Seahawks approach to O-line a sign of things to come

Alvin Bailey looks right at home at tackle

The Seahawks didn’t make any big draft splashes on the offensive line this year. They took defensive convert Jared Smith in round seven, along with tackle Michael Bowie. That was it. Then they went to work on the UDFA’s.

Expect that to be the norm in future.

When Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, they made the running game an absolute priority. It was going to be the teams identity. They knew they needed a feature back, a good offensive line and a highly skilled coach.

Marshawn Lynch filled the first hole. They spent two of their first three round one picks on the offensive line. And they brought in Alex Gibbs followed by Tom Cable.

They couldn’t have been any more aggressive to fix this issue. It was a pro-active assault on a problem area. The reward is a running game that’s among the best in the league plus a well coached and organised offensive line.

It isn’t, however, a line that ranks among the best in the league for pass protection. Not yet anyway.

Never mind.

You see, one of the great things about having a coach like Tom Cable and a running game that relies on the zone blocking scheme is the way you can pretty much plug guys in there and coach them up.

Gibbs once famously remarked that he could coach a garbage man to play guard in his system. I sense Cable shares that attitude. The Seahawks haven’t gone to that extreme (obviously) but they’ve been unorthodox in trying defensive linemen on offense with some success.

They’ve got the two vital positions nailed — left tackle and center. They don’t have an elite starter (yet) but do have good depth at guard, which is more than some teams. And this off-season they appear to have uncovered some depth at tackle.

By being aggressive early — and more importantly, hitting on guys like Okung — they now find themselves in a position of strength.

In Russell Wilson they have an elusive passer. Combine this with even greater familiarity among the starters, further coaching and experience, plus possible upgrades along the way and the pass protection ‘issue’ (if you want to call it an issue) has every chance of being solved.

NFL fans in general obsess about offensive lines — almost as much as they obsess about quarterbacks. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the right tackle position, an area James Carpenter was supposed to fill originally but it’s since been left to Breno Giacomini.

I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go chasing another first round right tackle if Giacomini departs as a free agent next year. I think it’d take a high quality guard to turn their head too — such as a third Pouncey brother.

What I expect we’ll see instead is a continuing search for diamonds in the rough. After all, they’ve shown they can find them.

I’ve watched the San Diego game three times and Alvin Bailey looks like a starting left tackle already. This is despite the glaring fact he’s merely minutes into his career as a tackle. Bowie also showed signs of promise. That’s a cumulative total of one 7th round pick spent on two guys I wouldn’t bet against starting for the Seahawks in the future, be it at guard or tackle (they can play both).

I suspect next year they’ll bring in another raft of raw talented linemen. They’ll let Cable do his work. They’ll seek out even more depth. And if it doesn’t work out, they’ll try even more the following year.

This appears to be the way forward, and a direction they can afford to take with Cable at the helm. Like Gibbs, he’s finding guys who fit the physical requirements for his scheme and coaching them up.

For me, it’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ one of his protégé’s makes a Pro-Bowl. And I expect Seattle’s line to look even better in 2013.

And we won’t have to talk about college right tackles. Hopefully.


  1. MJ

    GreAt stuff and totally agree. That said, this is Seattle, so don’t think “draft a RT in Round 1” talk will die. Bailey blew me away. He was agile and powerful. I’d love to see him run with the 1s at some point, as it sounds like he has consistently dominated practice as well. Fun times ahead with these late specimens + Cable.

    I think the 2 most likely targets in 2014 are going to be WR and TE. I couldn’t have been more underwhelmed by Luke Willson and McGrath gets so much love, I just don’t get it. Would love to see ASJ or Lyerla in R1 next year. If Miller misses time, I think we might be in trouble.

    • Michael

      ASJ or Brandon Coleman and I will be in ‘Hawk Heaven.

      • HawkTease

        Was listening to Brock and Danny the other day and they talked about Hard Knocks and how Jermaine Gresham put Geno Atkins on his backside. They were really impressed with his blocking. Then I looked for his receiving stats, paying particular attention to YAC.. as it seems JS/PC are in love with play-makers like Lynch, Percy and Tate. Gresham leads all TEs (with at least 50 rec in 2012) in YAC:

        This guy is due just over $2mm next year:

        If we can get him for Baldwin and a 4th, I would make that trade.

        As for the draft, I think were better off investing more in the DLine.

        We will owe Bane, Red, and Avril a combined ~$25mm next year. I think Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill look like our future NTs making Bane expendable. I wouldn’t mind using Bane’s cap relief to bring back Michael Bennett as he looks like our best 3Tech. Scruggs and Jaye Howard could give us leverage to restructure Red, if he’s not cut altogether. If we could get a player like Aaron Lynch or Trent Murphy in the upcoming draft, we may be able to clear Cliff Avril from our books.

