Trying to keep J.J. Watt from wreaking havoc in the backfield is a tall task for even the best offensive lines.
The Seattle Seahawks may have to attempt it this week without their two starting offensive tackles.
Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung is out with an injured toe. Right tackle Breno Giacomini has an ailing knee that forced him to the sidelines early in Seattle’s 45-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
With veteran Paul McQuistan moving out from guard to tackle to replace Okung, the Seahawks may have to turn to a pair of rookies in Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey to pick up the slack against the league’s second-ranked defense.
Bowie and Bailey impressed offensive line coach Tom Cable during training camp and have continued to make progress.
”(We saw) some really cool stuff,” Cable said. ”I’m really excited about their future, our future. I thought both those kids went in there and knocked people off the ball, protected really well. They got comfortable really quick.”
Bowie was the Seahawks’ final draft selection in April. Bailey was an undrafted free agent signing out of Arkansas. The duo proved capable of playing both tackle positions and inside at guard. Their versatility helped them cement spots on a deep Seattle roster.
They saw their first game action last week against the Jaguars. Bowie replaced the hobbled Giacomini in the second quarter at right tackle and later moved to the left side when Seattle put its full slate of backups in during the third quarter. Bailey then took over at right tackle.
Head coach Pete Carroll said Bowie and Bailey proved they can physically handle the demands of the position. He said he watched the Jaguars game an extra time just to focus on their play and came away impressed with how they held up.
”Both guys came off the ball really well. They did fine in pass protection, a little raggedy at times in a couple of their sets in things, some of the small things. But they show that they have the ability to play and that’s all they’ve shown us throughout the preseason,” Carroll said.
Bowie would likely get the call to start if Giacomini can’t play. Giacomini has yet to practice this week.
While trying to contain Watt could be viewed as a nightmare for many offensive lines, Bowie is excited about the opportunity should it arise.
”I’m ready to go. I live for moments like this. I’m anxious,” Bowie said.
Starting a rookie against the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year could cause an offensive line coach to lose sleep. However, getting a chance to see Bowie and Bailey perform in live action last week gives him confidence either player can hold his own if called upon this week.
”Now you feel like you’re not just starting over if you have to do it,” Cable said. ”They’ve been there. They’ve done it so it’s just normal preparation and if they’re called upon they just got to go do what they’re capable of doing.”
Notes: RB Spencer Ware (ankle), T Breno Giacomini (knee) and S Jeron Johnson (hamstring) did not practice for Seattle on Thursday. DT Jordan Hill (biceps) and C Max Unger (arm) were limited. … WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle), DT Michael Bennett (groin), DE Red Bryant (back) and RB Marshawn Lynch returned to full participation after sitting out practice on Wednesday.