Justin Britt has struggled since switching to left guard
Seattle’s offensive line has been a hot-topic for several years. I suspect many critics will realise that, actually, the line wasn’t all that bad in 2013 (and to a lesser extent in 2014).
The NFL in general is struggling to find competent linemen. When Seattle started Okung, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy and Giacomini — there were often calls for change. With hindsight we can see it was a functioning, grinding line that did enough in pass protection (not flawless, but good enough) and helped the Seahawks develop a productive run game.
To think Carpenter was probably the weak link speaks to the actual effectiveness of the group compared to the 2015 unit. His replacement, Justin Britt, is having a nightmare.
It’s hard to see how he survives in the line-up for much longer. Nathan Ernst (@NathanE11) posted three Vines from the Detroit game to emphasise how much he’s struggling:
I’m not sure what he’s trying to do in the final clip (take a knee?). If the Seahawks hoped the game would get easier for Britt moving inside, it simply isn’t happening. He was considered a late round pick in the 2014 draft and the Seahawks took him in the second round because they felt they had to. Without a third round pick (Percy Harvin trade) and diminishing options, they reached to get a guy they liked and could work with.
After 20 regular season starts, Britt isn’t developing as hoped.
It’s very easy to criticise a draft class and the decisions made by a team. We’re all experts without the pressure of being judged. Yet it’s fair to say the Seahawks got it wrong with their first two picks in 2014. If a tackle/guard was such a high priority to the extent they had to reach on Britt in round two — why didn’t they take one at #32? Or after a small trade down?
Joel Bitonio has excelled to such an extent it’s hard not to wonder how much better the line would be with Bitonio manning the left guard or right tackle spot. Clearly the Seahawks were enamoured with Paul Richardson and he was unfortunate to pick up a serious knee injury towards the end of last season. Even so — in a deep class for receivers would it not have made more sense to wait out the WR position and assess the options at the end of round two? Seattle took that approach for the offensive line and essentially put their faith in a player who clearly didn’t warrant a second round selection.
It is slightly galling to think Seattle could’ve taken Bitonio at #32 and would’ve only needed to jump from #64 to #62 to select Jarvis Landry. Again, you can create these ‘what if’ scenarios for every team. How many fans have second-guessed why their team didn’t select Russell Wilson instead of Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden or Brock Osweiler? Still, this is what the Seahawks could’ve had.
(Of course Landry isn’t a SPARQ demon — but he’s currently the entire Miami offense and makes a ton of plays. It goes to show that while difference making athleticism is well and good — the tape doesn’t lie. Landry looked great at LSU.)
It’s not just Britt who is struggling. Drew Nowak has bundles of upside but plays erratic. They might be able to live with the growing pains if the upshot is an accomplished center by mid-season. How long do you wait though? Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis lack Nowak’s athletic profile but both were barely noticeable playing in relief of Unger last season. Isn’t that what Seattle needs right now? A center that simply gets the job done?
Garry Gilliam is also having a rough ride at right tackle. Like Nowak he might end up developing into a top player. He has everything you want in a left tackle — let alone a right side blocker. He should, theoretically, be able to match up to the best speed rushers in the NFL. At least in terms of athleticism. Like Nowak, however, his play is too up-and-down. Unlike Nowak the Seahawks don’t really have an alternative here.
It’s not just a pass-protection problem either. The Seahawks would probably live with some pass-pro issues considering they have the most elusive quarterback in pro-football. But they’re not running the ball well either. And that’ll be a major headache.
We mentioned it after the Detroit game — but what would the Seahawks give today to have sealed the signature of Evan Mathis before he joined the Broncos?
That might be the way they have to go in the off-season — seasoned veterans. People are going to call for a heavy draft focus on the offensive line — but look at the way rookies are struggling to adapt to the pro-game. If the Seahawks lose Okung and/or Sweezy in free agency — do you really want to be adding even more inexperience?
It could be unavoidable at left tackle. If you want to adequately replace Okung you’ll probably have to spend an early pick. There aren’t many affordable veteran blind-side blockers hitting the market. At guard and center you might have a few more options.
It’d be a real shift in approach, going away from using Tom Cable to develop upside and simply bringing in grizzled veterans. The target would be an average, rental O-line with limited potential but one that might see you through a couple of seasons in the middle of Seattle’s Championship window.
And that’s the issue really, isn’t it? The Seahawks have shown they can win a Super Bowl without an elite offensive line. They really need to identify another Giacomini or two. Some will shudder at the thought — but average will be OK for this team. At the moment it’d be generous to call the line play ‘below average’. It could be costly in 2015 without major improvements. The Seahawks can’t afford any wasted years in this window.
