Assessing Seattle’s tackle situation

November 4th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Michael Bowie has ended up starting earlier than expected

The injuries to Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini might actually be a blessing in disguise.

That’s assuming Russell Wilson survives the next couple of weeks of course…

They’re getting a chance to test Michael Bowie. They’ll have a whole lot of tape to judge him on during the off-season and be well positioned to determine whether he has long term potential as a starter.

They may decide he isn’t up to the task.

Either way, they’ll know.

The injury to Okung has highlighted the need for superior depth. As well as he’s played in Seattle, he’s also picked up injuries. And simply switching your left guard to tackle can’t be the backup plan beyond this season.

It’s hard enough finding one serviceable left tackle, let alone two. But that’s the task facing this front office.

The Seahawks are wiser for this experience. And there is a solution that makes at least some sense, it’s just incredibly difficult to implement.

When they drafted James Carpenter in 2011, I had genuine hope they’d drafted a versatile tackle who could play on the left and right. Although he struggled defending the edge as a rookie, Carpenter was a fantastic blocker for Alabama. It’s no exaggeration that he jumped off the screen in college.

In the NFL, it’d didn’t translate. They moved him to guard. And now he’s having to fight for a starting spot.

It’s quite likely they won’t be able to afford to keep Breno Giacomini next season. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and Golden Tate will all be priority re-signings. They will all cost money. And it’ll be a case of managing who you can and can’t keep.

It’ll be hard to replace Bennett or Tate in the draft (although I like the receiver class). Sherman and Thomas aren’t anywhere. Giacomini — an underrated player in my eyes — might end up being the unfortunate odd man out.

If that ends up being the case, they’re surely going to draft a tackle. It’s just whether they make it an early round priority.

For me, they need to go out and try the path that was possibly intended with Carpenter. Get a tackle who starts on the right side but can adequately backup Okung on the left if required, at least for a few weeks.

You’d have Bowie and Alvin Bailey for depth at tackle or guard. You’d feel more comfortable about spelling for Okung. You may even upgrade the right tackle spot on a cheap rookie contract. The whole situation can be improved.

Easy right?

Not exactly.

The Carpenter example shows how difficult it’ll be. Three tackles went in the top four last year and it’ll be no different in 2014. The best offensive lineman will fly off the board. And presuming an 8-1 team makes the post season, the Seahawks will face a similar situation to 2011.

A lot of people were underwhelmed by the Carpenter pick. Will people react the same way if they roll the dice again on another low profile tackle?

Even if they flop in the post season and pick around #21-23 overall, you’re unlikely to find an accomplished big name tackle in that range. Not these days. Any lineman athletic enough to man the blind side will be long gone.

A deep positional class might help the situation, but these guys are going earlier and earlier every year. It’s funny that all the time we’ve talked about moving up for quarterbacks or impact players over the years, the big move they might have to make is for a tackle capable of playing both spots.

They’ve avoided moving up at all costs so far, it almost seems slightly absurd to suggest they do it for a swing tackle. They found a franchise quarterback and a shutdown corner in the mid-to-late rounds and so avoided having to make any bold moves.

It could be that once again they rely on Tom Cable’s advice to go hunting later on for another gem.

Or maybe the chaos on the offensive line and the risk they’re taking with Wilson’s health will force a more aggressive turn?

Either way, there’s a lot to think about here.

So who could potentially play both right and left tackle?

Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) hasn’t had the year everyone expected in 2013. Some have suggested it will send him spiralling down the draft boards. I don’t see it that way. He has enough overall potential to easily find a home in the top-15. If D.J. Fluker can go as early as #11 overall, it’s hard to see Kouandjio dropping much further than that.

Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) might be better than Luke Joeckel — the #2 pick last year. If we’re talking about guys who can play left and right tackle comfortably, Matthews is the prototype. I suspect in the NFL he will revert back permanently to the right but he’s shown the ability to work the blind side in the SEC. He’s probably a top ten pick. Which is a shame.

Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) reminds me of Anthony Davis. Big, athletic guy who shouldn’t be able to move around like he does. And like Davis, Richardson isn’t showing his best football in college. The 49ers spent the 2010 #11 pick to cover both tackle spots. If the Seahawks want to mimic that plan, they might need a pick as high as #11 next year.

Taylor Lewan (Michigan) looks like a pure right tackle to me. Yet if Detroit are prepared to try Riley Reiff on the blindside (ditto Green Bay with Bryan Bulaga), then perhaps Lewan could at least play a few games on the left? His stock is difficult to project. Some see him as a top-15 lock. Others feel he could fall a bit. I’m yet to really make up my mind here.

Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) has looked terrific across from Jake Matthews. If he declares, he too could be a first round pick with major upside. I suspect he won’t declare and will likely start at left tackle for the Aggies in 2014.

James Hurst (North Carlona) might end up as a permanent right tackle like Lewan. Lunch-pail type of guy, nothing too flashy. Coped reasonably well against Jadeveon Clowney early in the season. Can he work at left tackle? I just have a feeling he’s more effort than athleticism. That will get found out at the next level. But he is physical.

Zack Martin (Notre Dame) doesn’t get enough attention for me. Big time recruit. Highly thought of by his school. Could be the guy.

Cameron Erving (Florida State) is a former defensive lineman who is showing enough athleticism to warrant major consideration. Technique wise, he has a way to go. That’s to be expected. There’s so much potential here but will there be serious growing pains?

Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is another former defensive lineman. And we know Cable likes guys like that.

Players I’ll be looking at over the next few weeks: La’el Collins (LSU), Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), Cameron Fleming (Stanford)

50 Responses to “Assessing Seattle’s tackle situation”

  1. Fletcher says:

    With seven first round grade tackles expected to declare, I think at least one will fall to the end of the first round. There were only 5 tackles taken in the first round last year (6 if you count Kyle Long, but he is playing guard), and this years draft is believed to be deeper than last year.

    Hurst reminds me of Gabe Carimi, and not in a good way.

  2. kevin mullen says:

    Bowie wasn’t that bad in the Tampa game, I actually thought he did a lot better at holding the edge than McQuistan, but regardless, the man has to go through some growing pains in order for him to finally succeed, think back when Unger first started, he was pretty bad too.

    Not to throw this post off topic, but I found this article pretty interesting:

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/writer/jason-la-canfora/24181347/seahawks-likely-to-lose-brandon-browner-walter-thurmond-to-free-agency

    I’d almost say that if a decent corner was at our pick, it might take precedent over any RT.

    • Turp says:

      Hawks have proven they can find corners late, so I doubt it will be a high priority with Lane and Maxwell waiting in the wings.

      • Sam Jaffe says:

        I disagree that they can find decent corners late in the draft…anymore. Everyone wants the next Richard Sherman, so everyone will be valuing tall, long-armed CB’s more than they did in the past. The only reason that Tharold Simon lasted to the fifth round was because of character issues. It will be extremely hard to find a Browner replacement in round five or later for the next few years. With that being said, I think that might be in capable hands with Lane, Maxwell and Simon.

      • kevin mullen says:

        I love our depth at CB but Lane and Maxwell are #4 and #5 on our secondary, I’m not too sure they could easily replace Browner. I can see those two able to replace Thurmond at nickel, but not the BB’s.

        On the flip side, say if Purifoy, Kyle Fuller, Marcus Robertson were sitting right there at our pick, it’d be hard to pass on either 3.

        • cover-2 says:

          I would suggest taking a look at Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The kid is a former WR and at 6-3 220 lbs. he has Brandon Browner like size. He is great in man press coverage, physical player; he body slammed a WR last week and a couple week ago he was ejected from the game against Purdue for a big hit. If Browner is not re-signed then SJB is a must draft prospect for the Seahawks.

        • CC says:

          Maybe Tharhold Simon will step up next year. While I realize Browner may have to go for the big bucks as it is likely his last chance at a big contract – he may decide to take less and have some security.

