Having chosen to spend their dollars elsewhere, the Seahawks are saddled with an offensive line that has compromised the offense and worn out the defense.
Pete Carroll spends part of each of his media pressers forecasting better days for his maligned offensive line while simultaneously pleading for patience as the Seahawks’ season-long Achilles heel develops under assistant head coach Tom Cable. Carroll underscored that point this week when he admitted that the unit hasn’t progressed to his satisfaction.
“I thought it would go quicker,” Carroll said. “I was holding out hope that we’d be able to turn it in the first three or four games, and maybe by game five we’d really be making progress. I think we were a few games behind when we started talking about the running game looking better, and then the pass protection started to come by game eight.
“I’m always going to want it sooner rather than later. We certainly had our sights set on that, that we could pull it off. But we’ve had to wait a little bit, had to be patient.”
Carroll’s apparent belief was that Cable, an offensive line guru, could work some magic with the unit, a belief that so far has been misplaced, through no fault of Cable’s. He’s trying to whip up a gourmet meal with hamburger and no helper. As a consequence, the offensive line’s inability to hold its own has adversely affected Russell Wilson’s individual performance (Wilson has his own issues, but that’s another story) and the offense’s overall ability to stay on the field, which is wearing out the defense.
Since Carroll took command in 2010, the Seahawks have invested heavily in their defense, tossed millions at Wilson, and twice re-worked Marshawn Lynch’s contract. But when it came time to replace RT Breno Giacomini and LG James Carpenter, both of whom departed in free agency, and C Max Unger, swapped for TE Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks sought replacements in the nether regions of the draft and on their practice squad. They might as well have scrounged through some pawn shops while they were at it.
Under Carroll/GM John Schneider, the Seahawks selected 11 offensive linemen in the past six drafts. Three – LT Russell Okung (No. 1, 2010), RG J.R. Sweezy (No. 7, 2012) and LG Justin Britt (No. 2, 2014) – are starting. The other two starters, C Patrick Lewis and RT Gary Gilliam, entered the league as undrafted free agents.
The other Carroll/Schneider offensive line draft picks, all either gone or currently having no impact:
|2011||James Carpenter||G||1st||39 starts, signed with Jets as FA|
|2011||John Moffitt||G||3rd||Started 15 games, traded to DEN, out of league|
|2013||Ryan Seymour||G||7th||Washed out after two years|
|2013||Michael Bowie||T||7th||Eight starts in 2013, waived after season|
|2014||Garrett Scott||T||6th||Didn’t play, waived, heart condition|
|2015||Terry Poole||G||4th||On practice squad|
|2015||Mark Glowinski||G||4th||On 53-man roster|
|2015||Kristjan Sokoli||OL||6th||On 53-man roster|
The three picks from the most recent draft, Poole, Glowinski and Sokoli, the latter a converted defensive linemen (Sweezy is also a converted defensive lineman), haven’t been able to knock out undrafted free agents Lewis and Gilliam out of the starting lineup, which doesn’t say much about their value.
Another undrafted free agent, Drew Nowak, began the season as the starting center, but was quickly overwhelmed, lost his job, and wasn’t active Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Seattle’s two primary offensive line backups, Alvin Bailey and Lemuel Jeanpierre, are also undrafted free agents.
The Seahawks haven’t entirely ignored in the draft their offensive line. The 11 picks since 2010 are two more than New England’s nine over the same period (the Patriots feature the NFL’s top-ranked offense) and five more than Carolina’s six (Panthers are 9-0).
But Seattle’s choices been less than satisfactory, especially compared to many of their outstanding defensive picks, including Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor, all taken after the first round.
Carroll was asked this past week whether he planned on changing his philosophy on building an offensive line. He said:
“Not at this point.
“We’re making progress. We’ve made improvement in the running game, we’ve made improvement in protection that has helped us I think at the midpoint. Now we need to see what happens. So I’m saying (this week) the same thing I said last week. I think we’re making progress.”
“We’re definitely growing in our productivity,” added Sweezy. “We’re communicating better, and all on the same page. We keep pecking away at corrections every week.”
Due to other priorities, the NFL’s hard salary cap, and neglect, the Seahawks simply don’t have a lot of great material to work with. Perhaps by December the offensive line won’t be such a liability. That might be too late.