BY Art Thiel 05:09PM 06/27/2017

Seahawks line ranked last by Pro Football Focus

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.

LT George Fant (74) and RT Germain Ifedi (76) hold much of the Seahawks’ 2017 hopes for an offensive uptick. / Art Thiel. Sportspress Northwest

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.



  • woofer

    Ya gotta love the Cable Guy’s positive outlook. Fant will be better this year. How could he not be?

    • coug73

      Cable Guy, that’s funny. The O line, not so much. Any O lineman who improves his game will leave the Hawks asp for more money.

      • John M

        True they’ll have to pay some of them if they’re as improved as the coaches think. But Joeckel will have to rise to at least a pro-bowl alternate to get long term what or above what he’s getting, so if he doesn’t that would free some space in ’18 for the young’uns. I’m sure they will be better, the organization and who goes where is miles ahead of last year at this point. I’m most intrigued with Fant; you know they’re going to come after him, and If he can become a competent NFL LT this season with the limited experience he’s had, he will have accomplished a very difficult transformation.

        • art thiel

          The coaches are close to certain about Fant’s high ceiling. Then again, they started Drew Nowak at center not long ago.

    • art thiel

      If he’s measured by body alone, Fant is All=Pro.

      • woofer

        The secret weapon this year is surely to involve some new-fangled form of biogenetic engineering. The goal apparently will be to transplant Joeckel’s brain into Fant’s body to create a perfect hybrid left tackle (which will also be mildew-resistant). The technology to do it exists but the ethical issues are still being debated. It may become necessary to bring in Mark Emmert to settle the matter. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.

  • Jamo57

    Russell Wilson’s draft class was given an F by many analysts. There’s that too.

    • art thiel

      Anyone here ready to bring up Ryan Leaf?

  • tor5

    I don’t know if PFF is right or wrong, but it might be kind of a gift. The Hawks seem especially adept at using slights to motivate players. Being ranked dead last is a nice little chip to come into the season with.

    • art thiel

      I’m certain the PFF link has made the rounds, courtesy Cable.

  • WestCoastBias79

    At this point it almost seems like they’re just trying to increase the difficulty level on Tom Cable for fun. Turning D-Lineman into O-Lineman was apparently too easy, so they gave him a basketball player to play one of the most important positions on offense. Next they’re going to find some overweight baseball player. I wonder if Bartolo Colon can block?

    • Pixdawg13

      Turning a basketball player into a good football player isn’t exactly a new thing. One of the better GMs in NFL history liked to do it. You may have heard of Gil Brandt, architect of the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl runs.

      • WestCoastBias79

        I’ll remove the tongue from my cheek, but if I recall, and I listen to him on Sirius, he was fond of turning basketball players into Tight Ends and other skill positions. Not sure I recall reading or hearing him talk about turning a basketball player into what many consider the second most important position on offense to the QB and the most important lineman.

        • art thiel

          You may not remember Lonnie Shelton, who would have been the best TE in NFL history but instead played for the Sonics.

          • coug73

            Lonnie Shelton, met him after practice at the Sandpoint Navel Air Station. He was larger than a refrigerator.

          • SeaRaays

            Paul Silas

  • LarryLurex70

    Hey, good luck in 2017, Russ! Austin Davis: keep your helmet close.

    • art thiel

      He’s going to be handing off to an RB bigger than many DLs.

      • LarryLurex70

        True, true. Thankfully Russ is agile enough to stay out of harm’s way and not get trampled in his own backfield. Might prove an especially necessary skill in 2017.

  • jafabian

    All the preseason analysts are looking at last years O-Line for the Hawks and are assuming those players haven’t had any growth, haven’t worked to improve in the off-season. Usually Pro Football Focus is pretty good but in this case they totally misjudged the Hawks. Britt became a Pro Bowler. Ifedi plays with a D-Lineman’s mentality and WILL be better. Pocic was an All-American last year. They picked up Joeckel who was the 2nd pick of his draft and he’s only 25. Fant has had positive reviews during OTA’s which PFF obviously doesn’t cover. At the very least the Hawks have an average line and an average line was good enough to get to the Super Bowl twice. Teams like the Browns, Jets or 49ers would love to have the Hawks O-Line. I don’t see how they can grade higher than the Hawks. To me these writers didn’t do any actual scouting of their subject or put much thought into it.

    • art thiel

      PFF is more accurate when it has more data per career. Most Seahawks OLs have one year or less.

  • 1coolguy

    Even is PFF is 20% off, that only moves this group up 6 spots. The Hawks are just damn lucky they have Wilson, not Manning or some other stiff.

    • art thiel

      Six spots last year would have won the games with the Rams and AZ, and they host two home playoff games.