Offensive line coach Tom Cable and the Seahawks like to see how prospects react under pressure, but it seems to be especially true of offensive linemen.
It wasn’t so much the intensity that surprised new Seahawks offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo, but the uniqueness.
Working out at his Boise State pro day before the draft, Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable had Odhiambo juggle balls. Yes, Rees Odhiambo juggled two footballs while simultaneously dropping into pass protection, all while Cable studied him.
“He was just trying to see hand-eye coordination as we were moving,” Odhiambo said.
What’s interesting is that although the specifics of Odhiambo’s workout were unique, they mirrored what other players have said over the years. Cable and the Seahawks like to see how prospects react under pressure, but it seems to be especially true of offensive linemen.
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After selecting Germain Ifedi out of Texas A&M in the first round, Cable said: “One of the things I tried to do in the workout was to press him, to see how far I can take him. He never backed down.”
Cable and the Seahawks brought up that point multiple times: Put under duress, they liked the way Ifedi responded.
I must admit that this is my theory, but I think it aligns with what the Seahawks have been saying about the change in college offensive linemen. All across the league, general managers and scouts have had lamented the challenges of analyzing college linemen because of spread offenses. In the NFL, linemen usually play with their hand on the ground, and they must be powerful and attacking at the line of scrimmage. In college, spread offenses allow linemen to remain standing upright. Most of the time they softly back pedal instead of surging forward.
The art of scouting those linemen becomes about projecting, making a difficult process even more guesswork. Ifedi, for example, said before the draft that he’d played around 50 snaps with his hand on the ground in college, yet the Seahawks expect him to be a mauler in their run-heavy offense.
So what’s one way to see how a college offensive lineman might adapt in the NFL? See how he reacts to challenges, see how he adapts to new situations in a work out. Can he adjust quickly? Can he handle himself under pressure?
The Seahawks have tried, with varying success, at converting college defensive linemen into pro offensive linemen.
A couple of years ago, Cable explained what he looks for from potential conversion candidates. “Can they adapt rather quickly in a workout by listening and giving it back to you the way you want it?” he said. “If they can do that simple concept, they’ve got a chance.”
Cable and his offensive line have taken a lot of criticism over the last two years. Some of it has been fair. Some of it has been unwarranted, especially within the context of mediocre offensive line play across the league.
But the Seahawks have also won a lot of games behind cost-effective linemen that Cable has helped scout, develop and deploy. And a big part of that process is about chaos. He wants to know how they will react once he gets his hands on them full time.
From a broader perspective, chaos is also a calling card of coach Pete Carroll. He plays music at practice. He brings in celebrities to talk or shoot baskets. He has smoke machines, shows YouTube clips and has strobe lights. This is the part of Carroll’s coaching method that so fascinated Warriors coach Steve Kerr when he visited the Seahawks before last season.
“Whether it’s the crowd, the setting, the weather, the time on the clock, there are a lot of variables to be connected to and distracted by,” Carroll said. “So the more accustomed we get to things going on all around us when we need to focus is really the idea.”
Cable relies on a similar strategy to see what type of learner one of his future linemen might be. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the chaos is key to the whole process, and it’s a big reason why the Seahawks drafted Ifedi and Odhiambo with the intention of improving their offensive line.