expecting these O line guys to nail down pro bowl selections. I just hope Cable is more right than wrong as we now have a very expensive QB to protect.

    • art thiel

      Actually, I was standing near him when he said it. But I held ground and didn’t swoon.

  • Jmo

    Key words, “when it’s all said and done” – y’all looking too far into this. He didn’t say they are currently the best line he’s had. He’s talking about the potential, and he would know best, that’s what coaching is about. Recognizing and achieving potential. Enough squabbling, let’s watch some football.

    • art thiel

      I think we all get it’s a work in progress. But the Rams and Packers are near-term problems. Those games I believe count.

  • Bayview Herb

    How long is the said & done going to rake?

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  • Effzee

    I tend to have faith in what the coaches on this team like. Tend to, being the operative term. I never bought the shineola they were trying to put on Harvin. ;-p