BY Art Thiel 02:42PM 06/15/2018

Thiel: Britt says ‘old attitude’ returns to O-line

New coaches, plays and techniques have fired up C Justin Britt to where he thinks the Seahawks could be one of the NFL’s best offenses. Honest.

Newest lineman D.J. Fluker appears to be every bit of his listed 342 pounds. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

Absent blocking and tackling, mini-camp football for the outsider is a little like watching a dance through a keyhole in the ballroom door. Glimpses and flashes of movement lead to no reliable conclusions as to whether things are being done right.

So after the Seahawks’ spring dance ended Thursday, insiders were queried as to what’s going on. One, C Justin Britt, offered distinctive optimism about the Seahawks’ most maligned unit.

“If we stay on course, I don’t see why we can’t be one of the top offenses in the league,” he said. “We have the tools and the coaching.”

At this time on the football calendar, of course, optimism is as available as candy at Easter. But Britt’s enthusiasm seemed to generate at least partly from the change in position coach from the fired Tom Cable to his replacement, Mike Solari.

“Cable and Solari, they’re just different people,” he said.  “A different view, and perspective on how he coaches — in a real good way.

“He’s done what he’s doing for a long time. He’s definitely got a different tactic for how he coaches. It’s been great. I don’t think there’s a lot of guys feeling lost. I think they’re prepared.”

As Seahawks fans know, the offensive line often has been Old Testament lost — you know, 40 years in desert, like Moses.

Pro Football Focus ranked the 2017 line 27th, a generous spot considering that Mike Davis led the running backs with 240 yards, a paltry total by far the lowest in the league. QB Russell Wilson came under pass-rush pressure 209 times, third-most in the NFL, yet thanks largely to his gifted legs, kept his internal organs in the same place from where they began the season.

The lame line production suggested to many that the Seahawks needed to spend all remaining franchise treasure on new O-linemen, be they veterans or rookies. Instead, the Seahawks went the other way, adding only one free agent (D.J. Fluker from the Giants) to replace the unsigned Luke Joeckel, and one rookie (fifth-rounder Jamarco Jones of Ohio State) for depth.

The reason: The perpetual shuffle of under-talented players made for backsliding. Here’s how Britt put it:

“If I’m playing with different guards every week and every day, it’s kind of hard to build communication other than what’s in the book,” he said. “Working with the same guys, repetition really makes the line stronger.

“To have Solari come in and be real repetitive on how he does things, and how he teaches technique, I think he’s done a really good job.”

Last season’s dyspepsia began to fade some with the arrival of the line’s best player, LT Duane Brown. But because he arrived at midseason — the the worst time for a unit that needs repetition — via trade with Houston, this is his first spring workout in Seattle.

Brown’ transition was further compromised by an ankle injury. But 2017 is behind him.

Said Brown: “I feel more a part of the group, and being able to lead more right now in the offseason – in meetings, in practices, in workouts, doing everything – it’s a great feeling.”

So at the end of mini-camp Thursday, the line appeared set. Going from the left: 11-year vet Brown, second-year Ethan Pocic (up 20 pounds to 320), fifth-year Britt, sixth-year Fluker and third-year Germain Ifedi. All were drafted in either the first or second rounds, none of them are rookies, only Fluker is a first-timer, and they’re all getting simultaneous fresh takes from Solari.

In reserve is George Fant, who if he recovers fully from knee surgery, could supplant the line’s weak link, Ifedi, the most penalized man in the NFL last season.

In Britt’s view, Solari and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have created a big uptick from Cable and previous OC Darrell Bevell.

“They are coming in and re-introducing us to our old attitude, and what we got away from,” he said. “It’s all we need.”

When asked what that meant, Carroll declined to be specific — “I’m not going to talk a lot about that,” he said — but acknowledged a perceived improvement.

“We’re a little different — you’ll see as we go,” he said. “Mike has his background that he has brought, and he’s a heck of salesman. He’s got them turned already into the stuff we’re doing. It’s how he speaks and his language, and technically how we’re doing it.

