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Offensive Line Changes Incoming?

Friday, February 16, 2018

 

 

 

 

Any Seahawks fan will know the biggest weakness of this team is the offensive line and has been for several years now. For the past 3 or so years they’ve taken the ‘cheap’ route by getting starters and depth players via the draft. It’s a great theory if it works but if you’ve got Tom Cable providing ‘expert’ (snigger) advice on player abilities, it’s a recipe for disaster.

 

Seattle has been consistently awful in pass protection for over 5 years now, their highest ranking in pass protection came in 2014 where they ranked 24th. Yes, only 8 teams were worse than them that year, and that’s the highest they’ve ranked since 2013. Not exactly impressive. Run blocking used to be a lot better, their highest rank came in 2014 and 2015 whereby they ranked 4th overall, however that tailed off in 2016 and 2017 where they ranked 26th and 31st respectively. It’s no wonder the 2017 Seahawks set all time low records in the running game this past season.

 

Below you can see a chart that highlights cap spend per year, ranking of said spend and performance rankings from both NFL.com and Football Outsiders.

 

 

 

As you can see from the chart above, throwing money isn’t necessarily the answer to forming a successful line, they were the highest spenders at the position in 2013 yet ranked 23rd overall.

 

Let’s take a look to see if high spending can get you a better performing line with other teams –

 

As we already know Seattle ranked 1st in spending in 2013 I’ve done this from the 2014 season onwards.

 

 

 

It’s worth pointing out that these rankings obviously cannot account for injuries which can account for any incredibly skewed data (Cleveland being the 3rd highest spenders yet 27th performing line in 2017, for example).

 

This effectively tells us, for the most part, that spending money on the offensive line does equal a better performing line. That is, of course, assuming that the talent that you’re paying actually lives up to that contract. Naming no names (Luke Joeckel).

 

 

 

But how do the lowest spenders perform? This may well throw a spanner in the works! Let’s take a look…

 

 

 

Barring one stat in 2015 whereby the St Louis Rams ranked 31st in spending yet had the 1st performing line, everything points towards my earlier point that spending on the offensive line does buy you a better performing unit. Although having all 5 starters on second/third contracts obviously isn’t the answer without seriously damaging the rest of the roster. To be competitive you need a mix of experienced (and expensive) veterans as well as a couple of draft picks (cheap) who provide excellent value. With the state of offensive lines in college using mostly non-professional spread offenses, you need to invest draft capital early to stand a chance at getting a starter calibre player, obviously there are exceptions however if you look at day 3 draft picks offensive line is by far the least producing positional group, that reiterates that you need to select your lineman early to grab anyone worth taking up a roster spot.

 

 

So, what needs to change? 

 

To be honest, I think the change has already happened. Removing Tom Cable from the staff and replacing him with Mike Solari. Mike has proved that he can assemble good offensive lines, he knows what to look for, uses a mix of zone-blocking and power-run (and even a combination of the two in the same play!) and really puts his players in the best position to win their blocking matchup. Time after time you’d see Seattle’s offensive line look totally confused at what just happened at the end of the play, they honestly didn’t look like they knew what was going on at times. For this to happen to veterans and rookies, that, to me, screams coaching. Even Duane Brown progressively regressed as the season went on, furthering my point.

 

The team clearly made an effort to spend more in 2017 bringing in Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi via free agency on March 11th and March 18th as well as trading for former Texans left tackle Duane Brown. But with coaching deficiencies I don’t think it would have mattered what they did, with Cable at the helm, the offensive line was never going to live up to its potential, Pete Carroll clearly agreed as well giving the firing.

 

According to the depth chart, as of today, the line for 2018 would look like this –

 

LT – Duane Brown

LG – Rees Odhiambo

C – Justin Britt

RG – George Fant      

RT – Germain Ifedi

 

It’s fair to assume that the above names aren’t set in stone for the season ahead, far from it.

 

I believe the team will pick up one starter in free agency and draft a guard early in April. With the pool available, I am almost certain we will see a healthy jump in production in 2018. Of course, there are question marks.

 

Is Germain Ifedi a bust or has he just received poor coaching? Is he better suited at LG or RG as opposed to RT?

What happens with George Fant? Before his season ending injury in the preseason, Pete Carroll said George had made, by far, the biggest leap from the previous year amongst every single player, could he be the answer at RT or even transitioned to G?

 

With a gun to my head, my prediction for the OL in 2018 is as follows –

 

LT – Duane Brown

LG – Rookie

C – Justin Britt

RG – Germain Ifefi

RT – George Fant

 

OR

 

LT – Duane Brown

LG – Rookie

C – Justin Britt

RG – Free agent

RT – George Fant

 

The most notable change is Ethan Pocic is not in the line-up, I believe he will be valued as a backup to the whole interior of the line should Ifedi, Britt or the rookie go down to injury. Depth is important, after all. The only ‘locks’ to this roster are Duane Brown at LT and Justin Britt at C in my opinion, the LG, RG and RT positions are wide open. It will be a very interesting training camp, that’s for sure!

 

I feel optimistic about the line going forwards, I don’t think we will see monumental strides in 2018 as Mike Solari will have a lot to fix, however jumping forward to 2019 and beyond, Seattle will have the fundamentals in place as well as the available cap space to do, pretty much, exactly what they want with the line.

 

As always, Go Hawks!

 

 

 

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