With Seahawks Training Camp set to kick off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 12 of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2020 season. Today we turn our attention to an offensive line that will look quite a bit different than it did a year ago, and tomorrow we'll look at what kind of impact first-round pick Jordyn Brooks and the rest of the rookie class might make this year.
Ask any offensive lineman or coach about continuity, and you're sure to hear how important that is for that particular position group. The reality in a league with free agency and a salary cap, however, is that continuity on the line can be hard to maintain, as the Seahawks saw this offseason.
Center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker were both released this offseason in what general manager John Schneider described as "tough cap-casualty decisions," while right tackle Germain Ifedi left in free agency, signing with the Chicago Bears. That means the Seahawks will have at least three new starters on their offensive line in 2020, and possibly four if second-year guard Phil Haynes, who Schneider said will compete with Mike Iupati at left guard, can win that job.
Breaking in three or four new starters would be a challenge in any season, but this year presents an extra hurdle because the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated in-person offseason workouts.
"Good offensive line play, a major factor is chemistry and continuity," left tackle Duane Brown, a four-time Pro Bowler, said earlier this offseason. "We lost a big chunk of our starting pieces this offseason. We've got some new faces, we've got some guys who have been in the system, we've got some guys who haven't been here, so just getting to learn each other, learning the terminology, communication, just learning how we do stuff here, all of that stuff is important. I'm doing what I can now, virtually, over texts, phone calls, just to try to build as much chemistry as possible until we're able to meet and physically go on the field and do stuff. Once that happens, we'll have a small window to try to build each other up as much as possible until the season starts… I'm going to do what I can to try to fill them in as much as possible on what to expect when it's time to go."
But while the Seahawks know they're facing a challenge when it comes to forming that offensive line cohesion quickly, they are excited about the pieces they added to compete for jobs. Damien Lewis, a third-round pick out of LSU, will compete for the right guard job, and the Seahawks also added several linemen in free agency, including B.J. Finney, a versatile interior lineman who should be a factor in the competition at center; tackle Brandon Shell, a former starter for the New York Jets; tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who could be another option on the right side; and guard Chance Warmack, a former first-round pick and starter in Tennessee from 2013-2015 who is looking to bounce back after being out of football last year to try to get fully healthy.
"You know that we are not break-the-bank free agency people," general manager John Schneider said prior to the draft. "We look for commonalities and fits, and what's important for our quarterback. We love our quarterback. We want to have as many grown men in front of him as we possibly can. It was important for us to be able to identify some people early on, and quite honestly, we hit in our mind what was one, two, three in free agency, and I give our guys a lot of credit for working with the agents, all the meetings at the combine and then getting ready for the three-day period, and Matt Thomas, obviously, to be able to negotiate with these guys in a timely manner, especially in the environment that we are in."
The Seahawks also return, among others, Haynes, who as mentioned earlier should compete for the job at left guard; Joey Hunt, who took over the starting center spot for an injured Britt midway through the 2019 season; Ethan Pocic, a versatile former second-round pick with starting experience at multiple positions; guard Jordan Simmons, who impressed in limited starting action two seasons ago before missing last year due to a knee injury; and 2018 fifth-round pick Jamarco Jones, who started five games in 2019, postseason included, playing both guard spots and left tackle.
"We have some young guys coming up that we are really excited about and feel like we are going to have maybe the best depth we've had and particularly the most competition we've had," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
The big question for training camp will be how quickly all that depth and competition can come together to form a cohesive offensive line that can help Wilson and the rest of the offense be at their best.
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from the 2019 season.