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Pete Carroll could sense the question coming. The giveaway was the incredulous look on his inquisitor's face.
Carroll saw the look often during training camp. And it was usually followed by some variation of: Really? You're going to start an offensive line that includes two rookies, a second-year player and a third-year man?
"People think we're stupid," says Carroll, "but we don't care what people think. We believe in what we're doing. It's going to be difficult, it's going to be a challenge, but [these guys] are going to fight you every step of the way, which is why we think we can get this done right away."
After Carroll was hired away from USC last year, he and general manager John Schneider discussed a desire to get the team younger, bigger and more physical. But a franchise can't be rebuilt in one off-season, so they focused on areas other than the O-line. With that group now made over as well, only 17 offensive players remain from the roster Carroll inherited.
New offensive line coach Tom Cable smiles at the challenge before him. He has never seen this type of turnover and commitment to youth on an NFL line, and he compares it to being in college, asking a handful of redshirt freshmen to replace a group of graduating seniors.
"But this is a lot of fun because the guys are learning to work and play with the right spirit," says Cable, who coached the Raiders for three seasons. "Usually we come out each day and have something that we focus on, and it's really fun to see the whole group take a task or goal and make it work all day. Line play is about habits. You either have good habits or you don't. I think these guys are learning how to apply those habits consistently."
The overhaul was necessary—and Cable, who has been entrusted with the run game as well, appears to be the right man to lead it. Last year the Seahawks finished 31st in total rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. Cable's Raiders, meanwhile, were second in both. Carroll is handing the reins of his offense to Tarvaris Jackson, who completed only 48 passes in the past two seasons as a backup for the Vikings. So Seattle will need a consistent ground attack from Marshawn Lynch (who ran for 573 yards in 12 games last year after being acquired from the Bills during the season), Leon Washington and Justin Forsett to take some of the pressure off Jackson as he moves into his new role.
Carroll and Schneider sought a certain personality type when putting their new line together. The players not only had to be big and physical, but also smart and nasty. The left tackle spot belonged to their 2010 top draft pick, Russell Okung (6'5", 310 pounds), but the rest of the unit was open for change.
Seattle started by using its first two picks in April's draft on Alabama tackle James Carpenter (6'5", 321) and Wisconsin guard John Moffitt (6'4", 319). Then by the Seahawks moved third-year pro Max Unger (6'5", 305) back to center, the position he played along with right guard as a rookie. (Unger started last season at guard but was lost for the year with a toe injury in the opener.)
The only element missing from the group was experience: The four youngsters had a total of just 27 NFL start. So two days after the lockout ended, Carroll went out and got 6'7", 325-pound free-agent guard Robert Gallery and his 91 career starts. Gallery played for Cable in Oakland and is prepared to help deliver his old coach's message to his young linemates. "I think I've got almost three times as many games played as the guys in our meeting room," says Gallery, the second pick in the 2004 draft. "But it's cool because there is a lot of young energy. I'm glad to come in and share some wisdom that I've learned over the years. These guys listen and want to learn."