RENTON — Russell Wilson has run for the fifth-most yards of any offensive player in the NFL over the past two weeks.
That’s fine by the Seattle Seahawks if those yards are coming within the scope of their offense. They want Wilson’s scrambling and running to be a component of what they do offensively.
But much of what Wilson has done on the ground is because of the pressure he has faced because of Seattle playing with a makeshift offensive line.
Down three starters on the offensive line for the past two weeks, the Seahawks survived the pressure brought by the defenses in Houston and Indianapolis.
And now they may be turning the corner of health with the expectation that All-Pro center Max Unger will be back on Sunday against Tennessee.
Seattle has allowed seven sacks the past two weeks and Wilson has taken some big hits, but the experience for some of the Seahawks young linemen called upon to fill in for veterans has been valuable.
“Much better than the week before but you just hope to keep getting better as long as we keep playing with this group and they are. So that is the key,” Seattle assistant coach Tom Cable said.
Unger is expected to return this week after being out two games with a triceps injury.
Starting left tackle Russell Okung tore a ligament in his toe in Week 2 against San Francisco and is on short-term injured reserve. Right tackle Breno Giacomini’s timetable is unknown after he had minor knee surgery in late September.
Those absences have created a mishmash offensive line. Rookies are being called upon earlier than expected, veterans are trying to fill in at new positions and as a result the Seahawks offensive execution has been choppy the past two weeks.
Paul McQuistan moved from left guard to left tackle to fill in for Okung. James Carpenter went from being in a rotation at left guard to be the starter at the position and rookie Michael Bowie stepped in at right tackle with Giacomini out. And Lemuel Jeanpierre started at center the two games that Unger missed.
They have improved, even though the pressure on Wilson has been significant. Cable said the Seahawks line allowed five defenders to come free against the Colts after allowing 11 against Houston.
“The combination of the new guys has made it challenging to be right all the time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s just to get the scheme right and calls right and then physically you have to come through and make your blocks as well and combinations and things have to be carried out well.
“Within experience there is some slippage in there, some spacing in there that we don’t want. I’m really hoping Max will secure the calls as we said and we can get everybody on the right guys and identification is really clear and precise and then we still have to pick up our stuff. We still have to make the blocks.”
The offensive line changes have led to an inconsistent offensive performance. Seattle went just 2 of 12 on third downs against Indianapolis, leading to drives stalling and the Seahawks having to settle for field goal attempts four times.
The 17 percent conversion rate on third down was the worst for the Seahawks offense since Oct. 23, 2011.