Thiel: Changing of Seahawks guards aids Wilson


by Art Thiel


Posted on September 14, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Looking back on the opener, the Seahawks went a rookie too far. No, it wasn't necessarily quarterback Russell Wilson.

But right guard J.R. Sweezy didn't have much business starting in an offensive line that was the most surprising disappointment in the loss at Arizona.  It won't be a problem Sunday --  John Moffitt will be starting at right guard attempting to annoy the Dallas Cowboys.

Sweezy was one of the best story lines in preseason, a defensive lineman chosen by the Seahawks in the seventh round to line up at guard, a position he never played. When Moffitt's elbow surgery kept him out of the lineup, Sweezy became the default starter --  and default victim.

“We really didn’t have a choice when you look at it," coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, pleading his case. "I thought he was just outstanding. He did everything beyond our expectations."

But even Carroll, knowing how hapless the Seahawks were in the first half and how battered Wilson was throughout the game, had to throttle back his standard hyperbole.

"We just kept hoping that (Sweezy) would be able to be settled and comfortable in the first game," he said. "It wasn’t quite that. But it wasn’t because he wasn’t physical or tough or any of that. It just was a lot happening, and he needs more time."

All true, and all too late to fix 0-1. The loss of a game nearly won Sunday looms even larger considering that the next two games, the Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, easily could leave the Seahawks 0-3.

Obviously, it's not all on Sweezy, but he was the inevitable weak link in a group that had to be on its game to execute a simplified game plan for Wilson. Sweezy wasn't terrible, nor was Wilson; they just weren't ready to win their first start as rookies on the road.

“It was about communicating," Carroll said. "It was really clear that was the issue for us. We didn’t take advantage of our calls as well as we had been doing, so we didn’t target (rushers) as well. That’s something that we can do well. We’ve been doing it, but for whatever reason in this game we weren’t as effective as we have been and it caused some problems for us."

So what does communicating on the O-line mean? Max Unger, the center, and the grunt in charge, said they failed to offer among themselves the calls necessary to block Arizona's steadily shifting pressure.

"It's really simple stuff -- vocalizing everything you should do," said Unger. "With someone you've played with a little longer, you take some things for granted. We didn't make some calls, we had some protection breakdowns.

"It's a matter of being on the same page -- even if we're wrong, we we're all wrong the same way.

For example?

"We have a set of rules for blocking three down linemen; if there's four, we have a set of rules, if there's five we have a set of rules," Unger said. "We have to know the rules because the guys on the left side can't see the guys on the right side, and vice versa.

"We get out of doing that in practice, because our defense knows our calls, and we don't want them to know what we're doing."

Sunday wasn't practice, and it wasn't preseason. The Seahawks' offense wasn't ready.

The opener was a level of intensity we hadn't seen yet," Unger said. "We obviously knew that was going to be the case . . . "  unless, of course, if you had never played in a regular-season NFL game before.

Moffitt isn't exactly an ocean of experience himself, starting as rookie a year ago but lasting only nine games until a knee injury cost him the rest of the season. Then he had a minor elbow operation that kept him out of most of preseason.

But he knows more the Sweezy, and everyone in Renton knows the Cowboys are better than the Cardinals.

The Dallas football team came out smoking in week one," referring to the 24-17 victory over the defending champ Giants in New York a week ago. "They looked great against the world champs . . . playing against a really good football team, and found a way to win on the road."

That was the opportunity the Seahawks lost Sunday. The return of Moffitt can't fix it all. But a little chat among the big fellas might help Wilson survive to see another game, and maybe even downfield Sunday.

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