No One’s Really Talking About The Seahawks’ Offensive Line

The consensus biggest cause for concern when it comes to the Seahawks is the rush defense. For good reason. We were terrible at stopping the run last year. It cost us at least three very winnable games last year (vs. Tampa in Germany, vs. Vegas in an overtime shootout, and mystifyingly at home against a mediocre Panthers team). You also can’t help but wonder how we lost to the likes of the Falcons and Saints, but the rush defense deficiencies really presented itself as the season wore on, and the Bucs exposed us as a team entirely ill-equipped to prevent yards on the ground.

Rush defense is also the biggest cause for concern because I think a lot of fans question whether the Seahawks did enough to address this area of need. That remains to be seen, but I feel like it’ll be better than we expect, even if it’s far from ideal.

A lowkey potential problem lies in the offensive line though, and I don’t think anyone is giving it the attention it deserves.

I think, for the most part, people were happy with the Seahawks’ offense in general last year. We got to be pleasantly surprised; that’s always fun. Geno Smith rose from the ashes to become a competent starting quarterback in this league. The top receivers both had 1,000-yard seasons. The running backs – led by Kenneth Walker – were electric and impactful. And, the play-calling was better than we’ve seen in ages.

But, there were still a number of games where the offense really struggled. Not just against the 49ers, though those three games definitely stand out (including our first round exit in the playoffs). And I think Geno largely gets a pass even though his numbers declined as the season wore on.

The O-Line gets a pass too, though I would argue a lot of his challenges were a direct result of protection problems.

If you had to critique Geno’s performance as a whole in 2022, what would you say were his biggest areas in need of improvement? Third downs, and late game production. Even though he eventually did lead us to a few come-from-behind victories, or otherwise winning us games late, it seems like in most of our losses we had opportunities to snatch a victory, but fell short.

Shockingly, I don’t have the numbers, but what I saw indicated a team that was really lacking in protection on third downs in obvious passing situations. How many times did we see Geno take a back-breaking sack on third and long? Some of that might be on him, holding the ball too long, or not finding the open man (if there was a man open), but a good chunk of that was a total failure by the line to give him any time whatsoever. I never felt confident that we’d convert a third & long, in any situation, but especially late in games. They just crumbled under the increased pressure, and as a result too many drives ended in a whimper.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks have certain advantages with their O-Line that many teams don’t get to enjoy. On the whole, the line is fine. To me, it’s middle-of-the-road. It’s not like some of those offensive lines during the lesser Russell Wilson years. Sure, both were relatively inexpensive, but this one is actually seeing results, whereas those older ones were legitimate liabilities (and deserved to be considered among this team’s chief problem areas). We’re getting by with bookend tackles on rookie contracts. Our guards are home-grown. And the center carousel keeps turning, but at least this year we have a viable rookie to push the retread free agent we signed in the offseason. To get middle-of-the-road production from a unit so underpaid is a blessing! It allows us to field a competent offense while bolstering other areas of the team into real strengths.

But, now we’re talking about a team that wants to play with the big dogs. We’re talking about a team coming off of a surprising playoff run, that’s looking to take the next step into potentially winning the division and contending for the conference title. I don’t know if any reasonable fan or pundit would rank the Seahawks as highly as the Eagles or 49ers, but A LOT of them are picking the Seahawks as either a dark horse or a frisky contender (largely based on the perceived weakness of the NFC, but still).

I am of the belief that the Seahawks can’t simply replicate their 2022 offense and all of a sudden win 2-3 more games. I think most of us are of the opinion that the 2023 defense will be improved over their 2022 counterparts. But, we’re going to need the offense to take a similar step forward if we really want to compete with the likes of the 49ers. Since the skill guys are largely the same, that means we’re going to need a boost from the O-Line, and that’s what has me worried here today.

There’s a lot of talk about a sophomore slump vs. a sophomore boost (or whatever, I don’t remember the exact phrasing Pete Carroll used) when it comes to the likes of Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. Again, we’re thrilled they were rookies last year and played a full season, but they WILL need to step it up if we’re going to be better. I don’t 100% buy into those PFF grades, as I’ve heard they’re inherently flawed, but I’m still not encouraged by their regular low grades in both pass and run blocking. The PFF grades aren’t good for nothing, and I’d like to see them start to show out for the nerds.

I don’t get the sense that Damien Lewis is a problem, necessarily, but I also don’t know that he’s a huge benefit either. He’s never mentioned among the top guards in football. It’s nice that he’s a gamer, and he’s on a rookie deal as a third rounder who’s started since his first year. But, he kinda feels like Just A Guy. On the other side, there’s no question that Phil Haynes outplayed Gabe Jackson last year in a time-share situation; with Jackson gone, you’d think that’s an upgrade. But, there’s a reason why Haynes has largely been a fringe player in this league. He was a fourth round rookie and a backup in 2019 (after being injured for most of that season), on the IR in 2020, waived and on our practice squad for most of 2021, until finally last year he got an opportunity. Any team could’ve had him, and chose to let him remain a Seahawk. He’s on a cheap 1-year deal this year, because again, no one else wanted him. And now you figure he’s going to be pushed by Anthony Bradford, another fourth round rookie. Was Haynes as good as he was last year because he only played about half the time? Can he sustain for a full season as the starter at right guard?

Then, there’s the center. Evan Brown, in a long line of journeymen centers we’ve brought over here in the wake of the mistake that was trading Max Unger for Jimmy Graham way back in the day. He’s a guy who played guard and center for the Lions last year, and to his credit was much better as a center. That being said, you’re talking about a guy making less than $3 million on a 1-year deal. A guy, like Haynes, who it appears nobody else wanted. Someone who – like the rest of our interior line – is a JAG who may be better than some of the previous centers we’ve employed here, but that’s not saying much.

And then there’s our depth. Ye gods!

I’ve been killing these backups all month for the pisspoor performances we’ve seen from them in the first two preseason games. Again, for good reason! They’ve stunk! The running game can’t get going, the quarterback can’t get into a rhythm, and for whatever reason (maybe because we’ve won both games) people have just ignored this unit entirely! Sure, they’re backups, but they’re also going up against backups, and I can’t help but be alarmed by how inept our guys have been.

You could replace Stone Forsythe with a statue and get comparable results; he’s terrible. Granted, he’s a sixth round pick in our nadir draft of 2021 (where we only had three picks), but I can’t even say he’s a decent backup. He’s a liability! And if either of our tackles goes down, we’re super fucked!

I really liked Jake Curhan as an undrafted rookie; I thought he showed real potential and was going to be a steal for us. But, he’s had some injury issues, and we’ve tried to cross-train him at guard as well as right tackle, and I don’t know if that’s as successful as the team thinks it is. He’s looked a little rough out there, though I don’t think he’s as dire as Forsythe.

I will say that I am encouraged by the rookies Olu Oluwatimi and Anthony Bradford. But, Olu has been dealing with a nagging elbow injury that held him out of the most recent preseason game, and figures to be his undoing in this center battle (until he’s fully healthy again). All things being equal, I’d rather have Olu over Evan Brown, but not an injured Olu. As for Bradford, it’s pretty clear he’s behind Haynes. Seems like he’s more of a project, though a very promising one from what I’ve seen from him in the two preseason games. He might not be a finished product, but I can’t wait to see what that ultimately looks like, because I feel like – if he can stay healthy – he might be a monster.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine as far as backups go. I think the Seahawks usually only keep 9 on the 53-man roster, so that might be it.

In the early going of this season, it’s going to hinge on the improvement (or lack thereof) of Cross and Lucas. If they’re better, that’s an immediate boost. I think, with the interior, those guys are who they are, and we’re unlikely to see ANY improvement this season.

BUT, if Olu and/or Bradford ultimately work to steal jobs, we could be looking at a situation where this unit is playing better by season’s end than it is at the beginning. That doesn’t give me a lot of hope for winning the division, because a slow start is sure to torpedo us in that area; but, if we can go on a nice little run to close out the season, then who knows?

We’ll see though. For the most part, I think the Seahawks’ defense will be fine. It won’t be close to top 10, but it shouldn’t be bottom 10 either. No, this season is going to come down to the offensive line. If they can take a step foward, we’re looking at a top 5 offense.

But, if they tread water, we could be in for another .500-ish finish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *