In defeating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon the Seattle Seahawks moved to 7-4 on the season and kept pace with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. Perhaps more importantly, though, for the first time since December 13, 2015, Russell Wilson was sacked zero times in the game.
This is not to say all the problems with the offensive line are fixed, or that this result can be expected each week going forward, as it is important to keep in mind that it was the defensive front of the 1-9 49ers. In addition, as mentioned elsewhere, San Fran’s front seven was missing a couple of the bigger names that caused problems in the first meeting between these two teams, as Arik Armstead is on injured reserve and NaVorro Bowman was released and is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. However, the simple facts are that the line did not surrender any sacks and the run game flashed at moments. Brief moments, but moments.
There were still issues that the team will likely address and work on once they are back at work preparing for the Sunday night matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ethan Pocic continued to be pushed into the backfield, leading to several running plays being blown up, and there were some communication issues on the left side of the line with Duane Brown and Luke Joeckel lining up next to each other for the first time ever.
And when I say first time ever, I mean first time ever. Prior to this week, Joeckel had neither played nor practiced since the October 8 matchup against the Rams, and Brown was not acquired until the trade deadline after week eight. Further complicating this was the fact that Brown did not practice at all this week heading into the matchup against the 49ers as he is still nursing the ankle injury suffered against Arizona in week 10, meaning that prior to getting reps next to each other in pre-game warmups, Brown and Joeckel had never lined up up next to each other. Thus, some communication issues are not surprising, and one of the times when Wilson found himself under pressure came as a result of Brown and Joeckel failing to properly pick up a stunt.
So, there were some issues, but overall the line did a solid job. According to PFF, of the nine times Wilson came under pressure on his 39 dropbacks (23.1% pressure rate), two of those pressures were allowed by Brown, one by Germain Ifedi and the other six came from somewhere other than one of the offensive linemen. Again, nobody is saying that the offensive line is where it needs to be, but it is also important to keep in mind the youth of the offensive line Seattle put on the field yesterday. Brown is far and away the oldest member of the unit at 32, but the rest of the unit from left to right is 26-26-22-23. Despite entering the league a year before Justin Britt, Luke Joeckel is actually just over five months younger than Britt.
On the right side of the line, both Pocic and Ifedi are extremely young. In fact, of the 161 offensive linemen in the NFL that have started at least six games in 2017, Pocic is the absolute youngest and Germain Ifedi is the seventh youngest. Thus, for fans clamoring for a replacement for Ifedi, I would caution that fans should probably get used to hearing his name, because both of the linemen on the right side of the line could potentially be starting for the team for the next decade.
In any case, Sunday was a good display of the potential the line holds, and now it’s a matter of continuing to improve going forward.