Over the past two weeks, Seahawks.com has taken a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the training camp. Today, we wrap things up by focusing on what is expected to be a much-improved offensive line.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his team heading into the 2017 season, ranging from a veteran defense with seven Pro Bowlers in the starting lineup to an offense that features Pro Bowlers like Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. But for all the established talent on Seattle's roster, one of the things Carroll and his coaching staff are most excited about heading into training camp is the potential for one of the team's youngest, least-experienced position groups to take a big step forward in 2017.
For much of last season, the Seahawks started two rookies on their line, left tackle George Fant and right guard Germain Ifedi; a first-year starter at left guard, Mark Glowinski; and a center, Justin Britt, who was in his first year at the position. Last year's line did some good things and played very well in some games, but battled with consistency throughout the season. This year, with that group gaining so much experience a year ago and with only one starter leaving—right tackle, Garry Gilliam signed with the 49ers this offseason—there would be reason to expect improvement even if the Seahawks had done nothing to bolster the group. But Seattle did add to the line, signing former first-round pick Luke Joeckel as well as guard Oday Aboushi in free agency, and drafting versatile LSU standout Ethan Pocic in the second round.
"I think there's a big jump that's going to occur on the offensive line," Carroll said earlier this offseason http://www.seahawks.com/news/2017/03/31/why-seahawks-coach-pete-carroll-so-optimistic-about-his-team%E2%80%99s-future. "… We were close last year and we weren't right, and we were so young up front. So if everybody comes back with the energy that they left with, and then adding competition to that, I think it could really be something. To get a guy like Luke Joeckel on our team with a bunch of young guys is a fantastic addition for us."
Offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable shares Carroll's excitement about what the line should be able to do this year, referring to himself as, "The most excited coach on the staff right now. http://www.seahawks.com/news/2017/06/09/seahawks-offensive-line-coach-tom-cable-%E2%80%9Ci%E2%80%99m-most-excited-coach-staff-right-now%E2%80%9D That's what I've told Coach (Pete Carroll) and (general manager) John (Schneider)—I appreciate them putting this together in a year's time and doing a fantastic job. Our personnel guys nailed this, so it's just a matter of getting them in the right spots and going and playing ball.
"I'm excited as camp approaches. I think we've made some progress towards being ready to go to training camp. That means teaching the offense and getting the young kids involved. I think we're right where we should be at this point… Really all those kids, from George to Germain to Rees (Odhiambo), they all have matured a year. It's kind of like a freshman in college. If you play them right away, it can be painful at times, but they make big strides, and they've done that. They've all matured and handled this thing really, really well."
As Cable notes, offseason workouts weren't so much about getting regular-season ready as much as they were a chance to be ready for camp, which opens Sunday. Until pads go on in training camp, it's hard to truly gauge the play of offensive linemen, but Cable did like what he saw in terms of learning, saying the group "understands what we're doing."
"Those were young kids with no experience, and in George's case, zero experience, and now they've been through it a year," he said. "So you can expect us to be much further along in our preparation as we get ready for camp, for sure."
And now that camp is here, the competition for starting jobs will really start to heat up. Britt is a safe bet to keep his job at center, but beyond that, just about every spot is up for grabs to some degree. Ifedi, last year's first-round pick, is moving from guard to right tackle, but could still be an option at guard depending on how things shake out. Staying with the right side, Glowinski is moving back there after switching to the left side in 2016, and he'll compete with Aboushi at right guard. Another candidate for either job on the right side is Pocic, who played both spots during offseason workouts. On the left side, Fant will try to hold off Joeckel at left tackle, and Joeckel will also compete at left guard, with Odhiambo factoring into the competition at both of those spots.
"We are just going to work it out," Carroll said of the competition for starting jobs http://www.seahawks.com/news/2017/03/29/six-things-we-learned-seahawks-coach-pete-carroll-nfl-annual-meetings. "... We'll figure it all out when we start to put the pieces together. I really like that we've been able to improve."
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Seahawks center Justin Britt held the final day of his three football camps for youth in the state of Washington Sunday at Bellevue High School.