RENTON, Wash. – Tom Cable knew there would be growing pains.
Really, with an offensive line this young and inexperienced, how could there not be? Still, that doesn’t mean the Seahawks’ offensive line coach is content with how things have gone so far this preseason. Cable has seen progress over the past month, so he’s happy about that, but the line is still a long way from where he wants it to be when the Seahawks play their regular-season opener on Sept. 11.
“I’m happy with where we’re going because every day we’re improving, but if I had to grade us right now, I think we’re around a C-plus,” said Cable, the head coach at the University of Idaho from 2000-03. “We’re not any better than that yet. The goal is to get it to an A-game, so we have a lot of work to do.”
So tonight in Denver, when the starters see their most significant playing time in preseason game No. 3 – otherwise known as the most important of the games that don’t actually mean anything – Cable and his youthful offensive line hope to take a big step forward.
“I want to see what I saw from San Diego to Minnesota,” Cable said. “I want to see that from Minnesota to Denver is another leap forward. We’re not going to get it right today or the next day, it’s going to be a process as we go, and the goal is to be ready for September 11th.”
While a lot of the attention after last weekend’s loss to the Vikings was focused on the struggles of starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and the relative success enjoyed by his backup, Charlie Whitehurst, the more important story last week was the struggles of the line. Jackson got little done in the first half in large part because he was getting knocked down or running for his life on nearly every passing attempt.
It was also tough going in the run game for Seattle. In the first half with the starters on the field, the Seahawks averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, not a horrible number, but certainly not what Seattle is hoping to do on the ground. That number drops to 3.25 yards per carry if you throw out the yards Jackson gained while scrambling to avoid the pass rush.
Still, the linemen and their coach aren’t worrying too much about what hasn’t gone well so far. They’re more focused on getting it fixed in the time they still have before the games matter.
“There may be mistakes, but that’s what the preseason is for,” said left guard Robert Gallery. “Obviously, we’d like to be further ahead, but it’s not a panic either. It’s camp. This week is big for us, we need to go out and play well and execute well and then get ready for week one.”
Gallery, who came to Seattle from Oakland in free agency, has the advantage of knowing Cable’s blocking schemes. At 31, he is also the lone veteran of the line, which helps explain why he’s taking a patient approach to the group’s growth.
After Gallery, the next oldest and most experienced of the starting linemen is center Max Unger, who is 25 and has started all of 17 games in his career. In fact Unger, who missed 15 games last season, is the longest-tenured linemen on the roster having been with the Seahawks since the 2009 draft.
To Unger’s right are a pair of rookies, guard John Moffitt and tackle James Carpenter, and at left tackle is second-year player Russell Okung. So obviously some struggles were inevitable, the question now is how quickly the Seahawks can work out the kinks.
“We’re coming along,” said Moffitt, a third-round pick. “Maybe we need to move a little faster at times, but we’re trying to focus on learning as much as we can. It’s a learning experience.”
The reality for the Seahawks is that the line won’t come together overnight. It will be a season-long process, which is something Cable is excited to see develop.
“That’s the cool part, because they’ll just get better and better and better and better,” he said. “There will be speed bumps and hiccups along the way, but they’ll learn from that and adapt. I’m not too worried about that, because it’s part of the process. We’ve made it a point to not worry about a negative but to learn from it and move on. That’s one thing this group does very well.”