Despite Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s insistence that things are fine, most are forecasting more doom and gloom for the Seahawks’ offensive line in 2016.
One of my favorite scenes in “Naked Gun” features Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin, trying to shoo along a crowd that has gathered in front of a fireworks factory.
“Move on, nothing to see here, please disperse,’’ Drebin calls out, while behind him the edifice blows up in a spectacular and fiery explosion.
It reminds me of Seahawks management, which is steadfastly telling the assembled skeptics to move along, because there is nothing to see with regards to the Seahawks’ offensive line.
While almost everyone else forecasts gloom and doom — and perhaps the season going up in flames because of an inferior line — Pete Carroll and John Schneider are countering with soothing reassurance. But unlike Lt. Drebin, Carroll and Schneider have a track record that makes you take what they say with thoughtful consideration.
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Their message can be reduced to two points that are hard to argue with. The first is, the start of the season is still about six months away. What you see now may not be what you get in September, so hold off on premature panic.
We’ll get to the second point in a bit, but here’s a quick review. Thus far, free agency has resulted in two starters (Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy) departing, and two seemingly uninspiring replacement candidates (J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell) arriving. All the big free-agent names have landed elsewhere, as the Seahawks continue to prioritize other areas of their team for major expenditures.
Not too encouraging, but NFL rosters in March are fluid creatures. The Seahawks have pulled some surprising trades out of thin air before — like the one for Jimmy Graham last March — though salary-cap issues make an impact deal more problematic. The draft is looming April 28-30 as perhaps the last, best chance for Seattle to supplement its line.
It would be out of character, of course, for the Seahawks to address their most obvious need in the draft. They seem to delight in confounding the experts by going in a completely unexpected direction, but it seems like this would be an opportune time to be pragmatic rather than cute.
The Carroll/Schneider regime has picked just three offensive linemen in the first two rounds in their previous six drafts: Okung as their first-ever pick in 2010, James Carpenter in the first round in 2011, and Justin Britt in the second round in 2014.
Okung and Carpenter are gone, as are the three other starters in Seattle’s Super Bowl win over Denver (including Max Unger, to New Orleans in the Graham trade), as is John Moffitt, and every other lineman they’ve drafted except Britt and a trio from last year: Terry Poole (fourth round), Mark Glowinski (fourth) and converted defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli (sixth).
The current popular wisdom in NFL circles is that offensive linemen aren’t coming out of college as well prepared for the pro game as they used to be. Because of the spread systems in vogue, linemen are lacking in fundamentals and must be re-trained for pro offenses. That theory also helps explain why there is a dearth of line talent throughout the NFL.
The Seahawks believe they have the best re-trainer in the business in Tom Cable. Which brings us, finally, to their second point of rebuttal: Trust us. And trust Cable, who has found his calling in cobbling together, and resurrecting, Seahawks lines.
Last year, for instance, the Seahawks’ front five were pretty much a disaster for half the season. They allowed 31 sacks through eight games, then inserted Patrick Lewis for Drew Nowak at center and watched the entire unit step up. Just as important, quarterback Russell Wilson mastered a quicker passing game that helped mitigate some of the line’s deficiencies.
The result: Sacks were cut in half (just 15 over the final eight games), the offense percolated (Seattle wound up third in the NFL in rushing yards, and fourth in total yards and scoring), and the Seahawks started winning — a 6-2 finish after a 4-4 start.
The more troubling footnote is that the line got manhandled in the first half of the Seahawks’ playoff loss to Carolina, helping put them in a 31-0 hole from which they couldn’t quite get out of. And it’s hard to argue that the line hasn’t regressed since then via attrition.
Actually, I’m sure Carroll would happily argue that very point. As Bob Condotta reports, Carroll was typically upbeat about the Seahawks’ line during his appearance at the owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday. He enthused about Gilliam’s potential as a replacement for Okung at left tackle, and Glowinski’s potential as a replacement for Sweezy at right guard, and Webb’s potential as a replacement for Gilliam at right tackle.
“I think we’re in good shape,’’ Carroll said.
In other words, trust us to work it out in the end. Trust Cable to make the pieces fit. Trust Wilson to blur the mistakes.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
But check back in September.