Seattle Seahawks: James Carpenter's Status and Depth at Offensive Tackle

Darin PikeContributor IAugust 29, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 2: Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks passes the ball during play against the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on October 2, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. In the foreground is offensive lineman James Carpenter #75 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Stephen Brashear /Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

There were few surprises or revelations when the Seattle Seahawks trimmed their roster to 75 players on Monday. While Terrell Owens and the wide receiver depth chart received much of the attention, offensive tackle is one area that began to take shape.

The condition of the position should be a cause of concern for Pete Carroll and his staff.

The team released Alex Barron, leaving just three true tackles available for the season opener. Russell Okung is entrenched on the left side, with Breno Giacomini holding down the other bookend.

The remaining backup is Frank Omiyale, which doesn't likely offer line coach Tom Cable much peace of mind.

He'll likely be worried if either of the starters so much as break a shoelace and need a play or two off, let alone if the injury bug continues to bite the unit.

Bleacher Report offered some thoughts on Omiyale while looking at the expectations for the final players to make the 53-man roster.

He hasn't looked much better in Seattle than he did in Chicago. The Bears saw him as expendable, which isn't a positive considering their issues on the offensive line in recent seasons.

There is a glimmer of hope for the Seahawks, though. Left guard Paul McQuistan filled in at left tackle last season after Okung tore a pectoral muscle, courtesy of Trent Cole deciding the only way to beat him was to resort to a judo throw.

McQuistan appears to be little more than a place-holder at guard, as 2011 first-round draft pick James Carpenter is expected to take over the spot when he returns from his knee injury. So one question for the Seahawks to ponder is do they dare gamble that Carpenter can return before McQuistan is needed to play tackle.

Conventional wisdom has been that Carpenter would start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. That would make him unavailable until the October 18 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

But when the Seahawks made several roster moves on Sunday, they took their roster to 77 players, including Carpenter and the PUP-likely Walter Thurmond. The subsequent trade of Tarvaris Jackson and release of Coye Francies on Monday left them at 75 players total.

This leaves Seattle with the option to keep Carpenter on the active roster when teams must reduce to 53 players on Friday. Perhaps Pete Carroll didn't feel the need to delay the inevitable and made a pair of extra cuts, but the team feels Carpenter may be ready early in the season.

Carroll stated at Wednesday's press conference that "Carp is doing marvelously," but the decision on him starting the season on the PUP or the active roster hasn't been made yet.

We were kind of concerned about him not making early progress in the recovery program but he just kind of jumped about six weeks ago. He's doing a very vigorous workout.

He's not far away from looking like he can practice and play for us but it's still a crucial time here and were going to have to make a big decision here on how we do this. He has busted his tail to get back and we're really, really excited.

He's definitely going to play this year. We didn't know that...even (in) July. We weren't sure. But we know now that he's going to play once he gets back and gets his weeks in.

Pete Carroll

Allen Barbre is still on the roster as well, but he'll spend the first four games of the season serving a suspension for violating league rules on performance-enhancing drugs.

It seems doubtful the Seahawks will commit to a player that would double-up on the time Carpenter will miss. By the time Barbre is available, Seattle could have Carpenter playing, freeing up McQuistan to back up the tackle positions.

Seattle has another option at left guard if it decides to part ways with Omiyale and use McQuistan as tackle depth. J.R. Sweezy has made an amazing transformation from defensive line to offensive guard and has played well with the starting unit while John Moffitt recovers from a minor elbow surgery.

Moffitt returned to practice this week and is expected to see at least some action against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. Carroll also announced on Wednesday that Sweezy will start the game at right guard and could also start the season opener in Arizona.

It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks opt to use Sweezy on the left side when Moffitt steps in to play right guard in the team's final preseason game.

Something else to keep an eye on is the waiver wire. While several Seahawks could attract the attention of other franchises after roster cuts, there will likely be an offensive tackle or two that would catch the eye of Cable and Carroll. 

The Houston Texans have had strong competition for the starting right tackle spot and for the backup on the left side. Unless they opt to keep three reserves, one of their cast-offs could be an improvement for the Seahawks depth chart.

The emergence of Kelechi Osemele for the Baltimore Ravens could push Bryant McKinnie to reserve status, a dangerous position for a player scheduled to make $3.2 million this season.

Seahawks fans should be accustomed to surprises from Carroll. Confirmation that Carpenter may start the season on the active roster and could see action during the first month of play is certainly good news for the team.

One also has to expect there will be at least one more surprise with the offensive linemen that make the eventual 53-man roster.