BY Art Thiel 12:15AM 04/29/2017

Thiel: Seahawks sweat out hope for offensive line

John Schneider waited until the 58th pick to help fix the Seahawks’ screaming need along the offensive line. Then the Seahawks moved on to honor the old NFC West rival, Jim Harbaugh.

Ethan Pocic is two-and-a-half players in one, according to Seahawks GM John Schneider. / LSU athletics

John Schneider came up with a new metric for draft analysis: Ethan Pocic was a two-shirter.

So worried was the Seahawks general manager Friday afternoon that he wouldn’t get the 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive lineman from Louisiana State with the draft’s 58th choice that he had to switch to a fresh shirt.

“He was the one guy that, quite frankly, we were really sweating out,” he said. ” We debated whether to go up and get him or just sit and wait and sweat it out. I changed my shirt.”

Patience (and backup laundry) prevailed. The Seahawks landed Pocic and explained the urgency: They saw him as 2½ players in one: Tackleguardcenter.

“We think he’s the most flexible guy in the draft,” said coach Pete Carroll, beginning what undoubtedly will be a slow process to convince skeptical Seahawks fans that he knows what he’s doing building an offensive line, the most under-performing unit in 2016 because it was also the youngest O-line in the NFL.

Pocic isn’t going to help the birthdate problem — “We’ll probably be the youngest line again,” Carroll said — but as guy who played four of the five positions in the Southeastern Conference well enough to be a third-team All-America pick, he can fill in for just about everyone on the line and avoid another embarrassment: Having owner Paul Allen call down to his Trail Blazers in Portland to find a power forward to play tackle.

That isn’t exactly what happened last season, but it was close: George Fant, a basketball player at Western Kentucky who never played football, was pulled in as an undrafted free agent trainee and, via a variety of failures, ended up starting at left tackle.

In the successful seven-year tenure of Schneider and Carroll, it may have been their most absurd personnel moment.

Fant played surprisingly well — for a baggy-pantsed rebounder. He’ll be back for another try this summer. But just in case, the Seahawks hired veteran free agents Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi to be the line’s gray eminences, and added Pocic as a guy who can one day be as good as another center who was a second-round draftee: Justin Britt.

“Honestly, as a center, I thought I was like Britt,” he said via teleconference. “He’s a taller guy, he’s a good athlete.”

It took three seasons for Britt to find his career niche, snapping the ball. He was a guard and tackle first. So . . . he seems to be the template for Pocic.

“I think one thing I do well is I’m versatile,” Pocic said. “That’s kind of my best skill. I’m just ready to get to work, whatever it is.”

Seahawks fans wanted Schneider to get to work earlier on fixing the line. But the Seahawks had chances Thursday at the 26th and 31st spots in the first round, and traded down. Then Friday they had a chance at 34, the second pick in the second round, but traded back a third time. At 35, they actually drafted a lineman, but it was the wrong side.

Malik McDowell of Michigan State, a 20-year-old man-child defensive end, might someday succeed Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril, but he will be no help in keeping QB Russell Wilson from predation and mayhem.

Help wouldn’t come for another 23 picks. At 58, Pocic, who was a center for most of his time in Baton Rouge, was the guy in a thin draft year for O-linemen to help save the Seahawks’ dignity, even if it cost Schneider a shirt ruined by sweat rings.

No team in the NFL over the past seven seasons has drafted more O-linemen than Seattle (15), probably with the least enduring success. Naturally, Schneider was defensive about his role in assembling an offense.

“I think we completely understand the importance of the position,” he said. “We’ve just made what we think are the appropriate decisions in managing our cap along the way, trying not to overspend at certain positions.

“It just so happens that we’ve had Pro Bowl, top -five guys on defense. We ended up trying to keep those guys.”

With Carroll, defense always comes first. But Friday, it also came third, when the next pick — the first of four in the third round at 90th overall — addressed the other screaming need: Cornerback.

The Legion of Boom apprentice is Shaquill Griffin of Central Florida, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who sounds like a fit in personality.

“He’s a fun kid. Really confident. Really tough. Really fast,” Schneider said. “He’s just our kind of DB.”

Not to mention a 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

“The speed, you can’t deny it,” Carroll said. “He’s a terrific athlete.”

Then came the Jim Harbaugh commemorative portion of the program: A safety, Delano Hill, and a wide receiver, Amara Darboh, both from the University of Michigan, Harbaugh’s hideout ever since Carroll chased him from San Francisco and the NFC West.

Carroll could hardly have been more gracious in lauding the tutorial skill of his longtime rival.

“Coach Harbaugh does a great job,” he said. “It’s a good scheme fit to see those guys in pro style. He knows how to get the most out of people. Look what he did at that program, look how he turned it around. He did a fantastic job, which is no surprise.

“He’s done a great job everywhere he has been. The style of play really helps us, and we appreciate the opportunity to evaluate guys. We (don’t) have to project how it’s going to be.”

Carroll and Schneider didn’t take any Michigan linemen. Maybe that’s for Saturday final five picks in rounds four through seven. If it all works as they hope, and these Michigan men carry the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, perhaps they can send Harbaugh a token of appreciation.

Like a draft-used Seahawks shirt.


  • Gerald Turner

    Malik McDowell fits right in. They can swap him inside and outside like Clark, a pass rushing nightmare. The only way to dominate the Hawk D is to hammer them with a big O line and multi power backs, grind the speedy guys down. Good thing very few teams go ground and pound any more in this pass happy league. Opposing offensive coordinators will be shouting the Vince Lombardy line this year; What the hell is going on out here!

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    • art thiel

      A big defensive asset Seahawks had in 2013 was good 3-man DT rotation led by Mebane. Fresh legs among the big fellas is very important to take away the opponent run game. They’re seeking to replicate that.

  • jafabian

    As successful with the draft the Schneider-Carroll regime has been they have had very little luck with offensive linemen for whatever reason. Hope that changes now. Curious they took a WR so early. IMO that’s one position they’re stacked at right now.

    • art thiel

      Amara Darboh is 6-2 and fast, and Kearse is likely in his final year.

  • John M

    They always fool us (and everybody) in the draft. A DE first wasn’t for me a big surprise, but the fact he’s an underclassman did. The O-lineman they took next sounds like a good one. I expect them to draft another one today and with the young guys coming back, the line has to be better.

    • art thiel

      Unlike most fans, Seahawks coaches think the five linemen who finished the season will be a lot better. Then again, no other direction was available.

  • Paul Harmening

    Sooo…Pete’s no longer harping about what Harbaug’s dealing, (‘what’s your deal?) he’s now licking his chops at what Jimbo’s putting out there. Let’s just hope it complements a full house.

    Go figure. Life is strange

    • art thiel

      Pete never disputed Harbaugh’s effectiveness as a coach/recruiter. It’s just that Harbaugh is often an ass.

  • 1coolguy

    “No team in the NFL over the past seven seasons has drafted more O-linemen than Seattle (15), probably with the least enduring success”
    Reminds me of the Einstein “theory” of the absurd, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
    I’d say it’s long overdue to bring in a new O-line coach. Cable has had his run.

    • art thiel

      He was incompetent enough to help them to two Super Bowls, and five years in a row with a playoff win.

      • Dave Paisley

        And seriously, who ever thought the OL was ever anything above “barely competent”?

        • art thiel

          Above competent wins a lot of NFL games.

          • 1coolguy

            Thanks to the league-leading lowest points-allowed defense 4 years running and an incredibly talented scrambling QB.

      • 1coolguy

        In our SB win, the Oline was above average, with at least 3 of the starters picked up in FA and one (Unger) unfortunately traded for Graham. Since then, the Hawks’ success has been due to the remarkable defense and Wilson’s scrambling, a talent that few QB’s have. The Hawks’ O-line has been consistent in their low league ranking the past few years, even achieving the “Worst” rating. Nothing wrong with a new set of eyes/methods.

  • It’s only Sports

    In a poor draft for OL talent it looks like SEA sniffed out a worker in that he is so versatile and will be used in several positions just like Cable likes em…. good job SEA.
    That’s the highest OL pick since Britt….both 2nd rounders I believe. He will be well used I am sure.

    • art thiel

      Schneider liked this guy so much they told Cable not to go near him for fear of tipping off other teams to their interest.

      • Dave Paisley

        Maybe he’ll tell Cable to lay off him completely, so as not to ruin him with coaching. “Hey. kid, maybe you should try this upside-down stance I’m tinkering with…”

        • art thiel

          In this case, the cook isn’t allowed to choose the groceries.

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