For that reason they might return to Jeanpierre or Patrick Lewis at center and consider another chance for Alvin Bailey at left guard (or Mark Glowinski). It’s surprising Britt hasn’t already been benched ahead of a meeting with Geno Atkins and co. When the off-season comes repairing the O-line will surely be Seattle’s #1 priority. But that won’t necessarily mean spending the first three picks on linemen. More likely, it’ll be one early pick and the addition of a choice veteran free agent or two.
Possible draft targets? Don’t hold out hope for a Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin or Germain Ifedi unless the Seahawks pick in the top half of round one. Auburn’s Shon Coleman has the attitude, physical upside and second-level blocking to warrant serious consideration. Even if they re-sign Okung, Coleman would slot very nicely at guard. Washington State’s Joe Dahl is another possibility providing Seattle are picking late in each round.
Myles Jack turning pro, Jim Mora responds in a Jim Mora way
This isn’t a surprise and the most interesting part of the story involves Jim Mora.
Every year until he eventually leaves UCLA, Mora is going to be linked with a return to the NFL. He’s had relative success with the Bruins and with a limited pool of talented D/O-coordinators, NFL teams are increasingly looking to the college game for options.
If Mora ever does return to the pro’s, his press conference demeanour could be his downfall. Again.
Some coaches are adept at shielding their true feelings. Others are more outspoken but do it in a way that comes across charming, protective or charismatic. Mora is a foot-in-mouth specialist. He talks about Washington being his dream job on air, says Pete Carroll cheats, calls out Olindo Mare for missing kicks and tells everybody he wants dirtbags on the roster.
His rant against Mare in 2009 was a classic case of a coach unable to control his emotions in a public setting. We saw another example this week when Myles Jack made the decision to turn pro.
“I’ve been in 25 Draft rooms. I’ve never seen a guy taken off (two games of junior tape).”
“He’s taking his chips and he’s shoving them into the middle. We hope that he draws a good hand. At least I do.”
“I think it’s very risky to do this.”
To offer some background here, Jack recently injured knee ligaments and is out for the season. It makes sense for him to declare for the draft because in 2014 he took out an insurance policy worth $5m. If he isn’t selected in the first round, it’ll be paid out.
Financially it’s a win-win situation for Jack. Either he’s going in the first round — or he gets the cash.
Mora’s comments smack of a man only concerned with his own interests. He wants the best players available for UCLA and that’s fine — it’s Mora’s job to win games for the Bruins. Yet if he’s only going to consider his own personal interests in a situation like this — how can he criticise Myles Jack for doing exactly the same thing?
And let’s not forget — Mora’s already made his millions. When he was fired in Seattle he had around $12m outstanding on the three remaining years of his contract. The five wins he produced in 2009 came at a significant price for Paul Allen.
Myles Jack is in a position where he’s trying to earn his money — having seriously injured his knee playing for free in the NCAA. Who can really blame him for making this decision when the worst case scenario is he pockets the insurance money?
Mora isn’t the only one of course who conducted quite a bitter press conference after a player opted to turn pro. Pete Carroll didn’t cover himself in glory when Mark Sanchez made a similar decision. The difference is — I suspect Carroll knows with hindsight he spoke somewhat out of turn. Also, Sanchez wasn’t injured and didn’t have the security of an insurance pay out.
If Mora does ever return to the NFL — he’ll need to learn to bite his tongue.
Duke Williams dismissed by Auburn
A top draft prospect coming into the season, this is a real shame. Yet everyone at Auburn seems to be in agreement it had to happen.
Guz Malzahn (Head Coach) — “You give people chances, you give opportunities for people to prove themselves and the bottom line it didn’t (work out)… It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be easy for a coach, but you’ve got to do what’s best for your team.”
Jonathan Wallace (Senior WR) — “Personally, I love him to death… I’m sad to see this had to take place but it needed to be done so we can move forward and get better as a team.”
Auburnsports.com reports the dismissal followed an “off-the-field incident at a local nightclub”. It seems he was already on strike three — and he went out swinging.
What does it mean for his draft stock? Marcus Peters showed a year ago it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Peters fought back, re-gained respect at Washington and convinced teams he should be taken in round one. Williams has a tough road back to get anywhere near that range.
Sadly, it’s more likely he’ll follow the path of other previously highly rated wide-outs who flame out in college and end up trying to earn a shot in camp. He’s clearly talented with good size, speed and hands. He was clearly Auburn’s best receiver in 2014. His inability to focus solely on the football, however, will likely end up costing him a lot of money. He could easily go undrafted.