Why the Kam Chancellor hold out could go beyond week 2

August 27th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Kam Chancellor’s hold out shows no signs of ending

With no sign of the stalemate ending, here’s a couple of quick thoughts on the situation. Having gone this far it really doesn’t benefit Chancellor to report for the first two games unless the Seahawks make an attractive offer. St. Louis and Green Bay on the road — two tough games — have the potential to strengthen his position. An 0-2 Seahawks team would be under pressure to end the holdout. Alternatively, if they win both or go 1-1, Chancellor won’t have much to gain by holding out any further heading into a stretch of winnable games.

How key would Chancellor be in weeks 1-2?

The Rams are traditionally slow starters. They’re 1-7 in season openers over the last eight years, with many of those games at home. They lost 34-6 to the Vikings at home last season. Their win came in 2013 — a tight victory against Arizona. They’re also 2-1 in home games against the Seahawks in the last three years — and that probably should be 3-0. Seattle really struggled in their 2013 victory and were lucky to escape with a win.

Many will focus on the battle between St. Louis’ fearsome defensive line and Seattle’s inexperienced O-line. It could be a red-herring. The Seahawks won in St. Louis in 2013 with Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie playing tackle. Last year Russell Wilson was reasonably well protected and made several big plays. Seattle often plays sloppy in St. Louis and that might be the greater key to winning the game. They’ve allowed momentum-shifting big plays and too many special teams gaffes. Cut those out and they have a good chance to win the opener.

The Rams used a dink-and-dunk passing game to great effect last year against the Seahawks. Kam Chancellor played but was far from 100% healthy. It’s harder to run endless crossing routes with a big imposing strong safety ready to deliver a hit over the middle. Even so, it’s hard to imagine the difference between a win and a loss being Chancellor’s presence in the secondary. It really comes down to the Seahawks playing a much cleaner game in St. Louis.

Green Bay are the type of opponent where you just want everyone available because they’re a really good team. It’s hard enough to win in Lambeau without any avoidable absentee’s. However, there’s one big key for the Seahawks that doesn’t involve Chancellor.

Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers were kryptonite to the Packers. Dom Capers’ defense is well organised but very orthodox. Despite many attempts they never got to grips with Colin Kaepernick running the read-option. San Francisco and Harbaugh went 4-0 against this Packers team:

2013 playoffs — 49ers win 23-20 @ Lambeau
2013 regular season — 49ers win 34-28 @ Candlestick
2012 playoffs — 49ers win 45-31 @ Candlestick
2012 regular season — 49ers win 30-22 @ Lambeau

In the 2012 playoff game, Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and ran for 181. In the 2013 playoff game he passed for 227 and ran for 98 yards. He passed for 412 yards in the 2013 regular season game.

The Packers had no answer.

In fairness they didn’t have much answer for Seattle’s trickery in week one last year either. In the NFC Championship game — without Percy Harvin and with an unusually low-key game plan — Green Bay found a way to impact Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks didn’t run the ball and Wilson was under constant duress working from the pocket. If they learn from that experience, they’ll use a lot more of the Lynch-Wilson combo with the read-option. They need to be somewhat creative. Capers’ defense isn’t the best when adapting to the unknown.

Aaron Rodgers will still score points in the game and while you’d rather have Chancellor play — again it probably isn’t the deciding factor. Seattle’s ability to limit the damage on defense and keep scoring on offense will be important. In 2012 they sacked Rodgers eight times in a half and shut down the Packers offense. This could be a night for the newly dangerous D-line rather than anyone in the secondary.

For those reasons it might be worth the Seahawks maintaining their position a little while longer. Admittedly that doesn’t account for the loss of leadership. Chancellor is clearly more than just an imposing strong safety — he’s a vital part of the locker room and his return would no doubt provide the entire team with a huge lift. That’s a loss the Seahawks will have to suffer if they maintain their understandable hardline stance on the hold out.

Both parties can make a case for waiting until after week two to assess their options. If the Seahawks go 2-0 with two tough road wins minus Chancellor, what leverage does he have? If they go 0-2, there will be intense pressure to get Chancellor back on the field with a heavier wallet.


Evan Mathis signs with the Broncos

August 25th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Evan Mathis visiting with the Seahawks (and some entertaining flirting on social media) suggested a move was possible. In reality, they didn’t have enough cap room to make it happen without some serious moves.

