The selection of Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft was supposed to signal a change in the Seattle Seahawks’ philosophy. Following a year in which the Seahawks’ offensive line finished 26th by Football Outsiders, Seattle drafted a lineman in Pocic who was less explosive than their previous standards, and didn’t hit on any of the existing thresholds.
However, Pocic was also a known quantity. He was coming from a national powerhouse in LSU and he had pedigree, being named all-conference twice and All-American once. Plus, he was versatile, having started 27 games at center, nine at right guard and one at right tackle in college. With the Seahawks, his career began well enough, as Pocic started 11 games as a rookie. But following the conclusion of his rookie year, offensive line coach Tom Cable was fired, and a new coach in Mike Solari and a new system was on its way in.
To prepare for the change in scheme, Pocic bulked up, gaining a reported 20 pounds over the offseason. He also spent time at the OL Masterminds summit, working in the classroom and on the field with some of the game’s best linemen. And with D.J. Fluker suffering an injury that kept him out of the first two games of the 2018 season, Pocic began the year as a starter, before ceding his spot to Fluker upon his return.
As Fluker was set to miss Week 10 through another injury, it was presumed Pocic would step back into the starting lineup. But, less than an hour before kickoff, GM John Schneider announced it would be Jordan Simmons, not Pocic, starting in Fluker’s place. The reasoning, per Schneider, was Simmons being a better scheme fit.
The decision to start Simmons came as a surprise for a number of reasons. Pocic had previously started this season and had changed his body to be a fit for the scheme. Simmons was questionable coming into Week 10 with a calf injury. And, he is a former UDFA who, in his second season, was just claimed off waivers in September. All of that adds up to be a damning indictment of Pocic’s place on the roster.
But wouldn’t you know it, against Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh, Simmons justified the decision, playing well in his first NFL start. He anchored well in 1-on-1s on numerous occasions and helped Seattle to a massive performance on the ground. Following the Seahawks’ loss, Carroll singled him out during his post-game press conference for his performance. (Carroll also gave a slightly different reason for Simmons’ start, saying “We wanted to make sure we had a big guy in there, a solid guy who could hold up against their guys.”)
So now, Pocic finds himself in a strange spot on Seattle’s roster. He isn’t the immediate backup at guard, and was even inactive in Week 9 in favor of Joey Hunt. Offensive line guru Brandon Thorn has consistently stated he believes center to be Pocic’s best position, but that doesn’t help him either; the earliest the Seahawks can get out of Justin Britt’s deal is following the 2019 season.
Pocic is perhaps without a role on Seattle’s 2018 roster, but at the very least, he has time on his side. His rookie contract runs through the 2020 season, and this offseason showed he’s willing to put in the work to fit Solari’s system. The Seahawks may seek to trade the former day two selection in the coming offseason but for now, he’ll ride out 2018 as the fourth or fifth guard on an offensive line that’s (for the most part) come together.