After rough first month, O-line gets a few easier matchups

atlanta-logoOne of the concerning themes of the first month for the Seahawks was the crazy caliber of defensive lines they had to face.

Poor performance by their reconfigured offensive line against the Dolphins, Rams and Jets was the only thing that stood between the Hawks and a 4-0 record.

As expected, the new unit got whipped in the first two games — except for that final winning drive against Miami.

But, the good news is the unit did a better-than-expected job vs. the Jets — allowing Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and company to score some points and the Hawks to enter their bye at 3-1.

Now, with the line’s tough start over, the unit has a fairly friendly three-game stretch before it gets difficult again. And the quintet should get better by the week now that Germain Ifedi is back.

The Seahawks have not run the ball well against those tough fronts; they are averaging a very un-Seahawk-like 93 yards per game and 3.3 per attempt. But, compared to the matador performance of last year’s group in the first month, this crew has been much better in pass protection. Pete Carroll pointed out that they have cut the sacks in half, from 18 to nine though four games.

“There you go. That’s what we’re talking about,” he told 710 ESPN. “We’re better. We felt we’re better. You can see we’re better. We can still improve a great deal, too.

“We’ve held these guys we’ve played in high regard,” he said, meaning the stacked D-lines of Miami, Los Angeles and New York. “All the way through the schedule here, they’ve been highlighted players and athletes and draft picks and all that kind of stuff against a group that’s trying to find their way and get together.”

The next three games should help the unit do that. The Falcons, who are in Seattle this week, give up 4.3 yards per carry — which bodes well for Seattle’s running attack. The Falcons have held Denver and Carolina under 100 yards, but the Panthers fell way behind without Jonathan Stewart and had to abandon the run. Before those games, Oakland ran for 155 and New Orleans for 115.

The Falcons’ pass rush also is middle of the pack, with 10 sacks through five games. Their only rush threats are rising star Vic Beasley (4.5) and the ageless Dwight Freeney (3). So, all in all, this matchup looks winnable for Seattle’s O-line.

After the Falcons, the Hawks face Arizona, which gives up 118 rushing yards per game but has amassed 18 sacks and could pose a threat in the pass rush. The running game should be a huge factor in that game. Same with the Week 8 matchup vs. New Orleans, which ranks 31st in total defense and gives up 121.5 rushing yards per game and 4.4 per attempt.

This little stretch is about as easy as it is going to get for the Seattle O-line. In the second half of the season, that unit will face the stout run defenses of Buffalo (97 ypg), New England (86), Philadelphia (73), Carolina (95) and Green Bay (43). The Bills, Eagles and Packers all rank in the top five in sacks right now, too.

Carroll and his staff obviously hope the Hawks’ line straightens out before those games come along.

So far, the coach and his staff have been surprised by how well Justin Britt has played at center. Carroll also is happy with left guard Mark Glowinski and thinks Ifedi will become a “dominant” player.

“One of the things that’s obvious is Justin Britt has done a really good job in the middle,” Carroll said. “He’s been on it. He’s done well in the run game and the pass game. He’s done very well captaining the front and making his calls and working with Russell to direct and redirect protections. And that’s not something we knew would happen.”

As for Glowinski, Carroll said, “We’re fortunate that Mark has done a really good job. He’s really solid at the left guard spot.”

As for Ifedi, the coach said, “We’ve been thrilled to get him out since the day we saw him on the practice field. We realized that this is something really special. He’s been here one game so far; but, if you watch him in the game, he moves people. He makes the line of scrimmage move and he takes up a ton of space in pass protection. We’re going to be better with him in there.”

Carroll said Ifedi was “rusty” coming back from the high ankle sprain that kept him out of the first three games.

“He was just a little bit shoddy with some stuff,” Carroll said. “It just had to happen that way. He should improve a tremendous amount. And I think, as he improves, he’ll affect what’s going on with Garry (Gilliam) and what’s going on with Britt. We should see improvement in a number of areas.”

The next three games are the time to show it, because they will need to be much better if the offense is going to be effective against those stout defenses Seattle will face in the second half of the season.


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