Continuity on the offensive line is thought to be quite important, and if that’s the case, the Seattle Seahawks are set to have their best season with that unit in quite some time.
For once, the Seahawks seem to be ready to start the year with the same five players — at their originally-planned positions — who they considered to be their starters at least as early as this past March. In the case of four of the positions, it is really the four guys who even started the second half of 2017. That’s a lot of time to be able to work together and gives new offensive line coach Mike Solari a great advantage in his first season under Pete Carroll.
Left tackle Duane Brown is the best player in the unit, and a much happier one now that he’s gotten the contract extension he desired before being traded to Seattle last season. He’ll be making his 10th start at left tackle for the Seahawks on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Justin Britt will be making his 32nd start at center and he’s started all but one game in his four-year career.
Germain Ifedi will be making his 30th start for Seattle and 17th at right tackle.
Ethan Pocic started 11 games at guard as a rookie in 2017 and this will be his sixth start at left guard.
The only starter new to the team is free agent signee D.J. Fluker, and he started 28 games at right guard for the San Diego Chargers from 2015-2016, before starting six games for the New York Giants at right guard last season. While Fluker is new to this team and the other four starters around him, he does have experience with Solari and he has been the team’s right guard for pretty much the entire offseason. That’s the kind of continuity — from OTAs to Week 1 — that the Seahawks pretty much never have with the offensive line.
Even if you don’t like Ifedi or Fluker or Pocic, you have to admit it feels a little bit better than the turmoil they’ve been putting up with in recent years.
Left tackle started out as George Fant, who tore his ACL in the preseason last August. Rees Odhiambo took over and was there for seven games, giving the Seahawks the proof they needed that Odhiambo is not a left tackle; and as of now, not a guard. Not for them at least.
The team signed Luke Joeckel to a one-year deal and considered him at either tackle or guard before eventually settling on left guard. He played 11 games there and as of today, remains an unsigned 26-year-old free agent.
At right guard, the team was working through a number of options, most often it being either Mark Glowinski, who started every game at left guard in 2016, and Oday Aboushi. Glowinski started the first two games, then Aboushi started the next eight. By season’s end, Pocic was the starting right guard, and overall he started 11 games total.
Russell Okung’s six-year tenure at the team’s left tackle had come to an end, beginning the nightmare competition of Garry Gilliam, Bradley Sowell, and then eventually Fant. Sowell was the Week 1 starter at left tackle and that came to an end following the 6-6 tie against the Cardinals. Fant started the final 10 games and was PFF’s lowest-rated tackle that year.
Glowinski took over at left guard for Britt.
Britt took over at center for the previous o-line competition nightmare: Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeapierre.
Rookie Germain Ifedi, a tackle at Texas A&M, shifted inside to guard and started 13 games there; the first three games of the season saw J’Marcus Webb at right guard.
Gilliam played 13 games at right tackle, sometimes being spelled by Sowell.
God save the Indianapolis Colts, who currently have both Glowinski and Webb as backups on their 53-man roster.
Not re-signing Okung may have been a mistake and even cost them opportunities to win more games in 2016, even have a deeper playoff run, but Okung missed a total of 24 starts in Seattle. That’s not insignificant and did take away continuity.
Britt moved over from right tackle to be the team’s everyday left guard. It didn’t work out well. He eventually beat out players like Alvin Bailey and Terry Poole for that gig.
The team’s competition between Lewis and Jeanpierre was won by ... Drew Nowak. He started seven games at center, eventually being replaced by Lewis. Kristjan Sokoli was also in the mix and took up a roster space but clearly never caught on with that position.
This was J.R. Sweezy’s last of three seasons as the team’s full-time right guard.
Gilliam was the full-time right tackle, taking over from Britt from the year before.
Overall, you can easily see the difference in things between the even the previous three years and 2018. It’s significant. The rundown of 2018 is that the team knew all along that Brown and Britt would be starters, while it was assumed that Pocic and Fluker were safe too. Ifedi was the only one who ever got into much of a competition, and rightfully so, but he’s been the guy at right tackle 95% of the time.
I can’t say with any certainty that this will be a “good” offensive line, but at least it’s the one we’ve expected for the last six months. I’m sure they appreciate fulfilling those expectations too.