We all know the contempt everyone has for the Seattle Seahawks “neglecting” the offensive line and how little the front office has spent on it.
Garry Gilliam was supposed to be the new left tackle, but he lost that job to free agent Bradley Sowell. In the offseason, Sowell signed with the Seahawks for a one-year contract worth $1,000,000 with a $200,000 signing bonus. Even though Pete Carroll and John Schneider said Sowell would compete for the starting left tackle job, no one took them seriously. He appeared to be a “camp body” who we’d forget was ever here for training camp 2016.
But who is Bradley Sowell?
Sowell, an undrafted free agent, spent his first year with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, then the next three in Arizona with the Cardinals. He started zero games in 2012, 12 in 2013, and then zero more in 2014 and 2015. So how did Seattle end up with a journeyman starting left tackle for only a million bucks? Because he wasn’t good enough to start on his previous teams, and the right tackle trying to play left tackle wasn’t quite ready for the switch.
One thing that Tom Cable has specifically said about Sowell is that his skillset is more suited to the zone concept running scheme, and not the power running scheme that he previously played in. After looking back at game tape so far, I’d say that is more than likely the case.
However, Sowell does have some obvious deficiencies. He’s not the best athlete and isn’t real quick or powerful. He’s not going to win by dominating physically, if he wins, it’s going to be because of his technique and his hustle — Sounds like a Cable guy to me. Here we’re going to take a look at how he did against the Atlanta Falcons. For the most part we’ve all thought our tackles have been the worst of the offensive line, but on last Sunday, left tackle definitely wasn’t a liability.
First, a quick look at our grading system for a refresher:
On to the tape!
There’s a lot of plays to look at. The offense ran a total of 64 plays, not including punts, field gulls or the final series of kneel downs.
Let’s take a closer look at a handful of them.
Play 2: Pass to Tyler Lockett for 8 yards
Screen to Lockett on the left after he goes in motion. Here Luke Willson, Brandon Williams and Sowell all have to sprint out to the boundary to get blocks for Lockett. This is a very tough assignment for Sowell because 1. He’s not fast and 2. He’s not quick, but what makes it work is that he hustles. He gets out just in time to push the LB out of the way, but it’s not a perfect block as the LB is able to slow down Lockett, but the block does allow Lockett to get an extra 5 yards.
Play 4: Christine Michael left for 5 yards
Here we have a bunch set at the end of the LOS, witch Tanner McEvoy lined up next to Jimmy Graham and Willson. The play is designed to go right behind them. The entire line does a good job getting push and washing the DL to the right. Sowell gets a good block on the DE, pushes him back 5 yards and even gets him turned.
NOTE: Watch Germain Ifedi. Once he locks in on the defender he’s not getting away. Ifedi frustrated him and gave him some business after the whistle but Ifedi kept cool and walked away.
Play 9: Russell Wilson scramble left for 3 yards
This is the kind of play we don’t see too often from our tackles. Sowell goes to cut the DE, but ends up knocking him back on his rear. It’s not a bone-jarring hit, but it’s great block. Also, Russ didn’t need to leave the pocket so soon. If he steps up and then escapes to the right, the safety covering Graham has to make a choice, come up on Wilson or keep covering Graham. Hard to do for Russ though since he’s already looked to the left.
Play 10: Michael right for 21 yards
This big run is a result mostly due to Mark Glowinski and Justin Britt. Glow does a great job at the second level and Britt washes out the DT. Sowell tries to cut the DT, but he’s too high and just gets knocked down, however, it’s just enough to let Michael get by. Technically he didn’t have to cut and could have gotten a reach block, but cutting the backside is the call here. Graham failed on his cut also, but CMike uses his crazy burst to get by those two defenders.
Play 25: Michael left for 2 yards
This is more of a 3-4 or Bear look by the defense, loading the box up. Here Glow and Sowell double team the DT, and Glow is supposed to get to the LB. Sowell gets so much push on the DT, that he is driven into Glow, keeping him from getting to the LB. On this play, Britt whiffs, as the NT swats his hands down and swims him and blows up the play, otherwise he’d have a nice hole between Gilliam and Willson. This is the kinda thing we’ve some from Britt in previous years.
