Coach Pete Carroll warned that the construction of an effective offensive line remained “a work in progress” for the Seahawks.
Steps in that direction could be made this week, as the Seahawks staff and brass head to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, a trip that should focus on Friday’s parade of offensive line prospects.
Finding NFL-ready linemen — with the power to run-block monolithic defensive tackles yet also agile enough to forestall ridiculously athletic pass-rushers — might be like looking for Bigfoot galloping on a unicorn.
Colleges, with their prevalent spread offenses, aren’t producing enough quality linemen — certainly not at the rate they’re cranking out scary pass rushers.
Denver’s Super Bowl win over Carolina was only the most recent example of the value of finding men who can get sacks and those on the other side who can prevent them. Offensive linemen seem to be losing that arms race all over the NFL.
There’s a fair argument that we’ve made too much out of the Seahawks’ offensive line deficiencies in recent seasons. The 2015 Hawks wound up ranking No. 3 in the NFL in rushing yards per game and put together the most yardage of any Seahawks offense in team history (6,058 yards).
But the rushing numbers seemed skewed upward by the scrambling and option-keeper abilities of quarterback Russell Wilson, and the after-contact numbers of Marshawn Lynch and his replacement, Thomas Rawls.
Clearly, the 10-6 Seahawks didn’t start nearing potential until the last nine games when their sack numbers dropped — 15 in that span compared with 31 in the first seven games.
So, for the Seahawks, it continues to be the unit of most persistent concern.
“I think this needs to be a really competitive spot again, and we’re going to work really hard to build it up,” Carroll said at the end of last season. “For the course of the season, we weren’t consistent enough.”
It’s apparent that the Hawks have sought to build and shore up other spots on the roster, with big-money contracts sprinkled all over the defense.
But it’s fair to examine whether Carroll, general manager John Schneider and offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable have the same knack for finding talents in the O-line that they seem to have in all the other spots on the field.
They’ve had notable and consistent production from only one O-line draft pick, left tackle Russell Okung — their first selection in 2010, and the only one to make a Pro Bowl.
Okung has been the steadiest performer in the group, as he should be. Taken with the No. 6 overall pick, Okung was plucked at the same point that the Seahawks conscripted Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones in 1997.
But Okung has missed 24 games to injury in six seasons. And now the Seahawks brass have to decide if he’s earned the kind of money that could match what he might attract elsewhere as a free agent.
They’ve expended other draft resources there over the years, but the return has been modest. Which is better than their luck with veteran free agents.
Justin Britt was a second-rounder in 2014, and he’s been laudably durable yet otherwise unconvincing to this point.
Seattle’s two first picks in the 2011 draft — James Carpenter (first round) and John Moffitt (third) — are no longer with the team.
It is interesting, too, that Carpenter fought off injuries in four unremarkable seasons, but when he left as a free agent to the New York Jets, he played all 16 games and had what his line coach claimed was a “Pro Bowl-type” season.
Last spring’s O-line draft picks included two fourth-rounders, tackle Terry Poole and guard Mark Glowinski, and a seventh-round project, guard/center Kristjan Sokoli.
Glowinski got a start this season, stepping in for concussed guard J.R. Sweezy, and showed a lot of promise. Maybe he represents some of that “progress” that Carroll referenced.
Sweezy is a free agent along with Okung. Can the Hawks — or should they — try to keep them both? Total rebuilding of an already shaky unit carries heavy risks.
And if the Seahawks’ front office and coaches can’t find some solutions quickly, it could lead to the kind of shuffling and piecemeal assemblage that contributed to the slow start last season.
Good luck with the quest.