Seahawks’ surge helped by O-line depth

RENTON — Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable is a firm believer of treating every player, be it first-round pick or practice-squad dreamer, equally.

“I never have liked or understood how you can make this guy all that or this guy all that,” Cable said. “It’s B.S. to me. They’re all just tough guys who want to work hard and play professional football, so they ought to be treated that way. In our room there is no one bigger or greater than anyone else.”

And as it turns out, that’s a pretty good way to approach things, particularly when everyone from first-round picks to former practice-squad dreamers have seen significant playing time this season.

As seems to be the case every year with the Seahawks, offensive line injuries have piled up this season, but unlike the past couple of seasons when injuries have caused the offense to go stagnant, the Seahawks have managed to show continuous growth even as starters go down with season-ending injuries.

Rookies John Moffitt and James Carpenter went down with season-ending knee injuries less than a week apart, leaving the Seahawks without the right side of their line for the remainder of the season. Even worse, those injuries happened right when the line, which had a hard time meshing thanks to the lack of offseason workouts, had just started to come together.

Enter Breno Giacomini, who spent most of last season on Seattle’s practice squad, at right tackle, and Paul McQuistan a versatile veteran who had started only 12 games in his first five seasons, at right guard. Three weeks later, left tackle Russell Okung was lost for the season because of a pectoral injury. That meant a move to left tackle for McQuistan, and a starting role for Lemuel Jeanpierre, another player who spent most of last year on Seattle’s practice squad.

So what happened in those six games with two or three new starters? Seattle averaged 125.8 rushing yards per game, allowed 15 sacks — not a great number, but hardly the disaster it could have been either — and won four games. In last week’s loss to San Francisco, the Seahawks rushed for 126 yards against a defense that was holding teams to an average of 71.5 rushing yards heading into the game. Marshawn Lynch’s 4-yard touchdown run was the first rushing touchdown San Francisco had allowed all season, and he also became the first 100-yard rusher against the 49ers since November of 2009.

“It’s amazing that we’ve been able to do this,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “Most teams would not be able to do this. We couldn’t do it a year ago. When we got banged up, we couldn’t sustain. We just didn’t have the depth.”

The development of Seattle’s line has not just been good for this season, but it also bodes very well for next season. By the end of this season, McQuistan will have started 10 games at three different positions, Giacomini will have started eight, and Jeanpierre will have started five.

“If we can keep this group together, it’s going to be pretty promising,” said center Max Unger.

Of course, the improvement of the running game has also had a lot to do with the player who has been carrying the ball. Marshawn Lynch, who with one game remaining has already established career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns, says this year has been better, in part, because he has matured. Lynch has seen the way fellow running back Leon Washington takes care of his body and prepares for games and tried to be better in that area; he has studied with fullback Michael Robinson and running back Justin Forsett.

“I feel I became a pro this year,” he said. “In the studying, the taking care of my body, doing the little things that I could have gotten away with when I was younger, like not stretching, just going out there … A lot of the things I have learned, I have learned from those guys in that room.”

Lynch has also gone to Cable and asked how he can be a better fit in a new rushing scheme.

“He came to me a few weeks back and said, ‘Help me do what the other backs have done in this thing,’” Cable said. “And we made a deal: ‘You have to do it the way I ask you to do it,’ and he’s done it. A lot of credit goes to him because he was able to maybe push his ego or push his own beliefs, to some extent, aside and embrace something new.”

Injury report

Receiver Ben Obomanu and linebacker David Hawthorne both sat out Wednesday’s practice with knee injuries, and while Hawthorne, who has been battling the injury since the preseason, is fully expected to play, Obomanu will likely be a game-day decision, Carroll said.

“We’re going to rest him during the week and see,” Carroll said. “We think he can play.”

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (concussion), linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) and Kennard Cox (hamstring), who all missed last weekend’s game, practiced fully and are on track to return to action Sunday.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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