With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. Over the next two weeks, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on the offensive line.
The Seahawks went into the season with a young and relatively inexperienced line, and the result was inconsistency at times, and promising progress at others. While the interior line of rookie right guard Germain Ifedi, center Justin Britt and left guard Mark Glowinski stayed together for most of the season, there was more change at the tackles spots where Bradley Sowell and rookie George Fant split time at left tackle, and Sowell and Garry Gilliam battled for the starting job at right tackle.
Despite some struggles, there were also plenty of positives. Most notably, Russell Wilson was sacked at the lowest rate of his career. And while the running game wasn't the same as it has been in recent years—and plenty of that had to do with Wilson's injuries and injuries to running backs Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, not just the line's blocking—it did function well at times, showing there is reason for optimism going forward. During one four-game stretch, which included a game against Carolina, which at the time had the league's No. 2 run defense, the Seahawks averaged 163.8 rushing yards per game.
"I think we made a ton of progress," Carroll said. "Knowing how much guys improve from one year to the next, and particularly the youngest guys improve the most, we have nothing but good things to think about what will take place. Guys are going to get better."
For all the ups and downs of 2016, the most positive development was the play of Britt, who after playing right tackle as a rookie and left guard in 2015, thrived after moving to his third position in as many seasons. With Britt established as a quality center, and with growth expected from the young players around him, the Seahawks are expecting big improvements next season, even if the line play wasn't always what they were looking for in 2016.
"I think we've made considerable progress but we've also shown the newness," Carroll said late in the season. "I think it's best understood to see how young they are and to realize they've been up and down a little bit. We have two first-year rookie starters and a first-time starter in Glow, and a move in position for Britt, who has done a marvelous job. It's just a lot of growth to expect, and also you can understand why sometimes we have setbacks."
Notable Number: 13.3
During the 2016 season, Russell Wilson was sacked once every 13.3 pass attempts, the lowest sack rate of his career. Considering that happened during a season in which Wilson's mobility was limited for much of the season due to knee and ankle injuries, that's an encouraging development for a young line that should only be better next season.
While the Seahawks have a chance at more offensive line continuity than they have had in several years, that doesn't mean they'll rest on their laurels this offseason.
For starters, there could be some departures, with Sowell set to become an unrestricted free agent and Gilliam a restricted free agent. And even though the Seahawks like the potential for growth with the current group, that won't stop them from giving current players like Rees Odhiambo a chance to compete, or from adding to the competition via the draft. The Seahawks have selected at least one offensive lineman in every draft under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, including five in the first four rounds of the past three drafts.
"We're going to work really hard in the offseason to make sure we make that spot really competitive again," Carroll said. "We're not going to rest on anything or set back like we think we got it now. We'll continue to work, and there are opportunities of course in the draft and free agency and all of that that we're open to; we never turn away from any of those chances. But if nothing happened, these guys are coming back and they'll get after it and they're going to get after it and be farther along than they were. It couldn't be more obvious. That's just the natural thing that's going to happen. We need that natural occurrence to take place and help us be better from the start."
What The Future Holds
As Carroll notes, the ability to have some continuity heading into 2017 could pay dividends. Last year, the Seahawks lost two starters, J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung, in free agency; in 2015 they lost starting guard James Carpenter in free agency and traded starting center Max Unger; and in 2014 they lost starters Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan in free agency. In 2017, if the Seahawks make changes on their line, it will be because players beat out returning starters for jobs, not because of offseason personnel losses.
"We've been through that transition of guys, and that can't just keep happening, we can't keep going and going," Carroll said. "So you have to make some adjustments, which we did and we're working our way back. It has been a challenge though, there have been changes and it happens for reasons that it does—money gets too high, you can't afford to keep a guy because you don't have room to do it, you have young guys come up to take guys spots, you can see the future through the young guys. There's all kinds of reason, and we've kind of been through it all. I don't think we're in that mode right now. I think we have a chance now that this is maybe one of the two or three years out of the seven or eight where we have had a chance to come back with kind of the same group and have a chance to build with that. We're going to try to, but we're going to challenge the heck out of those guys too. We're not going to be satisfied."
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Cornerback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Defensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Quarterback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Safety
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Running Back
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Linebacker
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Tight End
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Special Teams
The best photos from the Seahawks' sideline from the 2016 NFL season.