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June 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

Most heated position battle in training camp? Just might be right tackle

The Seahawks preach competition at every position, and at all times, as a hallmark of their program.

But realistically, as the off-season ended and summer break began, four of five spots on the offensive line appear set.

Center Max Unger, left guard James Carpenter and right guard J.R. Sweezy appeared to take every snap with the number one unit during OTAs and mini-camp, and right now all appear to have strangleholds on their spots.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable, in fact, said on Thursday, as mini-camp ended, that “I’m pleased with the consistency we have reached at guard with both J.R. and James.”

Left tackle, meanwhile, will be handed back to Russell Okung once he returns from off-season toe surgery — and at the moment, there is no real reason to expect that he won’t be ready, though if he isn’t, then obviously things might change there.

As summer break began, though, the one spot that was wide open — maybe as open as any position on the team — was right tackle.

Second-year player Michael Bowie and rookie second-round pick Justin Britt pretty much traded off playing there during OTAs and mini-camps, and they’ll begin training camp likely considered equals at that spot.

On the second day of mini-camp, though, Britt took every snap with the starting offense, as did rookie undrafted free agent Gary Gilliam at left tackle.

And if you thought maybe a message was being sent to Bowie, and to Alvin Bailey, who projects as Okung’s backup at left tackle and usually worked with the starters with Okung out, you may well have been right.

As mini-camp ended on Thursday, Cable said Bowie and Bailey each had proven not to be in quite the shape the team had hoped.

Asked on Thursday what he’s looking forward to seeing once training camp arrives, Cable said in part: “As we go into  it, the key to be will be will be finding the role of Mike Bowie and finding the role of Alvin Bailey in terms of their condition and being able to come back to camp in shape and being able to perform at a high level.”

Asked if he was disappointed in the shape that each was in when the Seahawks began their official off-season program in April, Cable said “well, I think you are.”

But then he noted that it’s not an uncommon issue for rookies to handle  staying in the optimum shape through the season and off-season. Recall that Bowie and Bailey were each rookie surprises for the Seahawks in 2013.  Bowie, a seventh-round pick, emerged as the backup at right tackle and started eight games when Breno Giacomini was out with an injury, and another at guard against the Saints in the playoffs in place of Carpenter. Bailey made the team as an undrafted free agent and became a valued reserve, and technically started the Super Bowl when the Seahawks began with a formation they used quite a bit in that game, being utilized as an extra tackle.

“It’s something that every young linemen goes through that first year,” Cable said of Bowie and Bailey. “They are used to Thanksgiving and then kind of being at the end of their college season and workings towards a bowl game and that’s all they really have left. And that’s when we are just kicking it into gear. And I think they really get fatigued, those big kids. And we told them that ‘hey, your biggest issue is going to be going home and keeping your fit and keeping your body and all that.’ And sure enough, not good listeners.  But I think they got the point now because they are finding out that ‘hey, now I’ve had to kind of get back up and go back to work  all the way.’ They came in a little behind it. But they are working towards it.”

Cable, meanwhile, praised the play of Britt, the former Missouri standout who impressed with his quick grasp of the playbook and footwork, saying he was “really pleased” with his performance during OTAs and mini-camp.

“I think we have tremendous competition at right tackle,” Cable said. “And like I said, if we can get Alvin and Mike in the kind of shape we think it takes to play, then they give themselves the best chance, and that will make the whole group and the team that much better.”

 

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