Play 29: CJ Spiller left for -3 yards
This play left me angry, and not at Sowell. Sowell gets a great block here, and I don’t know what Spiller sees, but it’s not the correct thing. He needs to get north and south, not east and west. Sowell doesn’t get any push here, but he gets great position and good technique, and gets inside leverage on the DE. Just look at the still shot above. If spiller runs it inside, he at least gets a few yards and is just a missed tackle away by #53 to more yards, but instead he tries to bounce it outside and ends up losing yardage.
Play 38: Pass to Graham for 9 yards
First thing I want you to watch on this play, is the entire offensive line, and how the defensive line collapses the pocket. Now watch it a second time and only watch Sowell. He’s the only lineman that didn’t give up ground. He’s got great technique here, squares up the defender, maintains good leverage and holds his ground.
Play 45: Pass to Graham for 18 yards
This is the kind of play that Sowell did consistently against the Falcons, and at times in other games. He isn’t quick enough to cut off a player trying to round the edge, but what does he do? He uses their momentum against them. Here his kick slide isn’t the greatest but he initiates contact and as the DE tries to turn the edge on him, he keeps a hand on his inside shoulder and directs him out past the pocket.
Here Russell escapes out to the left and makes a great throw to Graham, but if he just stepped up into the pocket he’d have all day to throw. Quite a few times this happened. Sowell rides the DE past the pocket, and Russell easily has room to step up to make a throw. What’s great about it though, is that Sowell doesn’t panic when this happens, he looks very comfortable.
At first I didn’t believe it when I saw the grades of 78% Field Gulls Grade and 89% KiSS grade, then I went back and looked over my notes, that lines up with what I saw. I only counted one direct pressure given up by Sowell. Only one. Out of 64 plays, I only had four fails. Let me repeat that.
Out of 64 plays, Sowell failed only four times.
Now, there were a few stalemates and a few ugly wins, but even if it was ugly, if he still did his job, that’s a good thing. This isn’t a beauty contest! Pete Carroll doesn’t care how it looks as long as it works. So far to date, Sowell’s performance against the Atlanta Falcons has been our highest graded performance to date in our Seahawks Grades section!
- Sowell did not face off against Vic Beasley once. Beasley consistently rushed from the right side as the left defensive end, much like Cliff Avril does. If I were Dan Quinn, I would have had Beasley rushing against Sowell and the other defensive end against Gilliam. Gilliam seems to struggle with and get over powered by the bigger defensive ends, not the quicker ones, while Sowell seems to struggle more with the quicker ends, and can handle the bigger, stronger ones. With how well Beasley can bend around the edge that would have been a mismatch in their favor.
- For how well Sowell did, he definitely wasn’t dominant, but he did his job and he looked very comfortable doing it.
- This offensive line is gelling and it’s only going to get better. Glow is awesome at combo blocking and getting to the second level (look at CMikes 21 yard run above), but on both sides, the tackles and guards are picking up stunts really well.
Overall, I was actually impressed with how well Sowell did. Based off what I saw I’m very comfortable with him as our LT. The only time I’m going to be worried is when an elite defensive end is lined up across from him, and he’ll only face those a few times a year. Everything isn’t just all fine and dandy, he still leaves a lot to be desired in the running game but he is getting good blocks with good technique, position and leverage, just not a lot of push. But with CMike and when Rawls gets back, they only need a crease, not a giant lane, so it’s still workable.
So give me a journeyman left tackle for $1,000,000 with this kind of performance (which looks like he can easily repeat)? Yes please! Pete and John, I’m sorry. I was wrong and you were right, I’m sorry for ever doubting this signing! But we do still have 14 more games to go, let’s hope he keeps it up!
BONUS: Collins TD Run
Watch the linebacker on the left, #53.
Any idea who that was blocking him???
Yeah that’s Jimmy Graham beasting. We looked at his blocking against the New York Jets, and this is further evidence that the dude can block. What’s more impressive than just making the block, is that he FINISHES the block with the guy on the ground. That’s they kind of blocking that makes you jump up and yell at your screen “Hell yeah!” when you first see it live.
DOUBLE BONUS: CMike’s first TD run
This has already been pointed on this week, but it’s worth to show again. Try to calmly watch right guard #76 and not get excited.
That’s why Germain Ifedi was drafted in the first round. Dude took out three guys and still beat CMike to the end zone! (Gilliam had a good block too!)