Pete Carroll and John Schneider have not been shy about saying the offensive line was their biggest priority this offseason. They wanted to be the bully, and not the bullied. My preference was that the Seahawks would accomplish this by adding some proven veterans, allowing some of the young depth to step forward, and reloading with some developmental players in the draft. It appears so far, Schneider is following that plan, just not with veterans anyone else considers proven. It could be argued that neither of the players Seattle has added to the line (Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb) are as good as any of the players Seattle has lost (Alvin Bailey, J.R. Sweezy, and now, Russell Okung). That has many feeling like the sky is falling. Look again, though, and you may be surprised to see how close the Seahawks may be to better line play this season.

Better than you remember

It is hard to get the picture out of our collective heads of Russell Wilson getting sacked time and time again early in the season last year. No quarterback was sacked more as a percentage of his dropbacks than Wilson was over the first half of the season. What most people do not remember is how little Wilson was pressured over the final eight games. Seattle went from giving up the most sacks in the first eight games, to giving up the seventh-fewest over the final eight. Read that again. Seattle was a top ten offense in terms of sacks allowed for the final eight games of last year.

Seahawks Sack Per Game

Seahawks pass protection steadily improved over each quarter of the season

Seattle has also lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement. That is sure to mean bad things for the run game, right? Not necessarily. Lynch had 8 rushes for 42 yards over the final eight games of the season last year, Thomas Rawls missed the final three games (and most of the final four), and the Seahawks still finished second in the NFL in rushing yards over that stretch.

Yes, the Seahawks line was overpowered by the Rams and the Panthers late in the year. Yes, we would all feel better if there were some high quality players added to the mix. This line, though, may not be as far from where it needs to be as we thought.

But we lost our best linemen!

It would be hard to argue that the Okung and Sweezy were the best two players on that line last year. Arguing that the line is better without those players is foolish. I could argue, though, that the Seahawks are one player away from a better line than last year.

Right tackle

Garry Gilliam started every game at that position last year. Justin Britt started every game at that position the year before. J’Marcus Webb has been added to the mix after playing left tackle, right tackle and guard during his career. There is little reason to see this position getting worse next season. Gilliam improved over the year, and there is every reason to think he will come back playing at an even higher level next year. Webb will be given every chance to compete for the starting spot. That will only help raise the level of play.

Right guard

Mark Glowinski stepped in for Sweezy last year in Arizona and played a very good game. He may have the best upside of anyone on the line right now. He is already a better pass blocker than Sweezy, and could be every bit the run blocker he was over time. He is said to be the strongest player on the line, which should help against the interior defenders who bullied Seattle at times last season. Webb and Britt could also compete for this spot. Kristjan Sokoli is a wildcard, but has been limited to center so far. Expect Seattle to add another guard in the draft.

Center

Patrick Lewis was the starter over that second half run. He is young and should improve with additional time and reps. Sokoli will push him for that spot, and there are some great centers in this draft who could come in and start right away. Schneider may still choose to bargain shop for veteran free agent help here with a guy like Stefen Wisniewski or Ryan Wendell.

Left guard

The same players battling for the right guard spot figure to be going after the left guard spot. Britt was already the starter here. It was his first year playing guard in this system, and he was thrown into the role after the preseason had already started. He has significant limitations in pass protection no matter where he is on the line, but is hard to see how this position could be worse than last year. It should be better.

Left tackle

Here is the hole. I never wanted Okung back on a long-term deal. I had hoped the team could bring him back on a one-year deal while drafting a young tackle to develop. Truthfully, any decent veteran at this position would do. Donald Penn would have been great. Will Beatty, who started 47 of 48 games for the Giants from 2012-14 is a possible target now. He is a good enough tackle to compete for a starting position, but should not be that costly. We could also see Ryan Clady released from Denver soon, and he would be an obvious choice. The team almost certainly will draft at least one tackle, and possibly two. Gilliam also could compete for the starting spot here. Schneider could also choose to aim big and trade for a player like Joe Thomas. Okung was a good player, but was not great and was not dependable due to injury issues. His loss does not have to be devastating.