        • Rob Staton

          I would be very surprised if they’d be willing to trade Gresham for as little as a 4th and Baldwin.

  2. Cameron

    I’m curious about Alvin Bailey and how he fell off the radar. I can’t help but think that the clusterfark of a season Arkansas had played a role. On the other hand if Arkansas was so bad then Bailey should stand out on tape. Was he even graded that highly as a guard? Is it possible he was playing out of position at guard?

    • JW

      I saw a few places that ranked Bailey quite high. I saw a few places had him as a top 10 guard in the draft. He was a long time starter in college, so that helped his stock. Not sure why he dropped but some say because the program tanked so badly. So far it looks like good news for the Hawks.

  3. Nolan

    But rob if we don’t talk about right tackles and back up qbs what wil we talk about

    • Rob Staton

      Good point!

  4. chris

    Great read, as always. I’m nervous that cable will coach his way out of town soon, though. Will be a sad day

    • Rob Staton

      You know, I think the lack of buzz the last two years speaks volumes. He wasn’t even linked with any jobs at the end of the 2012 season. Good for us.

      • Rugby Lock

        I am beginning to suspect that the Hawks have promised him something big to stay and he is letting it be known he is not interested in moving now. Of course I could be wrong! 🙂

        • Rob Staton

          I think he’s carrying a stigma from the Oakland days personally, which is great for us.

          • Turp

            There must be something about the assistant coach title that keeps him around. I hope. He’s an o-line genius.

            • JW

              There’s a certain amount of controversy involved with Cable that is perhaps limiting his options.

          • pqlqi

            I think that there is a salary cap for players, but not for coaches…
            I bet Cable and Bevell are both getting paid around an average head coach salary.

            I don’t know what it’s like in the VMAC, but my perception is that we probably have more coaches, trainers, scouts, and ancillary staff than any other team in the NFL. I don’t think Paul Allen is trying to make money with the Seahawks, I think he is as competitive a man as any of the players or coaches, and he wants to kick the other owners’ asses for rich man braggin’ rights: “not only am I richer than you, but my men just trounced your famished orphans. good day sir.”

  5. A. Simmons

    How about a defensive line article? I was watching the line. Saw some different alignments and shifts. Looks like Jesse and Mebane are being used interchangeably. Jordan Hill seems to be our are pass rushing guy. Bennett was lined up at the Leo. It was interesting to watch the shifting before the snap.

    • Rob Staton

      Looked to me like they were leaning more towards an orthodox 3-4. I will do a piece eventually.

      • James

        A pass rush DT ala Geno Atkins would be the final piece to make this a truly elite team. I sure would love to find one somehow someway. I agree that the safer bet for predicting the Seahawks draft is WR/TE, where good players would be available at the end of R1. R1 DTs will be long gone, so it will take another Russell Wilson/Richard Sherman find to land one, but remember that Geno went in R3, due to his many “flaws”.

      • A. Simmons

        Definitely looked that way sometimes, especially when Jesse was in.. Two of the DTs lining up to cause double teams. One DT on the edge. With the rush coming from either side. It was interesting. I imagine we won’t see what the plan is until preseason game 3 at the earliest.

  6. Phil

    Once again, hats off to JS, PC, and Tom Cable for finding guys like Alvin Bailey to compete for roster spots on a loaded Seahawks team. My lasting impression from the San Diego game in comparison with other preseason games I watched, is how good our #2s and #3s looked. How does our front office consistently find these guys?

    I read this morning that there are only 4 players on the Seahawks roster that were on the team when PC and JS were hired: Mebane, Unger, Red, and Jon Ryan.

    There are a lot of fine players on the Seahawks, but JS & PC are the real stars.

  7. Phil

    P.S. How about Steven Hauschka hitting the crossbar from 61 yds.?

    • Miles

      Would have been better if it bounced over… lol.

  8. JW

    is this a reflection of approach to O Line specifically or just approach to drafting in general? Because Tom Cable’s comments suggest that they had some guys targeted earlier but they went early, so rather than over drafting guys, they picked up value later-

    “Well, yes. We had some guys targeted that blew up into the first round, and we had thought we could – that they’d be there – in the 2nd or 3rd. And, obviously, as everyone is aware of, this was a very abnormal year. People got nervous, so they over drafted the offensive line.”

    His comments suggest that they are looking for talent for the O line at any round that makes sense.

    • Rob Staton

      It’s a pretty generic answer in fairness, not giving much away. Which is what I’d expect. I can’t identify the guys he’s referring to that he hoped would be there in rounds 2-3 that went in the first.

