We’re six weeks into the 2018 Seattle Seahawks season, with the team sitting at 3-3 after the unwanted but not entirely unexpected 0-2 start. They’re off this Sunday and will resume action on October 28th against the Detroit Lions, as the Seahawks look to defy critics and make a serious push for the playoffs.
It’s a quiet weekend for us due to the bye, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a nice, wholesome discussion about what we’ve seen up to this point!
The question is simple: What has surprised you most out of this Seahawks team? It can be negative or positive, the main thing is something you didn’t expect heading into Week 1.
For me, I really don’t have another clear-cut answer other than...
The substantial improvement of the offensive line
If I were to tell you that the Seahawks offensive line would go from laughing stock of the NFL in 2017 to one of the best in the league in pass-blocking one season later, you’d think I was trolling you. Duane Brown and Justin Britt have both proven to be among the better players at their respective positions, but everyone else was still a major question mark.
J.R. Sweezy was a career right guard whom through injury has ultimately usurped Ethan Pocic at left guard. Oh yes, and he’s coming off consecutive season-ending injuries. D.J. Fluker was written off as a bust when he was with the San Diego Chargers, showed some promise as a run-blocking right guard with the New York Giants, but he too was returning from season-ending injury. Then there’s Germain Ifedi, much-maligned at both guard and tackle through his first two seasons, and no doubt frustrating the coaching staff with repeated penalty problems in training camp and preseason, never mind his bad habits in the actual meaningful games.
After a brutal start to the season with Russell Wilson getting sacked 12 times — some of these sacks were admittedly on the quarterback — Wilson has been sacked only seven times over the last four games. The Seahawks rank tops in the NFL from Weeks 3-6 in pass-blocking efficiency, courtesy of Pro Football Focus. I know that PFF’s grading system can be a little shaky, but since it’s a good stat about Seattle, I’ve determined it’s good. Also, even the ol’ eye test largely backs up that Wilson has seldom been running for his life and under constant pressure over the past month.
One area where Pete Carroll has to be the most thrilled with Mike Solari’s group is the running game. Yes, the Seahawks may only rank 18th in DVOA on the ground (five spots higher than last year), but dig a little deeper and you’ll see drastic gains in select situations.
According to Football Outsiders, last year’s Seahawks ranked 31st in Adjusted Line Yards, 27th in Power Blocking (short-yardage situations, essentially), 32nd in Stuffed Rate, 28th in Second-Level Yards, and 21st in Open Field Yards.
This year’s Seahawks, at least through 37.5% of the season, are 17th in Adjusted Line Yards, 2nd in Power Blocking, 7th in Stuffed Rate, 19th in Second-Level Yards, and 17th in Open Field Yards. There are still some average to mediocre stats in there, but they’re elite in short-yardage conversions, and not repeatedly losing yards or suffering no gain. I highly recommend checking out Doug Farrar’s breakdown of Solari’s transformation of this unit, although credit also has to go to the players for executing at a baseline level of competence, Ifedi in particular has looked much more confident in recent weeks.
It’s not the world’s largest sample size, but it’s been a pleasant surprise to see just how well this offensive line has played. Fluker in particular has stood out above everyone else, and unlike Luke Joeckel, this one-year “prove-it” deal has been a major success that leads you to believe that keeping him beyond 2018 is a top priority for the Seahawks front office.