This group strikes me as having the highest possible variance of any group on the team. If someone traveled back in time to now – from the season’s end – and told me the Seahawks will have a Top 5 O-Line, I’d believe them. If they told me the Seahawks will have a Bottom 5 O-Line, I’d believe them. I mean, they’ve mastered the technology of time travel, so why wouldn’t I believe them? But, you understand what I’m getting at.
I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the Duane Brown situation – which you can read about in the bottom half of this post – but the vast majority of that variance lies right here. For the Seahawks to have a good-to-great offensive line, Duane Brown needs to play every game in the regular season and continue playing at the level we’ve seen from him since he donned a Seahawks uniform. He’s special. He’s fucking huge and athletic and one of the best left tackles in football. He’s also getting up there in age, and that cliff is right around the corner. We won’t know he’s fallen off of it until that injury strikes, and when it does, I anticipate it’ll be devastating for all involved.
If Duane Brown holds out, or demands a trade, or suddenly retires, it’s going to be REALLY dark for this unit, this offense, and this team as a whole. The Seahawks just don’t have the depth – particularly at tackle – to overcome such a loss! That has to be a big reason why he’s holding out to begin with: he knows he has the Seahawks over a barrel! Brandon Shell is a right tackle, end of story there. He’s a fine right tackle, when healthy, but you’re not moving him to the other side of the line and getting anything close to competent play. There’s a lot to like about Jamarco Jones’ skillset; I think he does have the talent to play left tackle at this level. But, he’s proven throughout his career that he’s incapable of staying healthy. And, not for nothing, but he’s injured NOW! That’s a bad sign. Cedric Ogbuehi has already told the team he thinks he’s better suited to play right tackle rather than left; the team seems to think he’d be good enough on the left side, at least in a fill-in capacity. But, he too is currently injured and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out for.
That leaves rookie tackles Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan; one taken in the sixth round, the other an undrafted free agent. Are you ready to hand over the starting left tackle job – arguably the most important spot on the O-Line; we’ve all seen the movie – to a lottery ticket prospect?
I don’t want to shit all over the depth on this team, because there’s actually a lot to like about what we have on the O-Line. Duane Brown and Brandon Shell are quality starters in this league. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jamarco Jones are viable backups in this league, when healthy. I think Forsythe and Curhan are interesting projects that very well could develop into something solid in a year or two. But, when both of your primary backups are injured at the moment, and one of your starters is holding out, that’s a scary proposition!
It’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot to like about the interior. Damien Lewis returns and is being flopped over to left guard. He had a special rookie season last year, starting all his games at right guard. I don’t believe he has much – if any – experience on the left side, but it’s early enough in his NFL career that I’ll buy his ability to learn on the fly. Gabe Jackson is a veteran we brought in who’s proven as a capable right guard in this league. Considering how much we struggled in our interior protection – especially against Aaron Donald and the Rams, our main NFC West rival – this was our most critical upgrade of the offseason. To top it off, we return Ethan Pocic at center, and are having him compete with Kyle Fuller, Phil Haynes, and whoever else. So, the winner of that battle should be pretty well tested; there won’t be a question that man has earned his job.
The great thing is that everyone competing at center can also slide over and play guard in a pinch. On top of that, if Jordan Simmons can stay healthy, he’s flashed true greatness at the guard spot; much like Jamarco Jones, though, he just hasn’t proven he can remain on the field for more than a week or two.
If the Injury Gods are our friends this year, I think the offensive line can be rock solid for us. That’s going to be vital, since we’re breaking in a new offensive coordinator/play-caller. I don’t need Russell Wilson worried about his protection when he’s trying to parse where the ball is supposed to go in a vastly new system. I also don’t need this offense consistently behind the sticks because we can’t run the ball effectively when we want to run the ball. We all have enough to worry about with this offensive system, I’d rather not throw personnel into the mix of concerns.
The talent on this side of the ball, from quarterback on down, is good enough to compete for an NFL championship. But, that won’t matter if we’re saddled with scrubs along the offensive line. We’ve seen that movie TOO MANY TIMES in Russell Wilson’s tenure here.
My grade for this unit probably tops out at an A-, but it can fall all the way down to an F+ if we’re unlucky. Let’s just hope the Duane Brown situation doesn’t go nuclear, because I don’t think anyone’s going to be happy with the results.