BY Art Thiel 05:36PM 09/20/2017

Thiel: Seahawks O-line needs more questions

The O-line problems of the Seahawks and throughout the NFL are pinned on use of spread offenses in colleges. Justin Britt suggested a short cut that worked for him: Ask questions.

Here’s evidence that the Seahawks line had some success protecting QB Russell Wilson Sunday: Justin Britt has a man down. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

To hear many in the NFL tell it, the spread offense in college football is the worst invention since the adobe submarine. Offensive linemen who make it to the NFL have no experience in the three-point stance used in run-blocking, which accounts for much of the epidemic of dorky offenses plaguing the league, including right here in Field Goal City.

Seahawks C Justin Britt, who was a rookie right tackle from Missouri’s spread offense when the Seahawks drafted him in the second round in 2014, tends to agree.

“The three-point stance was new to me at tackle,” he said. “At Missouri, we were in a two-point stance 90 percent of the time. It’s a big transition.

“My rookie year, I was overthinking, trying to be perfect. Now, I know where to put my helmet and hands, and I trust myself not to be perfect, but right.”

It did take him three years and two position changes before he was good enough to earn a contract extension. At the moment, he’s the Seahawks’ only O-lineman who’s a little above NFL-average.

Then again, there’s a secret, exotic technique Britt deployed that pushed him through. It was revealed Wednesday before practice by DE Cliff Avril, against whom Britt toiled in practice that first year.

“The coolest thing about Justin was he wasn’t afraid to ask questions,” he said. “After practice, if I beat him on a rush, he’d be like, ‘Bro, what did I do there?’ What made you do this?’

“That’s why he’s been successful. He’s not afraid to ask and learn.”

How tough can that be? As the Seahawks prepare to head to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans Sunday (1:05 p.m., Fox), the O-line has become the vortex of controversy, the culprit in the slow start that has produced a single touchdown in two games.

Fans want players traded, coaches fired and goats sacrificed. Some of the answers are simpler.

“When I was young, I asked questions, too,” Avril said. “‘I’d ask veteran linemen things, I’d ask the coaches what they were teaching.

“(These days) it doesn’t happen too often. Pride gets in the way of asking questions and sounding like a dummy. You know us alpha males: They can’t ask questions because they’ll be made fun of. So what? As long as you get what you need to learn.”

It’s sounds a little ridiculous, but hey, that what a lot of guys do. Ask any spouse who inquired of her driver-husband if he was lost.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was reluctant to blame any single aspect for the Seahawks problem, saying “everything is relative,” meaning that all clubs are in the same bind when it comes to finding lineman who can handle NFL assignments right away.

But the problem haunts the Seahawks more than most teams because they have invested so heavily in the defense, always Carroll’s No. 1 priority. The result is less investment on the offensive side. The Seahawks’ line always will have a higher-than-normal turnover rate.

In Sunday’s 12-9 slog over San Francisco, the Seahawks had 38 yards in 19 rushes through three periods before finally exhausting the 49ers defense. And QB Russell Wilson, apparently mistrustful of his pass protection, attempted only a single throw deeper than 20 yards.

Besides Britt, the Seahawks started second-year players at the tackles (Rees Odhiambo and Germain Ifedi), a fifth-year left guard coming off knee surgery (Luke Joeckel), and a right guard in his third year (Mark Glowinski). That’s better than last season, but that says little.

The group played every snap, but Carroll hinted Monday that “there will be some things that will be a little bit different this week.”

He didn’t elaborate Wednesday, but speculation was Oday Aboushi, a fourth-year veteran, has a shot to start ahead of Glowinski. The Seahawks also could have better blocking at tight end if an ankle sprain keeps out starter Jimmy Graham and Carroll deploys Luke Willson.

Then came news Wednesday that Joeckel was held out of practice because of his knee.

Whoever shows up Sunday against the Titans, a three-point favorite, the limited supply of quality linemen likely will not change, nor will Carroll change priorities.

Carroll also mentioned that the collectively bargained reduction in allowable contact during practice over the past five years has changed the game.

“It affects the game fundamentally,” he said. “It is hard to hold on to the fundamentals of this game, which is blocking and tackling and the leverage and pad level and the physical parts of the game.

“There is no reason to complain about it. It is relative. Everybody has the same opportunities. (As a season goes on) it is difficult to stay abreast and I think you can tell. I totally feel like I can see it happen.”

But as the changes sweep over the industry, there’s a game to be won every week. Britt has a suggestion for his Seahawks linemates: Talk to Avril.

“He’s a good guy to get you right,” he said. “I got my fill of experience going against him. He made my rookie year a lot easier as it went on.”

Avril explained that his store has been open only a couple of weeks.

“I didn’t give Britt those tips until after training camp,” he said, smiling, “so training camp would be easier for me.”

Who knew Cliffs Notes would come back into educational fashion?

 


YourThoughts

  • Diamond Mask

    At this point the only difference between the Seahawks and the Giants is an elite defense and a more mobile QB. Not sure what to do at this point except hope for improvement which we are likely to see. We are more fortunate than the Giants however as we have a defense that may carry the offensive line until they get to if not competence at least to adequacy.

    Adobe submarine! :) Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Adequacy is the goal. It would be enough.

  • John Brown

    So, what you[re saying is that Pete’s defense first plan, works? GO HAWKS!!! :)

    • Steed

      It worked for 5 straight seasons with a playoff win including 2 Superbowl appearances and one championship.

      *

      If our linemen are only good at blocking for the spread offense, maybe they should just give up on re training them and run the darn spread offense.

      • art thiel

        Pro defenses are too good. They would smother the spread.

        • Steed

          Can we run the offense from that electric football game where the field vibrates and all the players end up in a scrum? No 3 point stances are needed in that offense.

    • art thiel

      But it can’t carry an offense all season.

  • Jamo57

    Having watched the spread permeate college ball for the last decade, my son and I have wondered often if we’re Ultimate Frisbee fans instead of football fans.

    • art thiel

      Good point. The spread is easy to teach and sells tickets. More dumbing down of America.

  • tor5

    So you’re saying that linemen keep getting beat because they’re not good at the 3-point technique. But if they went back to the 2-point they’d get beat even worse? Yet in college they play the 2-point because it suits the spread offense and the defenses aren’t as good. So I wonder why more colleges don’t abandon the spread and teach the 3-point if it’s better against good defenses? Shouldn’t it be even “more better” against average college defenses? I don’t get the logic. (Dumb question, I suppose, but I’m not too proud to ask.)

  • jafabian

    Critics and haters are piling onto the Hawks for their O-line problems but nearly the entire NFL seems to be having the same issues or worse. You don’t see a Walter Jones or Anthony Munoz coming out of college anymore. The NFL needs to realize that they have to teach as well as coach in that instance. They’re too used to players being ready after being drafted.

  • John M

    This article has been instructional, Art, and caused me to recall a great year when the Hawks had to throw the ball because Curt Warner went down.Ground Chuck had no choice, and they won 12 games with Kreig at QB. They also had one of the smallest centers in the league, Blair Bush, who was known to have excellent technique and so did Reggie McKenzie at guard, and Baily worked hard every down. Maybe the O-linemen should now be shown some old movies with a Q&A afterward, or has it changed too much?