The dramatic improvement of the offensive line was one of the best things that happened to the Seahawks in the second half of the 2015 season. The line picking up its level of play contributed to Russell Wilson posting the best numbers of his career, and was a factor in the Seahawks finishing third in the NFL in rushing yards while finishing fourth both in total yards and scoring.
That midseason turnaround is also something the Seahawks hope won't be necessary in 2016. What Seattle's line looks like next season remains to be seen—there's still free agency, the draft and the possible development of young players who didn't contribute this year as factors that could change what the starting line looks like—but however the Seahawks open the season up front, the hope is that they'll be closer to a finished product right off the bat.
"I think it's still a work in progress," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't think we've nailed it yet. I think this needs to be a really competitive spot again, and we're going to work really hard to build it up. For the course of the season we weren't consistent enough. We found a real good rhythm, but we can't start and go through that again. We don't want to have to experience that if we can avoid it. I think that's a real area of focus again, so we'll be talking about it. We've got a couple unrestricted (free agent) guys there, we're going to have to deal with how that's going to work out. There's just stuff that we're going to have to work through. But we are young, and we are athletic, and we do like our guys."
And Carroll mentioning that "we do like our guys," is an important piece of the puzzle, because his referring to the line being a work in progress isn't meant as a shot at the group of players currently on Seattle's roster. Yes, the Seahawks will inevitably add linemen via the draft or free agency or possibly even through a trade, but that doesn't necessarily mean they want to overhaul the entire group, but rather that they want to avoid the slow start that hindered the offense early in the 2015 season.
How similar or different next year's line looks compared to this season's remains to be seen. As Carroll said, there are two free agents in the starting five (Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy), but while their statuses are uncertain, the Seahawks do like the growth they saw from the rest of the young starters, Justin Britt, Patrick Lewis and Garry Gilliam, and also still have high hopes for they players they drafted last season, including Mark Glowinski, who started one game in place of Sweezy this year, and Kristjan Sokoli, and guard/center who is making the transition to from defense to offense.
"I like the fact that Glowinski got a chance to play," Carroll said. "We'll see how all that works out, and it'll be exciting. (The line) is a really important area for us, of course.
"Kristjan Sokoli, I'm really excited about what he can do. But he's a transition guy, and we decided not to try and force the issue with him to try to make him play right now. He needs a whole other year to get through this, and then we'll see where he is. He's an exceptional athlete. I want to see him play center, I want to see how he does there as he grows through it, and just see how much ground he can make up, and see where that leaves us. We'll have one of the really good athletes at center if that's where he winds up playing. He's fast, he's quick, he's athletic, and all of that. But the transition, it's more than just sticking him out there. We did that with Sweez and that was hard, that was hard on him. So we'll see, hopefully we've learned how to do this, and we'll make good progress with that."
It's impossible to know in January who will be starting up front for the Seahawks come September, but whatever group emerges, the Seahawks hope to avoid the growing pains that hurt them in 2015.