With Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung in North Carolina getting his injured left toe examined, the Seahawks are preparing to play without him this week -- and perhaps beyond.
Paul McQuistan, who can play every line spot but center, will move from left guard to left tackle for the foreseeable future, and the Hawks will hope James Carpenter can stay healthy at left guard while they work rookies Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie into the mix for experience.
As expected, McQuistan struggled against San Francisco pass rush star Aldon Smith last Sunday, giving up two sacks. But they expect a much different result now that he is actually practicing at the position.
Coach Pete Carroll said, "Paul couldn’t have been prepared for some of the finesse things that we did in protections and stuff. He just didn’t have a snap at it. ... But he did just fine. We’re happy with surviving the game under those circumstances.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, "Give credit to him; he did a great job of being able to step in there with no notice, no practice and just helping us being able to function. This week, he gets used to setting from out there, the speed off the edge -- all those different things will help him be better this week.”
So how do things change without Okung?
"The issue is going to come down to protection. (That) would be the biggest thing for me," Bevell said. "All those guys can run-block well and Paul is no different. But just understanding what his strengths are, what his weaknesses are, and as long as we don’t stay in one protection, then we can change it up on the defense. We’re not going to give him help every play, we’re not going to leave him by himself every play, but there’s just different things you can continue to do to give them different looks so they can’t just tee off on your protections.”
A game against a weaker opponent such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, who come to Seattle on Sunday, would seem to offer opportunities for young players to get experience. Bailey and Bowie both were inactive Sunday, but they figure to be active and playing as long as Okung is out.
“That’s the best way to bring guys up. They can watch all they want, but they have to get out there and play," Carroll said. "Just like we did with Carp. We’ve been working Carp in the whole time, every chance we got to get him going and get his feet on the ground and get his mind right and get the timing of the game and all that. He’s ready to start now, and we’re very fortunate, after the preseason and these couple of games, he’s ready to go.
"And we’d like to do basically the same thing with the young guys," the coach added. "Just bring them along. So, if we can get the opportunity to get them in the games, we are going to do it and we’ll push that opportunity some because we know the value of that and we have to get our depth ready to handle the rigors of the season. So it’s more evident now.”
Carroll is happy right tackle Breno Giacomini seems to have flipped the script on last season -- kind of. He had two holding penalties vs. the 49ers, but he also elicited yet another personal foul penalty from an opponent. That is two in two weeks.
At Carolina, where he committed three fouls last season and was benched briefly, he got Frank Alexander ejected after provoking the D-lineman into punching him. He also goaded the 49ers' Smith into a post-play penalty on third down that extended a drive and resulted in a Seattle touchdown.
It's a nice change from last season, when Giacomini was the one drawing those flags.
"Well let’s say this, he’s been on both sides of the line and he’s been on one side a lot more than he’s been on the side he is presently operating at," Carroll said. "He’s working really hard. He doesn’t want to be the error repeater of the game and the guy who continues to be an issue for us. So he’s learned and that’s just time and experience and the ability to be poised and make good decisions in the face of someone slugging you right in the mouth.
"He’s going to make guys mad," Carroll added. "He’s going to get after them, he’s going to be physical and persistent, and he’s going to bother people. And that brings that out in some guys sometimes. It used to bring it out in him. Hopefully we’re beyond that. We’ll see. We are going to take this one game at a time. I would not say that he has arrived. I wouldn’t want to give him that.”
One guy who has not arrived at all is Chris Michael. If the Seahawks were struggling, more might be made of the fact that the second-round pick is not playing. The running back was inactive in Week 2 after sitting on the bench in Week 1 -- apparently because the coaches don't think he is ready to play yet.
Sixth-round pick Spencer Ware has played more, although he suffered a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter of the game against the 49ers. That might open the door for Michael to be active Sunday.
"He’s primed and ready to play," Carroll said, "and if Spence can’t make it this week then he will get a great chance to be part of it. We’d love to see him play. We’d love to see him be a part of it. We saw terrific stuff from him for the great part of the preseason that only leads us to think he can be a factor to help us.
"I think a couple of weeks of not being actively involved got him even more focused in," Carroll said, getting to the meat of the matter. "He’s got a lot to learn. A very young player for us. But boy does he have talent. So we’re excited to get him in there and get him to be part of it.”
Michael isn't the only 2013 draft pick not to contribute yet. In fact, the team's top five picks have not seen the field.
Third-round defensive tackle Jordan Hill is still recovering from a biceps injury. Fourth-round wide receiver Chris Harper did not make the team. And fifth-rounders Jesse Williams (IR) and Tharold Simon (PUP) are on injured lists.
Only Ware and tight end Luke Willson (fifth round) have played.
Among the four seventh-rounders, Bowie is the only one on the 53-man roster. Linemen Ryan Seymour and Jared Smith are on the practice squad, and linebacker Ty Powell did not make the team.
They also have three undrafted rookies: Bailey, linebacker John Lotulelei and defensive end Benson Mayowa. The latter two have played.
Carroll said it would be tough for rookies to contribute, and he was not kidding.