What if the Seahawks O-line is respectable this season? Now that the Mariners’ Mike Zunino is hitting above .200, the local culture will have only traffic to complain about.
For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus, the oft-quoted site emphasizing metrics at every position for every team, has not been impressed with the Seahawks’ off-season effort to improve the offensive line. The 2017 unit ranked 32nd and last in a post published Tuesday.
Here’s PFF’s single-paragraph summary:
Even with the addition of Luke Joeckel, there’s little reason to think this won’t yet again be the worst offensive line in the NFL. They finished dead last a season ago in snap-adjusted run-blocking grade and snap-adjusted pass-blocking grade. Getting PFF’s lowest-graded left tackle, George Fant, out of the starting lineup should help, but it won’t fix the unit overnight.
PFF’s evaluation loses some cred right away for its failure to notice that Fant, in his second year of football (of any kind, not just pro level), is penciled in to start at left tackle. That was clear after coach Pete Carroll during mini-camp hailed Fant’s physical improvement to 320 pounds and the half-year of experience gained after he was the accidental starter in 2016 following injuries and incompetence that forced the Seahawks’ hand.
“There’s no question he has, because he’s improved,” Carroll said of Fant’s chance to start. “His awareness, his communication . . . we talked about that year-one to year-two jump has already happened.
“But more than that, he had a phenomenal off-season in terms of getting stronger, and he maintained his quickness and mobility. This is the first off-season he’s ever had as a football player, and it shows. He made great advancements. He worked really hard at it. He’s really fired up to come back with what he knows now, how he sees things. He might have a 25-pound swing on his body right now. He looks great.”
But PFF can’t grade on promise, only performance, and Fant’s rookie season was pickled with errors typical of someone who played basketball in college (Western Kentucky). Nor can any scouting service know how Joeckel will project with a full year at left guard, not just the four games he played there after Jacksonville moved him after struggling for four years at left tackle.
Since he sat out most of the padless workouts as his surgically repaired right knee gains strength, even the Seahawks can’t be sure yet about Joeckel’s position, despite spending $7 million on him in a one-year free-agent deal.
“We have indications that he’s absolutely ready to do both” positions, Carroll said. “That’s a real plus for us. He’s very comfortable with both spots. We were also able to get Ethan Pocic (second-round pick from LSU) to show that as well, in a short time.
“As far as the learning and technique-wise, and the movement that’s necessary, that showed up for Luke, for sure. Even with him still in rehab. So we’re really pleased with that.”
Add in two position changes, Mark Glowinski moving from left guard to right guard, and Germain Ifedi moving from right guard to right tackle, and there probably is no obvious reason from outside to think the Seahawks have upgraded.
Unsurprisingly, line coach Tom Cable thinks differently. He gushed about the makeover.
“I’m the most excited coach on the staff right now. That’s what I’ve told (Carroll and GM John Schneider),” he said. “I appreciate them putting this together in a year’s time and doing a fantastic job. Our personnel guys nailed this, so it’s just a matter of getting them in the right spots and going and playing ball.
“All those kids, from George to Germain to Rees (Odhiambo), all have matured a year. It’s kind of like a freshman in college. If you play them right away, it can be painful at times, but they make big strides, and they’ve done that. They’ve all matured and handled this thing really, really well.”
Certainly, Cable is right to be excited, simply because it isn’t 2016, when QB Russell Wilson was hurt three times from pass-rush batterings, and the Seahawks finished 25th in rushing in their first season without Marshawn Lynch.
But if Cable’s enthusiasm precedes actual respectability for the 2017 line, not only will PFF have to wipe a five-egg omelette from its data-face, Seattle fans will no longer have a companion for traffic as the traditional chief complaint of local culture. Now that Mariners catcher Mike Zunino no longer hits below .200, there’s only so many blows a grouch can stand.