          One thing I’ll say about O line – all the hype on those Alabama lineman seems to be just that hype. Everyone of them who has been drafted the last few years have been injured and I’m not a big fan of what I see from the Alabama players as a whole in the NFL. Carpenter is a big ol bust – I think those guys had so much success in college that they are a little disinterested or something. Not impressed at all. Supposedly, he’s a beast – I don’t see it. Give me McQuistan and Breno everyday of the week.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Bowie did have a good game.

      As for the corners, I think this team will continue to back itself outside of round one. And I wouldn’t rule out Byron Maxwell stepping up.

      I also wonder if they find a way to keep one of Thurmond or Browner. Just a hunch.

      • HawkfaninMT says:

        My opinion is that I would be surprised to see Thurmond walk, and I will be equally surprised to see Browner back. The hawks have paid Thurmond handsomely for the last 4 years to play one season worth of football. His injuries and lack of starting time will keep his demands relatively low. I think our starting 2 CBs will be Sherman and Thurmond next year, with Thurmond going to Nickle and Maxwell playing the outside in 3 WR sets.

        I am so interested to see what we have in Simon next year!

    • CC says:

      For DBs they have Desean Shead on the practice squad and have been paying him game checks to keep him – I’m guessing they figure he can take a spot if Browner leaves. 6’2″ from Portland State – they paid him more to make sure he stays with them. Simon and Shead – look for them next year.

      • Morgan says:

        OMG I posted before I read all the way down! Hilarious that it’s nested right next to each other. Great minds think alike, CC.

    • Morgan says:

      We’re paying DeShawn Shead gameday checks to stay on our practice squad. He’s 6’2, 220lbs and most likely we’re keeping his seat warm in case Browner bolts.

  3. Gage says:

    Thoughts on Seantrel Henderson? I know the effort is very rarely there. But you think there is some talent, or he still living off of his high school hype?

    • KyleT says:

      I think he will attract some attention from the seahawks because of his rare size and athleticism. I think Bowie has shown enough to be serviceable at RT where they will not feel like they cannot take risks in regards to higher upside. I do think we take 2 lineman in our first 4 picks though to make sure we have adequate competition going into camp.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve never really been that impressed with Henderson. His reputation has always been better than the actual end product.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      He has talent. But notoriously lazy and immature. He has started 12 games in his soph through senior seasons. He was injured 4 games. He was benched or suspended for 16.

      He is a day 3 guy. Very high risk.

  4. James says:

    Rob, something absolutely has to be done to prepare for next year. I love Okung as a player, but he is proving to be injury prone. He only played in 10 games as a rookie, 12 games the next year, up to 15 last year, and down to 8 games this year. He has basically missed 20 games to injury in his 4 yr career, something you just cannot have in your starting LT. If the Seahawks are going to keep Okung long-term, while keeping their fingers crossed, then they must invest significant draft capital in a quality backup, likely even the R1 pick. You can find a diamond in the rough in later rounds at the other O line positions, but LT is probably going to require a premium pick. I doubt there will be another Jordan Mills in R5 next year, and even he is a RT, though it appears he could be moved to the hot corner at some point.

    • KyleT says:

      The challenge here though is LT is kinda like the QB… You don’t plan on having two superstars on your roster. You either have your guy or you don’t. Injuries make this really difficult, especially the kind Okung has had, as in non recurring. I do not see us hedging against an Okung injury, but more as Rob has suggested we look for a RT w/ backup LT potential. Lets not forget…You can still be bad at LT and play much better then Paul M.

      • James says:

        Agreed. Even Mike Person, one of the PCJS mistake releases in hindsight, would play LT significantly better than McQuistan (McDonald was another but they got lucky). If DEs were still 6’5″, 270, like a few years ago, McQ might have some sort of chance, but we have been going against Leo-types, 6’4″, 255, and they are simply too fast for McQ to get there before they turn the corner.

        • Miles says:

          Did anyone pay particular attention to how Alvin Bailey played when he entered the game? I wonder if the Seahawks would replace McQuistan with Bailey. Well, I’m sure they would, if they thought Bailey was remotely up to the task.

