2015 SEASON REVIEW – Offensive Line
Whether you look at the Offensive Line in terms of individuals, or performance as a collective, they were a considerable disappointment and possibly the achilles heel of the Seattle Seahawks. The unit may have blocked for a Top 5 4.18 adjusted line yards per carry average, but the fact that they allowed 46 sacks and a bottom 3 adjusted sack rate moves the season into the unacceptable range.
In many ways, with the bye week splitting the season, it was a tale of 2 seasons. When the calendar rolled from October to November, Russell Wilson had already been sacked 31 times, on pace for a possible record setting season. From November on though? 14 sacks surrendered. Part of this had to do with a shift in route running and Wilson getting the ball out quicker, but there was also some shifting of players along the line. The big one people noticed was the move away from Drew Nowak at Center in favor of Patrick Lewis, who was more experienced at the position (Nowak is a converted Defensive Lineman). Even with the shift though, it is hard to call what existed in the second half of the season anything better than a slightly below average pass blocking team.
With that shift at Center playing such a key role in the season, let’s start by looking at the interior linemen (Guard and Center). After some shuffling in the Preseason, the line coming into 2015 featured Drew Nowak at Center, Justin Britt at Left Guard, and JR Sweezy at Right Guard. A lot of us were looking forward to Britt’s conversion to Guard after seeing how slow footed he looked at RT in 2014 and…well…he still looked rather slow. The interior of this unit was very bad to start the year. Sweezy and Britt looked to be losing a lot of 1 on 1 battles, Nowak was having trouble figuring out who to help, and the line was missing blocks on even basic stunts from the Defense. In run blocking they were letting run blitzers through, but doing alright when things were simple. In pass blocking, any deception at all was clearly too much for them to handle. It became clear that two converted Defensive Linemen and a Tackle playing his first season at Guard just weren’t able to put the scheme together and the team was missing Max Unger. Enter the Bye Week and what Pete Carroll later admitted was an overdue change, and after injuries derailed it a bit the switch to Patrick Lewis seemed to have the line playing better and making fewer obvious mistakes. That being said, Britt still looked slow and Lewis had one heck of a time in the Minnesota game as well as Aaron Donald clearly getting into his head. Look for a big shakeup here next year, as the seldom used Mark Glowinski could see some playing time as he seemed to hold his own in very limited play.
On the outside, it was inexperience and injury that told the story. Russell Okung was Seattle’s best Offensive Lineman in 2015, and overall has shown that when he is healthy he is an able bodied NFL Left Tackle. The problem is that he only appeared in 13 games and wasn’t fully healthy for several of those. With limited or no Okung to anchor matchups on the outside, it resulted in even more pressure on the crumbling middle of the line and therefore on Russell Wilson. Garry Gilliam at RT looked like a revolving door at times. He flashed some ability early, and his run blocking wasn’t terrible, but any pass rusher with a plus ability in any area was able to get around him just about all year. A strong blocking TE may have helped, but the roster couldn’t provide one of those, so Gilliam stood looking very exposed all year long. Throw in Alvin Bailey’s mostly mediocre play and the Tackle positions looked good in comparison to the interior of the Offensive Line, but did not look good compared to a functional NFL unit. With Bailey and Okung candidates to exit this offseason, look for some shakeup to happen in this area as well.
GRADE – D+
This unit just did not get the job done in 2015, and it can be pretty well said that though some players gained experience it will probably be a good thing that there will be 2-3 new starters next year.