Today he agreed a $2.5m deal with the Denver Broncos (it can rise to $4.5m). So what now for Seattle?

Continuity is a good thing for an offensive line and some consistency with the starters has to be a positive. The same line that played relatively well against Kansas City gets another chance against the Chargers.

The question marks come at center. They met with Samson Satele. That’s surely not because they’re totally convinced with Drew Nowak and Lemuel Jeanpierre. Nowak has upside and might grow into the role — but Jeanpierre is a solid, known commodity. Unless Nowak can really convince this week, Jeanpierre — or an outsider like Satele — might snatch the starting role.


Samson Satele visits Seahawks

August 24th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This is more evidence that the Seahawks are unsatisfied with the center play in pre-season. Satele started for the Dolphins in 2014 but with Mike Pouncey moving from guard this year, he found himself without a job.

The Raiders traded for Satele in 2009 when Tom Cable was Head Coach in Oakland. He’s played a lot of football over the years and would offer a solid stop-gap option with familiarity of the scheme.

At this stage the Seahawks adding a new center seems almost inevitable. It also suggests if Evan Mathis does opt for the Seahawks (his agent says he’ll pick a team this week) then one of Mathis or Britt could be asked to snap.

They’re tight against the cap which makes you wonder — will they do a deal with Kam Chancellor to create some room? Give him an extension, some more guarantees and maybe reduce his 2015 hit? That way you kill two birds with one stone. You get Chancellor in and you upgrade your O-line. It might be easier to justify to your other stars if you can claim you wanted to extend Chancellor anyway to make this kind of move. It might keep the wolves from the door next year (although probably not…).

While Satele is solid and has center experience — Mathis is the prize O-line free agent on the market. Having been linked with Seattle this week, it’d almost be a disappointment for Seahawks fans to miss out.

Pete Carroll said today Mathis’ meeting went well and he’s an option. “We got the information we needed“. He also suggested some complexity to a potential deal and that they’d need to make some other moves to make it happen.

Whatever happens, it’s time to start looking at the center class for the 2016 draft.


Will the Seahawks consider another change at center?

August 23rd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Brian’s Tweet above raises an interesting point. Yesterday we discussed Seattle’s biggest issue on the offensive line — which to me at least is protecting the right side. Garry Gilliam is an athletic yet thoroughly untested commodity, suddenly thrust into the starting role mid-way through the pre-season schedule. Justin Britt’s skill-set matches up nicely to left guard. If you sign Mathis you’re still relying on Gilliam or Britt to solve the problem at right tackle.

However, that kind of glosses over the situation at center. Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak have been competing for the start. Jeanpierre is a solid, no-thrills center who performed reasonably well in Max Unger’s absence over the years. Whenever Unger was healthy, however, he was straight back into the line-up with no questions asked. Nowak has the greater athletic upside yet, like Gilliam, he’s a big unknown commodity.

I didn’t see a great deal wrong with Nowak’s tape against Kansas City after a closer viewing today — but tape-review is only part of the equation. Understanding line calls, being able to read a defense and help with adjustments is what makes the transition to center a little tougher than working to play guard. There’s no way for us to know how Nowak is handling these duties.

Mathis is listed at 6-5/301lbs and Max Unger at 6-5/305lbs. Mathis is a superior athlete (one of the best in the league all considered) and a SPARQ demon. He has the athletic profile Jeanpierre lacks and the experience and understanding that perhaps Nowak lacks.

In other words, it makes some sense to wonder whether the Seahawks are asking him to consider signing to play center.

Whoever gets the job now is going to have little time to strike up some chemistry with Russell Wilson. If this is going to happen presumably it would have to be pretty quickly to see how it works in the final two pre-season games. Even if the plan is use Mathis at guard and move Britt to center — he’s going to need to get working as soon as possible.

It’s something to contemplate with the situation becoming pretty quiet today after Mathis’ Saturday physical. Mike Garafolo says the visit was productive:

While Mathis has also been having some fun on social media

The worst case scenario is the five starters against Kansas City continue in their roles. It was a solid performance by the offensive line against a tough opponent. We should find out soon whether Evan Mathis will be added to the mix — either at guard or center. Even without him, Friday’s performance was a marked improvement on the previous outing against Denver.


