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Seahawks Vs. Panthers: Battle Of Beleaguered Offensive Lines

Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo
Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) slips an arm tackle by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) and center Joey Hunt (53) after intercepting a pass by Wilson on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. The Buccaneers won 14-5.

The Seahawks host the Carolina Panthers Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is 5:30.

We have a preview of the game from knkx sports commentator Art Thiel and 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick.

Far Cry From Last Season's Playoff Game

"It's amazing what's happened to these guys," Thiel said about the Panthers.

"Listeners may remember that Carolina got off to a 31-0 lead in the first half of the playoff game in Charlotte in January. They eased off the throttle and the Seahawks got back into it and the final score was 31-24, but it was as complete a domination as any opponent has given a Pete Carroll team, at least in the five years since they've been good.

"This year's version has been decimated by injuries. [Quarterback] Cam Newton has been hurt. Their star linebacker, Luke Keuchle, one of the best players in the game, had a concussion two or three weeks ago and he's been out. We don't know about his availability probably until game time Sunday.

"They've really been devastated by injuries along the offensive line. They're missing their first- and second-string centers. And they've had other injuries to the point where they've really been a mess.

"They're 4-7 right now and a shadow of their former selves. But they still have Cam Newton who's the biggest, strongest quarterback in the NFL and he's still capable of shredding the Seahawks if they're not ready for this game or overlook it."

Their O-Line Worse Than Seattle's?

Thiel said it's hard to believe another team has a worse offensive line than the Seahawks right now.

"That's been the high drama of this week in Seattle," he said.

"The Seahawks looked terrible [last week]. It might have been their worst game in the last five years under Carroll when they lost 14-5 in Tampa to a Bucs' defense that was ranked 26th in the league entering the game.

"They completely shut down the Seahawks' offense. This was the third time this season the Seahawks have had a game without a touchdown.

"But Carroll still has optimism because he believes that was a one-game aberration and everything that went wrong was correctable. We're going to see on Sunday at 5:30."

What's The Problem?

"The short story is that all teams have to spend to a hard salary cap that limits how much you can pay players. You have to make priorities," Thiel continued.

"And with the Seahawks the priority is defense first and the secondary first among the defenders.

"The consequence is they've gone cheap on the offensive line. To the point where the left tackle, now, is an undrafted rookie by the name of George Fant, who's a tremendous athlete — 6'5'', 300 lbs., runs a 4.8 40-yard [dash] and has a 37-inch vertical leap, if that means anything to folks.

"It meant a lot to the Seahawks because they now are starting him at left tackle despite the fact that he hasn't played serious tackle football since eighth grade!

"He's been a basketball player. He was a four-year starter for Western Kentucky and took his fifth year of eligibility to stand on the sidelines and watch how football was played. Because everyone told him that his pro future is better as a football player than a basketball player, even though he hasn't played football.

"The Seahawks liked him so much, they brought him through training camp. They made a place for him on the 53-man roster, thinking he was going to have a year of study - sort of like what they do in college - red-shirt year.

"But no. Injuries and poor performances have put him in the staring lineup. He's had a couple three terrible games. He's been okay in others. And the Seahawks are going to go with him because I think that they think he's going to learn fast enough to catch up with his athletic talent.

"But, man, if I'm Russell Wilson, I'm going to run to the right and throw to the right, not the left.'

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.