Lack of O-line improvement hurts Seahawks’ offseason grade

Seattle's biggest weakness last season—it's offensive line—appears to be its biggest weakness still, despite many moves.

| 7 months ago
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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.

Conclusion

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:

Seattle Offense

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Tim

    But hey, they have a rookie replacing Tarvaris Jackson and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL…. What could possibly go wrong there…

    • osoviejo

      The Seahawks had “one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL” last year, and finished the season with the *best* offensive weighted DVOA in the league.

      • Anthony

        It got worse.

        • Darnell

          Intererstingly enough though, here are your 5 lowest graded pass blocking olines:

          https://twitter.com/DavisHsuSeattle/status/733795408049115136

          And the 5 highest graded:

          https://twitter.com/PFF/status/734774164964442112

          The teams in the first group are significantly better than those in the 2nd group. Indicating that there is no correlation between winning football and grading highly in pass pro by PFF standards.

          Two of the better graded pass pro lines also ended up with damaged QBs.

          • Anthony

            Hey maybe there isn’t a huge correlation. I’m just saying, the Seahawks will have the worst O line in both the pass and run.

          • Darnell

            Oh, it’s bad alright. But, as a Hawks fan, I’m not concerned about the run game. It’s going to be excellent – Tom Cable always finds a way to have it near the top of the league year in and year out; often to to detrement of pass pro.

          • Rick Darcy

            Seattle had the WORST pass blocking & power run blocking OL in 2013 & won the SB. With RW much better (see his 16 tds, 0 picks in 5 games in ’15) or 4,000+ yds, 30+ tds , fewer than 10 ints & 500+ rush yds = Elite. See attachment for the 2013 Hawks OL rankings. Worst in the NFL. You may want to do some research or know the game b4 you pop off there ant. BAM! BAM! ha ha…

        • osoviejo

          “It got worse. Much worse…”

          I know hyperbole is fun, but you don’t know that. And neither does anyone else.

          • Anthony

            Actually it’s pretty easy to measure talent if you know what you’re doing. PFF knows what theyre doing and they made it a point to make this article. Listen, likely Seahawks fan, Wilson will have to use every bit of his mobility to make this offense even close to last years. Although i do like Rawls alot, I don’t see him averaging over 5 YPC again. Lynch had the highest missed tackle rate of any running back last season and he still only managed the high 3s.

          • osoviejo

            Listen, likely PFF shill, smug certitude isn’t the same thing as actual knowledge–although I imagine you confuse the two often.

          • Anthony

            Unless you have any points to make or evidence to show otherwise. It’s pretty clear who the winner of this argument is friend.

          • osoviejo

            Nothing says loser like declaring yourself the “winner.” You’ve made my point. Again.

          • Anthony

            Just pointing out the obvious. You need to grow up a little bit there buddy.

          • Cam

            Actually PFF have showed they’re little better than anyone else. They produce highly useful stats, but often fail to blend in any understanding of nuance into their analysis, depending too much on the numbers alone.
            Also bear in mind they also slated both the Wagner & Wilson draft selections at the time.

    • Cam

      Actually, they haven’t as yet. Jackson just isn’t signed. Didn’t sign until July last year. The backup QB position is yet to be sorted.

  • Dalen Erickson

    Small mistake here. Alex Collins went to Akransas not Nebraska.

  • CarbonRiver

    I’m looking forward to this O-Line a lot more than last year’s. Biggest thing is that Hawks will have a real center, either with Lewis or with Hunt (bye-bye Britt), which is going to be a huge improvement over last year. Nowak’s inability to call the protections was a huge part of the issue and it went away when he did. Lewis has shown he is capable at that, even if undersized, and Hunt is familiar with the position and should be capable as well if he wins the starting role.

    Okung was a flag factory and I’m willing to be optimistic that that Hawks will get at least as good of play out of Gilliam with a lot less cap $$$. That is how teams “win” in the off season.

    And lastly, there should be a much better expectation this year of who the starters are going to be and a lot more time through OTAs, camp and pre-season games for them to gel before things really matter. O-Line doesn’t have to be great and the Hawks have clearly made it not a priority, they just need to not repeat the start of last season.

  • Nerd Guy

    I look at the O-line as more of a reboot…they didnt want to spend that much to re-sign Sweezy who is average at best and Okung who’s better days are behind him plus he’s injury prone. The Hawks were smart not to match any insane offers for them. Gilliam is more a natural at LT than right because of his athleticism, Glowinksi will be much better at LG than Britt was, starting Lewis all season will help hold the line, Ifredi is raw but will get his feet wet quick plus is a real talent, and Webb will be an adequate RT with his size. Plus the Hawks depth at O-line is much better with Britt, Hunt, Odhiambo, and Sowell. With the time they have at training camp and preseason they should be able to gel by the time the season rolls around. I think we are better off this year than last.

  • Jayo V

    Schneider is getting the grill ready for his hot seat a few years from now. Dude was always overrated. Scot McCloughan and his drafting set him & SEA (& SF before that) into powerhouses in the NFC West. All those botched trades & the draft mistakes will come out when a few games are lost.