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Uncertainty, upside in interior of Seahawks’ O-line

By Danny O’Neil

No position on the Seahawks’ roster is more uncertain than the two guard spots on the interior of their offensive line.

Center Max Unger is the only lock in the interior of Seattle’s offensive line. (AP)

No position has more upside, either.

After years of being a perennial concern, the inside of Seattle’s offensive line could end up being considered a strength by the end of the season. Yes, the middle of that line – which has been such a muddle for years – could become a strength. The raw materials are certainly there, and now it’s a matter of how coach Pete Carroll and offensive-line coach Tom Cable put them together.

The mainstay: The middle is locked down. Center Max Unger is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, and he and Houston’s Chris Myers were considered the two best centers in the league last year.

Guard-ed optimism: Guard has been a perennial concern in Seattle, though. At least that has been the case since Seattle was forced to swallow Steve Hutchinson’s poison-pilled departure in 2006. The Seahawks have gone through 13 different left guards since then, including three in the first four weeks of 2011.

A look at the number of interior offensive linemen Seattle has kept since 2009.

2012: 4
2011: 3
2010: 5
2009: 3
2012: 2
2011: 2
2010: 1
2009: 2

The Seahawks stand on the brink of a long-term solution at that position so long as James Carpenter stays healthy.

That’s not a given as he’s finished the past two seasons on injured reserve because of injuries to the same knee, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery this spring, keeping him out of the last few weeks of the team’s offseason conditioning program.

If Carpenter isn’t ready when training camp starts, the Seahawks do have the benefit of the most experienced member of the offensive line: Paul McQuistan. He can play four different positions on the line, a versatility that could prove valuable, and his experience eliminates any stress that might otherwise be felt over Carpenter’s availability.

Carpenter is the biggest of Seattle’s offensive linemen and the strongest, and he adds a punishing element to the team’s run game. If Seattle’s offense makes the jump from having an adequate line that’s occasionally impressive to becoming one of the league’s better lines, it will be because Carpenter establishes himself as the physically dominating presence the Seahawks foresaw when they chose him with the 25th overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Right guard is a heads-up competition between John Moffitt – the 2011 third-round pick who was appointed a starter as soon as he was selected – and J.R. Sweezy, who has made the transition from playing defensive tackle in college to the offensive line in the NFL faster than anyone could have imagined. This is the most wide-open competition on the team during training camp, and the Seahawks have the benefit of playing wait and see to determine who the starter is.

Reserve: Lemuel Jeanpierre has been the team’s backup center the past two seasons, and he’s the only real candidate for that spot this year, though Moffitt got some repetitions there last year in training camp.

Work to do: Seattle chose two guards in the seventh round, Ryan Seymour out of Vanderbilt and then Jared Smith from New Hampshire, who is making the transition from defensive line. Guard Rishaw Johnson is in his second year, but it would be a monumental surprise if any of those three cracked the 53-man roster without there being a significant injury in training camp.