Seattle Seahawks fans excited to see Ethan Pocic take over at left guard for Mark Glowinski in the absence of Luke Joeckel have to be happy with the potential he has shown so far in the three games he has played on the offensive line. However, the pre-draft weaknesses noted on Pocic are showing up on tape in his play so far, and during the course of the season the team is limited in its ability to address the most glaring weakness he has displayed so far: his lack of strength and power.
For a rookie, Pocic is excellent at engaging the defender and maintaining engagement in pass protection. He’s also good at engaging in the run game as well. Where he encounters issues is when trying to maintain engagement against a stronger DT or when facing a power rush. That’s not to say his lack of strength can never be fixed, as it’s exactly the opposite. Give Pocic an offseason in the weight room to work on his strength, and he could easily be one of the best linemen on the Seattle roster next season.
However, when it comes to 2017 the team will need to work with what they have. Harking back to Pocic’s NFL.com draft profile, his weaknesses are listed as such:
Athletic ability offset by below-average core strength. Doesn't play with the pad level or leg drive to uproot defenders without help. Gets jarred by power across from him. Upper body strength needs work. Anchor will always be an issue against zero-technique nose guards. Gives into pocket pushers, creating traffic in the backfield. Defenders able to drive through his edge and redirect attempts. Can be quicker into proper positioning for reach blocks. Has difficulty securing zone blocks at times.
In all three games he has played on the offensive line, the lack of strength is the biggest negative that sticks out to me. To show what he does well first, let’s start with an example of Pocic engaging and staying locked on his man in pass protection.
Another failed 3rd down- here blitz catches Seattle completely off guard pic.twitter.com/WvgX3xcRnv— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 7, 2017
Even though Russ is pressured on this play, Pocic locks on his man and stays engaged. The free rusher comes as a result of how Washington attacked the Seattle offense throughout the day, and I will take a look at that in different article. In short, not an insignificant amount of the pressure on Russell appears to have been a result not of failures in the offensive line, but failures in the offensive scheme.
In any case, now that we’ve seen Pocic lock on and stay engaged, let’s take a look at what happens when he is overpowered. I do not have a video clip of this play, but this picture shows well enough what the issue is. This is the first offensive play of the second half, and at the snap Pocic engages his man, gaining a bit of push. Thomas Rawls has some running room, however, just as Rawls approaches Pocic from behind, the defender power rocks free from Pocic’s block enough to reach out and take down Rawls.
The next video clip is the next to last play of the game and shows Pocic’s susceptibility to a power rush. On this play Pocic is bull rushed by the defensive lineman and simply knocked backwards. He is quickly overpowered and knocked down backwards, which allows the defensive lineman to reach out with a single hand and trip up Russell Wilson. And that one hand on Russell may have been the difference in the game. If Russell isn’t tripped on that play he can choose between McEvoy on a sideline route or Willson in the middle of the field, possibly with enough time to spike the play dead. This was simply a great play at an opportune time for the defense, and Russ was unable to get the ball out on time.
Would have had McEvoy on a sideline route but rookie 2nd round pick G was knocked on his behind pic.twitter.com/zSzMTTUvg3— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 7, 2017
So, while Pocic has had a couple of disappointing moments, which is not unexpected as a rookie, in certain aspects his play so far in 2017 far exceeds what the Hawks have had from its interior offensive line in some time. With continued experience and improvement, there is without a doubt reason to be optimistic.