The path forward

Three of your starters from the line last year are returning. One of your starters that left (Sweezy) is being replaced by a young player who may be an upgrade. A veteran has been brought in (Webb) who has experience starting at guard and both tackle spots. That really leaves left tackle. The most likely scenario is that the Seahawks will spend an early pick on a player they believe can play left tackle and he will get a chance to start right away.

The biggest concern is not that he will be a rookie, but that Tom Cable has yet to show the ability to select players who are capable pass blockers. He took James Carpenter in the first round a few years ago to play right tackle, and he became a guard (who still had trouble pass blocking). He took Justin Britt in the second round to play right tackle, and he was among the worst pass blockers in the NFL before also being moved to guard, where he still struggled to pass block. There is little evidence to indicate Cable will choose a player capable of holding up in pass protection at left tackle.

Expect the Seahawks to add a veteran safety net to the position before the draft. It is possible they could pull the trigger on a big name deal like Thomas, but that is less likely than adding someone like Clady or Beatty. Gilliam is an intriguing option as well. Left tackle is what he was being groomed to play before Britt and Bailey flamed out causing a line reshuffle. He is athletic and smart and a hard worker. The team could do worse.

This line situation is sure to generate angst as long as Cable is the person assembling it. He simply does not value pass protection the way many other coaches do. That formula, though, has been more effective than any fan or analyst wants to admit, and the pass protection numbers over the last half of 2015 were pretty darn good. Cable likely would tell people in private that the problem has been far more about the quarterback and his inability to make the proper pre-snap reads or get rid of the ball on time. The evidence supports that theory based on last season. Assuming that continues, and Thomas Rawls returns healthy, there is every reason to think the Seahawks line play could feel far more stable next year.

16 Responses

  1. Bill Alvstad

    I’ll drink that Kool-aid. …if for nothing more than to rid my mind of the stress the line has caused me over the last few seasons.

    I think the biggest disappointment if you will has been that, as fans we wanted Snyder to attack the offensive line group as he has done with other position groups and had great success doing so. In all fairness, we have remaining FA, the draft, draft day trades and camp cuts to continue to upgrade.

  2. Brandon

    I totally agree. I think the o line will be quite a bit better this year just by giving gilliam, Lewis, Glowinski, and Britt all another year in their positions to develop. Only spot I’m really worried about is LT. I was/still am hoping they add 1 solid and consistent starting caliber lineman such as wisniewki to add depth and experience, and then look to add talent early inn the draft. I have faith that the line will be better, it just makes me a little nervous that there’s very little veteran leadership there now

  3. J Bohnen

    In all fairness, Schneider and Carroll know that our offensive line is sub-par but are limited by budget in what they can do. Defense wins Super Bowls, but games are won in the trenches. If every draft pick was spent on the OL and, just a few, on the DL, I’d be more assured. I’d been far more happy to have signed a great tackle or guard and blown the budget slightly, though.

  4. Paul Goode

    At least JS knows where they stand. If training camp started today, I’m pretty sure that the starters would be:

    LT Gilliam
    LG Britt
    C Lewis
    RG Glowinski
    RT Webb

    But camp doesn’t start today. Presumably, the expectation is that the draft will yield a starter. There are also unsigned veterans out there, plus there will be cuts. In short, there’s no reason to think that the team will break camp with this starting unit.

  5. Cam

    As ever, fine analysis. I think Gilliam & Glowinski will turn out to be league average or slightly above (which is all Seattle needs given their strength elsewhere) so I’m not concerned about the right side. They will definitely keep a watching brief on Clady, who if (& it’s a reasonable if) fit is a better LT than Okung.

    Also think 3 of the top 4 draft picks will be OL (the other being a DT as their are too many good ones in this years draft for Pete & John to ignore).

    The key point is that folk panic too much when their team hasn’t been active early in FA. However the really good teams rarely are & as ever, there’s this thing called the draft, though the concerns about Cable’s choices (Okung initially aside, who was very good) are legitimate.

