Seahawks offensive line and assistant head coach Tom Cable joined the Brock and Salk Show on 710 ESPN this morning to talk about his offensive line group for 2015 and his group of defense-to-offense conversion projects.
He first spoke about how each year feels like a blank slate in terms of getting all of his guys on the same page, and this year is no different. James Carpenter is gone, Max Unger is gone, and he's got a handful of new guys that need to get up to speed. He said that the first thing they do with all their linemen is train them at multiple spots on the line.
"I think they have to [be interchangeable]," said Cable. "We've always kind of double-trained guys, but I think we've all seen how it's paid off for us here, especially the last two years."
As for why more teams don't do that?
"Most of the time, it takes a little more effort, it takes a little more time from the coaches side because it's a bigger investment," Cable explained. "You've got to do more, work more. And, then there's also the ego of the player, he'll say, ‘by god, I'm just a right guard, and that's all I'll be', and that's okay, they can go play for somebody else. They can come here, and that's one of the first things that we tell them, ‘we're going to ask you to do a couple of things.' So, they know where they stand in that way."
Additionally, as I wrote about yesterday, Cable and the Seahawks have taken their defensive-conversion project to new heights lately, and the veteran line coach explained how they identify players ready to make that leap.
"It's the guy who shows the toughness and the effort on defense, but he's just not quite there for whatever reason," said Cable. "Once you find that on film, when you ask the question, ‘hey are you willing to try this?' — you know, for example, Kristjan Sokoli, when I first asked him, he said ‘well I'd rather play defense,' and I said ‘okay, i didn't ask you if you'd rather play defense, I asked you if you were willing to [play offense].' He said, ‘yeah but I'd rather play on defense.' And so, I knew where his heart was on this whole thing, and when I went and worked him out, we had a deeper conversation on this whole thing, and he said, ‘bottom line, I'm going to do whatever I can to play in the NFL. So, if you think i can be an O-lineman, I'll go for it.' And that's really what you need. For them to regard the opportunity in the right way. Once you have that, you've got a chance."
Kristjan Sokoli (defensive tackle for Buffalo), Jesse Davis (former defensive lineman for Idaho), Kona Schwenke (defensive tackle for Notre Dame), Justin Renfrow (defensive tackle for Miami), and Kamalie Matthews (former D-tackle for Murray State) were all part of the Seahawks' rookie minicamp. The Hawks signed Schwenke afterwords because they were so impressed. J.R. Sweezy (defensive tackle at N.C. State, Lemuel Jeanpierre (played defensive tackle at South Carolina), and Drew Nowak (played defensive tackle for Western Michigan) are also rostered players for Seattle.
So, why the focus here? I had posited that it might be that Cable sees these guys as blank slates that he can mold into players for his system. Cable's zone blocking scheme requires precise footwork and a slightly different style of blocking than a lot of other systems, and bad habits can be difficult to fix. Cable confirmed this.
"I'm not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has gotten to be really, really bad fundamentally. And so you see these big bodies, and — he's 6'5-this, and he's 300-this, and his arms are all that, and you watch him, and he's not a finisher, and he doesn't strain, and he can't pass set, and he can't stay on balance, and he can't play with leverage, and you start listing all these negatives, and you look at it and say, ‘I can go get a guy who runs a little faster, jumps a little higher and has an aggressive streak in him, and at least I can see that on defense, and I can start with him," Cable said. "I'm going to have to retrain an offensive lineman out of college anyway."
Cable's looking for certain innate attributes, mostly involving toughness, physicality, and attitude. He feels that he can teach them technique.
He said that college systems are churning out fundamentally unsound players.
"Unfortunately, I think we're doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than a receiver, that come out of these spread systems. The runners aren't as good. They aren't taught how to run. The blockers aren't as good. The quarterbacks aren't as good. They don't know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea."