When the Seattle Seahawks take on the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in the NFC Wild Card game, one of the most watched matchups will be Dallas defensive end Demarcus Lawrence facing off against Seattle right tackle Germain Ifedi.
Ifedi, who as many young offensive linemen do, struggled early in his career as he learned to use actual technique for the first time in his career, while also adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. At times it was, in a word, ugly, but as he has continued to gain experience and his use of technique has become more fluid, his play has improved. He’ll have a chance to show off that improved play on the national stage this weekend when he goes head to head with Pro Bowl defensive end Lawrence, who recorded 10.5 sacks this season, after logging 14.5 in 2017.
That may seem like a tall task for Ifedi, but will be the third time the two have faced off in the past thirteen months. The first time they battled was in Week 16 of 2017, a game in which Lawrence recorded a sack as the Seahawks defeated the Cowboys 21-12. Then, in Week 3 of 2018 Lawrence recorded just a half a sack in another Seahawks victory 24-13.
That matchup came in the midst of a murderer’s row of opposing pass rushers that Ifedi faced early in the season, as I noted in this Tweet following the announcement of the Khalil Mack trade to Chicago which drew a large amount of attention.
Severity of Ifedi's ankle injury all of a sudden even more relevant as he could now line up across from the following pass rushers over the first five weeks— tropical storm john (@SeahawksMachine) September 1, 2018
Wk 1: Von Miller
Wk 2: Khalil Mack
Wk 3: DeMarcus Lawrence
Wk 4: Chandler Jones
Wk 5: Aaron Donald https://t.co/RNzM58yQzk
Many fans seemed to react to that Tweet with a less than positive response, and here are some of the responses that came in:
Wilson will be dead by week 3. Can Michael Dickson pass the ball to?— Dak better than Wilson (@andrewlarson75) September 1, 2018
Thanks for tonight's nightmare— NativeSeahawk (@NativeSeahawk) September 1, 2018
He will match his penalty total of last year in 5 games...that’s efficiency— JJ (@UTJeff57) September 1, 2018
September 1, 2018
Jesus. When everybody’s all ‘ifedi sucks,’ it’s worth considering what his job consists of— Devil in the Deets (@devilinthedeetz) September 1, 2018
Obviously Ifedi allowed some pressure during 2017 in his first year at tackle, but nobody came up with the response I was looking for. Specifically, what I was hoping somebody, anybody, would take the time to point out was that Ifedi had faced a similar murderer’s row of pass rushers to close out 2017.
Specifically, here were the pass rushers that he had to take on from Weeks 13 through Weeks 17 of last season:
- Week 13: Brandon Graham (9.5 sacks and 14 QB hits)
- Week 14: Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue (12.0 sacks and 23 QB hits)
- Week 15: 2017 DPOY Aaaron Donald (11.0 sacks and 27 QB hits)
- Week 16: Pro Bowler Demarcus Lawrence (14.5 sacks and 26 QB hits)
- Week 17: All Pro Chandler Jones (17.0 sacks and 33 QB hits).
In short, for all the ripping on Ifedi and all the complaining about his play, he was a second year offensive lineman in his first year at tackle who repeatedly went against top tier competition both late in 2017 and in early 2018.
For all the complaining about his play and his inability to block anyone, Ifedi is likely on the verge of having his fifth year option picked up by the Seahawks, and that could lead directly to a contract extension sometime in the next year or two. Ifedi is currently just 24 years old, and so his improved play, awareness and presence could lead to him taking a leading role on the Seattle offensive line for the better part of the next decade. It could certainly make for some interesting matchups between the Hawks and Cowboys in the years to come, as Lawrence is just 26 years old.
Lawrence, of course, is a free agent after this season, so his future is a little more up in the air, but at least during the Wild Card game Ifedi and Lawrence will go head to head once again, and we’ll get to see who wins the matchup this time around.