The Seahawks’ offensive line was criticized for not protecting quarterback Russell Wilson better last season, but that unit improved greatly and other areas may need more attention.
The Mariners are in Arizona, the Sounders play their first competitive game Tuesday, and the Huskies men’s basketball team will soon embark on a road trip that can sink or save their NCAA tournament hopes.
So let’s talk Seahawks.
Hey, never too early, right? The NFL scouting combine starts this week, and the chatter regarding how the Hawks can get better is already humming.
What do they need? Who can they get? Who’s staying put and who’s shipping out?
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The answers to such questions have spiked blood-pressure levels throughout Seattle, but the one consensus is that the offensive line should be the Hawks’ top priority.
Except it shouldn’t be. Getting the best players should be the Hawks’ top priority.
Talent vs. need is a long-debated subject in the context of player-acquisition, and one can make a case for either approach. If a team led the league in sacks but was dead last in scoring, it doesn’t typically pass on the star quarterback for a defensive end.
But if there isn’t a glaring deficiency, you take the better player regardless of position, and the Seahawks would be wise to remember this. Their fans would be, too.
First, the O-line wasn’t as disastrous this season as most people made it out to be. Yes, Russell Wilson was under siege in the first half of the season, but things improved quickly and dramatically. Sacked 31 times through the first seven games, Wilson took just 14 sacks over the next nine. The Seahawks, meanwhile, led the league in rushing and explosive plays.
You don’t magically have the success Seattle had toward the end of the regular season with an inept line. A quarterback doesn’t usually log the best passer rating in football without solid protection, either.
Nobody is saying it was a great five-man unit. Heck, calling it a good five-man unit may be a stretch. But the Seahawks won a playoff game, inched to within seven points of the Carolina Panthers, and for most of November and December, were one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. The line may not have been one of Seattle’s top assets, but it was a long way from the team’s downfall.
The truth is, offensive lines just aren’t as good as they used to be. Rookies coming out of spread-oriented programs are rarely NFL-ready, and today’s pass rushers are making a first-year players look downright silly. This isn’t a justification for shoddy play — it’s just a reality of today’s game.
Think your line is bad? You should see the other guy’s.
Still, you can’t win in the NFL if you can’t block, which the Hawks proved early in 2015. Putting a potent O-line on the field is still an important matter, and with left tackle Russell Okung and guard J.R. Sweezy slated for free agency, things could get dicey up front.
But that doesn’t mean every player the Hawks scout or pursue should weigh at least 300 pounds.
This draft class, for instance, is loaded with defensive linemen, which is in step with some of Seattle’s other areas of concern. Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane will be free agents, as will linebacker/defensive-end hybrid Bruce Irvin.
If general manager John Schneider has a chance to scoop up a prime-time pass rusher in the first round, he should consider it, even if it comes at the expense of the O-line.
Obviously, there aren’t a lot of quick fixes in the NFL. There are even fewer sure things. The Seahawks began 2015 with Drew Nowak starting at center, and he was cut in the middle of the season.
It’s not as if the Hawks have neglected the line, and when you take stock of their success over the past few seasons, it’s hard to argue with the front office’s approach.
Then again, empires crumble quickly in the NFL, and if the Hawks aren’t smart going forward, they could become vulnerable. Making sound decisions in the offseason are what keep organizations such as the San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots thriving.
The Seahawks have a lot on the line over the next few months — but their needs go beyond the line alone.