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The conversion projects are not going anywhere even with Tom Cable gone

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former offensive line coach Tom Cable was fired by the Seattle Seahawks nearly three months ago, and yet on Monday Kenny wrote about Brian Bridgewater, a basketball player at LSU who could be of interest to the Hawks. The article, not unexpectedly, elicited comments from readers about a lack of interest in more conversion projects on the roster. However, in particular one comment stuck out that the Seahawks interest in Bridgewater seemed to indicate that the conversion projects of the past had been the making of Pete Carroll rather than Tom Cable. The totality of the evidence definitely seems to support that notion, as there are a few things in particular that can be looked at in this regard.

The first piece of evidence regarding this is that prior to joining Seattle as offensive line coach, Cable spent four years as, among other duties, the offensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders. While with the Raiders Cable had zero conversion projects on his offensive line, choosing instead to build the line through low level free agency acquisitions. By the time Cable was fired after the 2010 season, the starting line he had assembled included only two players the Raiders had drafted and retained through their entire career to that point and three free agent signings. Simply put, Cable had no conversion projects in Oakland. Prior to joining the Seahawks staff in 2011.

However, immediately upon joining the Seahawks in 2011, the team began experimenting with conversion projects, just not on the offensive line. During the 2011 training camp the Seahawks found themselves lacking depth on the defensive line, and so moved Jameson Konz to LEO in an attempt to both fill the void and take advantage of his off the charts athleticism. Konz, had a unique past, as during his time in college at Kent State had played a variety of positions including,

  • spending his freshman and sophomore seasons playing defensive back,
  • playing linebacker as a junior,
  • playing tight end in a single game as a senior before an injury ended his year and
  • after being granted a medical redshirt played wide receiver as a fifth year senior.

So, in short, the Hawks took a guy who had never played defensive line and thrust him into the fray at LEO, where he recorded a sack of Scott Tolzien in a preseason game against the then San Diego, but now Los Angeles Chargers. Injuries derailed the career of Konz before it ever got off the ground, but he wasn’t even the first conversion project the Hawks used under Pete Carroll and John Schneider.

At the end of the team’s very first training camp under Carroll, the team claimed Michael Robinson off waivers from the rival San Francisco 49ers and Robinson immediately seized the starting fullback role. Robinson had been a fullback in San Francisco for the last year and of half of his time there, however, moving to fullback had been his second position change with the Niners. At Penn State Robinson had been the starting quarterback for the 2005 Nittany Lions that had gone 11-1, with the lone loss coming in a two point road defeat to the Michigan Wolverines on the last play of the game.

Whether Robinson’s success with the Seahawks played any role in the future conversion projects Seattle would use, the team has since moved several athletic players into new positions or into positions in which they are not as experienced. Just a few examples of these are J.R. Sweezy, George Fant, Tanner McEvoy, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic, Wil Tukuafu, Tre Madden, Marcel Reece, Will Pericak, Cyril Grayson, Eric Pinkins, Brandin Bryant, Kache Palacio and others. So, while the team has pursued multiple positional conversions, the position group for which they found the most success was offensive line, and hence it simply appeared to garner the most attention.

Just to make things more interesting heading into 2018, perhaps the greatest developmental success in the history of Mike Solari coaching offensive linemen came while employed by the Kansas City Chiefs in working with Brian Waters. Waters had played tight end at the University of North Texas, but didn’t have the skills to make it in the NFL as a tight end. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1999, but was cut during training camp. He then signed with the Chiefs for the 2000 season, and after spending a year and a half on the bench, between 2001 and 2010 he started 149 games for KC in becoming a two time All Pro, six time Pro Bowl guard.

So, as the NFL draft approaches at the end of April, don’t be surprised if rumors of the Seahawks being linked to athletic conversion projects arise. It could be Brian Bridgewater, it could be Will Dissly or it could be any of a number of players who have the athleticism and ability to potentially play multiple positions in NFL. In short, for the last eight seasons Carroll and Schneider have overseen rosters that have been littered with conversion projects, and Solari is no stranger to them himself. Thus, the more things change, the more it appears they stay the same.