Further thoughts following Seattle’s loss to Kansas City

August 22nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This picture’s a bad example, but Seattle’s starting O-line performed well in Kansas City

Do the Seahawks need Evan Mathis?
This was a silly question 24 hours ago. However, there were positive signs for the offensive line in Kansas City and Justin Britt looks a lot more comfortable at left guard. Mathis is taking a physical with the Seahawks today although it’s unclear if he’s even remotely likely to sign with interest elsewhere. If they sign Mathis, he’s your left guard. It’d basically be an admission that Britt was a busted pick — and I’m not sure Seattle will go down that road just yet even if Mathis provides more of a sure thing. Britt’s strength and tenacity works well inside and one of his first blocks against the Chiefs saw him drive a defender five yards off the LOS. At right tackle Gary Gilliam equally showed a lot of potential against a tough pass-rushing D-line with only one serious whiff. On the evidence of last night the Seahawks have finally identified their best five guys and maybe it’s time to let them run with it. They made their bed on the O-line by trading Max Unger and letting others walk (eg Breno Giacomini). They encouraged change. Now they have to let the young guys learn and gel. Mathis would be an expensive, albeit appealing, stop-gap. He doesn’t solve Seattle’s biggest issue — protecting the right side of the line. Mathis in some ways is a luxury that upgrades left guard but doesn’t address the issues they have defending speed on the right side. It’s up to Gilliam to own that spot. I’m not convinced they’ll think the cost is worth adding Mathis to move Britt out of the line-up.

Graham needs to be a focal point
We know the Seahawks aren’t going to change their philosophy to accommodate one player and the last thing they want to do is change the offense dramatically for Jimmy Graham. They made that mistake with Percy Harvin. Yet Graham isn’t an orthodox tight end and it’ll be a waste if he’s tasked to help out a young offensive line in pass protection. Even though he isn’t in an air-raid attack like the Drew Brees scheme in New Orleans — he’s a genuine superstar pass catcher and it’s Seattle’s duty to exploit him and use him as much as possible. Is it a false concern to expect anything else? Possibly — but look at the major reduction in Zach Miller’s productivity when he swapped Oakland for Seattle. Whether it’s first down, third down, in the red zone — Graham is nearly impossible to cover 1v1. He might play tight end — but really that just secures the best mismatch. When they targeted him against KC in a short flurry you could see how effective he was. The Seahawks have, for the first time under Pete Carroll, a genuine big target and game-changer catching passes. Go to the well. It’ll be fascinating to see two things. 1 — how the appearance of Marshawn Lynch impacts the way teams approach Graham and 2– whether the Seahawks can get him his targets every week, even if they have to force things a little. He’s that good.

Are we seeing a minor shift in identity on defense?
For so long the secondary was the main focus — rich in talent and attitude. The defensive line has always had good players (it did depend on Chris Clemons for a pass rush between 2010 and 2012) but it’s never been the foundation of the defense. With the Legion of Boom banged up (and in one case sat at home) it’s timely that Seattle’s D-line appears better than ever. Michael Bennett has carried on his form from the end of last season and is emerging as one of the game’s truly elite disruptors. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are complimenting Bennett with pressure off the edge. Yet it’s the new-found depth that ultimately shines through. Frank Clark already looks like a second round steal and Cassius Marsh is capable of spelling the starters adequately. Jordan Hill and Ahtyba Rubin offer a nice blend of size and pass rush while Brandon Mebane looks quicker than ever. If the LOB needs a little extra help this year — they might just get it from this unit. The D-line is loaded.


Thoughts on the Kansas City game

August 21st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Michael Bennett was the best player on the field and it wasn’t even close. He lived in the backfield from start to finish. He had success working inside and the edge. His sack ended a promising two minute drill for Kansas City to end the half.

When Bennett plays this way he’s virtually unstoppable and genuinely one of the elite defensive players in the league.

The front seven overall looked very impressive. Brandon Mebane had a big sack and looked very stout playing next to Ahtyba Rubin. Frank Clark wasn’t supposed to feature as he nurses an ankle injury but still made a tipped pass in the first quarter.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner were right behind Bennett in terms of impact. Wright had two big TFL’s and always seemed to be involved. Wagner’s pick six showed great awareness — although Alex Smith again showed his maddening limitations. He doesn’t improvise and is tied to the call. He occasionally scrambles but that’s about it. On the pick he tried to fool Wagner with a very basic look-off to the left.

