Justin Britt will be tried at center, his third position in three seasons, as the Seahawks re-sort their offensive line after the draft produced some potential help for 2016.
The Seahawks’ rookie mini-camp is over, but the the biggest news in the three days was about a veteran and the offensive line. Third-year pro Justin Britt is moving to his third position — center. Meaning that offensive line coach Tom Cable isn’t just tinkering; he’s bingeing on makeovers.
“We know he can play guard and tackle; we’re going to take a good look at him at center and see how that works out,” said coach Pete Carroll after the camp concluded Sunday. “Justin is the guy that’s been with us the most and can be in command of the most information. The last couple days that he’s been there, he’s looked very comfortable with it. So this is just where we’re starting out.”
Britt will compete with Patrick Lewis, the incumbent, who until this news was the only O-lineman scheduled to return to the position he held in 2015. That could still happen, but the Seahawks invested a second-round pick in Britt, although he has not graded out especially well at either right tackle (2014) or left guard (2015).
Pro Football Focus said Britt “is not of NFL caliber.” He graded out as PFF’s 74th-rated NFL offensive guard, allowing eight sacks, 14 hits and 71 pressures.
Besides Britt and Lewis, the Seahawks drafted a center, 6-1, 300-pound Joey Hunt of Texas Christian. He went in the sixth round, but on draft day, general manager John Schneider said if they didn’t take Hunt, Cable would have been furious: “I don’t know if Pete and I would have been able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey.”
Hunt was a two-time captain at TCU graded by PFF as one of the best pass protectors in the draft.
“What’s really special about Joey is that he’s in such command,” Carroll said after Hunt’s selection. “He really sees the line of scrimmage and can make all the calls. So we know we’re bringing in a guy who can captain the offensive line if he’s able to take that spot over. That’s a really big plus.”
Carroll elaborated Sunday:
“He’s a really smart football player. That’s going to give him a great opportunity to contribute early. He’s not going to have any problem with the system. He’s going to study like crazy. We saw that throughout . . . Just like we had hoped, he fit in very well.”
Hunt is among the growing number of college linemen used to the spread offense, where most snaps are shotgun and huddles are few, which is not how it works in the pro game.
“We haven’t been under center in two years, honestly,” Hunt told reporters Sunday of his time at TCU, “and just getting used to the snap count, then just more running off the ball, compared to what I did in college. It’s something I’m learn-curving and getting used to.”
It sounds as if Hunt will be in the middle of a three-way competition. Last year, the winner of a similar position battle was Drew Nowak, an undrafted free agent and a converted defensive lineman who had seven starts before being replaced by Lewis, also an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M. Nowak was cut last week.
Another shift on the O-line was made when Carroll said first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi, taken as a tackle out of Texas A&M, would start out at right guard, the spot occupied for four years by J.R. Sweezy, who left in free agency. If Ifedi starts, that likely means free-agent newcomer J’Marcus Webb will be at right tackle, with the former starter there, Garry Gilliam, moving to the left side to replace departed Russell Okung.
Second-year pro Mark Glowinski and another free agent newcomer, Brad Sowell, will go at it for Britt’s spot at left guard.
That’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on. Not only is no one left from the O-line that won the Super Bowl after the 2013 season, it could be that no steady starter will return from 2015.
Carroll happy with camp
Unsurprisingly, Carroll gushed about the progress of the rookies.
“We had a really good three days,” he said. “We come out of it really enthused about the guys that we picked in the draft. (We) saw some great things from Germain and Jarran (Reed, DT and second-round pick). Those guys look exactly like we’d like them, and we hoped they would look.”
Carroll spoke highly of all three undrafted seekers of the backup quarterback job: Trevone Boykin (TCU), Vernon Adams (Eastern Washington/Oregon) and Jake Heaps (many places, including Skyline High in Sammamish).
“All three guys did a really good job,” Carroll said. “They’re really good players. Jake has been with us a little bit more, so he has a little more familiarity. He threw the ball very well, really in command of the position.
“I thought Boykin did a really good job and Vernon did a nice job too. So we’ve got to figure some stuff out, which is great. We hoped for all of these decisions to be difficult, whichever way we want to go.”
The Seahawks are at the 90-man roster limit at this time of year. Now the coaches must decide if any of the undrafted free agents or tryout players (such as Adams) they saw over the weekend are worthy of cutting a player. A year ago, that’s how WR Kasen Williams, also of Skyline High, started to work his way into the depth chart.