The Seahawks Calculated Approach to Having the Worst Offensive Line in the NFL
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The Seahawks brain trust made the decision to limit the offensive line in order to retain the key components of their defensive minded system. This has become apparent over the years as the Seahawks have signed proven failures (Bradley Sowell), players beyond their prime (J’Marcus Webb, Jahri Evans), traded pro bowl caliber talent (Max Unger), and flat out let their pro bowl Left Tackle, Russell Okung, leave to sign a moronic deal with a fellow super bowl contender. The blatant disregard for half of the Seahawks offense is not simply subject to circumstances. Apparently Schneider & Carroll believe Russell Wilson can evade the rush so effectively that they don’t need to protect the 5’11’’ Quarterback from 6’5’’ 300 lbs defensive lineman trying to hit him. After all, who needs to see down field to make an accurate throw?
Success in the NFL is determined by one thing, money. The salary cap will always be the greatest enemy to teams attempting to sustain success across a decade. To create a dynasty a team must adopt a Belichickian philosophy: to sign only a core group of players that are essential to running the system. The remaining gaps will be filled with veteran players looking for a final playoff run, or young guys that outplay the value of their rookie contract. Even the biggest stars have to accept less money if they want to play for a championship system like we have recently seen with the Jamie Collins trade. Despite being a great football man, his position is not valued highly for that system. This is not economically fair for the player, but this is the harsh reality of the salary cap.
For the Seahawks this has meant that the Legion of Boom, linebackers, defensive ends, Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin were paid while defensive tackles, tight ends, wide receivers (most notably Golden Tate), and offensive lineman had to take pay cuts or find other suitors. The Seahawks currently spend a league worst on offensive lineman. They give out $9 million between their ten offensive lineman; an astoundingly low 6% of their 2016 salary cap. This is roughly $4 million, 2.5% of salary cap, less than the second lowest spending team for that positional group. As a result, the offensive line has endured the loss of multiple starters: Breno Giacomini, Paul McQuistan, JR Sweezy, James Carpenter, Alvin Bailey, Max Unger (Pro Bowler), and Russell Okung (Pro Bowler).
The loss of several crucial starters has left the Hawks scrambling to recuperate and create some semblance of the beloved Walter Jones – Steve Hutchinson era.The past two years, the Seahawks played different players at every position. This constant reconfiguring upfront leads to players not understanding the new positions they are playing. Players then do not develop the deep understanding of each position that is required to succeed. I wouldn’t ask Richard Sherman to play free safety and you can’t ask a guard to learn the intricacies of the tackle position while lining up across from professionals.
The exception of that rule appears to be former second round pick Justin Britt who finally found his niche playing center. Britt was originally drafted to play opposite of Okung and was lauded as the missing bookend they desperately need. The right tackle position proved to be too big an assignment often having to block another team’s top pass rusher. He floundered in his first two seasons and took snaps at all five positions showing sporadic bursts of talent. This is his third season and he is obviously the best amongst a lackluster line. He is ranked as the #15 best Center in the league according to Bleacher Report’s mid-season grades.
The guard positions were completely up in the air heading into the preseason. The Seahawks brought in six-time pro bowler Jahri Evans on a one year $1 million deal. However, Evans was cut during the preseason because the Seahawks O-line is no place for pro bowlers. The team decided to go with their biggest offseason investment in rookie Germain Ifedi whom they drafted out of Texas A&M with the 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft. His massive size at 6’5’’ 325 lbs was a welcomed gift at right guard. Ifedi started with an ankle injury, and has struggled since making career debut against the Jets. The Hawks continue to start him over the veteran J’Marcus Webb whose play was mediocre at best while Ifedi was injured. The left side of the interior is anchored by Mark Glowinski. The second year player has held his own while trying to master the nuances of playing at the professional level. Glowinski started only one game his rookie season in place of a concussed JR Sweezy, and received snaps in ten contests. The big man has been a surprising mid-level talent as the Hawks starting left guard.
The Seahawks are currently starting two converted tight ends at the tackle positions (Gilliam & Fant). Garry Gilliam worked out vigorously this offseason and hyped to become the starting left tackle until he moved to the right side after the team brought on a more experienced Bradley Sowell who signed with the team on a prove-your-worth one year deal. Sowell quickly became the league’s perennial bottom feeder in Bleacher Report’s weekly ranking of left tackles. He has been out the last two weeks with a “knee injury” which more than likely is just an extremely damaged ego. It can be quite unsettling to be thrown about when there is nothing you can do to stop it (see Tom Cable’s DV history). I guess he could have injured his knee if he forgot to tie his skates on one of the countless plays in which he was thrown seven yards backwards.
However, my personal favorite is undrafted rookie George Fant who had never taken a snap, at any level, playing left tackle until he filled in for the injured Sowell during last Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Saints. Fant, who didn’t play football in high school, spent his first four years of college playing basketball at Western Kentucky, and was arguably a star, averaging 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, for the middling team in a forgotten conference. In his fifth year at WKU he played tight end in two games for the Hilltoppers, and recorded one seven yard catch, and two tackles. At the rate the Seahawks create defensive stars I’m astounded they didn’t see the 6’6’’ athletic frame as an up and coming edge rusher. Instead, Seahawks Offensive Line Coach/Assistant Head Coach Tom Cable, thought the NFL would be the perfect time for the 24 year old to start playing the most important position along the offensive line.
This bastard offensive line is the biggest obstacle standing between Seattle and a second Super Bowl victory. The Seahawks have attempted to patch together their offense by adding the best blocking tight end in the draft, Nick Vannett. With Cable’s history using tight ends I won’t be surprised if we saw him getting reps at tackle before the season is over. They also brought back the hard hitting fullback Will Tukuafu to provide some much needed blocking when the line inevitably crumbles. Russell Wilson has already suffered three separate injuries while under siege (ankle, knee, pectoral). If the Seahawks want any chance at an extended playoff run they need to keep Wilson safe. The Hawks should take a thorough look at the rule book, and quite possibly play without an offensive line. It would be much easier for Wilson if he knew that the entire defense is rushing him rather than pretending like the lineman will stop someone.
It has been an abysmal season for this rag tag group of big bodies. The Seahawks have cut, traded, and refused to resign pro bowlers leaving the line without a proven leader. Young players aren’t playing up to their potential. The one veteran guard is enjoying his time on the bench. The incoming left tackle is suffering from what one can only assumed is PTSD. Meanwhile Russell Wilson is having night terrors of Aaron Donald chasing him.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have not once cared about any of this. They believe Russell Wilson is a magus who can conjure up a three point victory at will. It doesn’t matter to them that Wilson has MVP potential if he has time to throw the ball. It doesn’t matter to them that they traded a pro bowl center for Jimmy Graham, a tight end who sued the NFL to get paid as a Wide Receiver, and we want him to learn how to block. There is no point in voicing your concern, because Schneider and Carroll know exactly what they are doing, and they plan to win on a last second miracle while Russell uses his iconic roll out to pull one out of his ass.