The Seahawks have not started the same five offensive linemen in a full season since 2007, and they have kept the shuffling going this year as well amid heightened expectations.
With Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung already out for half the season, coach Pete Carroll told KIRO Radio that All-Pro center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini also are unlikely to play Sunday in a big road test against the Houston Texans.
“We are banged up, and we’ve got some guys that are going to have a hard time making it this week,” Carroll said. “Particularly we haven’t been able to get Breno Giacomini or Max Unger back full-go on the practice field, so we’re going to have some guys step up.”
That means the Seahawks will field their third OL lineup in four games as veteran backup Lemuel Jeanpierre steps in for Unger and rookie Michael Bowie starts at right tackle.
“That’s kind of how the season goes,” Carroll said. “It’s the issues you face, and hopefully we’ll deal with this very well.”
The Hawks have dealt with it a lot ever since 2008, when Mike Holmgren used eight combinations in a 4-12 season. The Hawks used six combos in Jim Mora’s single season as coach in 2009.
That jumped to 10 in Carroll’s first season, with the Hawks using three left tackles, four left guards and three right guards — with eight combinations on the left side alone.
The line had stabilized a bit the past two seasons, with six combos in 2011 and just five last year.
Unger has missed just one game over the last two seasons as he has developed into one of the league’s top centers. But he suffered an triceps injury against Jacksonville and did not practice this week. Carroll said Friday that Unger would be evaluated just before the game.
Jeanpierre played sparingly last season, but he started five games in 2011 — one at center when Unger was injured and the others at right guard in the final month. He was called for one penalty (a hold) and gave up two sacks.
“Lem’s ready to go,” Carroll said of the fourth-year Seahawk. “He has played in games before for us. We know that he knows how to make all the calls and he has been with us a long time, so we are very confident in Lem’s work. So if he is called on, he’s ready to start and take this thing and do fine.”
Giacomini is dealing with a knee injury that seems like it might keep him out for more than just one game. He had started 23 straight games.
“He did get kind of whacked last week on the same knee, so it is a bit of an extension of what he had,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to see how he bounces back. We are trying to be real careful with it.
“We continue to talk in the same manner about these guys, and when they are getting banged up we are really trying to give them every chance to get back and utilize our depth. And if that’s what this calls for then we are ready to do that. We are not going to force guys back out there until they are ready to play.’’
The Seahawks added depth this week by signing rookie Caylin Hauptmann from Cleveland’s practice squad and free-agent center Jason Spitz, who started 45 games for the Packers before missing last season with a foot injury.
Carroll and Tom Cable were satisfied with the Bowie’s performance in 30 plays against Jacksonville. Fellow rookie Alvin Bailey also drew positive reviews.
“I’m really excited about their future, our future,” Cable said earlier this week. “I thought both of those kids went in there and knocked people off the ball, protected really well. They got comfortable really quick, which was a huge moment of growth that they are OK and can handle it in a regular NFL game.”
Carroll said Friday, “Our guys are ready to play ball if they are called on to do so. It won’t be the story about the guys that aren’t playing (but) those guys stepping up and doing their thing. It might be the young guys, if it is it is and we are going to crank it up and go.’’