Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part I: Offensive Line

Blog forever! Pete Carroll isn't taking any time off, so why should this blogger? Part of what I love about writing this blog is that I don't need to wait for anyone else to research what I want to know. As soon as Tom Cable was hired as offensive line coach, and we heard from Pete Carroll's press conference today that the offensive and defensive lines would be priorities this off-season, I found my imagination wandering toward what our options might be to upgrade. I will be detailing options for each unit on the team in the coming weeks, and why not start with the offensive line?

The line will look very differently next season. Count on it.
Seahawks fans know better than most fan bases how important a great offensive line is to a championship team. It opens up lanes for the running game, keeping your defense off the field. It gives your receivers time to break open and your quarterback time to hit them. It keeps your most important asset, your QB, healthy. The Seahawks did remarkably well with a patchwork line in 2010. There is only one position on the line that has a fixed plan heading into the off-season. Russell Okung will be the left tackle, and should be a great one once he heals up. That's a great start, but it's nowhere near enough. Something to keep in mind is that a fantastic offensive line need not be made up of five Pro Bowl players. The 2005 line had All-World players in Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson, but it also had great role players like Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray and Sean Locklear. These were all above-average players for their positions, but they were far from dominant. The whole was greater than the sum. Look at the Atlanta Falcons this year, and you'll see a great line without a single Pro Bowler. Stability, communication, healthy, and fit make all the difference for a line.

2011 Seahawks Free Agent Offensive Lineman:
  • Sean Locklear
  • Chris Spencer
  • Ray Willis
  • Tyler Polumbus
  • Chester Pitts
Seahawks Lineman Under Contract:
NOTE: I'm not sure the guys after Gibson are under contract, but they are not on the free agent list.
  • Russell Okung
  • G/C Max Unger
  • G/T Stacy Andrews
  • G Mike Gibson
  • T Breno Giacomini
  • G Chris White
  • G Paul Fanaika
  • C Lemuel Jeanpierre
Before even looking at what's available outside the team, let's talk about which of these guys may compete for roles next season. Unger has not impressed me all that much. That said, he was a 2nd round pick, and will be given a look to see if he can be a Center or Guard. Andrews is not going to work at Guard. He was replaced by Mike Gibson. He may have potential at Right Tackle. If the team believes he can be a tackle, that would really allow them to focus on the interior line. Gibson did pretty well, and will almost definitely be given a chance to compete for a role next season. Carroll talks about some solid line talent Schneider has added this season that nobody knows about yet because they were added mid-season. It's anyone's guess who that might be, but Schneider was pretty excited to add Giacomini from Green Bay. White also got some time as a third tackle in goal line situations, so maybe they saw something there.

Free agency is the quickest way to upgrade your line productivity. It's not like running back, where you are generally nuts to spend money on a running back with less tread left on his tires. Offensive lineman get better with age until their mid-30s in many cases. Grab an experienced lineman in free agency, and you can bet he will have an impact right away. See Mike Wahle as a recent example in Seattle. The good news is that there are potentially a large number of impressive free agents available for the line in 2011. Here are just a few:

G Robert Gallery
Gallery is a former top draft pick that was chosen to play tackle. Tom Cable turned him into a Pro Bowl-level guard who absolutely mauls people in the run game. Gallery is rumored to be testing free agency instead of just re-upping with Oakland because of his loyalty to Cable. Me like! Plug Gallery next to Okung, and you've got a nasty left side of the line for the next five years. Gallery also knows Cable's system so he can hit the ground running (so to speak), and could help teammates adjust.

G Daryn Colledge
Colledge should be well-known by Schneider from his Green Bay days. The Packers don't tend to spend a ton on free agents, as they prefer to cultivate replacements by the time guys hit their free agency years.

G Logan Mankins
Mankins will be a highly sought-after lineman that could fetch a massive deal. The Pats will try to keep him, but are like Green Bay when it comes to over-paying for free agents.

G Harvey Dahl
A tough guard with a mean streak. He gives the Falcons offensive line much-needed swagger. He could be the odd man out since the Falcons have three starting lineman hitting free agency, and the other two are younger.

G Carl Nicks
He made the Pro Bowl with the Saints this year, and the Saints have multiple starting lineman hitting free agency. They just spent a ton on Jahri Evans last season. Maybe they let Nicks go, but probably not.

G Davin Joseph
Joseph is a great run blocker, and good pass blocker for Tampa Bay. He will be one of the top guards in free agency if the Bucs let him get to that point.

C Ryan Kalil
Kalil will be the best Center available, if the Panthers don't lock him up. They won't franchise him because he'd get Tackle money, but he'll be a top priority for them.

There are some decent tackles out there, but not a lot of guys that knock your socks off. Given the overflow of interior line talent that should be in the market, the Seahawks would be wise to pluck at least one, and possibly two upgrades off the stack. Of our own free agents, Chris Spencer is the one that appeals most to me. Spencer appeared to have his most solid season to-date, and was once a first round draft pick. Re-signing Spencer would create the proper competition and depth with Unger and possibly one of these unknown talents Schneider grabbed.

Playing GM, I go hard after Robert Gallery, re-sign Spencer, and go after one more guard. I let Locklear go, and see what I can get from Andrews and Giacomini. There are some talented lineman in the draft, but this unit needs to perform straight-away, so I don't expect early draft picks to be used on lineman unless something amazing falls into the team's laps. Areas like defensive line, quarterback, and cornerback are far more likely to targets for the draft.

The combination of a great line coach, solid talent available in free agency, and commitment from Carroll to upgrade the talent in order to be a more effective running team, makes it highly likely this will be a transformed unit come mid-2011. 

1 comment :

T-Dog said...

I don’t want to rip on the O-line that much because of injuries, but the O-line needs a lot of work! Imagine “BeastMode” if he breaks three tackles to get into the second or third tier of a defense, instead of breaking three tackles just to get back to the original line of scrimmage!! I don’t know if teams were able to key off certain formations, but it sure seemed like the defensive tackles or nose guards were in our backfield a lot this year! The interior of the O-lines needs the most improvement you nailed it on the head! Get some bad ass guards!! Having a running game even in the middle of the pack wins us 4-5 more games easily this year. If Matt has a running game he will flourish, just look at the years that the Hawks had a decent running attach Matt’s QB rating was really good.

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