“We’re coming back feeling more experienced than we’ve been (on the line) with really solid leadership, and it’s competitive. As soon as George gets back, we’re going to be healthy too.”

In June after a weak year, a Seahawks line that appears mostly the same is going to be taken seriously by no one. But if by, say, week six and the Seahawks are 4-2 with a top-12 offense, Britt will be eager to call you over, poke a meaty finger in your chest and ask you to recall where you heard it first.

If they’re 2-4 and averaging 91 yards rushing a game, feel free to stick your feeble finger in his chest.

 


YourThoughts

  • John M

    Baring injuries, they’re bound to be better. Maybe even much better. But we won’t really know until October, the month of Trick or Treat. It’s not just about the line, it’s the support of TE’s and backs that has to be more cohesive. It’s all new, but I like the personnel, even maybe perhaps Ifedi . . .

    • art thiel

      With Fant behind him, Ifedi has no slack this year.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Fant has to 1) recover from an ACL and 2), switch sides. I think Ifedi is safe for awhile, for better or worse.

        • art thiel

          All true. But he’s a superior athlete and a bright guy. I like his chances after a return to health.

  • jafabian

    I’d be fine with 91 rushing yards a game. That’d be a huge improvement.

    • Theyfinallyfiredcable

      Here here ! Anyone approaching 100 yds a game not named Russell Wilson would be a Godsend !

    • art thiel

      That includes Wilson, so no, 91 isn’t good.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    “Cable and Solari, they’re just different people” ..

    Thank God Frankenstein took his monster and left for the Raiders ! Just removing that man from the equation is addition by subtraction . Look , I understand it’s a good thing to have a couple of swing guys who can play guard OR tackle , or left or right side . But consistency on the O-line is more important than just about any other position group in football , and the footwork between say , guard and tackle or left to right side is completely different .

    Tom Cable’s premise was that because offensive linemen in college don’t put their hand in the dirt , he’d rather just take raw athletes than have to teach them to ‘unlearn’ old bad habits . He had ONE successful conversion – if you want to consider J.R. Sweezy a success ( he was barely adequate at best ) . Everything he did with the offensive line was an unmitigated disaster ; constantly shuffling people back and forth , zone blocking scheme 24/7 , let’s start a Division II basketball player from Bowling Green Kentucky at left tackle in the NFL ( pa-lease ) . And his input on draft days was abysmal . Let’s draft James Carpenter in the first round ( James himself famously once said in an interview “I have no business being a first round draft pick” ) .

    Ifedi scares the crap out of me ; another 1st round bust at this point , unless Solari can turn him around . The other option is the aforementioned Div. II basketball player – not a reassuring prospect . But by any standard , they should certainly be better . When you’re at the bottom of the barrel , there’s nowhere to go but up .

    • art thiel

      So . . . Cable being from Snohomish gets no points from you. OK.

      Cable made several draft choices that didn’t work. Coaching up goes only so far.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        LOL , I’d love to give him credit for coming from Panther country . Except I’m a Bruin from Cascade High in Everett. So , no ..

        Having said that , Rick Fenney used to maul people back in high school . I think he wound up with the Vikings for a while . Big , strong kid ..

        • art thiel

          Also wound up in a heap o’trouble after football.

    • Ron

      “The car ride from the airport to here was like great peace,” Cable said
      Thursday. “When I went through the gate, it was like, ‘This is where I
      belong.’”

      Evidently, Tom Cable didn’t feel like he belonged in Seattle. He “belongs” in Oakland.

  • maoling

    Thanks for making me look up dyspepsia, Art!

    • art thiel

      I always say it’s a good day when I learn a new word.

  • 1coolguy

    Thanks for this update Art – Even though we will not know until the season is well underway, I found it enlightening that Britt made a distinction between Bevell and Cable, and the new coaches. Let’s hope it comes through. I for one was burned out on Bevell for years, and hopefully there is the uptick in the offense that bears this out.