J.R. Sweezy Is Making Headway and Taking Full Advantage of Another Opportunity

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterJanuary 3, 2013

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09:  Offensive guard J.R. Sweezy #64 of the Seattle Seahawks during the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 20-16.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The interior offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks has been a bit of a circus this season to say the least. At right guard the 'Hawks have had three different players make starts—J.R. Sweezy, John Moffitt and Paul McQuistan. At left guard, Seattle has started McQuistan, Moffitt and James Carpenter.

With the latest combination being McQuistan at left guard and Sweezy at right guard. Coincidentally enough, the personnel on the offensive line is back to the way it was in Week 1. You know what they say, "what goes around comes around."

Out of any of the linemen, Sweezy's season has probably been the biggest whirlwind of all. The former seventh-round pick out of North Carolina State is not even a full year removed from playing defensive tackle in the ACC.

Pete Carroll and company drafted him with the intention of having him play offensive guard, and thought he would be the perfect fit in Tom Cable's zone-blocking system due to his athleticism. To their credit, it appears they made the right move by drafting him with their second-to-last pick and switching him to the offensive side of the ball.

Early on in the year it appeared that his strong preseason performances were a fluke after Darnell Dockett stole his lunch money 20 times over Week 1, but as the season has pressed on, Sweezy has progressed faster than expected.

He didn't let his poor performance in his first career NFL start drag him down, he embraced a second chance and hung in there mentally. Cable told Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com that Sweezy's mental toughness stands out to him more than anything:

“I think that stands out to me more than anything – he’s so tough mentally. He accepted his failures, but he grew from them."

His failures were never caused from a lack of physical prowess. His failures in Week 1 stemmed from Ray Horton's defense throwing looks at him that he hadn't seen in the preseason. Obviously, defensive looks in the preseason are dumbed down, so the Seahawks could have only expected Sweezy to prepare for what he had seen.

Here's what the rookie offensive guard had to say when he looking back at his first start:

"It’s amazing I was in a position to play before," he said. "Because now, knowing so much more, knowing the offense so much better, I look back at that film and I’m like, 'Man, if I only knew what I know now.' It’s a world of difference."

When he says it's a world of difference, he isn't kidding. Since returning to the lineup in Week 14, Sweezy has shown improved run-blocking skills and adequate protection in pass-blocking situations.

The Seahawks are averaging 5.7 yards per carry when running the ball off his backside over the last four games. Compare that to his Week 1 start when Seattle only managed a measly 2.3 yards per carry when rushing off his backside.

Moreover, he has allowed five quarterback pressures in that same four-game span. Not horrible numbers by any means for a rookie, but his play could be better in that department. Right now he is surrendering a quarterback pressure once every 37 snaps. About two a game based on the amount of snaps Darrell Bevell's offense averages a game.

Despite the occasional hiccup in pass protection, his enhanced level of play has been good enough to keep former third-round pick Moffitt on the sideline. And when I say on the sideline, I don't mean dressed and waiting to get in the game. I mean dressed in street clothes as a healthy scratch.

Just three weeks ago, both players were rotating and sharing snaps in an effort to find the best fit at right guard. Now, it's apparent Seattle has its man as Moffitt has been inactive the past two weeks.

Coach Carroll said, "Moffitt is ready if we need him."

But right now, Seattle doesn't appear to need him. If the Seahawks trend continues on Sunday by only dressing seven offensive linemen, chances are he will be inactive again.

As Sweezy said, “I got the call. So I stepped up.”

Well the 'Hawks will need him to step up once again if they want to advance to the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.

Cable's offensive line can't afford to play the way it did last week against the Rams.