A year ago, the Seahawks’ obvious priority was to build an almost entirely new offensive line. They ended up with three first-time starters, a fourth in a new position and a fifth who was only in his second year at his spot.
Everyone hoped against hope that bunch of neophytes would not be this Super Bowl contender’s undoing. But, along with a few key injuries, it was.
Despite the apparent lack of progress, Pete Carroll thinks they have set a foundation and the continuity will help the group improve even if the club does nothing to add to the unit. He also made it clear they do not plan to spend much money on the line.
“I think we made a ton of progress,” he said Monday, not convincing anyone. “Knowing how much guys improve from one year to the next — and particularly the youngest guys improve the most — we have nothing but good things to think that will take place. Guys are going to get better.”
Sure, but when you are at the bottom, better is not necessarily good enough.
Carroll didn’t dismiss the idea of bringing in new blood.
“We’re going to work really hard in the offseason to make sure we make that spot really competitive again,” he said. “We’re not going to rest on anything or sit back like we think we’ve got it now. We’ll continue to work. There’s opportunities, of course — in the draft and free agency and all of that — that we’re open to. We never turn away from any of those chances.”
The Seahawks could afford a good veteran starter, but Carroll said they are not going big-game hunting — i.e., no Joe Thomas trade, no expensive free-agent linemen.
“That’s not how we think, like, ‘OK, let’s take money and put it here’ and all of the sudden you’re going to be better,” he said. “I don’t think you can just buy your way to it. We’re not going to do that; we’re not going to go out and spend a ton of money on free agency on one guy to try to save the day. That’s not how we function at all.”
Too bad, because a good left tackle — if available — certainly can save the day.
The Hawks probably will augment their depth with a cheap vet or two, like they did last year. Of course, neither was any good — J’Marcus Webb was released and Bradley Sowell was inactive by the end. So don’t expect much there.
“If we have to make some moves, we will,” Carroll said, “but we would like to see some continuity be really important. I can’t say it’s the ultimate thing that’s important, because we want to get really skilled and really tough and smart, but continuity is a factor in there. We’ll see if that’s the issue.”
The Seahawks haven’t had continuity up front for years. The last time a Seattle offense started the same five linemen was 2007, when Mike Holmgren’s club made the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Carroll’s offenses have averaged over six starting line combinations per season; they had five in 2016.
The coaches now will hope rookies Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Rees Odhiambo make a big step alongside Justin Britt, Mark Glowinski and Garry Gilliam (assuming the latter is back). Carroll wants to keep Ifedi at right guard “in the effort and spirit of continuity,” and Carroll said last month that he expects Odhiambo to challenge for a starting spot (tackle or guard?). Basically, Britt seems to be the only guy locked into a spot — he might be the first lineman to get an extension since Breno Giacomini and Max Unger in 2012.
“These guys are coming back and they’ll get after it … and be farther along than they were,” Carroll said. “It couldn’t be more obvious. That’s just the natural thing that’s going to happen. We need that natural occurrence to take place and help us be better from the start.”
Carroll also reiterated what we all know: The coaches count on Russell Wilson to help the offensive line. Over the last few years, they had depended on Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to offset the shortcomings of the blockers. But Lynch retired, and Wilson and Thomas Rawls were not healthy for most of the season — exposing the league’s least experienced line.
“You watched your quarterback not be the guy he can be for a long time and it’s hard on him,” Carroll said. “We had to adapt to that, find out what he was able to do and what he could do and we did. As soon as he got back, he helped us and we got better and he helped his linemen just like he helped the run game. Russell is a dynamic football player that has tremendous impact on the game and the guys that play around him. I think it’s about as clear as it can get.”
Yep, it’s clear all right: The Seahawks will not put a lot of resources into the line, expecting Wilson to run his way out of trouble — even though it hasn’t happened the last two years.
So we’re left to hope Carroll and company can do what they did in 2013 and 2014 — overcome a deficient offensive line.