Seahawks’ O-line could cost them a shot at Super Bowl

Sam Monson explains just how bad the Seattle offensive line played in the team's loss to the Rams Sunday.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

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.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • steve smith

    Again you are not accounting for Russell Wilson holding the ball too long.

    • Brandon Purdy

      Yes he did. He said the line gave up 3 sacks. The rest of the sacks were on Russell or the wrs not getting open.

  • YouBarkIBite

    I don’t have a problem with the Graham-Unger trade (as mentioned in the post, Nowak is pretty much the only lineman who didn’t embarrass himself yesterday). The current state of the o-line is the result of 4 years of poor talent acquisition, starting in 2011 with the drafting of James Carpenter in the 1st (disappointment) and John Moffitt in the 3rd (bust), then spending zero significant draft picks on lineman from 2012-2015 with the exception of a 2nd round pick on Justin Britt (another pick universally regarded as a reach who has done nothing to dissuade that opinion so far).

  • Chad Lundberg

    The Seahawks will SeaHACK in Green Bay! I love the smell of poultry in the morning! Seattle SUCKS, and so does all those cheatin PED loving losers! GOIN DOWN!!

    • Griffonian

      Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 vs Russell Wilson. I can see why you’re butthurt about that.

      • Chad Lundberg

        WHAAA!! WHAAA!! What’s that crybaby?? You know that streak is gonna end don’t you? No other reason you would bring it up!

  • osoviejo

    “In the crucial games of January and into the Super Bowl, they may be too great to overcome.”

    Given the lack of experience, either overall or in their current roles, it would be surprising if they didn’t improve quite a bit between now and then. And I doubt they’ll face such a formidable seven again this season, other than the Rams trip to Seattle late in the year. That game will be a good measure of that progress, if there is any.

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  • Joe Doe

    I would love to share this with the guy who berated my Bleacher Report comment a month ago, suggesting that the line was awful and you can never underestimate an all-pro center’s importance. Still surprised that someone as well respected as Jon Schneider made such a deal, particularly with how well he drafts and the recent success of rookie WRs.

    • eYeDEF

      It’s not surprising given Wilson’s lack of viable targets and his height. The 6-7 Graham was too inviting a possibility to pass up. You can’t make judgments about OL play of a line just learning how to play together as a unit in the first game to how well it will play in January. Nowak not being graded poorly already undermines your argument.

  • Brandon

    Part of the issue is that Tom Cable isnt all he is cracked up to be with these linemen as a coach. Sure they made progress as individuals, but these are guys that mostly would be on teams practice squads, except Okung who would merely be a steady RT on most teams.

    The other issue is that Wilson is finding it harder and harder to cope with the less than stellar o line and find production anywhere. A lot of times these WRs are in single coverage and he wont throw to them because he either doesnt see them or doesnt really trust them. There were several times Graham was single covered and they threw a bubble screen. There was an opportunity to hit a wide open Kearse or Lockett in the end zone for a TD in the corner and he opted to throw to a covered player. He misses seeing people open because somewhere in the back of his mind the clock is blaring telling him to panic.

    • eYeDEF

      He’s just way too reluctant to pull the trigger sometimes and gets gun shy. There were times where he spotted the open man but hesitated a bit too much. He plays best when he’s trying to rally the offense from behind because he discards that sense of having to protect the ball that I think overemphasis by coaching has ground into his head.

  • Joe

    Was I the only one who noticed when Unger was hurt last season, their run game suffered and right as he came back it picked right back up

  • Dr__P

    it is still early

    BTW where is the comment about the Baltimore OL?

    • Malachi

      nobodies OL will look good after playing Denver this year, even BAL’s

  • Greg Maus

    Seattle got 31 points, but it wasn’t because of offense. -7 for the punt return TD, -7 for the defense fumble return TD, -3 for the field drive that already started in FG range due to fumble recovery. Seattle offense really only truly earned 14 points. On top of it, Wilson threw a pic that put STL in FG range, giving the Rams 3 points, so the net offense production is like +11 points.

    Meanwhile Rams scored 31 in regulation. -7 for Rams punt return TD, -3 for when Wilson pic gave Rams ball in fg range. Seattle defense only truly allowed 21 points in regulation. meanwhile they scored off a fumble return and recovered another fumble in fg range to give the offense 3 points. so Seattle defense net allowance is +11 points during regulation.

  • Dale

    They would have still won with a good offensive coordinator. Bevell needs to be replaced.