Do the Seahawks need to target an upgrade at guard?
The question was posed in the comments section yesterday.
I still maintain the biggest problem last night was scheme and injury. Leaving Paul McQuistan (a guard) and Michael Bowie (a 7th round rookie) on an island with two of the best pass rushers in the NFL was suicide. And it merely reminded everyone how important Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini are to this team.
Put them back in the line-up and you see an instant, substantial improvement at tackle. You’d also see an improvement at guard.
An offensive line will always be about the unit. A weak link has the ability to pull down the rest of the group. Two weak links makes life very difficult.
J.R. Sweezy had two early penalties last night — one for holding, one for illegal use of hands to the face. Twitter immediately kicked off, calling for Sweezy to be benched and eventually replaced.
Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. He’s a second year player. And not a second year NFL starter, I mean a second year offensive lineman period. He’s playing next to a guy that in all fairness shouldn’t be asked to block Robert Quinn or Chris Long 1v1.
Surely in that situation you can understand why Sweezy was a little jittery? Perhaps he tried to do too much? And when your unit is being dominated in a way most of us have never seen an offensive line get dominated before — how does that not get into your head?
This isn’t an excuse for Sweezy, Max Unger or James Carpenter last night. I just think it’s difficult to judge the interior linemen with McQuistan and Bowie at tackle.
I don’t buy into the over analysis of the two guards this year. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of positive plays by Carpenter in the run game. He’s never going to be a terrific, mobile pass protector. But this is supposed to be a power running team. And I think a combination of Okung/Carpenter can prosper if they get anything like a run of games together.
I’m unwilling to write off Sweezy, who likewise has made several key blocks in the running game and continues to learn on the run. Tom Cable isn’t crazy or even that unorthodox for putting a defensive player on the offensive line. Look at Florida State — the #3 team in college football right now — using a former defensive player to watch Jameis Winston’s blind side.
This is the future. Nearly all the best college athletes are playing defense these days. You have to fight fire with fire. We’ll see more and more of this. Guys like Eric Fisher — touted as an athletic tackle — are struggling against NFL athletes. And he was the #1 overall pick.
With Sweezy, put him alongside a veteran tackle and center and watch him grow. For chunks of this season he’s been the only starter on the offensive line playing in his intended position. How is that a solid learning situation for a young player?
That’s not to say this team can’t improve at guard. You never rule anything out. If the right player is available in the draft next year, then you consider making that move.
I’m yet to see a guard worth a first round grade for 2014. Gabe Jackson and Cyril Richardson are both in that 330-340lbs range and just remind me of Carpenter at his biggest. David Yankey is a technician but also has the look of a classic overrated Stanford lineman. Xavier Su’a-Filo at UCLA might be one to consider — he’s only a junior but if he declares he could go early.
After that, I’ll take your suggestions. There’s no Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack here. No plug in and play solution.
At tackle, however, there’s a long list of prospective first or second round players. The aforementioned Florida State tackle — Cameron Erving — is a very intriguing prospect who has all the athletic qualities to play guard or tackle in the modern NFL. He just needs polish and good coaching.
Cedric Ogbuehi — if he declares — would be a fascinating option out of Texas A&M as a right tackle (see video above). I like Notre Dame’s Zach Martin more than most and he could play tackle or guard. Then you have all the usual suspects that we’ve talked about so much.
Factor in that Breno Giacomini is a free agent next year and unless you intend to start Bowie again, you’re going to need to either pay Breno (difficult) or replace him in the draft.
Supply meets demand at tackle. I’m not sure that’s the case at guard. And I’m intrigued enough by Alvin Bailey (clearly in a redshirt year this season) to think he could be a prospective starter at guard for the long haul and a versatile G/T option similar to McQuistan (also a free agent).
So if we’re talking about the draft priority on the offensive line, I’m still siding with tackle over guard.
And I still believe Seattle’s issues on the offensive line will ease greatly when their two starting tackles return (stating the obvious) and they discover the art of max protect.