It was during the Seahawks’ bye week in 2015 that the team made some changes to the offense — both subtle and obvious — that resulted in an historic passing surge in the second half of the year.
That bye came after the eighth game — exactly the halfway point of the season — with the Seahawks standing at 4-4 and coming off a sluggish 13-12 win at Dallas.
When they returned to play, the Seahawks had a new starting center (a finally-healthy Patrick Lewis replacing Drew Nowak for good) and an offense that featured more empty sets and an emphasis on Russell Wilson getting rid of the ball more quickly, a scheme that the team felt played to the strengths of an offensive line that had struggled in the first half. The result was Wilson throwing 24 touchdown passes in the last eight games as Seattle went 6-2 to get back into the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
This year, the bye arrived after just the fourth week of the season and a week after the offensive line had gotten an addition — the return of right guard Germain Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick in the 2016 draft who missed the first three games with a high ankle sprain — and a big win, 27-17 at New York, with Wilson throwing for 323 yards.
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So this year, there will be no change to the line or the offense other than what the team hopes is an additional step back to normalcy for Wilson from ankle and knee injuries.
“For this team, it probably came at the right time in terms of health,” said offensive line coach Tom Cable. “It wasn’t a matter of changing anything. It was really more getting healthy and keep our mindset as we’re growing and improve. We certainly want to display that this weekend.”
Cable said that for now, the offensive line will remain as it was against New York, with the hope being that Ifedi will only get better with experience from what Cable said was a promising first outing in New York.
“It was solid,” Cable said. “There were a couple times when there were things that would be new to him, he got to experience and adjust. I thought he did a really good job with that. A marvelous front to play against for your first time out. A number of lessons learned, but pretty solid.”
Ifedi’s return solidifies a middle of the line (also featuring center Justin Britt, who has earned raves for weeks for his move from guard, and left guard Mark Glowinski) that the team has been happy with since day one of training camp.
More of a question has been the play of the tackles — Bradley Sowell on the left side and Garry Gilliam on the right.
“Just okay,” Cable said of the play of the tackles to this point in the season. “I feel like that with the whole group, I want them to just keep getting better. I think we’re doing that right now, but we need to have more physical presence at those positions.”
But for now, expect the starting five to stay the same, with J’Marcus Webb staying in a role as a utility backup, and Joey Hunt likely to remain active on gameday as a seventh active offensive lineman. Cable said Wednesday that while rookie tackle George Fant and guard/tackle Rees Odhiambo are making progress, there may simply not be room for them on the 46-man gameday roster.
“I think they are doing wonderful,” Cable said. “It always comes down in the NFL you want to dress seven, usually (on gameday). So it’s a matter of getting them dressed and one of those seven has to be a backup center.”