Seahawks Offensive Line Overreaction

I understand that overreacting to a preseason NFL football game, especially the first one, can be seen as stupid. And, in fact, it probably is. However, there has been a concern that the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks will keep the team from reaching its potential this season. Simply put, the offensive line has been not good the last couple of years. The unit run-blocks seemingly well, but is awful in pass blocking. After the performance of the starters in attempting and mostly failing to block the Denver Broncos in last Friday’s game, fans can be assured that any concerns about the position group going into 2015 are completely founded.

There are two stats from last season that are worrisome. The first stat is that Russell Wilson was under pressure on drop backs more than any other quarterback in the NFL. 44.9% of the time he was running a play that was a designed throw he was feeling rushed. Some of this is due to the fact that Wilson holds on to the ball too long many times. Most of the pressure on Wilson is due to situations like the second play from scrimmage for the Seahawks. Wilson dropped back, and to his right Justin Britt got beat fairly quickly by Broncos end Von Miller. (Miller is an excellent player, but he is smaller than Britt.) Miller overpowered Britt, made it to Wilson, knocked the ball out of Wilson’s hand causing a fumble that the Broncos recovered. On the next drive – the last drive for Wilson as he only played two series’ in the game – the Seahawks drove downfield, mostly due to Wilson using his uncanny ability to escape pressure and create yards that should not be there. However, as the team neared the ten yard line, Wilson was sacked once again and Seattle had to settle for a field goal. Two drives for the starters, two sacks. Not something that can continue into the regular season if Seattle wants to be successful.

tom-cable

The second stat from 2014 that causes alarm is that while running back Marshawn Lynch did gain over 1300 yards rushing, he actually averaged more yards after first contact (2.53) than he did before contact (2.17), meaning the majority of his yards came because he is difficult to tackle. The Seahawks are better at run-blocking than pass protection, but even their success at run-blocking is elevated because of the talent of Lynch. We saw with Lynch out of the first preseason game that the Broncos defense respected the run less and was able to apply even more pressure to Wilson. If Lynch is injured and misses significant time, the Seahawks could miss the playoffs.

Again, to overreact to a problem in the preseason might be a reach. However, there has been concern over the Seahawks line the last couple of years. This offseason Seattle lost center to Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints and left guard James Carpenter to the New York Jets. The Unger loss could be a big one. The team averaged more yards per game and more points per game when he was healthy the last two seasons. Even with those two players, the Seahawks line struggled. This year the Seahawks are replacing starters, and even those starters that remain from 2014 have not yet proven to be consistently good players. Britt, for instance, was the lowest ranked tackle in the NFL in pass protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus. So, the issue may not be overreacting to what fans saw in the first preseason game as it is witnessing during preseason play what has been a cause of concern for several years and was only made worse this offseason by players leaving. Plus, are fans the only ones who have this concern? In Mondays practice, offensive line coach Tom Cable switched Britt to left guard from right tackle, demoted starter Alvin Bailey to second team and moved former backup left tackle Garry Gilliam to first-team right tackle. These moves might only be temporary in hopes of finding the right collection of starters, but the way the unit looks currently there might not be a long-term answer. At least, not until next offseason, and by that time we could be talking about a Seahawks team that had an earlier end to 2015 than people expected due to the ineffectiveness of the offensive line.