“The best-laid plans of mice and men (oft go astray)” — Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”
After getting pushed around by the great defensive fronts of the Rams, Panthers and Vikings last season, the Seahawks knew they needed to beef up their offensive line if they were going to win the NFC this year.
So they signed 6-foot-7, 331-pound J’Marcus Webb and 6-7, 309-pound Bradley Sowell and then drafted 6-6, 324-pound Germain Ifedi, 6-4, 314-pound Rees Odhiambo and 6-2, 299-pound center Joey Hunt.
The original plan was to pair Ifedi and Webb on the right side to, as Pete Carroll put it, “get as big as you can get in football.” That, along with moving Justin Britt (6-6, 315) to center, was their strategy for dealing with the great defensive fronts they were set to face in 2016 — the Rams, Panthers, Dolphins, Jets, et al.
But, Robert Burns’ poetic proverb has proven true for the Hawks, who are on to Plan C — and possibly D — as they take their first crack at Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and the rest of the Rams’ deep line.
The Seahawks had to scratch Plan A when Webb was injured for most of the preseason and lost the tackle spot to Garry Gilliam (6-5, 315). But at least the interior looked much better with Mark Glowinski (6-4, 310), Britt and Ifedi — until Ifedi suffered a high ankle sprain in practice days before the opener. That put Webb at right guard — where Tom Cable had not wanted him — for the game against Ndamukong Suh and the Dolphins.
The Seattle offense struggled for most of the game, with the line committing three penalties and helping give up three sacks and nine hits on Russell Wilson while not opening much running room (3.5-yard average on 32 carries).
The coaches were confident Webb would play better with a full week of practice at right guard, but then he injured an ankle in practice and was listed as questionable Friday.
Assuming the ankle is not a big deal, Carroll said, “He looks like he’s already started to come around a little bit, get more comfortable and all that. It’s been awhile since he was featured at guard. He looked much more comfortable so hopefully we’ll make some progress there.”
Webb played guard for the Raiders last year, but Cable pointed out that it was a “way different system, so it’s a little bit more demanding of him in what we’re asking him to do.”
Cable said Webb is “still learning how to do it, which is a big improvement from last week. He had some struggles, but I think he’s better this week, for sure.”
If Webb can’t go, the Seahawks suddenly will be on their third right guard — rookie Rees Odhiambo is listed as the backup at both guard spots.
Neither player is ideal with Donald lined up on the other side this week. But that is where the Seahawks are for now.
“This whole month is kind of this way with all those teams we’re playing,” Cable said of the stacked D-lines Seattle faces early. “It’s a really good opportunity to learn and grow a whole bunch.”
They’re not going to grow as much as they should until Ifedi returns though. He seems likely to be back for the Week 4 contest against the Jets’ formidable front, if not for Week 3 vs. the 49ers.
“He’s making good progress,” Carroll said. “He’s really anxious to show something next week, and we’ll see if he can do it. We really won’t know until he gets out there and we find out how he responds and all that.”
The sooner he gets back, the sooner the Seahawks can get back to building this line into a serviceable unit for a team expected to win the Super Bowl again.
In the meantime, they have to hope Plan C is still better than what they did against the Rams last season.