Andy Dickerson got his master's degree in education at Tufts University figuring he'd be a high school teacher.
Instead, NFL opportunities got in the way before he could dedicate himself to teaching, with Dickerson first getting his start with Washington as a training camp intern while still in graduate school before joining New England's operations department as an intern in 2004.
Two decades later, Dickerson has made an impressive career for himself as an NFL coach, currently as the Seahawks' offensive line coach, but that doesn't mean he has left teaching behind. But instead of educating high schoolers, Dickerson is doing a standout job of preparing NFL offensive linemen, and he's a big reason why the Seahawks offense has functioned as well as it has this season—the Seahawks rank 11th in scoring (24.0 points per game) and seventh in yards-per-play average (5.6)—despite so many injuries on the line.
The Seahawks opened the season with a starting five of, from left to right, Charles Cross, Damien Lewis, Evan Brown, Phil Haynes and Abraham Lucas, only to see both starting tackles leave the game with injuries. Cross missed the next three games, while Lucas remains on injured reserve, and was only the beginning of Seattle's injury issues up front. Lewis and Brown have missed one game each, while Brown also had to play half a game at guard when both guards went down with injuries against the Giants, while Haynes has missed three games and started one at left guard in place of Lewis. In addition to those five starters, the Seahawks have had four other linemen start games this season: Stone Forsythe, Anthony Bradford, Jake Curhan and Olu Oluwatimi, while Jason Peters played significant snaps last week.
That's nine linemen starting games this season and 10 playing meaningful snaps, and through seven games the Seahawks have had six different starting combinations. And while there have been hiccups along the way, the Seahawks are still in first place in the NFC West, moving the ball well on offense, and if not for some recent turnovers in the red zone and a few early-season missed field goals, they would be among the league leaders in scoring.
The players obviously deserve a ton of credit, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron also point to the work done by Dickerson and assistant offensive line coach Keli'I Kekuewa.
"Andy and Keli'i are doing a fantastic job with these guys," Carroll said. "To be able to handle that and handle the mentality of the guys in the room and the confidence level that it takes and how all of that is navigated in their meetings and on the practice field. I think it's really an obvious statement about their ability to handle this thing and I think Andy's doing a great job."
Dickerson, of course, defers to his players first, noting that the buy-in going back to offseason workouts is paying off now.
"The communication, the work in the weight room, building the continuity of the O-line," he said. "We talk about, what's the star of the O-line? It's the O-line, because it's five guys who have to work together. You try to move as many pieces around as possible early, so if something does happen later, then it's not the first time those things happened. To me, it's a tribute to those guys working hard, and the new guys coming."
As Waldron has noted in the past, a big part of what Dickerson does to help the line is prepare everyone, from the starters to the practice squad players, as if they could be playing in a starting role at a moment's notice because, as this season has shown, players need to be ready at any point in a week or a game.
"You go into it with a philosophy that you coach to everybody," Dickerson said. "If you're coaching a left tackle, you remind everyone who could be playing left tackle that that could be their rep. It's just the ability to teach to the whole room and talk about the concepts. Maybe you're a center and you have to play guard, well, I play next to him. Or you're a tackle and you have to slide into guard, well you played next to that guy, so there's some familiarity. If you teach the big picture and the concept and the scheme, teach what the big picture is on everything, teach the totality of the system, that helps them understand what's going on."
Dickerson then quips, "I'm finally using my master's in education where I'm a teacher. I teach all those guys, keep working on the understanding and the learning."
Waldron, who goes all the way back with Dickerson to their days of playing college football together at Tufts, has spent much of his NFL career coaching with Dickerson, but is still impressed by what he is seeing this year.
"I think Andy, just as a teacher in general, because I think that's so much about this game, and especially with the O-line play, where the offensive line has so much time, of individual time, whether it's certain special teams, whether it's during some of the pass game stuff we're doing in seven on seven, he has a unique ability to keep teaching constantly for the two hours, two and a half hours, whatever the length of practice is," Waldron said. "It's nonstop. I think his ability to teach the starters all the way through the practice squad guys the same way, everyone is getting different information and everyone can take a little bit of information from a tip maybe to another player that they can use for their game. So Andy has done a great job being a teach experience being a teacher first at that position I think is paramount."
While the Seahawks have been getting healthier in recent weeks, Lucas is still on injured reserve, and the top three guards, Lewis, Haynes and Bradford are all on this week's injury report. Regardless of who is on the field Sunday, however, the Seahawks are confident that group will get the job done, and they also know all this turnover will help in the long run because of the experience those linemen are getting.
"It's invaluable," Dickerson said. "You can try to make practice as hard as possible, but then when you get out there and the lights come on, how do they show up? We've been able to see it, especially with the rookies—you get Olu, you get Anthony Bradford, guys we're very excited about, and they go in and play, and they show that they belong."
Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Nov. 2, 2023.