BY Art Thiel 05:14PM 07/27/2018

Thiel: Penalty king Ifedi ready to leave his past

Tom Cable said he was immature. Cliff Avril said he acted entitled. Seahawks RT Germain Ifedi, the 2017 leader in NFL penalties, has had his butt kicked in a proper direction.

Germain Ifedi led the NFL in penalties last season. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

If you’re a major league baseball player, it’s like Mike Trout being traded to your team. If you’re an NBA player, it’s like LeBron James taking his talents to your side. That’s how RT Germain Ifedi feels about the Seahawks’ acquisition of LT Duane Brown.

Especially since Ifedi grew up in inner-city Houston, where the Texans took Brown with a first-round pick (26th overall) in 2008.

“I’ve looked up to Duane since his rookie year,” Ifedi said Friday afternoon after practice. “I stick to his side and follow him around wherever he goes. To have that type of person in my football life and my personal life . . . I can’t lie to you. It’s the greatest move (the Seahawks) have ever made —  for my benefit — since I’ve been here.”

Whether having his role model at hand makes Ifedi, 24, a better player in 2018 remains to be seen. Brown was around for half a season in 2017, and no uptick was measurable. In fact, Ifedi’s lack of productivity played a part in the firing of his position coach, Tom Cable, who urged his drafting in the first round in 2016 (31st overall).

The Seahawks hope new O-line coach Mike Solari, with his emphasis on the power-run game, will get more from Ifedi, who was lost at times blocking in space in Cable’s preferred zone scheme. But to Ifedi’s way of thinking, a coach is more or less a coach, and a scheme a scheme.

“With every coach, you’re going to get a different flavor,” Ifedi said. “Mike and Tom are both really good in their own way. We’re fitting together with Mike.

“With line play, guys fit in to whatever we have to do. Being a better man blocker than zone blocker might be a thought, but you do what you’re coached to do.”

In Ifedi’s first two seasons in Seattle, Cable didn’t have much success in coaching Ifedi,  either at right guard his rookie year or right tackle last season.

In fact, last season Ifedi became nationally notorious: The NFL’s most penalized player with 20 fouls, five more than the next-worst football felon. The total included nine false starts, which is largely a failure to know the snap count. It’s like a banker not knowing how to open a safe. He’s more useful if he grabs a mop.

In December, Cable was blunt about his perception of Ifedi’s problem.

“I think it’s about maturity, I really do,” he said. “We’ve talked about it, we addressed it again today. Really, this is about protecting your team. That’s in all phases; you have to have a conscience about you about doing the right thing, and that’s really where it ends.”

To Ifedi’s credit, he didn’t dispute Cable’s assessment.

“Yeah,” he said. “People like to talk about the penalties. I take it. It is what it is. You gotta grow out of it.

“As the year went along, it got better, but still added up. It’s a maturity thing. You can’t cost the team, no matter what. If you get called, it don’t matter if it’s (the defender’s) fault, it’s on you. It’s up to you to make that not happen. That’s part of growing up.”

Another critic, former teammate Cliff Avril, said he thought Ifedi’s issue was a sense of entitlement.  In his new gig as an air talent for 950 KJR radio, Avril said Thursday, “Most players nowadays, they have this attitude of feeling like everything should be given to ’em. That’s what his approach has been the past few years, and I think that’s why he hasn’t taken that next step.”

A more humble-sounding Ifedi said he went over the video of his penalties and had a ready recall of each, but no theme emerged, except that he was accountable.

“It was all over the damn place,” he said, smiling. “I looked at ’em all, believe me. That’s how I know off the top of my head.

“Everything around you is not going to go right all the time. You have to be able to do your thing, no matter what happens. You can’t be the one. If it does happen, keep it to a bare minimum. You want to be at the bottom of the league, not the top of the league.”

Entering his second season on the right side, Ifedi no longer has the excuse of learning a new position, and in his third pro season, has lost the excuse of youth. Coach Pete Carroll was blunt about the need for improvement.

“We need his game to be cleaned up,” he said. “We can’t let him be a liability because of penalties; you can’t be more obvious. He knows that.e doesn’t want that to be a part of his game at all. That, I think, will come as he grows more confident,and he’s more at peace with what’s asked of him.

“He’ll be able to focus in a way that allows him to play with the cadence, and with the line of scrimmage. That’s a big point of emphasis.”

Even Ifedi knows it isn’t that hard.

“Honing in on the details,” he said. “It sounds cliche. It sounds simple. Lock in on your assignment: I know the defender, I know the play call, I know the the snap count. Ninety eight percent of the time, you’re not going to get a penalty.

“It’s just day-in, day-out practice. You gotta get off on the count. It’s easy, once you get the muscle memory of it.”

He also has drawn a few personal fouls for over-reacting. That may be where Brown’s influence is felt.

“He’s steady, he doesn’t panic, he’s a warrior,” Ifedi said. “He knows it all, sees it all. At 33, he’s had his downs, his highs. You admire him. He embraces leading us. You can’t ask for anything more.

“I think it’s time for me to take a step. I’m not going to shy away. I want to become one of those guys they talk about like they talk about Duane.”

If Ifedi advances even in the general direction of Brown’s career arc, much of the Seahawks’ tepid O-line woes near resolution.


YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Most important unit on the field is the offensive line. They have a whole lotta work to do.

    • art thiel

      I think the talent level with Brown is close to NFL average.

  • Bruce McDermott

    I am dubious. I think he is out of position in the NFL at RT. That, and any sense of “entitlement,” is a bad combination.

    • art thiel

      You’re entitled to your dubiousness.

      The one schematic thing that will help him is more plays where he power-blocks the nearest defender. He didn’t do well on the edge with poor footwork and decision-making in zone blocking,

  • Ken S.

    Call me skeptical. If he leads the league at such a dubious ‘record’ again, this upcoming season there won’t be a team in the NFL that would bother to pick him up even if he’s on waivers. Ifedi has thwarted more Seahawk drives than any of the NFL’s best defenses. But what the hell? If Ifedi screws up this season at the level he has the past few seasons he won’t be worth a 6th round pick in trade.What have the Seahawks got to lose at this point? Well, other than a game or two!Who knows? He may work out well this year, but, yeah, I’m skeptical.

    • John M

      Agree. As Ifidi said, “I think it’s time for me to take a step . . . ” Wow. Sharp observation. Another couple years he could start talking like a pro . . .

      • art thiel

        Remember, it took Justin Britt three years to get it.

    • art thiel

      If he soils the sheets, George Fant awaits. Better athlete, and maybe a smarter player.

  • Husky73

    Art…off topic…but, do you have any insights on John Ross? What happened to him last year? What is his status at training camp right now?

    • art thiel

      He had a knee injury, but has recovered and is lighting up camp in Tampa Bay. A full go.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    One of the funniest things I’ve read on this site was a comment someone made ( husky , was it you ? ) that went something like “I recently learned Ifedi is the Swahili word for orange traffic cone” ..

    All jokes aside , as Hawk fans we should be rooting for the kid . His play hasn’t been sufficient even without the penalties – here’s hoping Solari can coach him up , reduce the false starts and teach him better hand technique – he holds way too much . And as Art and coach Carroll have indicated , if he doesn’t , then he’ll be replaced . Sadly , he’d be replaced by a Div II basketball player , or Isaiah Battle , who’s never taken a regular season NFL snap in his career . So let’s pray our first round pick improves !

    • Husky73

      Like just about everything on this site, I wish I had said that. Alas, it wasn’t me. With every column Art writes, I think, “Gee, I wish I could write like that.” And, the responders, including Theyfinallyfiredcable, are much more pithy and insightful than I am.