RENTON — J.R. Sweezy remembers his first NFL start, in the season opener against NFC West-rival Arizona.
It wasn’t pretty.
Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable took a liking to the defensive lineman at North Carolina State before the draft. He liked Sweezy’s athleticism and attitude, so the Seahawks took a flier on him in the seventh-round.
Sweezy proved to be a quick study, and earned the starting job at right guard out of training camp. Initially, he struggled.
“It’s amazing that I was in the position to play before,” Sweezy said. “Because now, knowing so much more and knowing the offense so much better, I look back at the film and I’m like ‘Man, if I only knew what I know now.’ ”
Sweezy returned to the bench with a healthy and more experienced John Moffitt available. He focused on learning how to study game recordings and honing his blocking techniques each day in practice.
Cable began to gradually work Sweezy back into the starting lineup when James Carpenter was placed on the injured reserve list the first week of December after re-injuring his surgically repaired knee.
“It wasn’t so much the physical part of it,” Sweezy said. “I could handle that. But when people started moving in stuff, I didn’t really understand which one to work to and stuff. And now I do. So it makes a lot more sense now.”
Sweezy split time with Moffitt at right guard for two weeks, and then took over as the starter against San Francisco, more than holding his own.
“He’s so tough mentally,” Cable said. “And he accepted his failures, and he grew from them. And when he started playing again, you could just see it coming, and then last week he was really good.”
Sweezy has helped to solidify an offensive line that has paved the way for the No. 2 rushing offense in the league, with the Seahawks averaging 162 rushing yards a contest.
The Seahawks hadn’t had an offensive lineman make the Pro Bowl since Walter Jones retired after 2008, his last full season in the league.
This season, the Seahawks are sending two starters to Hawaii. One is Jones’ replacement, Russell Okung, and the other is center Max Unger.
But Cable’s not taking any of the credit.
“I think it’s the work they’ve done, really,” Cable said. “My job is to teach them, and get out of the way. And so they’ve busted their tails. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. And now they’re being rewarded for it.”
Now in his fourth season, Brandon Gibson has established himself as a legitimate NFL receiver. The Rogers High product who played at Washington State is second in receptions for the St. Louis Rams, with 48 for 646 yards and five touchdowns.
Gibson has had at least 34 catches each season he’s been in the league.
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said that Gibson, 25, has grown into a reliable target for quarterback Sam Bradford.
“He’s been making plays since we’ve arrived,” Fisher said. “He’s real smart, he’s tough and he can make the tough catch. It’s fun to see him, not only on Sundays, but make some tremendous catches on the practice field.
“Most of the catches should be easy, and are easy because Sam Bradford is an accurate passer. But every once in a while he needs to put it some place, and Gibby can go get it. He’s one of those guys you want on your football team.”
Defensive end Red Bryant was named the NFC player of the week for blocking a field goal attempt against San Francisco that cornerback Richard Sherman scooped up and returned 90 yards for a touchdown. Bryant blocked three field goals and an extra point last season. … After sitting out Wednesday, Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice returned as a full participant in practice. Rice has had a nagging knee injury the past few weeks. Along with Rice, tight end Anthony McCoy (back), offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (elbow), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring), defensive end Red Bryant (foot) and running back Marshawn Lynch (back) returned to practice. Giacomini, Thurmond and Bryant were listed as limited participants, while Lynch and McCoy were full participants. Wide receiver Golden Tate (illness) and linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring) did not practice. Safety Earl Thomas (ankle) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) were listed as full participants.