Will the Seahawks really roll out their fourth offensive line combination of the season Sunday when they face the Rams in St. Louis?
With right guard John Moffitt doubtful because of a knee injury and 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter expected to play for the first time this season, it sure looks like it.
It probably boils down to whether the coaches are more comfortable with Carpenter at left guard or rookie J.R. Sweezy at right guard, because versatile veteran Paul McQuistan figures to stand guard somewhere on the line.
Of course, the other complication is right tackle Breno Giacomini, who did not practice all week due to a strained pectoral muscle. He is listed as probable, but if he aggravates the injury the Hawks will have to shuffle up and deal a new tackle. That would be either McQuistan or Frank Omiyale, who filled in for left tackle Russell Okung in Week 2 against Dallas.
So, the line could take any one of these five-man forms at the start of or during the game (from left to right):
1) Okung, Carpenter, Max Unger, McQuistan, Giacomini
2) Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, Giacomini
3) Okung, Carpenter, Unger, McQuistan, Omiyale
4) Okung, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, McQuistan
5) Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, Omiyale
The Seahawks have to hope Okung holds up. He just returned from a bruised knee last week. If he were to go out again, the Hawks’ depth would be sorely tested. They seemingly would have three options.
1) Omiyale, Carpenter, Unger, McQuistan, Giacomini
2) Omiyale, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, Giacomini
3) McQuistan, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, Giacomini
And if Okung and Giacomini both went out, the line would look like this:
1) Omiyale, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, McQuistan
2) McQuistan, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, Omiyale
The Seahawks also have Lemuel Jeanpierre, who can play the interior positions. He started five games last season and acquitted himself well, but the Hawks for some reason preferred Sweezy at right guard when Moffitt was out — which is either high praise for Sweezy or a major indictment of Jeanpierre’s ability.
No matter how you slice it, if Carpenter starts, this will be the 20th starting line combination in Pete Carroll’s 36 games as coach. And there could be even more shuffling once the game gets under way.
WILL HILL END DEFENSE’S HEALTHY STREAK?
Unlike the offense, the defense has largely been healthy, which explains why it has been so dominant at times. That unit has started the same 11 guys in all three games. But that could change Sunday if linebacker Leroy Hill can’t go.
Carroll told reporters he was planning on Hill playing, even though the 30-year-old had not practiced the past two days because of a calf injury. If he can’t, Malcolm Smith — the linebacker who blocked the punt for a touchdown against Dallas — likely would start in his spot. It also would be Hill’s first missed game since 2010, when he was lost for the season in the opener.
**The passing game got mixed news this week. Doug Baldwin will play after missing Monday’s big game with a bum shoulder, but tight end Anthony McCoy — one of Russell Wilson’s top targets — is questionable with a groin injury. With Baldwin back, the Seahawks would have their full complement of receivers for the first time all season. Golden Tate missed the first game with a sprained knee, Charly Martin missed the Dallas game with a bruised lung and Baldwin missed Week 3. Meanwhile, if McCoy can’t go, Evan Moore would have a bigger role behind Zach Miller.
**Five offensive players who were listed as probable last week are off the report this week, but that doesn’t mean they are 100 percent: WR Sidney Rice (knee), RB Marshawn Lynch (back), Martin (chest), Miller (foot), Okung (knee).
**Byron Maxwell, the defensive back the coaches really love, looks like he will return from a hamstring injury that kept him out Monday. Maxwell has been in the training room more than he has been on the practice field this year, and the fact that the Hawks have kept him despite his injuries and despite their deep secondary tells you what they think of his ability.
DOUBTFUL: OG John Moffitt (knee).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Leroy Hill (calf), DT Jaye Howard (foot), TE Anthony McCoy (groin).
PROBABLE: RT Breno Giacomini (chest), DT Jason Jones (knee), DE Greg Scruggs (wrist), WR Doug Baldwin (shoulder), CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring).
PUP: CB Walter Thurmond (legs).
IR: DE Dexter Davis (hip), TE Cameron Morrah (toe), RB Vai Tuau (knee).
OUT: S Matt Daniels (hamstring), OT Rodger Saffold (knee).
DOUBTFUL: DT Matt Conrath (knee).
QUESTIONABLE: DT Michael Brockers (ankle), RB Steven Jackson (groin), OT Wayne Hunter (ankle).
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.