By now I think you know my stance on drafting an offensive lineman at #32, but here’s a quick recap…
— Whatever o-line you put on the field, Russell Wilson is going to get hit. That’s not to say he didn’t get hit too often in 2013, but he’s always going to get more punishment than other quarterbacks. Pete Carroll wants to be the best scrambling team in the league. His words. That comes with a cost.
— Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco are going to create pressure. That’s an unavoidable fact. Russell Wilson is going to get sacked by these teams, because the NFC West is loaded with defensive talent. You simply cannot shut down Robert Quinn AND Chris Long. You can’t dominate San Francisco’s excellent front seven. And the Cardinals were ranked #2 on defense by DVOA. The 49ers have the best o-line in the division and they can’t stop Colin Kaepernick getting hit. The defenses are too good.
— I think it’s a poor draft for guards, outside of Notre Dame’s Zack Martin moving inside from tackle. Even then, you wonder how he’d react to a positional switch. The likes of Cyril Richardson and Gabe Jackson were found out at the Senior Bowl, while Xavier S’ua-Filo is more upside over proven ability. David Yankey looks like a classic Stanford lineman — technically gifted within that system, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level.
— I think it’s a very good draft for offensive tackles. Yet three out of the first four picks last year went on offensive linemen. SIX of the first eleven picks in 2013 were either tackles or guards. Any top-tier talent on the o-line isn’t going to hang around. Teams are putting these guys right up there with the quarterbacks. By the time Seattle’s on the board at #32, it’s a major stretch to think there’s going to be a really good offensive tackle just sitting there waiting to be snapped up.
— I know people disagree, but I reckon the Tom Cable project is working. J.R. Sweezy continues to develop and let’s remember, 2013 was only his second year as an offensive lineman and his first as the unquestioned starter. We’re seeing a lot of potential in Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie. I’d let Cable try and add a couple more later round/UDFA players to the group while further developing the current incumbents.
One final point, and it’s the one that winds people up the most — I don’t think you need a brilliant, elite offensive line to win a title.
A lot of people complain about Seattle’s line, yet they’re Super Bowl champs.
Name me the last team who won a Championship and the offensive line was considered ‘great’.
It certainly isn’t Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Green Bay, New Orleans or Pittsburgh — the last six Super Bowl winners.
Denver won the AFC this year without their stud left tackle playing more than two games.
For me, it’s all about managing situations and finding ways to win. Seattle spent most of the year in damage-limitation mode, reeling from a spate of injuries to Russell Okung, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini.
Wilson got hit too much in their absence, but they still won games.
Because they managed the situation, working their gameplan to suit. It didn’t always look pretty — but they lost only one game during the OL injury crisis.
I often hear people quote where Seattle’s line was ranked by PFF or some other format. Do these rankings take into account who was starting for most of the season? It’s OK saying they were only 17th for run blocking. But that’s 17th for run blocking with your left tackle, center and right tackle missing multiple games.
An average end-of-season ranking for run blocking when you’re fielding a line of McQuistan-Carpenter-Jeanpierre-Sweezy-Bowie for part of it could actually be perceived as a positive.
I actually think if this unit can stay healthy, they can thrive. They’re well coached by Cable. They know the scheme (such an underrated factor) and each other.
Drafting in the late first round doesn’t always guarantee results (see: James Carpenter) and throwing another rookie into the mix might actually have a negative impact next year.
Do you really want a late first round tackle trying to stop Robert Quinn, Calais Campbell, Chris Long, Aldon Smith etc etc?
In an ideal world they re-sign the underrated Breno Giacomini and pick up one or two more guys for Cable to work with.
But what if they can’t keep Giacomini?
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he’ll get a relatively attractive offer in free agency. He’s a solid right tackle who plays with attitude — and he’s now a Super Bowl champion. There’s a few teams out there with plenty of cap room who can afford to maintain the average of his 2012/2013 salary (around $3.5m).
I suspect age (he turns 29 in September) plus the strength of the tackle class in the draft might put teams off, and he could end up being a bargain re-sign for Seattle.
If he does walk, that’s when I think you start looking at the position at #32.
Bowie, for me at least, looked a lot more comfortable at guard against Arizona and New Orleans (playoffs). At times he struggled at tackle, particularly the game on the road against the Cardinals.
The fact Bailey sat while Bowie played is a hint the Seahawks don’t see Bailey as a right tackle.
If you lose Breno, you have to replace him.
But will there be a guy sitting there at #32? This is the big question.
As noted earlier, the league is placing a high premium on offensive linemen. Will there be any left?
I’d need to see one of Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses or Antonio Richardson waiting there to even consider it. I’m going to do more work on Richardson before the combine because I’ve seen quite a lot of negativity on him recently.
Kouandjio is likely to be long gone, while Moses could be snapped up by Baltimore, Miami or Arizona.
If anything the likelihood of a rush on tackles would make me even more determined to re-sign Giacomini.
I’m not being blasé about the offensive line. I just feel better luck with injuries can provide the biggest boost in 2014.
It’ll be a major improvement if they simply aren’t forced to start Paul McQuistan at left tackle for weeks on end, put a 7th round rookie at right tackle and fit in a 2010 undrafted free agent to replace you’re Pro Bowl center.
For me, a healthy line of Okung-Bailey/Bowie/Carpenter-Unger-Sweezy-Giacomini… works just fine.
But if they lose Giacomini, I have to respect tackle becomes a much greater need.
Yet it’s just as likely we’ll see major changes to the defensive line due to free agency and cuts (Bennett? McDaniel? McDonald? Clemons? Bryant?).
Let’s not forget what made this team the best. Even if you manage to keep Michael Bennett, the others would need to be replaced.
And if the receivers and offensive tackles go early this year, it increases the chances of a really good defensive lineman making it to #32.
Food for thought.