The Seahawks spent the offseason trying to replace nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. They're still trying. Their top draft pick, Russell Okung, will miss Sunday's game with a high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason. That left two contenders for the job, Tyler Polumbus, whom the Seahawks got in a trade from Detroit last week, and Chester Pitts, a free-agent acquisition who mostly has played left guard over his career. At this point, Polumbus appears to be the team's starter.
The beneficiaries of this last-minute scrambling, of course, are the 49ers outside linebackers. Last year in Seattle, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks each had a sack. (The 49ers had five total). This year the triumvirate will be Lawson, Haralson and newcomer Travis LaBoy. As was the case with Brooks last year, the concern this offseason was making sure LaBoy, who began his career as a defensive end, was up to speed on playing linebacker on first and second downs.
"It's kind of like caveman when you kind of sneak out, kind of walking on two feet," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said when asked about Laboy's progress. "He was always down (in a three-point stance) mostly in his career. A little bit in Arizona he was up, but he was primarily the rusher. Just from the vision points and sightlines of what he's actually seeing when he's dropping in coverage, that's got to pick up a little bit better. The more and more those players see it and they feel comfortable, it's easy for them."
LaBoy, of course, had a big preseason. He feasted on first-string left tackles Bryant McKinnie and Mario Henderson in games against the Vikings and Raiders. And if, as expected, he mostly plays on passing downs in Seattle, he is in the best position to have a big game against the Seahawks.
I asked Manusky today what happens when Brooks returns from a lacerated kidney. Brooks said earlier this week that he hoped to be back on the field for the team's Sept. 20 game against the Saints. Manusky begged off the question.
"I'm not looking past this (Seattle) game, so I don't know what it's going to be when he gets back," he said. "When he does get back and he's got clearance from (trainer Jeff Ferguson), we'll go with it and figure it out from there. For right now, I'm focusing on this week."
Rest assured, it will be a good problem to have.
-- Matt Barrows