The injuries to Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini might actually be a blessing in disguise.
That’s assuming Russell Wilson survives the next couple of weeks of course…
They’re getting a chance to test Michael Bowie. They’ll have a whole lot of tape to judge him on during the off-season and be well positioned to determine whether he has long term potential as a starter.
They may decide he isn’t up to the task.
Either way, they’ll know.
The injury to Okung has highlighted the need for superior depth. As well as he’s played in Seattle, he’s also picked up injuries. And simply switching your left guard to tackle can’t be the backup plan beyond this season.
It’s hard enough finding one serviceable left tackle, let alone two. But that’s the task facing this front office.
The Seahawks are wiser for this experience. And there is a solution that makes at least some sense, it’s just incredibly difficult to implement.
When they drafted James Carpenter in 2011, I had genuine hope they’d drafted a versatile tackle who could play on the left and right. Although he struggled defending the edge as a rookie, Carpenter was a fantastic blocker for Alabama. It’s no exaggeration that he jumped off the screen in college.
In the NFL, it’d didn’t translate. They moved him to guard. And now he’s having to fight for a starting spot.
It’s quite likely they won’t be able to afford to keep Breno Giacomini next season. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and Golden Tate will all be priority re-signings. They will all cost money. And it’ll be a case of managing who you can and can’t keep.
It’ll be hard to replace Bennett or Tate in the draft (although I like the receiver class). Sherman and Thomas aren’t anywhere. Giacomini — an underrated player in my eyes — might end up being the unfortunate odd man out.
If that ends up being the case, they’re surely going to draft a tackle. It’s just whether they make it an early round priority.
For me, they need to go out and try the path that was possibly intended with Carpenter. Get a tackle who starts on the right side but can adequately backup Okung on the left if required, at least for a few weeks.
You’d have Bowie and Alvin Bailey for depth at tackle or guard. You’d feel more comfortable about spelling for Okung. You may even upgrade the right tackle spot on a cheap rookie contract. The whole situation can be improved.
The Carpenter example shows how difficult it’ll be. Three tackles went in the top four last year and it’ll be no different in 2014. The best offensive lineman will fly off the board. And presuming an 8-1 team makes the post season, the Seahawks will face a similar situation to 2011.
A lot of people were underwhelmed by the Carpenter pick. Will people react the same way if they roll the dice again on another low profile tackle?
Even if they flop in the post season and pick around #21-23 overall, you’re unlikely to find an accomplished big name tackle in that range. Not these days. Any lineman athletic enough to man the blind side will be long gone.
A deep positional class might help the situation, but these guys are going earlier and earlier every year. It’s funny that all the time we’ve talked about moving up for quarterbacks or impact players over the years, the big move they might have to make is for a tackle capable of playing both spots.
They’ve avoided moving up at all costs so far, it almost seems slightly absurd to suggest they do it for a swing tackle. They found a franchise quarterback and a shutdown corner in the mid-to-late rounds and so avoided having to make any bold moves.
It could be that once again they rely on Tom Cable’s advice to go hunting later on for another gem.
Or maybe the chaos on the offensive line and the risk they’re taking with Wilson’s health will force a more aggressive turn?
Either way, there’s a lot to think about here.
So who could potentially play both right and left tackle?
Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) hasn’t had the year everyone expected in 2013. Some have suggested it will send him spiralling down the draft boards. I don’t see it that way. He has enough overall potential to easily find a home in the top-15. If D.J. Fluker can go as early as #11 overall, it’s hard to see Kouandjio dropping much further than that.
Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) might be better than Luke Joeckel — the #2 pick last year. If we’re talking about guys who can play left and right tackle comfortably, Matthews is the prototype. I suspect in the NFL he will revert back permanently to the right but he’s shown the ability to work the blind side in the SEC. He’s probably a top ten pick. Which is a shame.
Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) reminds me of Anthony Davis. Big, athletic guy who shouldn’t be able to move around like he does. And like Davis, Richardson isn’t showing his best football in college. The 49ers spent the 2010 #11 pick to cover both tackle spots. If the Seahawks want to mimic that plan, they might need a pick as high as #11 next year.
Taylor Lewan (Michigan) looks like a pure right tackle to me. Yet if Detroit are prepared to try Riley Reiff on the blindside (ditto Green Bay with Bryan Bulaga), then perhaps Lewan could at least play a few games on the left? His stock is difficult to project. Some see him as a top-15 lock. Others feel he could fall a bit. I’m yet to really make up my mind here.
Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) has looked terrific across from Jake Matthews. If he declares, he too could be a first round pick with major upside. I suspect he won’t declare and will likely start at left tackle for the Aggies in 2014.
James Hurst (North Carlona) might end up as a permanent right tackle like Lewan. Lunch-pail type of guy, nothing too flashy. Coped reasonably well against Jadeveon Clowney early in the season. Can he work at left tackle? I just have a feeling he’s more effort than athleticism. That will get found out at the next level. But he is physical.
Zack Martin (Notre Dame) doesn’t get enough attention for me. Big time recruit. Highly thought of by his school. Could be the guy.
Cameron Erving (Florida State) is a former defensive lineman who is showing enough athleticism to warrant major consideration. Technique wise, he has a way to go. That’s to be expected. There’s so much potential here but will there be serious growing pains?
Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is another former defensive lineman. And we know Cable likes guys like that.
Players I’ll be looking at over the next few weeks: La’el Collins (LSU), Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), Cameron Fleming (Stanford)