Dion Bailey made some big hits and looked like he was enjoying himself — while DeShawn Shead showed off his versatility as a corner/safety hybrid.

The offense stuttered for a while before finding some rhythm late in the half. All eyes were on the pass protection which was generally good. Gary Gilliam looks raw but was mostly effective. Justin Houston brushed him off with a speed move forcing Russell Wilson to quickly dump the ball off towards Christine Michael. It was the only significant whiff by Gilliam in pass-pro. He showed a nice base and good footwork. He has natural leverage.

Justin Britt started with a big impact block driving his guy five yards off the LOS. He just looks a lot more comfortable at left guard. Overall this half signified a major improvement on seven days ago against another good pass-rushing defense. Strangely enough it was the run-blocking that suffered somewhat especially when Robert Turbin was on the field. Christine Michael made more of his snaps, including this block to knock Dee Ford out of the game:

Jimmy Graham is the missing link this offense has been crying out for. A box-out big target with plus athleticism. Look at this mismatch running the seam against safety Ron Parker. All he has to do is hold position and work the back-shoulder throw. It’s perfect and a cheap reception. The Seahawks needed this badly.

Missed tackles were a minor issue. Pete Carroll complimented the tackling last week against Denver. There were several whiffs in the first half tonight.

I’ll add second half thoughts on Saturday, it’s 2:31am here.


Some thoughts on the Kam Chancellor hold out

August 20th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Kam Chancellor appears ready to extend his hold out into the regular season

ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who courted some controversy a year ago after a report on Michael Sam’s showering habits, has recently taken to fighting Kam Chancellor’s corner as his holdout lingers without any sign of ending.

On August 7th Anderson wrote a report on Facebook that felt more like a press release from Chancellor’s agent. It went into great detail about his salary and what he was seemingly asking the Seahawks to do. She noted the QBR rating of opposing quarterbacks facing Seattle without Chancellor. She noted how many snaps he’d played since 2010.

Anderson even offered the following opinion:

My impression of Chancellor is that he’s a man of principal who gives his life path a lot of thought and meditation, and that he’s methodical about his options.

Today she appeared on the Brock and Salk show to discuss the situation. The two hosts very graciously credited her with “owning” the story while she again proceeded to do Chancellor’s bidding.

It was a slightly difficult and not altogether neutral view of the situation.

It’s nothing compared to the difficult position Seahawks fans find themselves in when considering this impasse.

You won’t find a single fan with a bad thing to say about Kam Chancellor. Not only is he a tremendous strong safety, he’s everything a working fan wants to see on their team. A physical, uncompromising style. A tone-setting force. That enviable chess-piece every other team wishes they had. He seems to always play his best football in the post-season — and the regular season stuff isn’t half bad either. He’ll play hurt, play for his team mates and lead by example.

And yet increasingly fans are starting to question the motives of this highly respected member of the LOB.

Football might be a business to the players. It’s true that teams will cast individuals aside with little care or second thought. Yet to the fans it’s just a game. A release from the mundanity of everyday life. And when they see multi-millionaire’s going on strike because they want even more money — it’s hard to understand.

The players argue they put their bodies on the line every Sunday for 16 weeks a year for entertainment. That might be the case — but what about the guy who works 12-hour shifts on a building site for an annual salary less than the amount Kam Chancellor is willing to give up in fines for missing one day of training camp?

Is that guy not equally putting his body on the line? Is he allowed to sign a contract and then not turn up when he decides he wants more money?

How can he be expected to see Chancellor’s side of the story on this situation?

If he holds-out into the regular season, he’ll be throwing millions of dollars ($1M in fines and $4.45M in 2015 guaranteed money) down the drain. And for what? He’s still contracted to the Seahawks until 2017. He’d have to show up in week 10 to record an accrued season, otherwise he’d be under contract until the end of 2018. If he plays the last six games does he hold out again next year? And the year after?

By the time he hits free agency he’d be 30 years old, having wasted millions in salary and potential fines. Is a 30-year-old Chancellor going to command a massive new contract on the open market? Or would he just be wasting a ton of cash, the best years of his career and an opportunity to lead this team to another Championship or two — cementing his legacy as one of Seattle’s all-time greats?

