Tom Cable recently revealed that offensive lineman Justin Britt would be making his third position change along the line in as many years, now finally moving all the way inside to center. The sentiment toward Britt the past two seasons are that he's a durable and hard working player, yet the frequent mental mistakes he generates outweigh his work ethic and the team has been known to cut players in the middle of the year that have played poorly (Drew Nowak would know about that.) Britt is known for inconsistent play, but could a good season actually earn him an extension or are his days a member of the Seahawks coming to an end this year?
Looking at his performance the last two seasons may help to indicate what we can expect for the future.
Heading into his rookie year, Cable and the offensive staff said the plan was to start Britt at the right tackle spot to replace Breno Giacomini. He was also panned as the type of player that Cable loves: A serious, hard-working athlete who only cares about football. That training camp the Seahawks brought in veteran tackle Eric Winston to add to the competition and throughout camp the coaches noted that Britt was having typical rookie O-Lineman miscues: Technique, blocking assignments, and the like, but overall he was progressing as they expected. He played well enough for the remainder of the camp that Seattle was willing to cut Winston before the season started and named Britt the starter.
Through the course of the 2014 season, Britt's performance fluctuated from week to week. His run-blocking performance improved steadily, but his pass-blocking remained inadequate. He would often miss a double-team or he didn't posses the lateral movement needed to stay in front of edge-rushing DEs.
These missed assignments usually meant that Russell Wilson was scrambling around for his life.
His performance did pick up in the playoffs, however, and that culminated in him performing superbly against Chandler Jones and the rest of New England's defensive line in Super Bowl XLIX. According to PFF, he was one of the highest-rated lineman in the past 8 Super Bowls. Even with his good playoff performance though, it was obvious that Britt didn't possess the skills needed to play effectively at right tackle.
Last year, Cable announced that Britt would be moving to guard. This was done to potentially mitigate Britt's pass blocking while also aiming to capitalizing on his run blocking; The Seahawks opened with a 4-5 record, with much of the blame falling on the offensive line. Britt attributed to this record by often missing defenders in pass protection leaving Wilson to fend for himself. Following the bye week, the team attempted to fix the line's struggles by benching Nowak for Patrick Lewis. The line continually improved the rest of the season and Britt remained adequate in run support, but his pass-blocking remained awful, and he was often the biggest liability on a line littered with liabilities.
In Seattle's divisional round loss to the Carolina Panthers, Britt was abused continuously by the likes of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Britt's lack of pass-protection was noticeable throughout the year and was evidenced by Pro Football Focus giving him a -35.7 overall grade, finishing worse than the -25.2 he posted his rookie year. He finished the year as the second-worst left guard in the NFL, only in front of Miami's Dallas Thomas.
And now finally Britt is getting one more shot to be a starter, this time at center.
Cable cited that the move to center was based off of Britt being "well versed in our system." Cable also noted, "This issue for him will be getting him comfortable and confident snapping and playing against the nose guard." During OTAs, Britt commented on his position change: "I feel like my abilities are capable of doing the job. I know the ins and outs (of the offense).
What is most surprising about Britt's move to center, is the indictment it puts on the other players at the position. The Seahawks seem to not be comfortable with Lewis as the starter, despite the improvement the line made over the second half of the season. The addition of rookie Joey Hunt and returning second year lineman Kristjan Sokoli do not make the team any feel any more comfortable about what they have at center. The team does not want to repeat the Nowak situation of last year, so they are exploring every avenue possible to find the best player for the starting role.
For Britt, this looks to be the last effort Seattle is making to find a use for him. Britt has not had the best start to his career so far, but he has shown glimpses of playing a complete game in pass and run blocking. Britt's work ethic and physicality will help him as he makes this transition. He will need to be able to translate everything to the field: Making the correct calls, the correct adjustments, snapping the ball consistently well, and holding his blocks. If Britt can execute all of the steps the center spot requires, and if he can do them at a consistent basis, then he will have no trouble receiving an extension from Seattle or getting a new contract from another team. However, players like Britt who fail at multiple spots along the line are not typically afforded a third opportunity.
He is currently listed as the starting center on the depth chart, despite his inexperience at the position. Everything is currently in Britt's favor for him to take hold of the starting role and exceed. If Britt yet again fails to perform at a starting caliber level, then this will be the last season that he wears a Seahawks uniform, if he even makes it past the preseason at all.