Training Camp Tour: Seahawks’ starting offensive line beginning to settle

PFF founder Neil Hornsby reports from Seattle Seahawks training camp in Renton, Wash.

| 10 months ago
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Training Camp Tour: Seahawks’ starting offensive line beginning to settle

The West Coast leg of the Pro Football Focus training camp tour begins at Seahawks camp, with PFF founder Neil Hornsby taking in practice on Tuesday.

RENTON, Wash. — Since Flagstaff went the way of many other college sites, the Seattle Seahawks’ late-summer home in Renton, Wash., gets my vote as the most picturesque venue to watch practice. Overlooking Lake Washington with a cloudless blue sky and low humidity, it’s hard to imagine a better location to watch football.

[More: Get the full PFF training camp tour schedule here.]

That said, the last day of “camp”—the players get to go home to their families on Wednesday—had more of the ambience of a party than any hard-fought practice. The players didn’t even wear helmets, never mind shells, and it was closer to a walk-through than anything else.

Antwan Goodley, a practice-squad player last year and a guy who didn’t even play a snap last week against Kansas City, probably made the play of the morning, leaping high to snare what looked like a bad overthrow from rookie QB Trevone Boykin (TCU) and draw the cheers of the crowd.

Rather than dwelling on what happened in Renton on Tuesday, though, let’s look at the implications for the season from the Seahawks’ first preseason outing.

Next men up in the receiving corps?

With Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Jermaine Kearse the likely starting unit in three-WR sets, who will be the next men up come the regular season? 2014 second-round draft pick Paul Richardson was the fourth guy in the first preseason game, playing 24 snaps (22 on the outside), and did nothing in that time to suggest he won’t fill the same role against Miami in Week 1.

After that it becomes a little hazy; Douglas McNeil was also second string, but dropped a pass, muffed a block that cost a possible third-down conversion, and missed a tackle on a punt return.

The third stringers against the Chiefs were Kenny Lawler (who seemed to get a lot of balls thrown his way today) and Uzoma Nwachukwu. Lawler probably has the advantage, with Nwachukwu being exclusively a slot receiver; the former has the ability to do both.

Watching how the snaps are distributed over the next three preseason games will provide some insight into how the Seattle coaching staff feels these receivers stack up.

Starting O-line beginning to solidify

While one could argue that, overall, Seattle may have the best roster in football, there’s little doubt that the roster’s weakest position group is the offensive line. That said, it looks like the team may have settled on a group they feel comfortable with—the same unit that started against the Chiefs on Saturday. They all played 23 snaps, which is a huge amount for a starting unit in a preseason opener.

At center, Justin Britt looked comfortable at his third position in three years, and got good movement at the point. At right guard, rookie Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M) demonstrated some deficiencies in pass protection, but showed his chops as a run blocker to combine well with Britt.

Far bigger tests will be ahead for tackles Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam. Previous evidence has not yielded positive results, but for the time being, they looked comfortable.

There’s not many teams in the league for whom J’Marcus Webb would be a potential upgrade, but Seattle is one, and if either of Sowell or Gilliam struggle, there may be a quick move to Webb.

Seahawks experimenting with CB Brandon Browner?

With the Saints last season, Brandon Browner recorded PFF’s lowest-ever grade for a cornerback, racking up a remarkable 23 penalties and surrendering 964 yards (seven touchdowns). With that output in 2015, it was a mild surprise when he resigned with Seattle this offseason.

Browner’s role against the Chiefs, though, was interesting. He lined up as a true corner on only two of his 23 snaps, and split the remainder between linebacker (four snaps), slot corner (six), deep safety (nine), and box safety (two).

It was hard to pin down exactly what the Seahawks were trying to achieve, particularly in the role of deep safety, but it will be another area to watch going forward.

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • osoviejo

    Pretty funny the absence of Tanner McEvoy when discussing the deep reserves at receiver. Given his two huge catches on the game-winning drive last week, he’s at the top of local media’s playlist.

    • Joshua M Paul

      If you follow your teams local beat writers regularly you will have a better idea of a teams off season than the good people at pff. They’re great analysts. ..reporters not so much lol

      • eYeDEF

        Well to be fair, you can’t expect them to be as familiar with the team as beat writers that cover them daily. Compared to Hornsby visiting each team’s training camp once total? C’mon.

        • Joshua M Paul

          I’m just agreeing with the original poster…if you follow your team with any regularity you’ll probably not glean much from the tours. I love the people at pff but osoviejo made a good point

    • eYeDEF

      Based on the results of the 2nd preseason against the Vikings, this line definitely sucks at pass pro. It was ugly. I get nervous hearing of a possible complete revamp now after camp is done, just recalling what happened after last year’s revamp throwing Britt in at guard after spending camp at RT, leading to his underwhelming season … and the Nowak at center experiment.

      • osoviejo

        “…this line definitely sucks at pass pro.”

        Both Carroll and Wilson acknowledged that two or three of those first-half, first-team sacks were on Wilson, not the line. The fourth was simply a blown blitz pickup by Alex Collins, the running back. That will get fixed.

        This line is light years ahead of last year at this time in every possible way. As for a “complete revamp,” I don’t know where you read that but it’s not going to happen. The Seahawks like their interior of Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi. A lot.

        The tackles are a bit more in flux, primarily owing to the presumptive starter at right tackle not being able to play to this point. But Webb will be in there against the Cowboys, having now recovered from his twisted knee. While the tackles aren’t as locked down as the interior, the starters will likely come from Sowell, Gilliam, and Webb. Let’s remember that it was Gilliam at right tackle last season during the team’s historic nine-game offensive explosion.

        This line is going to surprise the naysayers.

        • eYeDEF

          Yeah Gilliam’s progress has been slow, he missed all of OTAs with his cyst removal and Cable has noted his inconsistency. That’s why they stuck him back on the right side but he still doesn’t look up to speed. They have to evaluate Webb and figure out which 3 out of him, Gilliam, and Sowell will start the season. It’s not the run blocking I’m worried about, it’s pass pro. And in pass pro it’s the tackles who do the heaviest lifting. Sowell, Webb, and Gilliam might be able to hold their own against mediocre defensive fronts. The key is not getting steamrolled by the best or else this team will go as far as last year before getting overwhelmed by a superior defensive front. Weeks 1 and 2 will be baptism by blowtorch. We’ll see how the tackles hold up against the best.