Every day between now and the start of Seahawks training camp, Seahawks.com will take a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2018 season. Today, we take a look at the offensive line, which is set to feature a level of continuity it hasn't seen in years. Tomorrow, we look at how much different things will be with new assistant coaches on both sides of the ball.
For the first time since 2014, the Seahawks have a chance to open the regular season returning a majority of their offensive line starters playing in the same spots as the season prior.
While they'll still be expected to compete for their jobs when training camp opens next week, it's possible Seattle's 2018 opening O-line will consist of four of the five players who finished the 2017 campaign, with tackles Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi, guard Ethan Pocic, and center Justin Britt all poised to remain in the No. 1 offense. And from what we've seen throughout offseason workouts, the line's fifth spot — the other guard spot opposite Pocic — looks like it has a chance of going to former first-round pick D.J. Fluker, who the Seahawks signed in free agency this offseason and who reunites with Seattle's new offensive line coach Mike Solari, who coached Fluker with the New York Giants.
Returning a majority of offensive line starters playing in the same spots as the season prior was something Seattle last accomplished when left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger, and right guard J.R. Sweezy transitioned from Seattle's 2013 Super Bowl-winning starting offensive line to 2014's season-opening line that also helped advance Seattle to the Super Bowl. That's not to say returning starters along the offensive line will book this year's Seahawks team a trip to its fourth Super Bowl, but as head coach Pete Carroll has noted this offseason, having that type of continuity up front will be a key factor in whether or not Seattle is able to find success offensively this upcoming season.
"The offensive line is a factor," Carroll said this past March. "This is the first year that we really have some continuity coming to us, and adding D.J. Fluker I think is a great positive for us to get his physical dimensions he's going to bring. I think we're poised to make a really good turn here."
While it appears Brown, Britt, Fluker, Ifedi, and Pocic will get a chance to establish that valuable continuity during training camp and preseason, they'll do so while working with a new position coach. The Seahawks parted ways with longtime offensive line coach Tom Cable this offseason, choosing the 30-year NFL coaching veteran Solari, who also coached the offensive line in Seattle from 2008-09 under Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora, as Cable's replacement. Carroll said he expects Solari to put his own stamp on things when it comes to the offensive line, but Solari downplayed any major shifts to the Seahawks' blocking schemes, noting his biggest focus during his time with the players this offseason was on reinforcing fundamentals and technique.
"We work hard in our individual drills to develop our technique and develop our fundamentals," Solari said in June. "We want to control the line of scrimmage, and we believe you control the line of scrimmage with fundamentals and techniques. The guys are working hard and it's kind of coming together. I don't want to over-exaggerate, because we're not in pads, and that's when you really ascend as an offensive line."
The Seahawks will soon be in pads and Solari's vision for the Seahawks' offensive line will start to come into focus, but Carroll, his coaches, and his players are hoping for the best from a unit that has struggled over the past few seasons to find the type of consistent play that they like. Between the leadership and experience of the Pro Bowler Brown to Britt's established presence in the middle of the offense, to the maturation of young players like Ifedi, Pocic, and Rees Odhiambo to the potential of new additions like Fluker and Jamarco Jones, and to those returning from injury such as George Fant, the Seahawks have plenty of reasons to think optimistically when it comes to their offensive line play this fall.
"We haven't had a guy like Duane Brown in some time," Carroll said. "Duane coming back is a great plus. He barely got started with us last year, then he got hurt and struggled through an ankle and all of that. But his return, the consistency that he brings, the experience that he brings, the toughness that he brings. The growth of Ifedi on the other side—he's going to get better, he's going to make a big jump. I think the best thing that ever happened to him is there's a transition here for him where he can get a new start and really get going with Mike Solari. Britt is going to be the best he has been, Pocic is going to be better than he has been, then D.J. coming in. Then there's George Fant returning to us. George was really poised to have a bigtime second year, and he has had a fantastic offseason working, I see him every day in the building, so he's going to factor into the competition.
"This is the best we've been in some time," Carroll added. "A little quietly it's emerging that it's a very good group and it's going to be one that we're going to look forward to seeing some real progress made… It hasn't been mentioned that much, but we feel like we have continuity. We haven't said that in so many years, but we feel like we have some continuity on the offensive line, so we're looking forward to it."
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