Hawks going big to avoid going home early again

NFL draftThe Seahawks lost seven games last season, and most of those losses occurred because their offensive line got pushed around.

The Rams and Panthers especially dominated Seattle with their great defensive fronts — the Rams’ Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and William Hayes; the Panthers’ Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Kony Ealy and Charles Johnson. Those crews handed Seattle four losses, including the one that knocked the Hawks out of the playoffs.

The Seahawks will see those lines at least three times next season, and Pete Carroll and John Schneider know they have to get stronger up front if they are going to avoid the same fate they suffered in 2015. They can’t be swept by the Rams if they want to win the NFC West, and they can’t lose to the Panthers if they want to win the NFC.

That’s all you really need to know to understand why they drafted 6-foot-6, 324-pound tackle Germain Ifedi in the first round, 6-4, 314-pound guard Rees Odhiambo in the third and 6-2, 299-pound center Joey Hunt in the sixth. They are all smart, strong and athletic — and it sounds like the Seahawks think they all have a chance to start, now or later.

Based on what the Seattle bosses said in separate interviews Monday, Ifedi actually will compete to start at right guard and Odhiambo will work at left guard for now.

Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he wants to “get as big as you can get in football” on the right side, with Ifedi next to 6-7, 331-pound journeyman J’Marcus Webb at right tackle. “We are going to … see what those guys can do together,” Carroll said.

Of course, what they try now most likely won’t be what they end up going with in Week 1 against Miami.

Other than perhaps Garry Gilliam at left tackle, we have no idea who will start where on Sept. 11. It seems likely that Ifedi and Mark Glowinski will start somewhere.

Glowinski had been the presumed starter at right guard, but he is working at left guard during OTAs. That seems to indicate he will get a chance to oust Justin Britt, who has struggled at both right tackle and left guard and might be better as the swing tackle/sixth man.

Schneider told 710 ESPN that Odhiambo is in the mix at left guard as well, but he seems destined to redshirt, as Glowinski did last year.

Odhiambo was the only real gamble in the first two days, but the Seahawks rated him as a top-45 player when healthy, and Schneider said they had no concerns about his durability.

Schneider said Odhiambo — a two-time Mountain West first-teamer — “is a dominant player” when healthy. It remains to be seen whether he can stay that way in the NFL, of course.

So, based on what Schneider and Carroll said Monday, the early line appears to be Gilliam, Glowinski, Patrick Lewis, Ifedi and Webb. But don’t put any money on it.

Lewis is no sure thing either; the Seahawks apparently think Hunt, who led TCU’s zone scheme, could push for the starting center spot.

Schneider said Hunt is “a little bit undersized, but he plays real square, plays real tight. For an undersized guy, you don’t see him get knocked around a ton.” That’s because Hunt is powerful; he reportedly benched 34 reps of 225 pounds at his Pro Day.

Tom Cable and area scout Matt Berry were so high on Hunt that Schneider said, “I don’t know if Pete and I would (have been) able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey.”

“Had to get that done,” Carroll added. “What is really special about Joey is he has such command. He really sees the line of scrimmage and can make all the calls, so we know we’re bringing in a guy that can captain the offensive line, if he’s able to take that spot over. And that’s a really big plus.”

Schneider told 710 ESPN that Hunt compares to former Seahawk Robbie Tobeck and former Atlanta Falcon Todd McClure — undersized guys who had long careers.

A rookie center is not ideal, by any means, but the Hawks have to get better in the middle. So perhaps we end up seeing this quintet: Gilliam, Glowinski, Hunt, Ifedi, Webb.

Of course, it’s no sure thing that Webb will be any good at right tackle — he has had a checkered history there. If he flops at tackle, he could move to guard, and we could be looking at a Quinto card of Gilliam, Glowinski, Lewis/Hunt, Webb, Ifedi.

There are seemingly endless ways this could end up.

OL depth

“We’ve already set our early thoughts in motion,” Carroll said. “We’re going to wait and see what happens. We will have some flexibility and we’ll have to figure it out. We’ll want to get settled as soon as we can. But, we’re going to take the time to make those decisions and see how it goes. We have to get the guys on the field with us and all that first.”

Even if Carroll and Cable decide on a starting five early in camp — and don’t change their minds — the unit obviously will be a work in progress early in the season, just as it was in 2015. But the coaches should know how to deal with it this time. They sure seemed to know what they were looking for in this draft.

“All three of these guys are really smart players; they’re physical players,” Carroll said. “We were able to latch onto guys that I think have a great competitive mentality. … We’re very, very fortunate that these guys are coming in to battle and complement the guys that we have. I think that’s really the mindset that they carry and we thought was so special, and we just had to have these guys.”

As the line jells (hopefully) early in the season, the X-factor obviously is going to be Russell Wilson, whose on-field maturation in the second half of 2015 helped the offense set team records despite the line’s deficiencies.

As Carroll said last week, “He is the best he’s been. He’s the most versed he’s ever been. He can command the calls more so than ever, so he can correct things that might not get seen by a guy or might not get communicated properly. He’ll be the best guy at doing that on our team, so it’s important that we’re able to grow in that area, and we’re going to rely on Russell to do a really nice job there again.”

Meanwhile, Carroll is preaching patience with the line.

“This is really an exciting time for us because we know that there’s some really good things here and we have to put it together,” he said. “We don’t quite know yet. And we’re OK with that. You guys might not be, but we’re OK with that. We have to figure it out.”


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