Granted he probably senses that at age 30 he’ll be close to the end of his career. The time to earn is now, during his peak. It’s just too bad he already signed the coveted second-contract. He and his agent made their bed — now they must sleep in it. The Seahawks showed a ton of faith to reward Chancellor early with a handsome contract. Should they now be punished because the market has flipped in their favour?

This seems to be at the heart of the hold-out. Chancellor has to play the ‘I’m irreplaceable’ card. He has no other play to make if he wants more money today. The only way he can prove he’s irreplaceable is to miss games with the hope the team struggles in his absence. As a fan, how can you begin to understand that stance? It’s the only leverage he has.

He has to force the Seahawks to act, otherwise they won’t. Why would they? If they buckle for Chancellor they have to deal with Michael Bennett next year. Or Richard Sherman. Or Earl Thomas.

And isn’t that the beauty of this roster? It’s not reliant on one player on either side of the ball in the way Houston relies on J.J. Watt or Green Bay Aaron Rodgers. Losing Chancellor would be a blow — but you’ve still got Bennett, Mebane, Avril, Irvin, Clark, Wagner, Wright, Sherman, Thomas, Williams and others.

Would the Seahawks panic in week six if one of their key players suffered an injury? Did they panic when they lost Mebane last year? Of course not. It’s next man up. And it’ll almost certainly be that way if Chancellor prolongs his hold out into the regular season.

As things stand they have $5m in free cap space. Unfortunately that’s really -$1m as around $6m is required for the 52nd/53rd player on the roster, Injured Reserve and the practise squad. So they really don’t have the cap space to give Chancellor a pay increase.

Anderson’s point regarding signing-bonus conversion is all well and good — but why should the Seahawks make that move? They know full well they’ll be setting a bad precedent for any other player who wants to pull a similar stunt in the future. Chancellor and his agent signed the deal. Now they’re trying to force the Seahawks into a move they don’t have to make.

This stand-off doesn’t appear to be benefiting anyone other than Josina Anderson’s Facebook page.


Adam Schefter reaffirms Anderson’s note that Chancellor is willing to hold out during the regular season.

The report on Evan Mathis is intriguing. Is it an attempt by the Mathis camp to jump start his market? It reads like a ‘come and get me’ plea. After all, he’s supposedly asking for a handsome salary (he wanted more than $5.5m a year from the Eagles) — and as we noted in the piece, Seattle has almost no cap room to play with.

Alternatively — do the Seahawks have to find a way to slot Mathis into the roster? Even if it means sacrificing another player? The offensive line is clearly a concern. Mathis is a tried and tested guard and would instantly upgrade the unit (albeit as merely a stopgap).

At the moment it’s just a visit he might not even make.


Seahawks swap Justin Britt to guard, Garry Gilliam to RT

August 17th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Gary Gilliam is getting a chance at right tackle

“We have to get better”

“We can’t go out there, struggle early in games and take some hits that we don’t need to take”

“We couldn’t wait much longer to do this”

…The words of Pete Carroll today following a concerning opening pre-season performance from his offensive line.

It isn’t usual for a team to have question marks at three O-line positions heading into the second week of a pre-season game. Lines rely on chemistry and understanding to succeed. Carroll’s choice of words above is certainly justified.

This is a concern.

That’s not to say Seattle’s line play has always been flawless. Nevertheless, Breno Giacomini did a better job making the right tackle spot his own compared to James Carpenter and now Justin Britt. After a year of Chris Spencer, Max Unger became the bonafide starter at center. Carpenter, for all his inconsistencies, never appeared truly troubled after switching to left guard.

This year Alvin Bailey hasn’t done enough to nail down a guard spot — despite seemingly being given every opportunity to do so. Lemuel Jeanpierre’s familiarity is being seriously challenged by Drew Nowak’s upside — yet it doesn’t seem either player has really separated from the other.

Now there’s another possible switch in the offing. After a sometimes torrid rookie season at right tackle, Justin Britt is being tried at left guard. Carroll, in his typical fashion, talked the move up as a review of Garry Gilliam’s good play in camp. They want to see him at right tackle. That’s fair enough — they clearly rate and trust Gilliam.