  6. Uncle Bob

    Maybe we should call this Nemhauser’s Theory of Relativity. I think this is a reasonable analysis when comparing the relative skills of the “new” potential line to what we had last year. That being said, for all his faults, Okung at his best hasn’t been matched……yet. Those lamenting the Hawks not “matching” Denver’s deal are likely missing what really happened. Given all the supposed offers he received in his interview tour he probably wasn’t happy being repeatedly offered less than he believed he was worth. Elway had the advantage of being last, or later, in the process and was able to “shop” the other deals. He craftily shaped a contract that allowed Okung to “brag” of getting a two digit deal closer to his wishes, saving face for his go it alone negotiating decision, and maybe a little spite for the Hawks having pulled their offer (sending the message they were tired of being yanked around). In reality, based on the more thorough analysis stories out there, Okung won’t get near the two digit (in millions) earnings unless he does something he’s never shown he can do………………play a full season. Time will tell of course.

    Speaking of relativity, my bigger concern, even if we accept that our O-line won’t be any worse, is that we’re not keeping up with the improvement of our probable most important competitors. Fans should have learned from the season just ended how important winning the division is for play off scheduling. Granted, it’s still early, we have late pre season cuts, the draft, and UDFA still to come, but Arizona has taken it’s division winning team and made it better with those same options ahead……….our hole got deeper just maintaining our admittedly good team from last year. Likewise, at the likely next level, were we to prevail in the division, Carolina has improved as well……..see hole above. Just sayin’……….

    That leaves just one other option………..the boffo trade. But who are we willing to give up, and for what? The Joe Thomas trade is a fav, but likely to be bid pretty high. For almost a year many have advocated trading Chancellor. With how well the secondary performed when he was out near season end that’s not at all a crazy thought. The compensation that seems most consensus though is pretty uninspiring for significant improvement…………3rd or 4th round pick? And his Instagram message might….I say MIGHT….mean he’s getting his head right, and if still physically able, he could be better next year. Then there was the recent bomb suggestion of trading Black Santa. I’ll admit, at first blush I bristled at that, but then, where else do we have relatively expendable value that will make a significant impact? As good as Bennett is, we’ve got some fair depth, and the draft is arguably fatter with options in this area of need than most any other we have. Given the “me too” nature of the league, a pass rusher is high value in this window of time, Bennett’s trade value will probably never be higher. Bold move that! But, in the game of catch up we’re facing, bold may be what’s needed. Not sure PC/JS would agree though.

  7. John

    Justin Britt is now the most experienced guy in this system. Do I need to repeat that?? The apocalypse has NOT been overstated. The loss of veteran leadership is now complete. The apocalypse has now begun.

  8. Richard

    JSPC had their chance last to get Mathis for peanuts . Instead Denver got him and he helped them win a super bowl. This year Arizona picked him up and will kick Cable’s worthless line rear end. Seahawks are again a 9-7 team, until they get management like the Pats, Cardinals, Broncos.

    • Willyeye

      Yeah, given how many times the Cards have been to the SB in recent years, I can’t believe they haven’t chased PC and JS right out of town.

  9. Uncle Bob

    Let’s see if I can get this to work….
    Maybe we should call this Nemhauser’s Theory of Relativity. I think this is a reasonable analysis when comparing the relative skills of the “new” potential line to what we had last year. That being said, for all his faults, Okung at his best hasn’t been matched……yet. Those lamenting the Hawks not “matching” Denver’s deal are likely missing what really happened. Given all the supposed offers he received in his interview tour he probably wasn’t happy being repeatedly offered less than he believed he was worth. Elway had the advantage of being last, or later, in the process and was able to “shop” the other deals. He craftily shaped a contract that allowed Okung to “brag” of getting a two digit deal closer to his wishes, saving face for his go it alone negotiating decision, and maybe a little spite for the Hawks having pulled their offer (sending the message they were tired of being yanked around). In reality, based on the more thorough analysis stories out there, Okung won’t get near the two digit (in millions) earnings unless he does something he’s never shown he can do………………play a full season. Time will tell of course.

