RENTON Tom Cable was what his linemen were not last weekend: effective.
Effective and direct in describing both how he felt his Seahawks offensive line played at Tampa Bay -- and why Garry Gilliam is no longer the starting right tackle.
“No, not good enough,” the veteran line coach said Wednesday, three days after his guys allowed Tampa Bay to loop and stunt and sack quarterback Russell Wilson six times in the Buccaneers’ 14-5 home win over Seattle.
“We had a stretch in the middle part of the game where it was OK. It felt like some of the run game was there, but we really didn’t get to it. But protection-wise, not good.”
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Cable shook his shaved head for emphasis -- not that he needed to. His tone said as much or more than his words.
“We kind of had a motto here: ‘Don’t make things up,’” Cable said. “Do right. Stay right. Continue, down after down. And we really kind of got away from that.
“Kind of looked like young guys, to be quite honest with you.”
Indeed, the Seahawks’ lowest-paid offensive line in the league also became one of its youngest at Tampa Bay. Seattle started three rookies on the line last weekend: first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi at right guard, for the eighth consecutive time since he returned from a sprained ankle in September; undrafted college basketball player George Fant at left tackle for the fifth straight time; and center Joey Hunt making his first NFL start because Justin Britt -- the team’s best, most consistent lineman this season -- was out for the first time in 2016 because of a sprained ankle.
Those three rookies joined second-year left guard Mark Glowinski and Gilliam (for the first three plays) and Bradley Sowell (for the final 60 plays) at right tackle. They allowed three times as many sacks against the Bucs as the Seahawks had been giving up. Seattle entered Tampa Bay having allowed 20 sacks in 10 games.
“I see it as a bad night at the ball game,” Cable said.
He’s hoping indeed his guys’ inability to deal with Tampa Bay’s looping and X-ing line stunts from tackle Gerald McCoy and its front four was a mere anomaly entering Sunday night’s home game against the defending NFC-champion Carolina Panthers (4-7). Britt is expected back at center for that, which will help.
It can’t be worse than it was at Tampa Bay. Wait, can it?
“It’s disappointing, because you are kind of on this trajectory to get right and get consistent, and then you have that happen,” Cable said. “We all take it very personal, and we have to get right...
“And the group coming in here this weekend is a fine defense, so you really have no choice but to get yourself straight.”
But he’s not waiting around for it to happen.
Wednesday, he and coach Pete Carroll said Sowell is now the starting right tackle. Gilliam’s is the first true benching for straight performance and not injury related or prompted -- such as Fant for the then-injured Sowell at left tackle last month -- on the line this season.
For weeks Cable had been saying he wanted to see more physicality from the athletic Gilliam, a three-year tight end at Penn State before Seattle signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014. Gilliam, the right tackle last season, was going to be the starting left tackle for this season, before the Seahawks switched him to right tackle during training camp.
Why did Gilliam get just a three-and-out series in Tampa Bay, on which Fant and Ifedi got beaten for sacks, than sat watching Sowell play the rest of the game? Sowell hadn’t played right tackle since his rookie season with Indianapolis in 2012.
“It was just about competing,” Cable said. “That’s the way it kind of worked out. And Brad was really hooked up and doing fine.”
I asked Cable what he can do to coach physicality into Gilliam.
“To play on the line of scrimmage at this level it has to be part of your makeup,” Cable said.
“For every guy, it’s up to you to do what’s asked of you, and do the best you can.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell used the same words to describe the line changes Cable did.
“We’re just trying to find the best five guys,” Bevell said.
It’s high time for that. December begins on Thursday.