GREEN BAY - One can only imagine the immediate reaction of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when his starting left tackle, George Fant, tore his ACL in a meaningless exhibition game in mid-August. His offensive line was porous to begin with, evidenced by the 41 sacks allowed in 2016, and now Wilson needed a replacement to shield his blind side.
So in stepped Rees Odhiambo, a second-year player from Boise State whose main contribution when the Green Bay Packers pummeled the Seahawks last season was a handful of snaps as an extra offensive lineman. Odhiambo played in nine games as a rookie, counting playoffs, and made zero starts. He played more snaps on special teams (35) than he did from scrimmage (33).
Eight months later, at age 25, the former third-round pick is preparing to face outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry for a baptism by fire Sunday afternoon.
“That’s his natural position,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s where he’s played all along when he was growing up and we rolled him at left tackle and left guard throughout camp and all offseason in anticipation that we may need him there. That has not been a transition for him. He’s still a young player, first year starting and all that. So (it’s a) big deal.”
The relative youth and inexperience of Odhiambo creates an interesting week of preparation for Matthews and Perry, who will alternate playing left and right throughout the game. Film of Odhiambo is scarce given the date of Fant’s injury. He played 51 snaps in the second exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings after Fant tore his ACL, then 45 snaps in the third game and 12 in the fourth.
It’s a smaller sample size than the Packers would like, but film that is recent trumps film that is not. The last time Odhiambo played left tackle consistently was during his final season at Boise State in 2015.
“You just have to study him as you would study anybody else,” Perry said. “He’s new, he’ll probably have tendencies. Study them and play him like any other tackle.
“I like to see him for what he is right now. Everything that he’s done up to now will definitely help (but) you can only take so much with you from film. Once you get into the game, you get into the feel of what he’s doing, if things hold true.
“Just like every game, you just adjust to what he’s giving you, and my approach is just being aggressive and allowing them to play off me a little bit more. I try to attack and get him to take the bait.”
If the Packers crave more insight they might turn to an unlikely source. Kyler Fackrell, the second-year outside linebacker from Utah State, is the only player on the 53-man roster to play against Odhiambo as a true left tackle.
On Oct. 15, 2015, Fackrell was on the field when the Aggies routed Boise State. He made 11 tackles, including 2½ for loss, and had a number of rushes against Odhiambo.
“I was all over the place in that game, so (my production) wasn’t necessarily against him,” Fackrell said. “ … (But) he was good. He’s a big, strong athletic guy, you know? I haven’t really seen him since then but I’m sure it will be similar. He looks good out there. I expect him to be good.”
As with Perry, who doesn’t plan on watching Odhiambo’s college tape, Fackrell said he will rely more heavily on film from the exhibition season than his own personal experience. Once again, film that is recent trumps film that is not.
But that doesn’t mean Fackrell has forgotten what worked against Odhiambo back then.
“I feel like I can remember any of the good rushes that I had,” Fackrell said. “And like Nick said, it’s more important to kind of see where he’s at now because I’m sure he’s changed a lot.”