Lack of O-line improvement hurts Seahawks' offseason grade
If there was an area the Seattle Seahawks needed to address coming into the 2016 offseason, it was their offensive line. There was plenty of movement, with another position change for new center Justin Britt, the departure of three players who started games in 2015 (Russell Okung, Alvin Bailey, and J.R. Sweezy), the addition of two players in free agency, and three more added via the draft. The truth is, though, that while they have made plenty of changes, whether they have actually managed to improve the O-line remains to be seen. This is a very talented roster, but the area that gave them the biggest problem in 2015 might do just the same in 2016.
Offseason grade: C-
Free agency and trades
New arrivals: TE Brandon Williams (Dolphins), OT Bradley Sowell (Cardinals), OT J’Marcus Webb (Raiders), DE Chris Clemons (Jaguars), DE Tavaris Barnes (Saints), DT Sealver Siliga (Patriots), CB Brandon Browner (Saints)
Re-signings: WR Jermaine Kearse, P Jon Ryan, LB Mike Morgan, HB Christine Michael, DT Ahtyba Rubin, CB Jeremy Lane, C Patrick Lewis
Departures: LB Bruce Irvin (Raiders), OT Russell Okung (Broncos), HB Marshawn Lynch (ret., unofficial), DT Brandon Mebane (Chargers), TE Chase Coffman (UFA), HB Bryce Brown (UFA), WR Ricardo Lockette (ret.), LB Nick Moody, DT Jesse Williams (UFA), LS Clint Gresham, QB Tarvaris Jackson (UFA), DT Demarcus Dobbs (UFA), FB Derrick Coleman (UFA), C Lemuel Jeanpierre (UFA), FB Will Tukuafu (UFA), HB Fred Jackson (UFA), TE Anthony McCoy (UFA), G J.R. Sweezy (Bucaneers), OT Alvin Bailey (Browns)
It’s difficult to see how the Seahawks became a better team through free agency this year. They lost their best offensive lineman from 2015 in Okung, and while he is definitely on the downslope of his career, the Seahawks don’t have someone waiting in the wings to replace him at his level of play, either. Two of their biggest-name signings were bringing back cornerback Brandon Browner and defensive end Chris Clemons after poor seasons with the Saints and Jaguars in 2015. Browner had the best seasons of his career with Seattle, but was the lowest-graded cornerback in all of football last year, allowing 964 yards and committing 23 penalties. It’s a similar story for Clemons, who hasn’t recorded a positively-graded season since leaving Seattle after the 2013 season, and had the ninth-lowest pass-rushing productivity of all 4-3 defensive ends with at least 155 pass-rushing attempts last year, at just 6.1. Can the Seahawks get the best out of them again, or will the old ties fail to produce anything helpful for the defense?
2016 NFL draft
- Round 1 (pick No. 31 from Denver) Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
- Round 2 (pick No. 49 from Buffalo via Chicago) Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
- Round 3 (pick No. 90) C.J. Prosise, HB, Notre Dame
- Round 3 (pick No. 94 from Denver) Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
- Round 3 (pick No. 97) Rees Odhiambo, G, Boise State
- Round 5 (pick No. 147) Quinton Jefferson, DT, Maryland
- Round 5 pick No. 171) Alex Collins, HB, Nebraska
- Round 6 (pick No. 215) Joey Hunt, C, TCU
- Round 7 (pick No. 243 from Houston via New England) Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal
- Round 7 (pick No. 247) Zac Brooks, HB, Clemson
Germain Ifedi was the classic selection of raw size and athleticism over college production. We saw him as a mid-round selection, with the 67th-highest grade in pass protection last season, but the 23rd-highest grade as a run-blocker. He’s definitely a project, but given his lofty draft selection and the struggles of the Seahawks’ offensive line, he’s likely going to be counted on for extensive playing time from day one.
Jarran Reed was a fantastic selection, and is a perfect replacement for recently-departed nose tackle Brandon Mebane from the jump. With the second-highest grade in run defense in this class, Reed was technically disciplined and made life miserable for opposing interior offensive linemen.
Joey Hunt could prove to be the jewel of this draft class for Seattle, with the fourth-highest overall grade of any center. He moves well, making him an excellent fit for Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme.
Drafting three running backs might seem excessive, but with Marshawn Lynch’s still-unofficial retirement, and the limited experience of Thomas Rawls, you can’t fault the Seahawks for adding Collins and Prosise, who had the ninth- and 10th-best grades among running backs in this draft class.
The biggest issue for the Seahawks at the beginning of the offseason remains the biggest issue today. They’ve made moves to try to improve their offensive line, but so far it doesn’t look it will be any better in 2016. If anything, given the loss of Okung, it might actually be worse. Seattle has always been able to rely on Lynch’s ability to force missed tackles and get more than the offensive line was giving him, and they’ll have to hope Rawls can continue to show what he did on a relatively small sample size in 2015. The rookie from Central Michigan had the 10th-highest elusive rating of all running backs with at least 85 carries in 2015, forcing 26 missed tackles as a runner and averaging 3.12 yards after contact per carry, the third-best mark in the league. Unless the Seahawks’ offensive line can make big improvements, Rawls, along with rookies like Prosise and Collins, will need some big performances, while quarterback Russell Wilson should be prepared to be under pressure a lot again in 2016.
Seattle Seahawks’ projected base offense in 2016: