DANNY ONEIL

Justin Britt’s absence and then his return showed how important he is to the Seahawks’ offensive line

Dec 5, 2016, 10:08 AM | Updated: 10:38 am
Seattle Seahawks, Seahawks...
Seahawks C Justin Britt is questionable with a shoulder injury. (AP)
(AP)

Justin Britt went from being a concern to a cornerstone in a matter of months.

From being a guy who was playing his third position in three seasons to an absolute mainstay as the center of Seattle’s offensive line.

There is no better demonstration of his value than contrasting the Seahawks’ offensive performance in Tampa Bay on Nov. 27 in which they gave up six sacks to Sunday night’s game in which Seattle had season-highs in rushing yards and total offense against Carolina.

Before the game, coach Pete Carroll gave a revealing answer when asked about the importance of Britt’s return from a sprained ankle.

“After we’ve gone through this week of preparation, I feel much differently than I did coming out of the game,” Carroll said. “The factor that Justin brings to us – the continuity that he brings – was missing. We didn’t function like we had been.”

Rookie Joey Hunt started in Britt’s place last week, giving Seattle three rookies on the line. But it wasn’t about Hunt, according to Carroll.

“Joey played a good game doing his job,” Carroll said. “He made his calls, but it just wasn’t the same. That’s in respect to what the offensive line position calls for. That center spot is really something that you can cherish. Britt has done such a great job this year, he has played so well, and he has factored into all of the mental side of it. We missed him. We didn’t play as well. And it was really the case where guys were trying to make up for things, and they over-tried, and they took advantage of it.”

Britt has been Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman this season, which is quite an accomplishment considering this is the first year he has ever played center. When the Seahawks moved him to that position during the offseason training program, it was seen as an experiment that was partly desperation. After all, Britt had started at right tackle as a rookie, moved to left guard his second season and now Seattle was giving him a look-see at a third position. In the NFL, they don’t tend to move you from a position at which you’re excelling.

If Britt hadn’t taken to center, there was the possibility that the former second-round pick would wind up as a utility lineman.

Three-quarters of the way through this season, Britt is unquestionably the most improved player on Seattle’s roster and judging by the impact of his absence, he’s also one of the most valuable.

So is this a matter of Britt coming into his own as a player or is it that his skill-set fits better at center than it did at either of his previous two posts along the offensive line?

“Well, I think it’s both,” Carroll said. “One, he’s a dominant-looking player at center because he’s so tall and he’s so long and he can bend and get down like the centers need to do. That’s part of it. His experience helps him, but he also had almost an epiphany this offseason in terms of technique, and it has paid off so beautifully.

“He has been so poised as an athlete in this position that he looks like a different guy. So it’s a great transition. We caught him at the right time, and fortunately, he had a big awakening of how he’s going to play this game technically, and it has made a difference. We have a heck of a player there.”

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Justin Britt’s absence and then his return showed how important he is to the Seahawks’ offensive line