Do The Seattle Seahawks Have The Worst Offensive Line In The NFL?

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On Sunday afternoon, in the midst of the first weekend of the NFL season, Robert Mays of The Ringer tweeted out, and I’m paraphrasing – as if paraphrasing a Tweet somehow diminishes the meaning of the original – that no team has a decent offensive line. Granting that this is the case for a variety of reasons – techniques taught in college – lack of practice time in preseason  – the Seattle Seahawks must still possess one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. Given the opportunity, wouldn’t Pete Carroll switch places with Nick Saban and trade the Seahawks O-Line for the O-Line of the Alabama Crimson Tide?

And, therein lies the core of the problem in the NFL, or at least one of the core problems. NFL offenses and college offenses don’t much resemble each other. Just as analysts are often bemoaning the fact that a prospective NFL QB has never taken a snap under center in their entire high school or college careers, they are beginning to realize that college centers, guards, and tackles aren’t ever asked to create a clean, stable pocket for a passer and maintain it for a couple of seconds. Spread offenses at the college level call for the QB to either get the ball out quickly or to move around to buy time for receivers to get open, neither of which requires the line to maintain blocks for very long.

It is telling that the few successful drives the Seahawks mounted against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday involved a hurry-up, no-huddle offense. While semi-successful and fully endorsed at the press conference after the loss by Russell Wilson, the hurry-up is completely antithetical to coach Pete Carroll’s overall philosophy of grind-it-out, smash-mouth football. Carroll prefers 17-9 scores, albeit with the “Hawks on the other side of the ledger. But surely, he can’t deny that the pace helped hide the deficiencies of this year’s model offensive line.

How Bad Is the Seahawks O-Line?

It is worth noting that in deference to the SSS (small sample size), the advanced football stat site Football Outsiders, doesn’t publish any analysis until after the second game of the season and even then, heavily weights the previous year’s performance early in the season. So, there aren’t any efficiency statistics for this year’s Seahawks line that finished last year 26th in overall efficiency, which includes a 27th place ranking against the run and 30th in being stuffed at the line on running plays. Sound familiar from Sunday, though?

In week one, the Seahawks attempted to rush the ball just 18 times, tied for 24th in the league. The 90 yards gained places them in the middle of the pack, as long as you don’t discount Wilson’s 29-yard scramble for his life to ignite the offense at the end of the first half. That run and a big burst by rookie running back Christopher Carson for 30 yards makes up 59 of the total rushing yards. Otherwise, the team rushed the ball 16 times for 31 yards, or less than 2 yards a carry. Not the best run blocking.

So, what about pass protection? Yea, not so much there either. Wilson was sacked three times, was strip sacked near his own goal line which led to a touchdown by the Packers, and was hurried so much he only completed 51.9% of his passes.

The other thing that should worry ‘Hawks fans, is that it appears Wilson, after being pounded all last year, is all too eager to get out of the pocket. His instinct is to roll out or go out the back door. But there were a few passing attempts where stepping up in the pocket would have been the better route for alluding the rush and increased the odds of a completion. But who can blame him for not wanting to meet a Mike LB head on in the hole after the throw?

Week Two

Results will probably improve this week at home against a San Francisco 49ers team that surrendered 23 points to a visibly rusty Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, while managing only a field goal on offense. Barring some fluke, the Seahawks should go to 1-1. But, if the offensive line continues to struggle and they are unable to establish the run game that Carroll so clearly loves, the only hope for the season may lie with a hurry up offense. Russell Wilson seems to think so and he’s the one getting killed out there.

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About Author

Brian Hight

Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics. He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.

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