Just one new blocker, but protection starts with Waldron

With the return of backups Jordan Simmons and Cedric Ogbuehi, the Seahawks’ offensive line is now set — at least until the draft – but plenty of people are wondering what Russell Wilson thinks about the fact that his calls for better protection netted just one new blocker.

Here’s a good reminder for those folks (and Wilson): Seattle’s first and biggest effort at improving protection was made in January with the hires of OC Shane Waldron and running game coordinator Andy Dickerson from the Rams.

While some fans have jumped on Wilson’s misguided and mistimed blast-the-blockers bandwagon, the fact is the Seahawks’ line was not bad last year. In the first half of the season, it was more than competent, in fact. It looked worse in the second half because injuries hindered it against some very good defenses.

Seattle has three excellent returning starters. Duane Brown, 35, stayed healthy in 2020 and played a great season. Brandon Shell was John Schneider’s best addition and one of the best players on offense until he suffered a high ankle sprain in November. Damien Lewis had a solid rookie season.

Gabe Jackson, the guard acquired from the Raiders, should help Ethan Pocic, who got off to an unexpectedly good start in 2020 before struggling amid injuries to himself and others.

Pocic did not have consistently good guard play on either side of him last season – injuries on the left and a rookie on the right – and communication was often a problem against blitzers and good D-lines that put together some jail breaks against Seattle’s line.

With Lewis having a year under his belt and Jackson a seemingly big improvement on the left side, Pocic and the interior should be better.

Mickey Loomis recently pointed out that the Saints always focused more on the inner three blockers than their tackles because Drew Brees liked to step up in the pocket. The Seahawks could take a lesson from that “help the short QB” philosophy (Brees typically threw a lot more passes in the intermediate middle of the field than Wilson has). Jackson and Lewis are good steps. A top center would be the final piece.

Pocic’s deal is for just $3 million, which is backup pay. You can bet the Hawks will look for competition for him – most likely in the draft. Rob Staton just mocked Senior Bowl star Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin-Whitewater to Seattle in Round 2. Josh Myers of Ohio State could be an option at No. 56 as well. But it’s also very possible Pocic is Seattle’s center in 2021, and that might not necessarily be as bad as some think if the guard play is much more consistent.

Some fans also are blasting the re-signing of Ogbuehi, but he overcame a horrible first game against the Eagles (allowing six pressures) to play pretty well in the final three weeks while Shell was out (just three total pressures and no sacks). Ogbuehi was helped against Washington’s stellar pass rush by a good dump-the-ball strategy, but he played well enough in the final three games to merit returning as the swing tackle.

So the Hawks have seven of their top eight linemen back, with Jackson replacing oft-injured and retiring Mike Iupati. That’s not necessarily bad news, especially if Waldron helps Wilson as much as he is supposed to.

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