    Speaking of relativity, my bigger concern, even if we accept that our O-line won’t be any worse, is that we’re not keeping up with the improvement of our probable most important competitors. Fans should have learned from the season just ended how important winning the division is for play off scheduling. Granted, it’s still early, we have late pre season cuts, the draft, and UDFA still to come, but Arizona has taken it’s division winning team and made it better with those same options ahead……….our hole got deeper just maintaining our admittedly good team from last year. Likewise, at the likely next level, were we to prevail in the division, Carolina has improved as well……..see hole above. Just sayin’……….

    That leaves just one other option………..the boffo trade. But who are we willing to give up, and for what? The Joe Thomas trade is a fav, but likely to be bid pretty high. For almost a year many have advocated trading Chancellor. With how well the secondary performed when he was out near season end that’s not at all a crazy thought. The compensation that seems most consensus though is pretty uninspiring for significant improvement…………3rd or 4th round pick? And his Instagram message might….I say MIGHT….mean he’s getting his head right, and if still physically able, he could be better next year. Then there was the recent bomb suggestion of trading Black Santa. I’ll admit, at first blush I bristled at that, but then, where else do we have relatively expendable value that will make a significant impact? As good as Bennett is, we’ve got some fair depth, and the draft is arguably fatter with options in this area of need than most any other we have. Given the “me too” nature of the league, a pass rusher is high value in this window of time, Bennett’s trade value will probably never be higher. Bold move that! But, in the game of catch up we’re facing, bold may be what’s needed. Not sure PC/JS would agree though.

  10. douglas krieg

    Tom Cable does not have a good draft record, reaching, literally, the bottom with Britt, I think that JA & PC should make the picks, let Cable stay with coaching, where he is very good. I would like to see them take an OT in the first round, even if they have to move up, gotta protect RW

  11. AndrewP

    RE: Cable

    “In 2011 he took…”
    “In 2014 he took…”

    I think you are WAY over-estimating the power that man holds in the room. I think he gives input to Carroll/Schneider as to the type of player he wants, maybe even some names he likes. But to say he is the one that dictates to the organization who exactly they will draft and exactly when they will do so…*

    C’mon, man.

    *If you can produce a signed affidavit from PCJS that this is in fact the case, I will gladly eat crow.

  12. jeremy

    i think you are being a bit overly optimistic on the hawks o-line play. profootballfocus had them rated 30 out of 32 teams during the regular season. the 2nd half of the season improvement had more to do, i believe, with the quality of competition and a change in offensive scheme for wilson to get rid of the ball quicker. if the improvement was really there, why did the hawks o-line get thoroughly dominated against the rams and panthers at the end of the year???

    the hawks lost their only quality starter in okung. again, looking at profootballfocus, an “average” grade for an nfl starter is something in the mid 70’s. here is what the hawks produced: okung-72, britt-37, lewis-50, nowak-54, sweezy-46, and gilliam-37. with the exception of okung, the other o-line starters were absolutely pathetic. webb graded a 45 and glowinski graded a 50 in the one game he played. sowell hasnt played much in the past couple seasons, but graded poorly in 2013. just for comparison, carpenter graded an 81 and unger a 75 last year. how much would i like to have them back!?

    so basically, as of today, there is very little to be optimistic about. thats where schneider will need to earn his pay and pull off a little magic with some draft picks, trades, etc. personally, i dont think there is a player on the current roster who should even be considered for the starting LT, its too important of a position.

    i was shocked when hawks resigned kearse. i like him, but they have plenty of receivers going into next year and need the money other places. this makes me think graham could be cut (hawks would owe him nothing and could use his $9mil for someone else) or traded. additionally, i think 2 of the first 3 draft picks should be lineman and probably need to draft a total of 3.

    next to the qb, the offensive line play is the most important position group on offense because of the way they affect the effectiveness of the passing and running game. hawks need to get this fixed if they want to improve upon a disappointing 2015

  13. KC

    Eh, was hoping for a little bigger splash in free agency. Let’s hope they’ve brought someone in who knows line play to help them draft. Need to start the season a little better this year.

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