RENTON, Wash. — There was no question before the regular season began that the Seattle Seahawks’ weakness was going to be on the offensive line.
A quarter of the way through the season that weakness is bordering on crippling, leaving quarterback Russell Wilson scrambling for safety at times and getting hit far more often than the Seahawks would like.
“We have to be more consistent. That’s our key is to be consistent in the run game and pass game and protect (Russell Wilson),” Seattle center Drew Nowak said. “He can’t be getting hit as much as he is now.”
Last Monday’s 13-10 victory over Detroit could become a tipping point in just how long the Seahawks can last with an offensive line struggling to this level. Wilson was sacked six times and Detroit recorded 10 quarterback hits. And while the offensive line isn’t completely at fault for all those sacks and hits, Wilson is being left too exposed.
Wilson has been sacked 18 times through four games, tied for the most in the league and on pace for 72 over 16 games. The last time a quarterback was sacked more than 60 times in a season was Jon Kitna with Detroit in 2006. Only two quarterbacks have ever been sacked more than 70 times: Randall Cunningham in 1986 with Philadelphia and David Carr in 2002 with Houston.
“We’re taking sacks at an alarming rate right now and we can improve it,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “It’s really in a lot of areas. You can’t really pin it on one group, one person.”
Bevell said while the attention is placed mostly on the offensive line, there is responsibility on the receivers to get open and Wilson to get the ball out on time.
“We had some issues again and it wasn’t any one guy, it was stuff happened,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “And we had to help them more. The reality of it is there is a lot of things that enter into it.”
There won’t be changes on the offensive line this week. An overhaul would be difficult on a short week with the Seahawks facing another stiff challenge in unbeaten Cincinnati on Sunday and offensive line coach Tom Cable said inconsistency would need to continue in multiple areas for changes to be made.
“This has always been a work in progress and I said when they get it they’re going to be good and that hasn’t changed,” Cable said.
Seattle put itself in this position by missing on some high draft picks and deciding to develop their line through late draft picks and undrafted free agents. Consider that three of the five starting offensive linemen for the Seahawks were either late-round picks or undrafted, and those three — J.R. Sweezy, Drew Nowak and Garry Gilliam — all switched positions either late in college or once they reached the pros. Nowak and Sweezy were defensive linemen in college.
Then came the trade in the offseason that brought tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle and sent center Max Unger back to New Orleans.
Unger was a veteran who knew all the calls and had played enough to recognize various defensive looks. That institutional knowledge was gone after Unger was replaced by Nowak, who had never started a game at center until Week 1, coupled with Justin Britt moving from right tackle to left guard.
“Every game it’s gotten better, our communication has gotten better inside out,” Britt said. “I know Drew’s been talking really well, communicating really well, which a center needs to. It’s just to make sure we’re on the same page as a whole.”
NOTES: Carroll said RB Marshawn Lynch’s status won’t be known until later in the week as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Lynch went through an extensive running workout before Monday’s game against Detroit. “He did make a lot of progress last week,” Carroll said. … DT Brandon Mebane is expected to play against Cincinnati after sitting out last week with a groin injury. … CB Marcus Burley will have surgery Thursday after suffering a broken thumb against Detroit. DeShawn Shead will likely be Seattle’s third cornerback if Burley is out.
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