Seahawks' O-line could cost them a shot at Super Bowl
The Seattle Seahawks made an interesting decision in the offseason, trading their best offensive lineman, Max Unger, and a first-round draft choice to the Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham. The statement was clear: Weapons are more important to us than trench play.
The problem is that that attitude may cost them any shot at making it back to the Super Bowl.
Week 1 saw the team knocked off by the St. Louis Rams, and the one major takeaway from the game was just how badly St. Louis abused their offensive line. The Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, so the Seahawks were up against it, but the teams they’ll need to beat come January aren’t going to be a cakewalk up front, either, so it’s going to remain an issue for a team that has designs on another championship.
Only center Drew Nowak – ironically, the player replacing Max Unger — avoided a heavy negative grade versus St. Louis, while the other four combined for an astounding -26.3 grade, or an average of -6.6 between them. The Seattle offensive line combined to surrender three sacks, one hit and 12 additional hurries, and run blocking was almost as bad. It’s a testament to Marshawn Lynch’s ability that he was able to top 4 yards per carry over his 18 carries, generating 73 rushing yards, 39 of which came after contact. Of Fred Jackson’s 13 rushing yards, 11 came after contact, and the team’s other backs combined for seven rushing yards, five of which came after contact.
The Seahawks offensive line wasn’t great a year ago, and they sent their best player packing, hoping that the addition of Graham would offset that and create a net gain. Graham was targeted eight times versus the Rams, catching six of them for 51 yards and a touchdown. There is no doubt that he brings a mismatch problem for opposing defenses that they didn’t have to contend with before, but at what cost? Graham’s run block is always likely to be a liability, only deepening the Seahawks’ issues up front.
The Seahawks still scored 31 points in this game, and can rightfully point to the defense as an unusual source of blame, but Russell Wilson was under pressure 19 times in the game and the running backs often found themselves with nowhere to go. Over the course of a game these things can be overcome, but over the course of a season they will start to erode the team’s production. In the crucial games of January and into the Super Bowl, they may be too great to overcome.