BY Art Thiel 09:06PM 03/18/2021

Thiel: Hawks’ O-line fix done with Pocic back?

The return of center Ethan Pocic Thursday figures to settle the Seahawks’ offensive-line questions. Whether it’s enough for the inscrutable Mr. Unlimited remains to be seen.

Ethan Pocic is back for another season. / Seahawks.com

The return Thursday of C Ethan Pocic suggests that the Seahawks are finished with the chore of fixing the offensive line, the object of controversy in the saga of Russell Wilson’s winter of living dangerously. And they may be done with the early phase of free agency that has burned through their $17 million in cash under the salary cap.

A free agent after four years in Seattle, Pocic agreed to take his job back for one year and $3 million, according to the NFL Network. He was the Seahawks’ second-round pick in 2017 out of LSU and struggled at guard before finding his place in 2020 as the successor to Justin Britt.

Pro Football Focus ranked Pocic seventh among 11 centers (201st overall) in the market, the 11th being Britt, who returned this week from missing 2020 to sign with Houston for one year at $3.2 million.

Here’s what PFF said about Pocic:

After three years playing mostly guard, Pocic returned to center in 2020, his college position. Playing a career-high 993 snaps, Pocic finished as the No. 27 center in the league with a 59.8 overall grade. On the optimistic side, Pocic ranked above average in pass-block grade on true pass sets, so we could see improvement in his overall pass-blocking grade moving forward. On the other hand, he ranked below average in the run game, whether it was earning positives or avoiding negatives, so Pocic’s upside appears to be an average pass blocker with below average work as a run blocker.

Pocic, 25, likely will be helped by playing next to Gabe Jackson, the guard acquired this week in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. A major upgrade from oft-injured Mike Iupati, who retired after the season, Jackson, 30 in July, is expected to fill the left-side vacancy after Damien Lewis was a rookie-season success at right guard.

Since LT Duane Brown and RT Brandon Shell are scheduled to return for the final years of their contracts, along with a likely new starter at tight end in free-agent signee Gerald Everett from the Rams, the front is probably set — barring an addition from the draft that is down to three picks for now.

After 47 sacks, third-most in 2020, gave him 394 for his career, already 20th on the all-time list in just nine seasons, Wilson went public in a February media tour with a scolding of his blockers. He said, “I’m frustrated (about) getting hit too much. I’m frustrated with that part of it . . . we need better pass protection.”

Although the public part violated coach Pete Carroll’s rule about always protecting the team, the idea of Wilson creating resentment among his linemen is probably overblown. Quarterbacks almost always have standing to call out teammates, and only Brown has the stature to challenge Wilson. One conversation between them figures to settle things, especially if Brown wants to bring up the fact that Wilson’s 2.97 seconds before pass release was the fourth-longest in the NFL in 2020.

Regarding the cap, the re-signings of Seattle free agents Pocic, DT Poona Ford and special teams ace Nick Bellore, the additions of Jackson, Everett and CB Ahkello Witherspoon, and the losses in free agency of the Griffin twins, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Phillip Dorsett and WR David Moore, who Thursday signed a two-year deal with Carolina ($4.75 million, $1.25 million guaranteed) almost certainly leaves Seattle over the cap for now.

They can create cap room by extending the contracts of one or more players, but that may await the time when they improve the pay for veterans Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, young vets who are entering their their final contract years.

So while you’re standing by your Twitter account waiting for the next development, you can ponder this inscrutable tweet Thursday from Mr. Unlimited:

The only near-equivalence I can find in my in readings of First Carrollians is this passage:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no Aaron Donald; for Gabe and Ethan are with me.


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YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Based on his verse it seems as though Wilson is either patting himself on the back or there’s something in the works that benefits him such as a trade to a preferred team. More than likely he likes the recent deals though IMO on paper it’s at best a slight upgrade for the O-Line. Pocic does seem to be improving his game so hopefully that trend continues. I’m not sure about the pass protection being better now since historically under Pete Carroll the line focuses more on run blocking than pass blocking.

    Not surprised to lose Moore, especially when Swain was getting on the field more and more, but I was with Dorsett. The Jags must really be hurting at WR to sign a player who didn’t play in 2020 and has passed 528 yards receiving in his 5 year career only once. The players on last years practice squad have opportunities that they can’t afford to squander.

    • DJ

      Good call on Swain, but I’d been hoping Moore could hang in there for what should be a prosperous future. With his size and strength he would have been a solid 3rd and flourished in a more dynamic, less predicable offense. Good for him though. Swain will be a fine substitute, having had an impressive first year.

      Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ve been in situations in life where time is of the essence and you do everything to seize the moment. I’m not going to give Russ/agent any style points, but I really think he’s just been leaving no stone unturned this off-season – “if you’re making changes, P L E A S E do everything you can to improve my protection, not just the scheme”. Knowing Positive Russ, his tweeted reaction to the recent additions is likely a statement of encouragement. Also knowing him, he will be doing everything this off season to be improved and prepared.

      Can’t wait for next season!

      • jafabian

        I’ve long said that the Hawks should start a FB as they when Michael Robinson. He was good enough to go to the Pro Bowl and provided added protection for Wilson. Since he retired the Hawks usually go with two TE sets giving Wilson a third WR which I’ve always assumed that’s what he wanted and the results show because when Jimmy Graham became that 2nd TE Wilson passed for more than 4000 yards for the first time and has passed the 4000 yard mark 4x in the past 6 years. I think Wilson should look at what he has instead of what he doesn’t have. A lot of QB’s would do anything to have the offensive weapons he has. He’s publicly stated that his offensive line is bad. He’s put that out there. So do something about it, use the skills God has given you, the 1000 yard receivers, TE’s and RB’s and move the ball.

        • art thiel

          The Seahawks get some of the same FB effect with two TEs, one as an H-back.

          Wilson bears a share in all this, but you rarely hear any QB publicly express error or weakness, aside from the occasional “my bad” on an obvious one-off mistake.

          • jafabian

            I’m wondering if there will be any fallout from the O-Line and coaches. If I was Duane I’d be pissed.

          • 1coolguy

            If RW would 1/ develop an internal clock and get rid of the ball and 2/ understand that throwing the ball away (out of bounds, long, etc) is not a bad thing, his sacks would drop dramatically.
            Lock him in a room to watch Brady and Montana tapes 24 / 7 with the hope these might sink in.
            Frankly having watched RW compared to the greats, I’m tired of his whining about sacks.

          • 2nd place is 1st loser

            Just out of curiosity, how many times are you hit by 300 lb guys every Sunday? I get what you’re saying, but he’s the one getting whacked. Not you.

        • DJ

          Man, agreed on FB & offensive weapons. I argue that the sum total may have been the best overall as far as offensive threats that the Hawks have ever had.

          While Russell does hold his share of responsibility, it’s a coach’s job to put the players in positions to succeed, and Schotty failed to do that – poor or gimme chess player last year – almost like he was trying to fail. Hard for Russ to overcome that. Maybe Russell needed to pull an Aaron Rogers, ignore the play and call his owns at times. But, he’s a good soldier and follows orders. That aspect is often missed.

      • art thiel

        Everyone knows the Seahawks have under-invested in the O-line, partly because Wilson’s deal takes up so much of the cap. Yet iIf they had drafted better, the costs to fix wouldn’t be so high. Wilson finally going public is probably a culmination of a long-held resentment.

        • 1coolguy

          Exactly

    • art thiel

      Wilson knew the ability to improve pass-blocking under the Seahawks cap was probably minimal. Getting someone of Jackson’s history was lucky, but costly, for the Seahawks.

      Schottenheimer knew Dorsett’s upside and health as much as anyone. The risk was small for a team that had the most room under the cap.

    • eyeroq

      “IMO on paper it’s at best a slight upgrade for the O-Line”

      I’m seeing a vast under-appreciation for Gabe Jackson on this thread and I’m not really sure why. “Slight upgrade”?! Gabe Jackson is quite the decent pass protector and only gave up a sack last year. He might just be the best pass protecting interior lineman they’ve had in the Wilson era since Unger. I know the bar is low given the reclamation projects the line has taken on at Guard and Center but still … going from a perpetual weakness of Seattle’s line at LG (The always injured Mike Lupati) to strength as Gabe Jackson and Duane Brown will now anchor the left side is HUGE. I don’t see how in any way you can say that’s a “slight” upgrade.

      He was also expensive. When they only had 4 picks, giving up a 5th plus Jackson’s 10 mil cap hit this year was a high price to pay on the 3rd day of free agency after missing out on Zeitler. But most importantly it was a signal to Wilson’s camp that they’re prioritizing addressing his concerns. Why wouldn’t he be thrilled?

      • jafabian

        The Raiders thought highly enough of Jackson that they were about to release him before the Seahawks came dangling a draft pick in front of the Raiders for him. Granted the Raiders probably were gambling that they could re-sign him to a team friendly contract but still a gamble to release him.

        After the 2018 season Duane Brown thought highly enough of the O-Line he thought they could do a Super Bowl run. But in the off-season they lost George Fant and JR Sweezy who was coming off his best season and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl alternate nod. They were replaced with Mike Iupati who they had to talk out of retirement and Brown moved to Fant’s position. Then the next season Pocic had to replace Justin Britt who had a season ending injury and Fluker and Ifedi were replaced with rookie Damien Lewis and Brandon Schell. Each of the past three seasons they’re losing two starters and replacing them with at best comparable talent rather than adding to what they have and changing centers is even harder for the line and the QB. But all teams do this, it isn’t unique to the Seahawks. Champions find way to adapt.

        • eyeroq

          Thanks for the run down on how their line has remained mired in mediocrity but I’m a bit miffed as to what your point was? Was it that “all teams do this?” If so then I’d point out that at face value that’s just false when the best teams don’t. The teams Russell wants to stay competitive with yet finds himself losing to come playoff time have had stability on their line from year to year. Meanwhile he’s been forced into perpetually working with a patchwork line because of signings like way-past-his-prime Mike Lupati whose best years were clearly behind him when the front office tried to dust him off the scrap heap in 2019 at 32. He’d been so broken down with injuries he’d only seen the field in 11 games the prior two seasons. And true to form, he was predictably unreliable for the Seahawks, too injured to contribute to playoff runs in 2019 and 2020 and only taking a paltry half of the offensive snaps last season as the ostensible starting LG. Russ looks at the guys he wants to compare himself like yonder in Green Bay Rodgers has mainstay All Pro Baktiari protecting his blind side for the last 7 years (since Russ won the SB, ages ago), another first team All Pro at Center Corey Lindsey the Pack just re-signed, sophomore LG Elgton Jenkins who blossomed into a pro bowler in just his 2nd season, even journeymen like Rick Wagner at right tackle doing yeoman’s work with a 78.2 pass block grade on the season. This is par for the course in places like Green Bay and Baltimore who are very good at drafting and developing linemen. Doesn’t seem to matter who they put in there, year after year they play well as a cohesive top 5 unit. Even the Rams have fielded a top 10 line every year since McVay took over. Meanwhile Seahawks resort to coaxing broken down retreads like Lupati out of retirement while letting the players they’d spent painful years developing from garbage (Fant, Sweezey, Britt are great examples) only to let walk just when they start to show promise. Well, Britt was injured.

          Regardless I’m not still not grasping your calculus deeming Jackson a “slight upgrade” over Lupati when it appears like night and day to me. A guard good enough for the Raiders to commit to re-signing to big money for his 2nd contract (when have Carroll era Seahawks made such a commitment to a quality interior lineman since Unger who was from Holmgren’s regime? Their track record is lacking) and still in the prime of his career at 29 is a far cry from a 33 year old injury liability whose best days were long behind him. In a year of cap constriction a right guard with a big money contract is going to be expendable unless he’s All Pro. Did they overpay? Almost certainly. Like trading for Duane Brown the price is steep to be competitive at positions you don’t draft well. But I just don’t see how anyone can call this a “slight upgrade” over Lupati. Suffice to say this would have never have happened had Russ not let it be known publicly he was no longer ok with doing nothing about the line. If they weren’t going to trade him the Seahawks had to show commitment to addressing his concerns. Russ appears thrilled that they did and seems to recognize it as far more than a “slight upgrade”.

  • tor5

    I hadn’t seen that RW post. Seems that speaks volumes… assuming your Carrollian interpretation is correct. Could be a pivot to him being Mr. Positive again.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Adding Gabe Jackson and keeping Pocic, full stop, is NOT a re-making of the OL of the sort Russ was looking for, I’d wager.

    • jafabian

      Seems more like a patchwork job.

      • eyeroq

        Seriously?

    • Husky73

      Steve August remains available.

    • Hockeypuck

      Agreed. Don’t know who they think they’re fooling here…

    • eyeroq

      Really? What sort of overhaul did you think Wilson had in mind?

      LG was the biggest hole on the line with Lupati retiring and the first place you’d look for obvious upgrades. Why are you so down on Jackson? He’s known to be decent in pass protection, he only gave up one sack last year. When was the last time the Seahawks made expensive moves on the 3rd day of free agency to bolster the offensive line? I don’t think they ever have.

      How are you interpreting his tweet as non plussed?

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