It’s also a move they haven’t tried one single time before Britt’s poor display against Denver on Friday. A lousy attempt to block Von Miller was a steady reminder of his struggles with pass protection. As much as this might be a chance for Gilliam, it’s also a sign that Britt might not make it as a right tackle in the NFL.

The Seahawks found themselves in a tricky spot in 2014. After deciding to go receiver (Paul Richardson) with their first pick instead of an offensive lineman — they left open the possibility they might miss out on the O-line class altogether. It was a somewhat risky move given the superb depth at receiver that year and the minimal riches at tackle or guard.

Having owned the #32 pick after winning the Super Bowl, they traded down twice to #45. Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went at #33, tackle Joel Bitonio at #35, center Weston Richberg was drafted at #43 and Cyrus Kouandjio at #44. This quartet have had mixed fortunes with the exception of Bitonio — a blog favourite before the 2014 draft. Even so, this constitutes a small rush and diminished the O-line options.

Seattle took Richardson who they clearly really liked and waited until pick #64 to take an offensive lineman. After Jack Mewhort was taken by the Colts at #59 — options were running out. The Seahawks didn’t have a third round pick because of the Percy Harvin trade and pulled off a minor shock when they took little-known Justin Britt (a player many graded in the later rounds).

It seemed slightly desperate. Tom Cable usually hands a list of candidates he likes to John Schneider. It’s apparent that list was running dry by #64 and a reach was worthwhile to land at least one of the names. Britt fit the profile.

Unfortunately it’s at least somewhat possible he’ll be Seattle’s second failed early round pick at right tackle after James Carpenter in 2011.

It’d be easy to use hindsight to second guess the 2014 draft. Bitonio has shone in Cleveland while the likes of Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry and Martavis Bryant have performed well after being taken around or beyond the #64 pick. Richardson’s injury and Britt’s play makes it easier to wonder what could’ve been. The Seahawks don’t have any time for that — and it’s why they’re making these moves.

Britt at guard seems like a much more comfortable fit. His short arms and struggles in space 1v1 will be less extreme playing in-between a tackle and center. Gilliam is a superior athlete with superior footwork and length. He has a better chance to deal with some of the athletes playing edge rush in the NFL.

It’s yet another walk into the unknown though. Can Britt and Gilliam adjust? How alarming is it that the Seahawks are still some way off knowing their best five guys and their best five positions on the offensive line?

Have they done a good enough job drafting for the O-line? They didn’t whiff on Okung or former project J.R. Sweezy — but they missed on Carpenter and John Moffitt. Britt could go either way at this stage.

The uncertainty could linger into the season. They might still be working this out a few weeks in. That’s why I think it could be partially responsible for a possible 0-2 start before a likely ‘worst case’ 4-1 to follow.

The fear is the Seahawks have gone from a functioning if far from elite O-line to an inexperienced, unfamiliar unit lacking in quality.

Hopefully this latest change will provide some stability up front. It’s absolutely necessary and critical if the Seahawks are to start as they mean to go on in 2015.

Another dynamic to consider — the only two somewhat reliable starters (Okung and Sweezy) are both free agents in 2016. If they want to improve the line and avoid further issues in the future, these two might end up being priority re-signs in the off-season.


O-line issues dogging NFL, not just Seahawks

August 15th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Eric Fisher has struggled since entering the league

NFL teams are facing a crisis. A situation that could potentially challenge the game for a generation.

Offensive linemen are struggling in the modern era.

It’s no real surprise. We’ve talked for years on this blog about the top High School athletes choosing to play defense. The big schools are rich in defensive line talent. The O-line positions are being shunned as a consequence — and there’s a significant mismatch developing in college football.

This is starting to filter into the leagues and have an impact. College teams are adapting their offenses to counter the problem and it’s playing at least some part in the increase in high-octane spread schemes. The quicker you get the ball out the less reliance on your O-line to block that 5-star recruit. Offenses are being simplified to the Nth degree.

O-liners aren’t being coached to prepare for the NFL. They appear to be being coached to survive merely in college.

Mark Schlereth went on Brock and Salk last week and talked about the time he’s spent helping the Denver Broncos O-line during training camp. He spoke openly about the lack of technique Denver’s young O-line had shown and criticised the way young linemen are being prepared for the NFL.

