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Way We Hear It: Seattle Seahawks suddenly searching for clarity at left tackle, running back

August 23, 2017

The Seattle Seahawks might be making philosophical shifts and personnel switches a little more than two weeks from the start of the season at a pair of critical offensive positions.

The most pressing issue has been at left tackle, where projected starter George Fant’s season-ending injury suddenly has changed the complexion of a position that has been a major issue going on three years now. Fant was one of the worst starting left tackles in the game last season, thrust into the position almost unfairly with little football in his background, but he also appeared to be one of the team’s most improved players this offseason.

The Seahawks have some options to replace him, but are any of them strong ones? Here’s how we handicap things:

Rees Odhiambo was a third-round pick in 2016 but didn’t play a lot as a rookie. It appears he’ll get the first shot to win the job held down by Fant, and Odhiambo played the position extensively in college. He was mostly a guard last season, however, couldn’t beat out some pretty mediocre options at tackle last season (some of whom are playing elsewhere now) and was projected to be a backup this year until Fant got hurt. Odhiambo’s leash doesn’t appear long, but he has a shot to take the job and run with it.

Matt Tobin was acquired by trade from the Philadelphia Eagles this week, but little really is known about his ability to man the left tackle spot. But head coach Pete Carroll indicated they’d give a look at Tobin, who has played sparingly for the Eagles there and a bit more at right tackle (a total of one start and about 100 snaps last season), giving up a crucial sack at the end of the Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins. He ended 2016 on injured reserve with a knee injury. It would be a surprise if Tobin came in and dominated right away. The Eagles were willing to part with him despite their own aging left tackle in Jason Peters and a right tackle in Lane Johnson who has had multiple suspensions in the NFL.

Luke Joeckel ... remember him? He’s the left guard, and apparently the Seahawks like him there best. It’s a bit curious to have a player with the most experience at left tackle — his first few seasons in the league — not to actively be in the mix to be Fant’s replacement. But Joeckel’s best work for the Jacksonville Jaguars was at left guard last season prior to going down with a severe knee injury, one that prevented him from participating in the majority of Seattle’s offseason program after signing a one-year, $8 million ($7 million guaranteed) deal with the team. Figure Joeckel to be a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option if Odhiambo or Tobin flop.

Ethan Pocic was a second-round pick out of LSU, and scouts were divided on where his best position would be. He played center predominantly, and though Pocic had some experience at left tackle it was limited. At 6-foot-7, he has the build and reach for the position, but we are just not getting the sense that the Seahawks want to put him there — at least not initially. He’s more of an option on the right side, either at guard or tackle, it appears.

In addition to left tackle, the Seahawks also have some things to work out at running back. Heading into the preseason, the team liked its options and depth. After all, with Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and seventh-rounder Chris Carson in the mix, there was a nice blend of size, receiving ability and depth.

But injuries have been a big issue to this point. Rawls has battled a series of ankle injuries and remains sidelined for the time being. Lacy has tried to keep his weight in check since arriving this offseason and has yet to show much in the way of explosiveness. Collins has run for three touchdowns in the preseason but hasn’t seen extensive work otherwise. The biggest concern to this point has been Prosise, who figured to have a major role in the offense as the best pass-catching back.

Dating back to Notre Dame, Prosise has battled injuries and appears to be earning a reputation as a player who might not be able to be counted on regularly. His groin has team officials concerned, and they don’t know how much they can count on a player who actually has a special package of plays highlighted for his unique skill set in the team’s playbook.

Could that mean a decent role for Carson as a rookie? What a story it would be for the 249th pick in April’s draft to become a standout. Only six seventh-round running backs have surpassed 200 yards rushing in their first season the past 10 years in the league.

But Carson has been a preseason standout, flashing a fascinating mix of power and tackle-breaking ability that has endeared him to the staff. He almost certainly has earned some kind of role on the opening roster, although the coaches up there know too well that Carson also battled injuries (not to mention fumbling issues) at Oklahoma State.

In that way, he reminded one scout we spoke to of former Patriots RB Stevan Ridley, for both good and bad reasons. Ridley was an effective runner his first few seasons in the league, but fumbling issues and health concerns now have him on his fourth roster in four years and fighting for a roster spot with the Denver Broncos.

The Seahawks have a fascinating schedule early in the season, opening up with the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, playing three of their first five games on the road and facing the tough run defenses of the Titans, Rams, Giants and Texans before Halloween. Working out their offensive issues in such a short time will be a fascinating process to watch play out.

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