EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Seattle Seahawks are playing a blocker who’s been bumming for a month since he got benched. They are also playing a rookie on the line who has never played in the NFL before — both opposite a speedy quarterback menace coming off a three-sack game.
No wonder Russell Wilson wants to be in a hurry Sunday against the New York Giants.
Starting left guard Luke Joeckel’s knee surgery during the bye week means he will miss at least the next four or five games, including this one for Seattle (3-2) at the Giants (1-5). It also means Mark Glowinski and Ethan Pocic will be playing. It will be the third and fourth versions of the offensive line in six games this season.
“We’re going to play them both,” Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “Regardless of who goes out first, we should plan on seeing both of them in the game.”
Glowinski was the starting left guard last season. He was the starting right guard for the first two games of this season, until veteran Oday Aboushi took his job.
Did that bum out Glowinski?
“I don’t know. Whatever they do, I do,” Seattle’s fourth-round pick in 2015 out of West Virginia said.
“I don’t think I’ll have any issues. … I’m versatile,” he said with a smile. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”
His position coach was a bit more revealing.
“I think, like anybody would be, (he was) disappointed at first,” Cable said.
“And then (it was) recognizing that you have work to do. If you’re a real competitor, that’s what you do. You just go back to work.”
Glowinski has that work cut out for him Sunday. So does Pocic, the second-round draft choice from LSU. He has practiced at every Seahawks line position except left tackle since May.
He and Glowinski have to help repel New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul. The edge-rusher extraordinaire has 4½ sacks this season, including those three last weekend when the Giants got their initial win of the season. It was a startling, dominating upset at Denver. New York’s 23-10 victory was a 20-3 game for much of the second half.
“Oh, it’s a great opportunity,” said Pocic, who, by the way, is still the backup to center Justin Britt.
“I’m looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge. And I’m just going to have some fun.”
Wilson can use any blocking he can get, from Glowinski, from Pocic, from anyone. He’s been sacked 13 times this season. That was tied for eighth-most in the league after five weeks, before the bye. After five games last season Seattle allowed 10 sacks.
If Wilson wasn’t a magician escaping so many would-be sacks each game, as he was again wondrously against the Rams on Oct. 8, Seattle’s number would be far higher — higher than the NFL high of 23 sacks allowed by the Lions and now-Aaron Rodgers-less Packers so far this season.
Potentially more damaging, Wilson has been hit a total of 43 times by pass-rushers. Only Arizona’s line had allowed its statuesque, ancient quarterback, Carson Palmer, to get hit more through five games: 50 times.
Wilson is on pace to absorb 138 hits over 16 regular-season games. That is not only unsustainable, it is potentially lethal to Seattle’s goals of winning the division and getting at least a second-round playoff game at home for the first time in three years. That’s 138 chances to get injured, 138 chances to doom the Seahawks’ entire offense and season.
In 2016 Seattle allowed 111 QB hits. The most in the NFL last season was 140 by Cleveland — which went 1-15.
The Seahawks quarterback was asked this past week when he believes his offense is at its best.
His first answer: “I think that, obviously, up-tempo is very good for us.”
When Seattle has not huddled and run plays in a hurry, it has scored 75 percent of the time this season: on nine of 12 drives. It has five field goals, including all nine of the points the Seahawks scored in the opening loss at Green Bay, and four touchdowns. One of those TDs was the winning one in fourth quarter against San Francisco in Week 2, Wilson’s magical scramble then throw to Paul Richardson with 7 minutes remaining in the 12-9 victory.
The Seahawks are averaging 11.5 yards on the plays before, including and right after not huddling.
While huddling, Seattle has mostly flopped. The offense has scored 17.9 percent of the time (10 times in 56 drives). It is averaging 4.3 yards per play when it huddles.
More than the numbers, there is a feel all Seahawks — linemen, backs, receivers and Wilson — say they get when they go hurry-up. Often the only rhythm they get in a game comes when they go no-huddle.
Yes, some of this season’s no-huddle scores have come when defenses have been in more of a dropped-off, prevent mode. Three of the 12 drives have come at the end of a half, and two more of the drives — late at Tennessee in Week 3 — came with Seattle in frantic, playground mode after falling behind 30-14 late in the third quarter.
But what about the other seven drives on which Seattle has used no-huddle and an increase in tempo? And what about the past two seasons? While the running game and the offensive line have struggled, the no-huddle, hurry-up mode has succeeded. Seattle has scored 24 times on drives when it has used no-huddle in its past 23 games, including playoffs, dating to the start of the 2016 season.
“I think it puts pressure on the defense,” Wilson said.
“But every game kind of dictates itself a little bit based on who you are playing and you got to have a strategy a little bit, I think. For us, I think up-tempo is really good because, like I said, it puts pressure on the defense. We have always done it well since 2012, really we have been really good at that I think. So for us that is something we can always do and hop into and feel confident about.
“We practice it a lot, and so there may be times when we go to that throughout several games.”
So why not every Sunday? Heck, every quarter?
Coach Pete Carroll has said in some games he doesn’t want quicker drives that give more possessions to opposing quarterbacks he fears can burn the Seahawks.
Though now 36 years old, New York’s two-time Super Bowl MVP and four-time Pro Bowl passer, Eli Manning, is potentially one of those.
Brian Hoyer of San Francisco, who was the QB in Week 2 when the Seahawks went no-huddle in the middle of the fourth quarter to take the lead, is not.
Plus, going up-tempo on offense just not in Carroll’s nature. He’s a former college defensive back and NFL defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator who at his core believes in controlling field position and thus games with a consistent, thumping running game (which Seattle hasn’t had for two-plus seasons, since Marshawn Lynch got hurt then temporarily retired) and most of all a dominating defense. Winging it all over the yard in no-huddle in, say, the middle of the first quarter just isn’t how he won national championships at USC and the Super Bowl for the Seahawks three years ago.
Seattle’s offensive line benefits by the up-tempo approach. The plays are quicker and blocking schemes generally more basic, because Wilson’s passes generally require quicker drops and throws. In the hurry-up, the line is blocking more fatigued defenders, especially when the Seahawks don’t substitute players and thus don’t give the defense a chance to do the same.
Tiring Pierre-Paul and the Giants’ attacking defensive front on Sunday sounds like a good idea.
“I definitely think you notice the defensive linemen get tired when you are going up-tempo,” Wilson said. “They are rushing full speed. They are going as hard as they can go and so if you can have a long (sus)taining drive where you go one play after another that is a key thing for us.”
Wilson also says the defense’s schemes are often simpler when Seattle’s going in a hurry.
“Sometimes, depending on who you are playing,” he said. “I think that every defense, sometimes they have a bunch of calls in 2-minute and sometimes they don’t. Most teams on a generic level, most teams do get a little bit more simple because there is only so much they can do.
“We are going so fast, it kind of puts them on their heels a little bit and I think that is an advantage for us.”
One the Seahawks have been reluctant to use more regularly. At least so far.