We heard throughout training camp that the Seattle Seahawks felt more confident than ever in their offensive line. Seattle returned four starters and added four-time Pro Bowler Mike Iupati at left guard. The Seahawks envisioned that group setting the tone for their physical, ground-and-pound identity on offense.
However, those expectations haven’t been met through two games.
The Seahawks have allowed eight sacks, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. The run blocking hasn’t been much better as Seattle is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. If you take away Rashaad Penny’s 37-yard touchdown run against the Steelers, that number nosedives to 3.26.
Seattle often gets criticized for running the ball too often on early downs, but that hasn’t been the problem. On 1st-and-10, the Seahawks have passed the ball 26 times and ran the ball 25 times. The issue is that they’ve only gained 24 yards on those 25 rush attempts.
“Not quite up to our standard at all,” Duane Brown said on Wednesday. “We ran the ball decent last game, but we can be more consistent. Pass protection hasn’t been up to par. We have stuff to clean up but we’ll get there.”
Pete Carroll did his best to put an optimistic spin on the o-line’s early struggles.
“Yeah, we’re concerned,” Carroll said. “I like what we did in the second half last week. We really caught up with the rhythm and the style. (Russell Wilson) was phenomenal, but he worked together with his guys up front in really good fashion.”
Seattle didn’t allow a sack over the final two quarters against Pittsburgh in Week 2 after giving up four in the first half. The quick passing attack kept the Steelers pass rush in check. Wilson got rid of the ball in 1.89 seconds on average per pass attempt, the quickest of any NFL quarterback in a game since 2016. So how much credit does the offensive line deserve for the Seahawks second-half improvements? It’s hard to tell given just how quick Wilson was getting rid of the football.
Pro Football Focus has Seattle ranked dead last in pass protection. In addition, just one member of the offensive line has an overall grade over 60 per PFF (Brown – 60.8).
“We take pride in pass protection,” Brown said. “We have an incredible quarterback, and we’ve got to keep him upright. We have to get the job done … and we will.”
Brown reiterated that preparation hasn’t been the issue, merely the execution. It’s been a mix of losing 1-on-1s, miscommunications on stunts and allowing blitzes to get through. That comes down to fundamentals and technique, offensive line coach Mike Solari said on Wednesday.
Penalties have been a pain point as well. Seattle’s offensive line has been flagged 11 times (eight enforced) through two games. Sacks and penalties have put the Seahawks consistently behind the sticks.
“Any time you get those calls, it sets you up for failure,” Brown said. “When you’re in 2nd-and-15, 2nd-and-20, it’s so hard to dial up the plays you want to have. Defenses know you have to pass it, and so they’re pinning their ears back.”
There’s a sense of urgency to take a big step forward in Week 3 with the New Orleans Saints coming to town. The Saints pass rush, led by four-time Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan, leads the NFL with nine sacks.
Carroll is banking on continuity – namely Mike Iupati and George Fant settling in – as the primary reason why the offensive line will improve as the season goes on.
“We’re kind of counting on it as we stay together and keep making progress,” Carroll said.
And he needs to be right. Barring a blockbuster trade, there are no reinforcements on the horizon. Seattle will have to make do with what they’ve got.