The offensive line consistently gave Russell Wilson time to throw against the 10-2 Eagles. But the true test comes Sunday against Jacksonville (8-4), which boasts the best defense in football.
What if I were to tell you something that would shatter your reality and defy your belief system? What if I were to make a suggestion that would convince you I’m abusing Washington’s weed laws?
What if I were to say that the Seahawks’ offensive line — a former league-wide laughingstock — is actually…good?
OK, maybe “good” is a premature adjective, but that unit appears to be heading toward respectable. At least Pro Football Focus thinks so.
The evaluation website — which grades individual players on a play-by-play basis — thinks Seattle’s O-line has improved dramatically over the past month. Before the Seahawks acquired former Texans left tackle Duane Brown — who has played four games with his new team — PFF ranked Seattle’s line 30th in both pass-block efficiency and pressure rate. Since Brown’s arrival, however, it ranks 10th in pass-block efficiency and sixth in pressure rate.
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The eye test confirmed such ratings last Sunday, as the line consistently gave Russell Wilson time to throw against the 10-2 Eagles. But the true test comes this Sunday against Jacksonville (8-4), which boasts the best defense in football.
“Aren’t they leading the whole thing in sacks and all that kind of stuff?” asked Seahawks offensive-line coach Tom Cable on Wednesday. “It’s a tremendous challenge. They’re really, really good up front.”
Yes, Tom, the Jaguars are leading the NFL in sacks with a whopping 45 through 12 games. They are also tops in points allowed per game (14.8), yards allowed per game (282.5) and passing yards allowed per game (167.1). A month ago, these numbers might have prompted Wilson to update his life-insurance plan, but he’s been the beneficiary of a transformation of sorts. Over the past few weeks, he hasn’t been excelling despite his protection — he’s been excelling, in part, because of it.
“I know that the quarterback gains more confidence the more that there’s a wall built up in front of him,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “And then maybe the style of play and the things we could ask him to do … all that confidence really helps.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted that Brown’s impact was evident the moment he took the field. Three-time Pro Bowlers tend to have that effect. But it isn’t just him. It’s also left guard Luke Joeckel coming back healthy and playing three straight games next to Brown. It’s Ethan Pocic shifting to right guard and building chemistry with right tackle Germain Ifedi. It’s Justin Britt staying healthy and consistent. But mainly, it’s been those five guys building continuity as they steer clear of the inactive list.
“It gets tough to be a consistent line whenever you have a bunch of pieces mixing in and out,” said Britt. “Whenever you get the same line week in and week out, we kind of build trust and cohesiveness. That kind of speaks for itself.”
Then again, Jacksonville’s defensive dominance speaks for itself as well. From a statistical standpoint, the Jaguars compare quite well to the Seahawks’ D in 2013, which is considered to be one of the best in NFL history.
They have defensive tackle Calais Campbell, who terrorized the Seahawks during his time in Arizona and leads his team with 12.5 sacks. They have second-year stud Yannick Ngakoue, a defensive end with 10 sacks.
If there was a safe week to write about Seattle’s O-line, this was it — because by Monday morning, those five guys may be suffering from PTSD.
Or maybe they’ll show the nation just how far they’ve come.
After the Seahawks upset Philly last Sunday, safety Bradley McDougald felt obliged to air a grievance. He didn’t appreciate how Seattle’s secondary was dismissed by the media after Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman went down, and wanted folks to know how personally he and his teammates took the slight.
I asked Britt if he felt similarly given how much scrutiny the line has been under over the past couple seasons. He said no — that he and his teammates don’t pay attention to it, but you have to wonder if that’s true.
The Seahawks’ line is still unproven, which is part of the reason Wilson is getting so much MVP hype. But it also has played noticeably better over the last month.
Sunday, we’ll find out if it can handle a Super Bowl-worthy defense. Doing so would not only open eyes — it would open all kinds of possibilities.