SEATTLE – George Fant did a little bit of preparing to play right tackle in the spring, when he was still recovering from ACL surgery and was limited to practicing some of his steps at less than full speed.
So when Pete Carroll said Tuesday that moving Fant to right tackle this week was part of the larger plan all along, there’s some evidence to back that up.
Still, the struggles of Germain Ifedi Saturday night against the Chargers in Carson, California, made it an especially good time to move Fant, who until now had been repping largely at left tackle. In practice, Fant appeared to play almost solely on the right side.
Ifedi also got work at right tackle, and generally appeared to rep with the starters. But Fant also got some work with the starters at right tackle, a sign that the Seahawks are considering their options there.
“The comp (competition) is on,” Carroll said after Tuesday’s practice. Isaiah Battle, who had been out with a sprained knee last week, was also back to practice and will also be considered on the right side.
But logically, the battle for now comes down to Ifedi and Fant.
Ifedi’s status as a first-round pick in 2016 and the 29 games he’s started the past two seasons – including 16 last year at right tackle – can’t be completely ignored as the team it makes its decision. Giving up on a high draft pick this early wouldn’t be easy.
But Ifedi’s continued inconsistencies are harder to ignore as he enters his third NFL season.
Fant, meanwhile, was ticketed to be the team’s starting left tackle last season before suffering an ACL injury in the team’s second preseason game on Aug. 18, 2017, against the Vikings.
Fant has gradually returned to more regular work throughout training camp and saw his most action of the preseason Saturday against the Chargers with 25 snaps – he had 12 the week before.
Carroll said the team wanted to leave Fant on the left side – where he had primarily played in his first two NFL seasons – as he got healthy before moving him to right tackle.
“That has been the thought all along to get him back moving again, feeling comfortable at the left side, with the thought of him getting over there and competing on the right side,” Carroll said.
Fant had 10 regular-season starts and two more in the postseason at left tackle in 2016 as a rookie when he made a starting rise from having been an undrafted free agent who had played basketball at Western Kentucky until his final year.
“This is what we had in mind the whole time,” Carroll insisted of moving Fant to the right side.
But Ifedi has also left the door open with his spotty play so far. He was benched or demoted twice during training camp practices for penalties after having incurred an NFL-high 20 last season.
Ifedi hasn’t had as many issues with flags of late. But on Saturday, he simply got manhandled or run around by Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram on two notable occasions, one resulting in a sack for teammate Isaac Rochell, and the other in a hurried pass by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
“He did some good stuff,” Carroll said of Ifedi. “And he got in trouble a couple of times on things. But he’s cleaned some things up in his game that I am happy about and I am hoping that will continue. I think it will. But he went against a really good guy, Ingram got after him a little bit – he got after all of us a little bit. He played a really good football game.
“But (Ifedi) is making progress and he’s competing like crazy and learning the new stuff (from new offensive coach Mike Solari). He’s picking it up. But he’s getting challenged. He knows that we think a lot of George Fant. He knows we have a high opinion of what he is capable of doing. … Thought the same about Isaiah, too. He is obviously in the competition over there. It’s going to bring out the best in everybody.”
Ifedi’s issues Saturday came mostly after starting right guard D.J. Fluker went out with a dislocated index finger on the first play of the second drive for the Seahawks. Jordan Roos replaced Fluker and ended up playing a game-high 47 snaps.
Ifedi said after the game that wasn’t a factor, but the right side appeared markedly more vulnerable after Fluker’s exit.
Carroll said it’s unclear if Fluker will return for Friday night’s game at Minnesota – he didn’t practice Tuesday.
But the Seahawks are preparing for some different options there, with third-year player Rees Odhiambo getting lots of work at right guard with the starting unit after playing primarily on the left side earlier in camp.
Intriguingly, J.R. Sweezy, a Seahawk from 2012-15 who re-signed earlier in camp but has yet to play because of an ankle issue, was back at practice and also got some work at left guard.
But those appear moves aimed mostly at determining the backup spots with four starting positions on the offensive line appearing set.
As for right tackle, the Seahawks made clear it’s wide open.
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