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Seahawks backups are playing more like starters

When Pete Carroll came to town he preached the “always compete” mantra and next year that’s what we’re going to see in training camp whether some players like it or not.

Offensive line

The O-line has been depleted by 60 percent this year … so far. In the same week, rookie guard John Moffitt and rookie tackle James Carpenter went down with season-ending injuries, forcing Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini into service on the right side of the line.

There was no drop off at all as the Hawks’ running game rolled up 126 yards on the ground the following weekend.

Not long after the two rookies went down, second-year tackle Russell Okung’s season came to an end. Instead of signing an offensive tackle off the street, running game guru Tom Cable moved McQuistan to left tackle and slid Lemuel Jeanpierre into the right guard position.

The Hawks rolled up 145 yards on the ground and held the St. Louis Rams to just two sacks after that move.

It’s one thing to have success against the lowly Rams but last week’s test against the Bears was much more telling. The big concern was McQuistan at left tackle – quarterback Tarvaris Jackson’s blind side – and going against one of the most intimidating pass rushers in the NFL in Julius Peppers. Peppers had one sack for a touchdown that was much more T-Jack’s fault than it was McQuistan’s.

According to head coach Pete Carroll, McQuistan “had a very good football game. He really stood out.” Carroll was especially excited about a block that he had against Peppers during a running play in which McQuistan “buried Pepper … knocks him on his back and rolls him up. We were really fired up to see Paul come through with such a great challenge.”

What this means is that we’re going to see some intense competition at offensive line next year when training camp starts in 2012. Assuming there are no more injuries, McQuistan and Giacomini will have seven starts and Jeanpierre will have four. You may see Jeanpierre and McQuistan pushing Moffit and Robert Gallery at the guard position and Giacomini pushing Carpenter at right tackle.

At the very most we’ll see a hard fought battle for starting positions and at the very least, a lot of depth at a position that’s been a concern since the Walter Jones-Steve Hutchinson-Robbie Tobeck line broke apart after the 2005 season.

Defensive backs

Going into this year, the consensus was that even though Carroll favors large, physical corners like Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, the best option for the Seahawks would be a Marcus Trufant-Walter Thurmond combo at corner.

Trufant went on injured reserve Oct. 17 and Thurmond broke his ankle in the Cleveland game shortly thereafter. Since then, it’s been the Browner and Sherman show at corner. Sherman, a rookie fifth-round draft choice, has 17 passes defensed and three interceptions, while Browner has been nothing short of a superstar at his right corner position. If there’s any justice in the Pro Bowl voting this year, Browner’s numbers will land him in Hawaii in February. His six interceptions are second best in the NFL and he leads the league in interceptions returned for touchdowns (2), return yardage (220) and passes deflected (26).

When training camp opens in 2012, there’s going to be a battle and some tremendous depth at a position where demand for talent is second only to quarterback.

Whether the Seahawks make the playoffs or not, there’s a lot to be excited about when discussing the future of this team. The fact that we’re even talking about the playoffs the last two seasons is amazing considering the incredible amount of turmoil surrounding this team.

Since the end of the 2009 season, they have a new GM, new coach and hundreds of transactions have taken place making this team nearly unrecognizable from the team just two years ago.