BY Art Thiel 05:25PM 08/02/2016

Thiel: Seahawks attempt to explain their O-line

The two most mission-critical Seahawks? Tackles Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb. Already condemned by one website as the NFL’s worst offensive line, these guys are in charge of making it a lie.

Germain Ifedi  (76),  Garry Gilliam (79) and J’Marcus Webb (73) are three-fifths of the starting offensive line. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — The Seahawks are newcomer RT J’Marcus Webb’s fourth NFL team, which makes him different than many Seahawks, who know only the bucolic pastoralness of the greensward hard by Lake Washington. And the Seahawks are different than Webb’s stops with Minnesota, Chicago and Oakland.

“There’s accountability with every team, but here, it’s everything — being early, no complaining, no whining, no excuses,” he said. “It’s the mentality here.

“They really pay attention to every detail — note-taking, communication, feedback, tempo, working with the defensive line, talking with the quarterbacks, weightlifting, eating and sleeping right. All those things to make it better for us.”

Webb’s position predecessor, Garry Gilliam, is now the left tackle. It’s his third season in Seattle, so he knows the scene that Webb is experiencing. He also knows another part of the local custom that Webb hasn’t experienced: Denigration of the offensive line.

“A great team, in my opinion, is based off an offensive line,” he said. “You can’t do anything without an offensive line. We’ve been a really good team the last few years. So it goes to show you our offensive line is not as bad as some people think.”

If that’s true, then it’s reasonable to say that the two most mission-critical Seahawks this season are Webb and Gilliam. Not the best or most important players, but the two players who must deliver the most after the least is expected from the team’s weakest link.

Here’s what Pro Football Focus wrote recently after ranking with their elaborate grading system all 32 offensive lines. Guess who came in No. 32?

The Seahawks are taking a lot of risks with their offensive line heading into the 2016 season. Their highest-graded lineman last year, Russell Okung (Broncos), left via free agency. Everyone is changing positions, and none of the veteran linemen graded well in 2015. Among those expected to make the roster, the Seahawks have the second-tallest offensive line, on average. Russell Wilson has played behind questionable offensive lines in the past, and the Seahawks have found a way to win anyway, so even if the O-line plays as poorly as it has in previous seasons, it might not hurt Seattle as much as it could other teams.

Besides Webb and Gilliam, Justin Britt is on his third position in three years at center, RG Germain Ifedi is a rookie and LG Mark Glowinski played one game in his first season last year, at right guard.

It borders on the astonishing that the Seahawks think they can get away with this, particularly after the OL misfires in the first half of last season. Then again, they didn’t have much choice, given that LT Russell Okung and RG J.R. Sweezy left in free agency, and they fired starting C Drew Nowak.

At least in Ifedi, they invested a first-round draft choice in the position of greatest need.  And they also gave up to $5.75 million over two years to free agent Webb, who was among PFF’s lowest-rated linemen last year when he played guard for Oakland.

At least the coaches decided on this shuffle early, instead of the middle of exhibition season a year ago. Gilliam said the coaches called and texted him after last season.

“They asked, ‘What do you think about playing left tackle? Russ (Okung) is gone.’ I said, ‘Well, yeah. It’s where I should be.’”

The coaches explained the Gilliam’s athleticism — he played some tight end at Penn State and caught a touchdown pass for the Seahawks in the playoff game against Green Bay — made him a good fit for the demands of the position.

“I’m told that’s usually where the fastest pass rushers are at,” Gilliam said, “and I’m told I’m a fast offensive tackle. So that’s a pretty good match-up.”

Since he’s the No. 1 protector of QB Russell Wilson’s blind side, he had better be the NFL equivalent of Usain Bolt. Which will be different from Okung, whom Gilliam labeled “an  unorthodox player, so I tried my best to take too much of his stuff.”

Asked to explain what that meant, line coach Tom Cable analogized to basketball.

“Garry is like a point guard, Russ would be like a power forward,” he said. “So he’s going to be niftier, he’s going to move a little quicker, change direction faster. So to the point of being unorthodox: Gilliam going to be more limber, more pure as an athlete.”

Regarding Webb, Cable was a little less generous, owing to the fact that Webb’s Seattle transition was delayed by strained calf that keep him out of most spring practices.

“He looks like “a guy that didn’t do hardly anything in the spring,” Cable said. “Mentally, he’s catching up very well. So for him, the challenge . . . our system and tempo of play is different. He’s been at one extreme, we’re at the other end.

“So to learn to play this fast and aggressive . . . most big guys, that’s not the way this league is. So it’s a learning curve for him.”

Webb is encouraged by the that fact that at 6-7 and 331 pounds, he’s joined an offense with a run-first priority.