I watched several NFL pre-season games over the last two days and it’ll be at least some comfort to Seahawks fans that their team isn’t the only one with issues. As the older generation of linemen move on — teams are trying to install younger players into their scheme with seriously mixed results.

The Dallas Cowboys have crafted the best line in football with sound judgement and big investment. Their left tackle, center and one of their guards were drafted in the first round. It also helps that Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were all really good players in college. Smith was an incredible athlete playing right tackle at USC with limitless potential. Frederick was a technically gifted mauler at Wisconsin and Martin is good enough to play any position on a NFL line. Smart picks, big investment. They’re benefitting as a consequence.

Not every team can go in this direction of course (Smith and Martin were both top-16 picks) but it seems the league is very aware of the problem and clubs are trying to find ways around the issue of more athletic defensive lines. This is partly why we saw Eric Fisher’s dramatic rise to become the #1 overall pick in 2013. He was the best ‘athlete’ at offensive tackle that year. Fisher has generally struggled but you can see the thought process in Kansas City’s pick. Greg Robinson was another quick riser the following year for similar reasons.

In Seattle’s case they’ve collected a number of athletic linemen that fit a specific profile. They’re also quietly setting a new trend — the conversion of defensive linemen into O-liners. More teams are trying this now — even in college. Cam Erving, a recent first round pick by the Browns, originally played defense.

Expect to see more of this over the next few years in college and the NFL. With so many college recruits opting to play D it makes sense that several will be asked to convert like Erving.

Is it going to act as an equaliser though?

That’s the issue really. Can a rag tag bunch of former D-liners be brought together to challenge the best pass rushers (and athletes) in the NFL as they learn on the hop? Or are we destined to see a new era in the NFL where teams have to go the college route and find alternative schemes and systems to compensate for overmatched offenses?

The Seahawks are already kind of doing this by using a mobile quarterback and accepting that their scheme will involve a lot of scrambling, read-option and controlled chaos. Teams like New England and Indianapolis/Denver have been using variations of the spread for years to protect Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Now Chip Kelly’s offense is in the league.

The concept of time in the pocket could very soon be a thing of the past. Mobility, improvisation and composure might develop into the most important characteristics a quarterback can have. It’d be a generational change from the more orthodox pocket passer that has dominated the NFL for years.

Unless the league can find a way to sufficiently match-up against increasingly athletic defensive lines — they’re going to have to consider new schemes, styles and variations. Just like many college teams. That in turn could help the transition from college-to-NFL for offensive lineman. But otherwise it could be a real struggle for teams to protect up front.


In terms of Seattle’s O-line performance last night — it was scarily bad at times. I made a podcast appearance with Kenneth Arthur during the summer and suggested a raw, untested O-line could cost Seattle the first two games of the season (@ St. Louis, @ Green Bay). It wouldn’t be any reason to panic with a less formidable part of the schedule to follow — but 0-2 isn’t out of the question and the line could be the reason why.

It’s clear whoever eventually does start needs time — and that’s before we even question whether the talent is good enough. The Seahawks are hoping that later round picks and UDFA’s can fill the holes left by players drafted early (James Carpenter, Max Unger).

Facing a frightening Rams D-line on the opening weekend and needing to go to Green Bay to follow will be a serious test of what appears to be a weak or at least inexperienced group. The #1’s were manhandled in the Denver game.

The right side of Sweezy and Britt will always be better against the run than the pass. The revolving door at left guard and center during camp is yet to provide any clarity. At least Russell Okung is healthy and looks in good shape. At this stage, 16 games from Okung feels absolutely vital.

If they had any cap room we could take about Evan Mathis. He appears to be holding out for the kind of money Seattle simply cannot afford. An extra experienced, cool head on that O-line seems critical at the moment.

An underrated aspect of an O-line is familiarity. The best lines work as a group with genuine chemistry. It’s very hard for the Seahawks to develop that in pre-season when two spots are up for grabs — including the starting center.

We’ve often played down the O-line struggles in the past on this blog. Part of Seattle’s mantra is to invite pressure and get Wilson on the move. Yet things seem a little more serious this year and we need to see progress next week against the Chiefs. Tom Cable has a real test on his hands.


Pre-season week 1: Broncos open thread

August 14th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Write-up to come on Saturday. In the meantime use this thread to discuss the game.