COMMENTARY | It's hard to find many faults with the Seattle Seahawks right now. A 3-0 record, a pasting of the rival San Francisco 49ers complete with Guinness World Record, and every other team in the division having at least two losses makes for just about a perfect start to 2013.
Still, even what is undoubtedly one of the top teams in the NFL currently has some question marks. Heading into two huge AFC South matchups on the road with the Houston Texas and Indianapolis Colts, the Seahawks' offensive line is rapidly becoming an area of concern.
The unit was strong in 2012, and figured to be at least as good this season with largely the same group of players. Russell Okung and Max Unger made appearances in the Pro Bowl, and the Seahawks' rushing numbers were some of the best in the NFL.
Recent injuries have raised plenty of questions heading into Week 4. Seattle is without the often-injured Okung until at least Week 11, after he hurt his toe against the 49ers. The situation got even more uncertain this week, as head coach Pete Carroll was unsure if Breno Giacomini would play due to a sore knee.
That leaves the offensive line situation in flux and in a tough situation. Paul Mcquistan, who has played a decent amount over the past three years and started last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, will take over at left tackle. If Giacomini cannot play, the Seahawks would probably turn to rookie seventh-round draft pick Michael Bowie at the right tackle position.
After Unger, the rest of the group remains an uncertainty. Starting left guard James Carpenter has a history of knee injuries, at a time the Seahawks absolutely cannot afford another one. Right guard J.R. Sweezy has typically been solid, but is only a year removed from transitioning from the defensive line and had a miserable opener against the Carolina Panthers. The team also just brought in two new linemen, signing tackle Caylin Hauptmann off of the Browns' practice squad, and adding veteran guard Jason Spitz.
The Seahawks' schedule does absolutely no favors for a team with questions on the offensive line. Houston totaled 44 sacks in 2012, fifth most in the NFL, and features one J.J. Watt along the defensive line. Watt could certainly have a field day, like he did against so many teams a year ago, versus an untested offensive line.
The Colts don't quite have the same star power, but showed how stingy their defense can be last week in San Francisco. Only seven teams have registered more sacks than their total of nine.
Every single team in the NFL needs a strong offensive line, and the Seahawks' versatile offense is no different. Seattle relies heavily on its run game, and will not be nearly as efficient without good blocking ahead of Marshawn Lynch. Protection for Russell Wilson, whether it be on read-option plays or in pass protection, is also essential. An injury to Wilson for any significant amount of time would be disastrous for the Seahawks' season.
Continuity also becomes an issue. If there's any position that benefits from having the same group on the field and in practice every week, it's the offensive line. Seattle proved that rotating linemen often can work to some extent in 2012, but obviously they would rather have the same five players week in and week out.
It's not like the Seahawks' offensive line is going to necessarily become a liability. After all, Giacomini constantly gets called for frustrating penalties and the Seahawks front office - who doesn't tend to waste draft picks - saw something they liked in Bowie. Either way, we'll know a lot more in two weeks.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.
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- offensive line