The Seahawks head into the 2018 season with an offensive line that very well could look a lot like the group that finished 2017, with four of five starters back. Seattle made one addition in free agency, signing D.J. Fluker, and selected just one offensive lineman in the draft, tackle Jamarco Jones.
But despite a lack of big changes on the roster, the Seahawks are counting on their offensive line to take a big step forward this year. One reason Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is optimistic about his line, saying "this is the best we’ve been in some time," is the potential for continuity if those four returning starters—tackles Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi, center Justin Britt and guard Ethan Pocic—all stay in the starting lineup. But Carroll and his team also have high hopes for the line because of one of the big changes that did take place with regards to that position group, with Mike Solari replacing Tom Cable as the team's offensive line coach.
"Mike's already putting his stamp on these guys and he comes about it in a really classic fashion style of teaching and coaching and expectations and standards," Carroll said last week "I see our guys—the format conceptually is a little bit different. He has an opportunity to put a stamp on us and he's already doing that."
Solari downplayed the idea that he will come in and make drastic changes to the Seahawks' blocking schemes, but said his biggest focus right now is on fundamentals and technique.
"It's fundamentals and technique," Solari said. "So we work hard in our individual drills to develop our technique and develop our fundamentals. 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."
Asked if the Seahawks would move away from the zone-blocking schemes favored in the past and focus more on man blocking, Solari said "It'll be a variation. We're going to do this a lot more, we're going to do that—we don't know yet as we develop this offense, as the offensive linemen develop. Who are the starting five? Who are the starting 11? That's the great thing about the Seattle Seahawks and Pete's system, it's all about competition, you compete. So that's exciting, it keeps everybody sharp and it keeps everybody hungry, ascending as a football player.
"It's always a combination of things. You always want to take advantage of their fundamentals and technique, so we just want to implement the thing that we're going to add. So it's just a matter of having a little bit more variety. But again, you still want those fundamentals and techniques. It's still about leverage, it's still about aiming points, it's still about hand placement."
Players are impressed with Solari, who has been coaching NFL offensive lines since the late 1980s, even those who have been in the league for a long time and are already polished linemen.
"I'm learning a ton from him," said Brown, a four-time Pro-Bowler. "Mike is a great football mind. He's very big on attention to detail, very big on technique. Me going into my 11th year, I feel like there's some things that I need to sharpen up to continue to play at a high level and he's definitely hammering points down for me. I think he's going to be very great for the younger guys. He coaches everyone the same. No one's a favorite. If you mess up a rep, you're doing it over. If you mess it up again, you're doing it over. I've got a lot of respect for that. I think we're going to be a very sharp O-line, very technically sound, and play with a lot of aggression."
And if Solari can help an experienced veteran like Brown, he has the potential to really make a difference for young linemen like Pocic, who started 11 games last year as a rookie, or for Germain Ifedi, a 2016 first-round pick who played guard as a rookie and right tackle last season.
"I think just in the short time I've been here, he's matured a lot and I expect a big season from him," Brown said of Ifedi. "He's a guy that is going to benefit a great deal from Mike. Just polishing up his technique more. He has all the tools – big, athletic guy, great length – so just trusting things and having good technique, I think he's going to be great. I really do feel that. First thing is just getting healthy and all that but we talk all the time and I think he's going to be good this year."
For Solari, this is his second stop in Seattle, having also served as the offensive line coach in 2008 and 2009 under Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora. He did not stay in Seattle when Carroll took over in 2010, but the two know each other dating back to their days working on the same coaching staff in San Francisco.
"Mike Solari and I go back way back to the Niners days, so I've known Mikey for a long time," Carroll said earlier this offseason. "He is a great football coach. Very strict, very disciplined. Brings a little bit different background, different scheme for us. It gives us a chance to do a little bit different things than we've done in the past, a different variety and diversity in the stuff that we are doing. But also brings us a wealth of experience in evaluations and that stuff, so we are very lucky. Also, (Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) and Mike had been together a little bit in the past. That gave them a good connection, too, in communication, and that's important. So it's going to be a great move for us. I'm really fired up about it."
The Seahawks' third week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) continued on Monday, June 4, with the team holding the seventh of nine voluntary offseason workout practices at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.