Entering his third NFL season, things were supposed to be different this time around for Germain Ifedi.
With a new offensive line coach in Mike Solari and left tackle Duane Brown back for a full season to serve as a tutor, the 2016 first-round pick was expected to mature and take a big step forward for the Seattle Seahawks this season.
While there's still plenty of time for Ifedi to turn the tide, there's little question coach Pete Carroll and his staff are quickly losing patience with the former Texas A&M standout. After leading the league with 16 penalties a year ago, he hasn't learned from his previous mistakes and drew two penalties during Saturday's mock game, leading to his eventual benching in favor of Isaiah Battle.
Carroll has cut his teeth at all levels of football as an eternal optimist, sometimes to a fault. So when the league's oldest head coach offers up only one sentence in response to a question about a player's performance and there's not a silver lining to be found in any of his remarks, that's a big deal.
“He had a couple penalties today. Yeah. I was real disappointed in that. Real disappointed in that.”
For the most part, Seattle's first-team offense hummed all afternoon at the VMAC. Russell Wilson looked to be in midseason form, throwing four touchdowns on four offensive drives, including scoring tosses to Brandon Marshall and Chris Carson.
Away from Wilson shining, receiver Jaron Brown made six catches on six targets, showcasing an already well-established connection with his new quarterback. Rookie running back Rashaad Penny exploded for a 57-yard run against Seattle's first-team defense, potentially his best play of camp thus far.
But even if the rest of the line improves from last year, Ifedi's ongoing struggles avoiding yellow flags remain a real problem for the Seahawks, one in which Carroll and Solari will only be able to tolerate so much longer without making a switch. And unlike last year, Seattle has plenty of potential options to replace him if they finally get fed up with his lack of progress.
Battle, a former supplemental draft pick for the Rams, has already been getting snaps with the first-team at practice and will likely earn more after taking over for Ifedi on Saturday. Seattle also could consider trying fifth-round pick Jamarco Jones at right tackle, though he's currently been working behind Brown on the left side and signs indicate the team has no interest fast-tracking him into the lineup.
Coming off reconstructive knee surgery, George Fant could be the ultimate wild card for consideration at right tackle heading towards the regular season. Carroll has said on multiple occasions that the Seahawks intend to keep him at left tackle rather than try to move him to the other side of the line and slow play his return from injury.
But if Ifedi falters and neither Battle nor Jones proves to be any better, Seattle may have to scrap these original conservative plans and provide a much-needed wake up call to the former top pick.
Fant showed plenty of promise two years ago when he started 10 games despite never playing offensive line prior to signing as an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky. The ex-college basketball player has tremendous physical upside and a year out injured may have been a blessing in disguise as he got stronger and worked on fundamentals during rehab.
Barring a major surprise, Ifedi will likely remain a starter for the time being, as Seattle isn't going to let one scrimmage result in him suddenly losing his job.
But based on Carroll's blunt assessment of his play on Saturday, he needs to keep a real close eye over his shoulder and realize objects in the rear-view mirror are much closer than they appear.