      • JW

        Sure, it’s generic. But I don’t think we have to have him name names in order to consider it believable or dismiss it out of hand. I doubt he’d name names if there were guys he wanted, anyway. There were a few reaches for O lineman in the draft (bears, Cowboys, Chargers less so).

        The comments do suggest that they had guys they’d have been interested in drafting earlier but they weren’t there. It also indicates they’re comfortable waiting and drafting projects. I’m not sure if we can say there’s an approach here other than getting players they like at a draft slot they like.

      • Attyla the Hawk

        The only candidates I can surmise:

        Justin Pugh
        Kyle Long
        Travis Frederick
        Menelik Watson

        I would probably lean toward Watson. Pugh was generally graded to go about where he did. Long and Watson seemed to go pretty early. Frederick definitely so. I just don’t see that we would have been interested in a center.

        Watson to me seems the likely choice given his size/athleticism. Even despite absolutely tanking it at the combine. We know that Seattle settles on draft grades well before the combine so I can’t assume that Watson dropped too far as a result. He seemed to be the kind of talent that Cable would have coveted to mold into the next great OT. I don’t see Long fitting the Cable mold as cleanly. But then again, his record of late has differed from the gigantors he preferred in Oakland. His prototype may be evolving.

  9. Turp

    I was at training camp today, and I specifically focused on watching Alvin Bailey. My favorite was watching him vs Mayowa…completely erased him on every single play. Bailey continues to look very impressive.

  10. Kip Earlywine

    Nice work again, Rob.

    I agree that as long as Cable is here, Seattle will lean on his expertise to go the late-round shotgun talent accumulation route on OL. Though for what it’s worth, the team did make comments after the draft that they wanted to draft a certain OL very early this year, but there was a major run on OL talent before they picked and so that option was off the table (my guess is that they were targeting Kyle Long).

    In other words, I do think this FO will keep an open mind about spending high picks on OL in the future, if there is a player they are geeked about. The same way that they kept an open mind when drafting a RB with their first available pick this year.

    I am blown away that a talent like Alvin Bailey could go undrafted. At least with Michael Bowie, he got kicked off his team and had to play a season for a tiny school, but Bailey was a very good player for a major SEC powerhouse (Arkansas). Sometimes draft stock is impossible to predict. We are very lucky he decided to sign with us.

    • JW

      This is basically my take on it as well.

    • Attyla the Hawk

      I expect that a lot of it had to do with the number of quality OL prospects in the draft.

      But honestly, I don’t know that anyone was thinking, ‘Hey, Bailey looks like a good OT convert’ when they looked at him. I kind of struggled to see how Alvin would fit with our glut of OG candidates.

      He looks absolutely superb out on the edge. I was not expecting to see that at all. I would say that unknown versatility went a long way to allowing him to slip. There were just a whole slew of OT prospects who looked like they projected to OG in the pros. I think that pushed what looked like a pure OG prospect down on many lists as a result.

  11. Jon

    Is there any chance we see Bailey on the right side. No correlation with Giacomini, but if as you say Bailey looks so good I would love to see him get a shot.

    • Rob Staton

      I’m not sure he gets that job as a rookie, but he could be the heir apparent in 12 months.

      • Kip Earlywine

        Right now Bailey looks like our 3rd best lineman, but I fear you might be right. I hope we are both wrong and Bailey is awarded a starting job this season if he keeps this up.

      • Attyla the Hawk

        I think there would be tell tale signs of that thinking.

        If Bailey gets significant reps against other teams’ ones in the next two weeks, that to me would be an indicator that they are wanting to see if he can hold up to starter quality NFL talent. I agree he’s looked good thus far. Last year, Sweezy got some extended looks with the first team in preseason and that extended into the regular season. One could say the same thing about Ware and S. Williams. Already we have seen Hill, Michael and J Williams against other teams’ starters.

        I would have to think that this kind of depth along the OL could well warrant some surprise names on the final cut down list. One or more of the following: Moffitt, McQuistan, Giacomini or Carpenter. Although with Carp, we might see a PUP designation.

        I think we all expect to see some stalwart names on the final cut list that will surprise or even shock us. And I’d have to think that one element will be cap savings. If we are truly this deep in the OL group, then I’d reasonably expect those backups/NFL average quality players with big salaries would be at risk. I do think it’s important that Bailey is working at LT and succeeding there. Because the backup LT role is currently filled by McQuistan. I can’t help but think there is something to be read in between the lines.

        This zone scheme is supposed to take 1 to 2 years to master. And we now have guys on the depth chart with that experience where we didn’t before. There isn’t the overt need to overpay on the starting line because of a lack of alternative options.

  12. Miles

    Okay I give up. Who is the quarterback (#4) in the photo?

    • Kip Earlywine

      Without looking, probably Casey Brockman.

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