The Seahawks have an accomplished offensive line.
Yes, that is true, despite arguments to the contrary. Only San Francisco and the New York Giants ranked higher in the run game last year according to Football Outsiders. They were ranked #2 in second level blocking, had more success in a ‘power’ formation than any other team barring New Orleans and had the least number of stuffed runs in the NFL.
For a team that wants to run the ball as much as the Seahawks (nobody ran more often in 2012) that’s some impressive work.
Against the pass they were average, giving up 33 sacks (middle of the road). The official ranking according to FO is #20 in the league. I’m not trying to pick and choose my stats here, but considering the Raiders were ranked #4 for pass protection, Detroit 1st and San Francisco 29th (!!!) I’m not too concerned to see Seattle at #20. This is a run first team, just like the 49ers. And they run block as well as any O-line in the league.
I take some comfort seeing the Giants ranked #2 for the run and #3 in pass protection — giving up the least amount of sacks. This isn’t a team that has pushed a ton of stock (money and picks) into their line. They’ve relied on consistency and familiarity. True, they just spent a first round pick on Justin Pugh. A lot of teams ranked him near the top of their boards. If it wasn’t New York, it was probably Chicago. And many feel the time is right for the Giants to recharge their O-line. But the point stands. They built a rapport, and used it as the foundation for two title runs.
And so it will be for the Seahawks.
For the first time since Seattle’s only Super Bowl run, there’s a level of consistency up front. Do not underestimate that. It is, for me, the most important part of any offensive line. You can pump as many high draft picks into a line as you want. Eventually, you have to stick with five guys. And those five have to work as one. Sure, talent matters. Of course it does. But the Seahawks aren’t lacking talent. They have Pro-Bowlers at left tackle and center — the two premium positions. The numbers above prove as a group they’re a productive bunch, especially in the run game. A lot of that is down to familiarity.
“We’re able to just kind of plug in where we left off. Then the newness and the new things we want to add to it, we’ll put some focus to that. But it’s really been pretty good how they’ve competed just to bring it back with them. It’s made it a lot easier for us.”
The quote above is from Tom Cable, speaking to Seahawks.com after the players reported for a recent off-season workout. No learning curve. No time consuming lessons and basics. Just get out there and play. Perfect. Just what you want to see at this time of year.
The starting line during those workouts was Okung-McQuistan-Unger-Sweezy-Giacomini. John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Rishaw Johnson and Mike Person were named as the backups.
We’ve had many debates about the offensive line this off-season. Some wanted to invest even more draft stock into this area of the team. Others had a different take. The simple fact is the Seahawks didn’t spend high on the offensive line in this draft. They drafted three guys in round seven. One of those guys played defensive tackle in college. These were three guys they weren’t sure they could sign in UDFA. Here’s what that tells me:
1 – The Seahawks are content with their starting lineman.
2 – The Seahawks are comfortable with their scouting/coaching and probably don’t feel they need to ‘go big’ on this unit going forward.
3 – The Seahawks are happy to draft players who fit a certain physical criteria, then let Cable get to work.
I’m not trying to argue we won’t see another first or second round pick spent on the offensive line any time soon. Why would you rule anything out? You never know what’ll happen. But if the offensive continues on it’s current trajectory, I think they’ll be more than happy to put their faith in Cable’s vision.
And that’s essentially what we’re seeing here. Players hand picked by Tom Cable. Guys he knows will fit his scheme. Fit his attitude. Fit the identity of this squad. They don’t need high picks. They just need to be Cable’s guys.
That’s why you pay someone like Cable to run your offensive line and running game. You trust him. Other teams don’t have a Cable. Seattle is fortunate in that regard. It’s already paid dividends.
Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith and Michael Bowie are the latest trio to pass the Cable eye test. And they might stick on the team and eventually start like Sweezy. They may provide solid depth. Or maybe they’ll end up on the practise squad or worse. Either way, I suspect that is how this team is going to move forward. Looking for the rough diamond to compliment and compete with a consistent group of starters.
A lot of people have talked about Breno Giacomini being out of contract next year or the possibility of cutting the relatively expensive Paul McQuistan. You could make a saving by replacing both with second or even first round salaries. If those guys are going to be replaced, I’d put money on it not being another high pick unless it’s a guy you just have to get. No, I’d throw my cash behind it being another problem Cable can solve. That seems to be the degree of faith they have in his judgement and coaching. Clearly.
And hey, I wouldn’t rule out Giacomini and McQuistan receiving extensions. Yes, this is about cost effective football. Saving money where you can, playing the rookie market well. But this front office also rewards players who deserve it. They could’ve let Kam Chancellor walk in a year, receive a decent compensatory pick and tried to replace him with another cheap rookie. They didn’t. They paid the man. Same for Chris Clemons, who was rightly rewarded despite the first round pick spent on Bruce Irvin last year. Max Unger, Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane were paid. If Giacomini and McQuistan deliver, they’ll probably stick around. Why not? You find a way to make it work.
Are there improvements to be made? Sure. Russell Wilson will learn to turn a blitz into a major positive instead of a reason to worry. Teams rarely blitz the greats because a guy like Peyton Manning knows how to exploit it. Wilson will get there eventually. So the heart attack protection witnessed against teams like Arizona (week 1), St. Louis (week 17) and Washington (Wild Card) should become a thing of the past. For the most part it’s just little tweaks and further experience. And anyone seriously worried about the pass protection should go back and watch the tape from last year. A who’s-who of elite NFL pass rushers were shut out. Don’t forget that.
An effective offensive line is all about knowing how to act as a cohesive unit. So don’t expect any major changes or high investment over the next few years. That’s already taken place. Alex Gibbs, Cable, Okung, extending Unger, Carpenter. Now they’re putting their trust in Cable to keep this line at the top of the game.