With Seahawks training camp kicking off next week, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today we look at the offensive line and in particular the competition at tackle. Check back tomorrow when we break down what looks to be a wide-open competition at cornerback.
Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, offensive tackle was a pretty clear need for the Seahawks seeing as both of their starters from the previous season, Duane Brown and Brandon Shell, were and still remain unsigned as free agents.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, the way the first round unfolded, a potential long-term replacement at left tackle happened to also be one of the top players on the Seahawks draft board when their pick came up. Charles Cross, one of three tackles the Seahawks had near the top of their draft board, was still available at No. 9 overall, making the Mississippi State left tackle an easy selection there.
The following evening, the Seahawks used a third-round pick, No. 72 overall, on Washington State right tackle Abe Lucas, a player who, like Cross, stood out on their draft board as one of the top players available. In other words, the Seahawks were able to address a pretty significant need without reaching to do so.
"As we looked at the draft and we saw the opportunities, we saw the numbers of the draft, we had hoped that it could come out like it did and it did," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during last month's minicamp. "The tackles, to nail both those guys—both those guys have a chance to play and they're competing. They'll be competing to start. When they come back to camp, if they hold their own and they make the right progress, they have a chance to start for us, which is huge, that would be huge. I don't know that they will, but they've got a chance and they give us every indication that they have what it takes to do that to this point."
The selections of Cross and Lucas bookended a busy first two days of the 2022 draft in which the Seahawks also added edge rusher Boye Mafe and running back Kenneth Walker III in the second round, and heading into camp, the question becomes whether or not those two tackles are also ready to bookend Seattle's offensive line as rookies.
Given that Cross is a top 10 pick and there is an opening at left tackle, it would seem pretty likely he is the Week 1 starter, though he'll still have to earn it over the next month and a half. Right tackle, on the other hand, appears to be wide open with at least three players competing for the job.
In addition to Lucas, the Seahawks also have Jake Curhan, a versatile lineman who not only made the team as an undrafted rookie last season, but who also started five games at right tackle in place of an injured Shell. And coming out of the draft it looked like those two would battle for the job, but in offseason workouts, Stone Forsythe, a 2021 sixth-round pick, started seeing action at right tackle after working almost exclusively at left tackle as a rookie.
"Stone's in there, yeah," Carroll said when asked about Forsythe and the competition at right tackle. "Stone has really improved with time. Those guys all did a nice job. They're a little bit different, but Stone has really become better. He's physically better than he was as he came here. He's stronger, he's more flexible, and he can play both sides, but yeah, he's in it."
While the Seahawks by no means are heading into camp set on starting two rookies at tackle, they also aren't worried about being that young should things work out that way, because if Cross and Lucas are indeed starting when the Seahawks open their season against the Broncos, it will mean they earned the right to do so.
"In my mind, by the time we get to that first game and the best guys are playing, they'll have earned those positions," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said earlier this offseason. "And if it's the two rookies, that means that they've beat out some guys that are good players in their own right. So, we have a lot of competition at those tackle positions. The draft obviously has taken that competition to a different level, as far as younger guys that are competing against each other. So, I think it's going to be a great thing in the long run. And if those guys go out and earn that job, then you feel comfortable because they've earned it over other guys that have had a chance to play and play well in the NFL."
As for the other offensive line spots, the Seahawks return both starters at guard in veteran Gabe Jackson, a 2021 trade acquisition, and Damien Lewis, a 2020 third-round pick and a two-year starter. While neither will just be handed a starting job, both will head into camp the heavy favorites to retain those jobs. Leading the way at guard behind the two incumbents is Phil Haynes, a 2019 fourth-round pick who has battled injuries for much of his career, but who impressed in two starts late last season, playing both guard spots.
Center, like tackle, will be an interesting position to watch. Austin Blythe, a free-agent addition who started for the Rams while playing under Waldron and offensive line coach Andy Dickerson, would seem to be the leading candidate to replace Ethan Pocic at center, but by no means is that spot set. The Seahawks also brought back Kyle Fuller, who opened last season as the No. 1 center, starting nine games before Pocic took over that job. Another name to keep an eye on is Dakoda Shepley, a player Seattle claimed off waivers last year and about whom general manager John Schneider spoke highly of this offseason.