Talking about it is tiresome, but it’s really the only thing hindering the Seahawks from winning another Super Bowl, so, until the Seahawks fix their offensive line, it will remain the topic du jour.
People can talk all they want about Kam Chancellor’s 2015 holdout or Earl Thomas’ 2016 injury being major factors in the Seahawks not advancing far in the playoffs those years. But the simple fact is: If the Hawks’ offensive line had been anywhere close to average in those seasons, the Hawks would have had a great shot at winning the Super Bowl — even with the issues in the secondary.
So now here we are again, coming off a significant opening loss to one of Seattle’s top NFC rivals, and the offensive line remains the biggest hindrance to Seattle’s success. And we have no idea if it will become any good, despite the insistence of Pete Carroll and Tom Cable that it will.
There are some who have never liked Cable as line coach, and that group has grown significantly over the past two failed seasons.
In Seattle’s Super Bowl seasons, he at least managed to cobble together lines that survived. In 2013, the Hawks were without their starting tackles for half the season, and they still managed to get through a schedule full of tough defenses with a 13-3 record. In 2014, the Hawks were without Max Unger for much of the season and started rookies and undrafted guys at three spots, yet they managed to muddle through and reach another Super Bowl. Cable deserved some credit for that.
But the line has regressed greatly over the past two years, and Cable deserves some blame for that. He made a major coaching error in selecting untested Drew Nowak to be center in 2015 — and then failed to rectify the mistake until midseason. He also couldn’t motivate Alvin Bailey or get Justin Britt to play well at guard.
Last year, Cable had to play undrafted, highly inexperienced George Fant at left tackle because Garry Gilliam and John Schneider’s veteran additions failed.
From 2010 to 2014, Cable had some supposed talent to work with. The 2014 Week 1 line featured two former first-rounders and two former seconds (although two of them had been overdrafted and most of them couldn’t stay healthy). By last year, all but Britt were gone and the unit was a messy construction zone.
After largely letting the line ride in 2012 and 2013, the Seahawks have started to put more resources into the unit over the past three years. Germain Ifedi was a 2016 first-round pick. Luke Joeckel is a former first-rounder being paid $8 million. Rees Odhiambo was a 2016 third and Mark Glowinski a 2015 fourth. The only high pick not starting right now is second-round rookie Ethan Pocic.
So now the investments need to pay off. But most of those guys struggled in the opener in Green Bay. Odhiambo gave up two sacks to Nick Perry in the first three plays. Ifedi had issues stopping Clay Matthews off the edge. Glowinski gave up a sack to Mike Daniels on the first play of the third quarter; and, two plays later, Joeckel was beaten by Daniels for another sack that resulted in a fumble and basically gave the Packers a touchdown.
“We’re all kind of disappointed because we hadn’t really seen that at all in the preseason,” Cable said, “and the expectations are very high, which they should be for this group.”
As always, Carroll and Cable are counting on the quintet to get better as the season goes on.
“I think there will definitely be improvement as we go through the first month of the season,” Carroll said. “I think we’ll see that. We saw distinct improvement in the preseason and then we play the game against a bunch of guys who did pretty well. I’m not trying to take anything away from anything that we did or try to avoid anything. They’re a good team and they played really good at the line of scrimmage, and we didn’t play as well.”
Assuming the unit will get better, it then is largely a question of time. How long until the unit is not a drag on this team?
Cable said the key is for the young linemen to get their heads right and focus on being consistent: “Don’t be on the rollercoaster.”
“We’ve only played one game. There’s time,” Carroll said. “We’re going to do really well; we’re going to have a really good season, and I hope it shows sooner than later. I don’t have any hesitation in telling you that. I love our club. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t start better — that’s it.”
Getting the running game going is the priority — because Seattle’s offense is based on it. The Hawks ran just 15 times for 53 yards (not counting Russell Wilson’s scrambles) in Green Bay, and Cable said that was not enough.
“This is a system where you want to be able to run the ball enough to set up your movements, your play actions, your shot plays, all that,” he said. “When you don’t do that, you are really out of whack in all phases offensively.”
It doesn’t matter who carries the ball — Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, Chris Carson — if no one can block for them.
“I’m not worried too much about (who runs it),” Cable said, “just more about the consistency of blocking it right.”
As for the idea of the Hawks going up tempo more, you can forget it. Parsing the words of the coaches, Carroll said they don’t want to get into shootouts against good quarterbacks, and Cable indicated they are not considering it beyond the usual situations — i.e., end of half, in trail mode.
Of course, as we have said many times, there are a lot of ways the Seahawks can help their beleaguered line. It’s just a question of whether they will do it.
The Hawks certainly don’t have much time to get ready for the 49ers’ good, young defensive line.
If they couldn’t contain Daniels in Green Bay, how are they going to handle DeForest Buckner — the 49ers’ 2016 first-round pick who was the NFL’s best inside pass rusher in Week 1?
The 49ers lost to Carolina 23-3, but they allowed just 3.1 yards per rush.
In other words, expect another disjointed performance from Seattle’s offense.