Heading into the 2017 season, the Seahawks have, as general manager John Schneider put it, “some interesting options” when it comes to their offensive line.
Four starters from last year's young line are back, the Seahawks added two potential starters in free agency in Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi, and there are other young players who could push for playing time, most notably Rees Odhiambo, a third-round pick in 2016 who saw playing time at guard and tackle as a rookie. And that doesn't include players who might be added in this week's draft.
Among the "interesting options" the Seahawks have heading into a new season is the possibility of moving last year's first-round pick, Germain Ifedi, from right guard to right tackle. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has mentioned Joeckel is an option at left guard and left tackle, while Aboushi figures to compete at right guard. If Joeckel were to land at left guard, last year's starter, Mark Glowinski, would also be an option at right guard along with Aboushi.
Even before Garry Gilliam signed with San Francisco as a restricted free agent, Carroll had talked about Ifedi possibly moving from guard to tackle, and that move makes even more sense now that last year's starting right tackle has signed elsewhere. Ifedi spent two seasons at Texas A&M as a starting right tackle after beginning his college career as a guard, and when the Seahawks selected him last year, they talked about him possibly playing tackle at some point.
"We've talked to Germain about maybe playing right tackle," Carroll said at the NFL Annual Meetings last month. "We'll see how that works out. We drafted him as a right tackle that could play right guard. We've used that flexibility already. He's excited about the chance to play outside if that's what we want him to do. We'll figure it all out when we start to put the pieces together."
And while a move to tackle could make a lot of sense given how the roster currently looks, Ifedi isn't assuming anything heading into his second season. Whether he stays at guard or moves out to tackle, he'll be ready to compete for a starting job wherever his coaches tell him to line up.
"It should be a really good spring for competition, all that good stuff," Ifedi said last week while serving as a celebrity waiter at Prime Time, an annual fundraising dinner for John and Traci Schneider’s nonprofit, Ben’s Fund. "I'm interested to see where guys will be Day 1 and throughout OTAs and minicamp. Coach (Tom) Cable and them, they kind of hold their cards close to the vest, so even we don't know. I told them, 'Hey, whatever we do, I'm going to stay ready at all positions, no matter where you want to play me.'
"You don't ever want to have yourself be limited, because something could happen where I have to bump back in or bump out, so you never want to be limited to, 'OK, this is my only position,' because especially on the offensive line, that's never the reality in the NFL, because we only carry six or seven guys on gameday."
Wherever Ifedi lines up next season, he knows he and the rest of the line will need to find a more consistent level of display than what they showed in 2016. At times, such as the four-game stretch when the Seahawks averaged 163.8 rushing yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry, the line looked pretty darn good, while in other games the offense and the line struggled to function at a high level with much consistency.
Ifedi said he's studied his play and that of the line "a ton of times over" this offseason, and saw plenty of good and bad along the way when watching the game tape.
"You see the film and you see a guy who has all the ability, you see the rookie mistakes that are there, but he can make all the blocks and all those type of things when we're dialed in and we're communicating well," Ifedi said when asked to evaluate his rookie year. "The line is great when we're doing those things, but when you're not communicating and everybody's not connected, then it goes to a mess. That's the one thing I saw throughout the film with how many times I looked at it. The games when I know we're communicating and really jelling, we're really rolling. But the games where it's, OK, go one play, then go back, pre-snap penalties, things like that is when we kind of got ourselves in trouble."
Despite things "going to a mess" at times, Ifedi, like his coaches, sees a lot of potential for a line that finished the season with two rookie starters (Ifedi and left tackle George Fant), a first-year starter (Glowinski) and Justin Britt playing his third position in as many years.
"Justin, he's still a young center, he's pretty much a second-year guy at center," Ifedi said. "George is in his second year playing football. I don't know if you've seen him, but he's huge like me now. This offseason together is invaluable. I just think the sky's the limit."
The Seahawks take on strength & conditioning training at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where the team's voluntary offseason workout program continued on Tuesday, April 25.