          • Rob Staton says:

            I think they’re treating this like a redshirt year for Bailey. He looked superb in pre-season. Against Tampa Bay I think he took four snaps so hard to judge. He was certainly only in for part of one drive.

            • Nolan says:

              I think baily might be the guy they look to in the future to take LT snaps when okung can’t go.. Perhaps that will be the not to distant future either… He got a little playing time against Tampa and maybe he will get even more in ATL. With Okung and Gio likely back soon no need to mess unduly with the line though so maybe he doesn’t get much more then he did against Tampa. I don’t think that high picks should be used on Oline unless your going after starters and I def don’t think you should be moving up for non starters. This team needs to draft as many good players as they can in order to keep talent level high as we start to lose people due to cap space issues when start resigning a our last draft picks.

        • Rob Staton says:

          The frustrating thing for me is they kept guys like Lotulelei ahead of Person, only to cut him anyway down the line.

  5. KyleT says:

    This is a good article, I think I have made several of these same points in the comments section in the past weeks. If they value Breno’s mean streak contribution to the o-line, who are the meanest RT’s in this draft?

  6. Colin says:

    For quite some time, I was firmly entrenched in the thinking that we did not need to invest anymore high level draft stock into the offensive line. I have changed that thinking. We have a franchise QB and we need to do what’s necessary to protect him. If that means spending a R2 pick on a lineman or a couple of R4′s, then so be it. But this level of pass protection is unacceptable.

    I think the Atlanta game presents a great opportunity to tattoo them in the trenches and keep Russell safe. These next two weeks are vitally important to not only win, but keep Russell functioning. Seattle is dangerously walking the line.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Yes we need to protect RW and give him time to pass. All defenses expect him to roll out to right when he is flushed, and they have covered him that way. I’m not impressed by the pass protection of either replacement tackle. Watching the St. Louis game made me realize the tackles aren’t fast enough to stop a great defensive end. Unfortunately you can’t teach speed.

      The starting tackles are better but each have their own issues. Okung with injuries and he will be expensive to keep. Breno with missing blocks and penalties. I also think Unger could be replaced pretty easily, he is too light to really hold up against a pass rush.

      We need to work on building the offensive line up with more draft picks.

  7. glor says:

    One thing to note, and as the 9rs have proven, trading up doesn’t necessarily need to cost an arm and a leg anymore.. while we still seem to pay out more than people and picks are worth, the 9rs have been able to move up relatively cheaply the last couple years.. so who knows?

    • Michael M. says:

      Great point glor. I remember being shocked at how cheap it was for Dallas to move up for Claiborne a couple years ago. I guess it all depends on the player(s) available though, and how top heavy or deep the draft is.

  8. Ukhawk says:

    Seattle Times blog today from PFF on the TB game “Michael Bowie did not allow any pressure while playing every snap at right tackle.”

    I really vacillate on the OL situation. Of course you’d like our Hawks to be strong in every area and without injuries they are much better than average at OL. But, you can’t invest high picks in all areas and they remain 8-1 with a patchwork OL. So do they really need to spend high picks on OL , or should they for that matter? Arent there are far too many other pressing needs elsewhere on the team?

    I believe this would be the antithesis of their ZBS, run first, mobile quarterback philosophy. I say draft skill players who cannot be easily signed in FA (WR, TE) and extend those core guys who also can’t be easily replaced (DE, S, CB, LT). Add depth to the OL in the later rounds. What do you say?

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      I’d say get a top shelf OT prospect. Allow Giacomini to walk. Plow his salary into extensions. A top talent will be closer to starter worthy and likely not much of a drop in production. Bowie is a good hedge bet already and could easily become suitable at RT early 2014.

      The alternative is to pin Wilson’s health on Bowie turning the corner quickly. And signing a league avg vet to back him up.

