BY Art Thiel 08:12PM 04/26/2016

Thiel: Parsing Seahawks words: D-lineman first

Pete Carroll and John Schneider were predictably mum Monday on their draft plans. But reading between than lines, the Seahawks’ men of mystery left some clues.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a prime directive: Defense. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Pete Carroll slipped a little Tuesday. During the annual pre-draft presser with general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks coach let out a secret rare for the Soviet-like security apparatus guarding the team’s nuclear weapons draft plan.

“We,” he said, “are not gonna tell you a thing.”

The rare burst of candor also had the convenience of being true. The gents went on for 35 minutes saying very nearly nothing that disclosed whether they will choose Thursday a player with the 26th pick, trade down, trade up or buy a velvet painting of dogs playing poker.

They did, however, offer a bit of insight into the unit that so grieves many Seahawks fans — the offensive line. Not saying that drafting a big ugly is the top priority — just when it seems the Seahawks so obviously must order pan-seared foie gras, they ask the waiter for the barbeque menu — but after losing two of the best starters in free agency from a unit that was heckled more than Curt Schilling at a pride parade, the subject has come up this off-season.

“It was interesting last year,” Carroll said, with understatement that bent steel. “We suffered early and were struggling. The second half of the season we turned things around. Those guys came together, kind of like we kept saying . . . we hoped it would happen earlier, but it didn’t.

“There is a learning curve. There’s an opportunity for guys to grow with you. We’re kind of somewhat accustomed to that. We don’t like it like that, but it’s like that. We’d like to pick up where we left off.”

A nice thought, picking up where they left off. But absent LT Russell Okung and RG  J.R. Sweezy, the two senior eminences, will make it a tad hard. Especially after hearing from a variety of sources of the likely new OL lineup:

Right tackle Garry Gilliam replaces Okung at left tackle, second-year guard Mark Glowinski replaces Sweezy, and two low-priced, free agent newcomers, J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell, will play right tackle and left guard, respectively. Patrick Lewis stays at center.

What that means is, apart from Lewis, the four linemen will have exactly one game of experience playing his forecasted 2016 starting position for the Seahawks. That belongs to Glowinski, who filled in one game last season for the injured Sweezy.

At least Webb, 28,  has six NFL seasons and 44 starts. Sowell, 27, has three seasons and 12 starts. That doesn’t make them good, it just means that introducing into this line a rookie, no matter how large and salty, is not a premium move for the Seahawks.

Which is why going for an O-lineman with a first-round pick makes little sense Thursday. Going for O-linemen lower in the draft makes sense, because they can be a accorded a year of redshirt apprenticeship. But a first-round pick, per NFL custom, rarely gets an apprenticeship.

Schneider seemed to suggest that the hires of the new guys were, more or less, temporary.

“We knew that in signing guys like Sowell and Webb,” he said, “to contracts that are more like, ‘C’mon in, let’s get to know each other, prove-it’ kind of contracts, (they are) shorter-term” guys.

Not that they can’t become good, but no one is betting the crown jewels.

In building the Seahawks, Schneider spoke of the prime directive with Carroll.

“We spent a lot of money on the other side of the ball,” he said. “We’ve had to figure out that we had specific players on (the defense to retain), and a quarterback we had to take care of, so that was our primary plan.”

Under the salary cap, every NFL team has generals, captains, sergeants and privates. The Seahawks have put many officers on defense, and the supreme commander and privates on offense.

Extrapolating from these observations, a reasonable conclusion is this regarding Thursday: Unwilling to break in a rookie on the O-line, the Seahawks likely will move to fill the team’s biggest needed among starters, the defensive line spot vacated by Brandon Mebane in free agency.

Since scouts are nearly unanimous that this is the best draft for defensive linemen in anyone’s recollection, the Seahawks will trade out of the first round Thursday to a spot high in Friday’s second round, as well as additional picks in the trade, to take the best large kitchen appliance available, one among Andrew Billings of Baylor, Jarran Reed of Alabama or Jonathan Bullard of Florida.

See, Carroll and Schneider did tell us something. Sorta.

But that was Monday. Check with me Friday to see if they changed their minds.



  • 1coolguy

    I don’t play craps and I don’t predict draft choices after the first 3, as it then becomes a fools errand.
    I will say that I do hope they spend the first round choice on an O-lineman, as that person WILL be at least on the practice squad AND I disagree that we won’t see that person until year two. I suggest that an excellent lineman will go through all of training camp then depending upon need and that players skills, may become a starter during the season. Game 4? 8? etc is a real possibility, given the line we are looking at presently.
    Let’s not forget – RW is the BEST player on the team and the guy needs protection. Honestly, the Hawks are darned lucky he hasn’t been injured yet.

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    • art thiel

      There are few Steve Hutchinsons, especially now with the spread offenses in college teaching little pro style blocking.

      • Jamo57

        You mean Ultimate Frisbee doesn’t need big road graders up front? I think OL in CFB is more like being a matador than anything else these days. LOL

      • John M

        You’re piece metaphorically nailed that shiny new O-lineman we were hoping for in the head, which some of us expected, the D will always come first. I’m already seeing opposing teams sharpening their fangs and stuffing the box. There are no plays with a fast enough release to save Russ from the present arrangement . . .

  • Jamo57

    I suspect it’s hard to know for sure whether another team is going to want to move up for the 26th pick, given how deep the draft is and as a result how valuable picks are. It probably depends on if a decent QB is still on the board, and a team behind them still feels exposed in that regard.

    The Hawks have proven themselves to be pretty nimble during the draft, making it fun to watch, so calling an audible when the time comes won’t be hard.

    Let the games begin! I think I always anticipate the draft more than a non-Hawks Super Bowl for sure.

    • art thiel

      Entire media careers are built around the NFL draft, and no one can possibly get close to accuracy. Which is, of course, part of the appeal.

  • Big Papa

    You don’t think Britt gets the start as of today at either spot?

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