“We want to run it down their throats,” he said. “It’s fun for me. I got the big body. It’s going to be awesome with Germain (6-5, 325) moving guys.”

Four days of training camp is hardly enough time to make any judgments, but it was demanded of Cable anyway.

“What I’ve been most surprised about is just really how we’ve been able to come back from (the six-week break) and plug right in,” he said. “You know, we’ve just been that far ahead in terms of our learning with all these young kids.

“That’s been the biggest surprise. They’re working extremely hard and they improve each day, so that’s really important.”

To recap “all these young kids,” the starters are a rookie guard, a second-year guard, third-year guys at center and tackle and a six-year vet in Webb, the grand old man at 27.

But as a newcomer, he might be the most jacked.

“Not saying (his previous) coaches didn’t talk to us like men,” he said, “but Pete Carroll talks about staying committed, staying within ourselves, having fun and bringing the juice to everything.

“He lives it. I love to see it, and attach myself to it.”

If the attachment works, and Carroll and Cable cobble together a respectable unit by, say, Thanksgiving, it will be one of the more dramatic coaching feats of their tenures.

If not, Gilliam’s claim of not being as bad as people think can be refuted with a loud chant of, “We’re No. 32!”


YourThoughts

  • coug73

    Tom Cable, spins the Zen, while most believe talent wins.

    • art thiel

      But what if you can’t afford the talent when a team pays to be No. 1 on defense?

      • 1coolguy

        All I can say to Cable is he’s worth his weight in gold, which is substantial.
        Imagine how many TENS of millions he has saved the hawks by training up not-prime-time players?

        • art thiel

          If you consider the Seahawks have been in the playoffs five of Carroll’s six seasons and in two Super Bowls without heavy investment in the O-line, Cable must know something,

          • 1coolguy

            Cable is “Da Man”.

          • Chris Alexander

            I’m honestly surprised that no one has poached Cable from us yet (to be an OC or HC). Not sure how he’d do outside the Seahawks system but he definitely deserves a lot more credit than he (normally) gets.

  • BellyButtonPoker

    The Jell-O-Line.

    • Stacyktennyson2

      <<lk. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!ir345m:….,…..

    • art thiel

      I may steal that.

    • 1coolguy

      VERY clever! This is on par with “Ho-Lee Cow!”

  • 1coolguy

    The left tackle position’s value is lessened with a QB that drops back with his shoulders squared to the line – Unitas, Montana and Bradshaw did this – so why don’t NFL teams teach their QB’s the same?
    Quick: name the LT’s for Unitas, Bradshaw and Montana. See?
    That removes the LT being paid the big bucks, $10m+, gives the QB a much better visual of the field and gives the team more options at LT.
    One can drop back faster pushing off with one foot and turning, yet the advantages of seeing the entire field AND the rush outweigh it.
    Obviously the shotgun eliminates the need for the strong left tackle also.
    RW should learn this – you would think it would simply be a given.

    • art thiel

      When he’s not in the gun or empty, RW rarely turns his shoulders away unless he’s running. The Seahawks under Carroll are used to succeeding with average or less lines, but had to learn the hard way after last season’s first half that the quick-pass game works when the team doesn’t have Lynch or a road-grader line.

      • 1coolguy

        “RW rarely turns his shoulders away unless he’s running.”
        Art – let’s be honest – when is RW NOT running for his life? Haha.
        Three step drops and shot gun are what lessen the need for a stud LT, no?

        • art thiel

          That’s what they realized at midseason.

  • jafabian

    Just think what this team could do with the 2005 O-Line.

    • art thiel

      That O-line was where Holmgren put his money. He didn’t make defense his priority, as Carroll has. No right or wrong, just different.

  • John M

    OK, Art, you had to tell us: #32. The O-line has driven me nuts during the first half of the season for years. Yet I want to believe. Webb has indicated he’s getting the best coaching of his career. Ifedi, though a rookie, seems to play like a crazed sumo wrestler, a good sign. Gilliam, well, they keep saying he’s really athletic. The talent level does appear to be better and they’re all together early – for now – meshing, teaming, whatever. And we have tight ends that can block. Never mind Graham, he’s a receiver. Actually I have no idea what will happen in the first regular game. I am left with hope . . .

    • art thiel

      I doubt even Cable knows yet, much less me. Remember, he thought Drew Nowak was a starting NFL center last season. It’s fair to say the talent has been upgraded, but the time required to become efficient is anyone’s guess.

  • Tman

    Hows the depth at quarterback?

  • Warchild_70

    32nd?? Oh yeah let’s stoke the bonfire to a 3 alarm inferno! I have all the confidence of Coach Cable ability to get these behemoths to perform. If they don’t, it will another fire drill for Russell when the ball is snapped! GO HAWKS!!!