  9. cover-2 says:

    Since a lot of teams are reaching on OT in the draft, what about signing a underrated LT in free agency. The player that really intrigues me is Raider LT Jared Veldheer, he is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Veldheer is 26 years old, 6-8 320 lbs., looking at his scouting reports coming out of college it said he had nimble feet and was athletic. The Raider’s have the cap room to re-sign him, but the question is does he want to re-sign with a losing team or would he take a little less to sign with a Super Bowl contending team that has elite team facilities, a young franchise QB, and a stable of smash mouth RB’s. Veldheer would play RT for us and LT if Okung were to get injured. I don’t know if telling him we intended to play him at RT would offend him, like it might some other FA LT’s. By signing with us he would go from the dog house to the penthouse by simply signing his name on a Seahawks contract.

    If we signed Veldheer we would probably make him the highest paid RT in the NFL, but it may be worth it due to Okung being injury prone and the need to protect our young franchise QB. This move would prevent us from probably re-signing Browner or Golden Tate.

    I’d be interested to here on others thoughts on signing Veldheer. Would you be willing to sign him at the cost of being unable to re-sign one of our own players?

    • Mike Chan says:

      I don’t think we have the cap room for it, and even if we should, rather save it up for an Okung/ET/Sherman extension

    • SunPathPaul says:

      Browner possibly. He came out of that game for a bit for a reason. We have depth there, but not on the O line. We need Golden to mix w Percy for some fear factor on offense…

    • Michael M. says:

      Golden is absolutely essential at this point, in my opinion. Sidney’s as good as gone, and given Harvin’s injury history we’d be far to close to a Baldwin, Kearse, Random Dude corps for my comfort.

  10. Mike Chan says:

    Lewan is intriguing. Haven’t watch enough tape on him. Does he have the speed to handle premium pass rushers from his side?

    Think Zach Martin is more of a guard, but would like to draft him regardless.

    Would love to have Richardson, but probably very unlikely. Why not try his teammate Ja’wuan James? Think he might be better as a RT over Richardson anyways.

    As for the athletic types you mentioned, Erving might be worth a late round consideration and a developmental pick, but nothing more.

  11. KyleT says:

    Is Jonathan Martin looking for a new team that is a better atmosphere? We need more guard depth going into next year for sure.

    • Miles says:

      Martin is a tackle, I believe. But yeah, I’d love to get a former 2nd round pick on the roster anywhere, but especially on the o-line. If he ends up becoming available he’s certainly an intriguing option.

      Hoping Incognito’s career is over for sure. It’s typically not cool to wish for a player’s livelihood to go away, but I think it’s feasible to say he doesn’t deserve this livelihood.

  12. MarkinSeattle says:

    Zach Martin is a good technician with quick feet. He won’t impress with measurables, as he is listed at 6’4″ around 310. Once he hits the combine, I bet his draft stock falls a little as other guys measure better and jump up. On the positive side, he is a 4 year starter at LT and has been a rock there during that time.

    Incidentally, he wasn’t that highly rated. I seem to recall he was a strong four star, but definitely not a five star recruit (might have been in a couple of top 100 lists, but many more had him between 100-200).

  13. Donald Duck says:

    I think the hawks should offer Miami a conditional 7th round draft pick for Doug Martin. Miami gets rid of a headache and Seattle gets a lineman for a 7th round pick if he makes the team. This might also limit Miami’s legal liability. Baldwin says he is a good guy.

  14. Tim says:

    Yeah, Jonathan Martin?

    He could certainly be a bit of a head case, but to be sure all indications are that this is indeed a very positive team culture (thank you, Pete!).

    Yes, I’m also salivating at the possibility about getting a 2nd round-worthy player with a magnificent pedigree for dirt cheap.

    We’re all loving the idea. So who knows? Schneider and team probably have their radar out.

  15. Colin says:

    Not sure what the obsession is for trading for Johnathan Martin. A guy who before the draft was called “soft” and is now clearly having some personal issues.

    No thanks.

    • Tim says:

      I think the obsession is in getting the short to mid term tackle situation fixed, and wondering if value is there.

  16. Colin says:

    Michael Bennett will be starting in Red Bryant’s spot tomorrow. I’m excited to see how this pans out. I know they really want size at that position, but I could see Bennett thriving there.