History and Tom Cable
Things were much worse in 2011 when Okung missed the final four games of the season after a cheap shot from Trent Cole of Philadelphia. The line was also missing two other starters as John Moffitt and James Carpenter were injured. Paul McQuistan moved over to left tackle, Breno Giacomini stepped in at right tackle and Lemuel Juanpierre played at right guard. Robert Gallery played, but was on the doorstep of retirement. The team had righted itself after a dismal start, and had won three of four when Okung went out.
They went on to win the next two games, including a road game in Chicago, and then dropped a 19-17 contest to division champion San Francisco. The 49ers were playing their best defense that year, but it was in that game, without Okung and the rest, that they gave up their first 100 yard rusher and first rushing touchdown of the year. San Francisco was a handful in the pass rush last week with nearly everyone healthy on the line. Try to imagine facing that defense with Gallery and Juanpierre at guard and McQuistan at left tackle. The Seattle offense did better in that rematch than they had done in the first game that year. In fact, the offense did just fine without Okung that year.
Seattle scored more without Okung in those four games, passed at the same rate and rushed for significantly more yards. Tom Cable has shown he can game plan for injuries on the line better than most. Okung missed one game last season against the Cowboys, forcing Frank Omiyale into the lineup against DeMarcus Ware. One of the best pass rushers of this generation was held without a sack and just one quarterback hit. The team rushed for over 180 yards and helped Russell Wilson to his first game with a passer rating over 100.0.
An injury to Okung tends to lead the coaching staff down the path of an even heavier emphasis on the run game, and extra protection on throws. They become a little more deliberate, and a little less ambitious. This line is also better than the ones Cable has had to make do with in the past.
The Young Guns
Yes that was against second and third string players, but he did well in subsequent games as well against better competition. To this point, I have only seen him beat once in pass protection. He was a guard in college, so is a natural run blocker. The question mark for Bailey is one his quarterback can appreciate. At 6’3″, Bailey is exceedingly short for a tackle, let alone a left tackle. Judging by the results I saw, it may not matter
Bowie looks much more like a classic right tackle. He is thick and tall. His feet were not as impressive in pass protection, and his results were far less consistent than Bailey’s in that regard. When Cable calls you out as impressive, though, everyone should take notice.
Neither young player will start out of the gate. McQuistan will take the starting snaps, and it is possible he will keep them for the duration of Okung’s injury. More likely, we see Bailey and Bowie get rotated into the game more and more and one of them may take over the starting role in 2-4 weeks depending on how they play. I expect great things from both, but am especially eager to see how Bailey performs. This team is better equipped to handle the absence of Okung than at any time in Carroll’s tenure in Seattle, and arguably better than at any time in the last 20 years of Seahawks football. The team is certainly better off with his immense talent in the lineup, but nobody needs to brace for a massive drop-off without him.