Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to look at the hopefuls on the Seattle Seahawks’ 90-man roster. Seattle had eleven draft picks and made several significant moves in free agency. These are some simple thoughts on the new players and things to look for as the athletes wait for training camp to begin in July 25th.
Offensive Line: Justin Britt, Joey Hunt, Phil Haynes, Demetrius Knox, Marcus Martin, Jordan Roos, Jordan Simmons, DJ Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Mike Iupati, Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic,
George Fant covered earlier, Jamarco Jones, Elijah Nkansah (14)
Starters – For the first time since 2012-13, Seattle is returning four of their five starting offensive linemen from the previous season. The rotating door in front of Russell Wilson has been brutal at times, so welcome back (from left to right): Brown, Britt, Fluker, and Ifedi! JR Sweezy, one of the members of those 2012-13 Hawks, is now with the Arizona Cardinals and in return Seattle will be testing the wear on 4-time Pro Bowler Mike Iupati.
Leader – Duane Brown, and the entire group. Carroll’s praise of Brown began almost immediately. “Duane made an immediate impression on us when he got here. This is a real leader. He’s a real man in that huddle and in the locker room, and we’re very, very fortunate to have him,” Carroll said last summer.
Brown himself, though, believes that the line as a whole is going to set the tone for how the Seahawks play this season. John P. Gilbert highlighted earlier Brown’s belief that the Hawk O-line could top the league this year. They now have the talent, confidence, and cohesion that he thinks “the mentality of never being denied, of being the most physical group on the field when we take the field on Sundays, I think we’ve shown that”. This will be Seattle’s first season opener without a single member of the Legion of Boom. If Brown’s right, the attitude will not be coming from the out-of-bounds line after a successfully defended go route. This group hopes to inspire the Seahawks from the middle of the trenches.
Flashy newcomer – Phil Haynes. Taken in the 4th round this draft out of Wake Forest, Haynes has been very impressive to date. The greatest testament to Phil’s future on this team came towards the end of mini-camp. With starting left guard Mike Iupati resting a turned foot, it was Haynes who got nearly every rep with the first team for three days. “We’ve given Phil a good shot”, Pete Carroll said on the first day of mini-camp. Duane Brown said “Haynes is someone that has definitely been a pleasant surprise” during OTAs.
Significantly, Haynes got the bulk of the reps for Iupati over Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, or Marcus Martin. He fits the current bulk/power style that Seattle is currently trending better than the other options, and his skillset as a very reliable run blocker is encouraging. There is a strong possibility that if Haynes wins the primary backup role he could end up playing in the neighborhood of eight games this season, given the health history of both Iupati and Fluker.
Most to lose – Ethan Pocic looks like he’s in trouble. He’s been a favorite cut candidate on Field Gulls for some time now, and with nothing appearing any different in camp so far, Cable’s last project may be on the streets come August.
What went wrong? A few elements of his game, to be sure. He saw significant decrease in playtime last year, and his holding penalties increased. But a big factor under new coach Mike Solari is his size. Pocic is very tall – listed at 6’6”, but only has 320 lbs spread out over that frame, and that’s even a bit generous. Previously he has measured out just over 300. Compare that to newcomer Iupati, for example, who’s an inch shorter but has an extra 15lbs. Pocic is probably never going to be strong enough to do the type of mountain-moving that Seattle is once again becoming known for, and finesse-type style is no longer compatible with who the Hawks want to be.
Most to prove – Jamarco Jones, Joey Hunt, Jordan Simmons. Two of the three impressed with limited work 2018. When Simmons started against the L.A. Rams, all Seattle did was rush for 273 yards on the ground. Three weeks later Simmons started again and Seattle ran for 214 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. When the Seahawks beat Dallas in week three, Russell Wilson called Joey Hunt the star of the game. They only gave up one sack.
Meanwhile, Jamarco Jones’ first season was cut short by preseason ankle surgery. It sounds like the five starters plus rookie Haynes will make the team, then depending on what Seattle calls George Fant they’re already at six or seven linemen. For reference, Seattle kept ten offensive linemen in 2017 but only nine last year. Jones, Hunt, Simmons and Pocic are – at this point – the players most likely competing for the final two or three spots on the line. But it’s mid-June, and plenty can change.
Welcome Back – Jordan Roos. From the practice squad a year ago, Roos is once again trying to win his way to fame and fortune. He’s also the only autograph I got when I went to training camp practice last year, so I wish him all the luck in the world. It’s unlikely though, with backup positions more likely to go to Haynes, Simmons, Hunt, and Fant depending on how they designate him.
What happens next? – Justin Britt. It was simultaneously a sign of a positive future, and a woeful reminder of past failures, when Britt signed a contract extension in 2017 – the first one Seattle had offered to one of its own lineman since 2012. Now that deal is running out, and Justin Britt finds himself in a contract year in the midst of a pivotal turning point for the Seahawks.
Last time around, the two sides didn’t reach a deal until August 17, so there’s really no need to panic or even speculate yet. Britt’s played so solidly that it’s easy to forget he’s slowly worked his way to Center from right tackle.
Here’s the gist of Britt’s standing: the Seahawks could save a bunch of money by cutting him and promoting Joey Hunt – covered by Field Gulls earlier. They haven’t drafted any centers recently – try Ethan Pocic in 2017, whereupon Seattle apparently decided he belongs somewhere else. Pro Football Focus thinks Britt is the best of a bunch of boring centers, and Tom Cable thought he was “smart.”
I don’t know if any of that amounts to very much, but this one might: Justin Britt is big. Like really big. Check out the size of Seattle’s O-line at the end of this preview, but Mike Solari wants massive linemen in the middle, and he’s got ‘em.
Biggest factor in a playoff run – Germain Ifedi. Duane Brown is as much a sure thing as it gets.
Teams, though, have gotten good at ignoring Brown and killing Ifedi. SB Nation wrote about Von Miller’s 3-sack day against Seattle last year, and you know who he never beat? Duane Brown
I think the Hawks really do need Ifedi to be at least a small step better than last year to make a deep run this season. To be fair to Ifedi, last year was a giant leap from where he’s been at times. But he has almost singlehandedly shown what can happen in the NFL when there is even one glaring hole in a team’s approach. I for one grew incredibly sick of seeing four defensive linemen stalled at the line of scrimmage, and Ifedi’s assignment sitting on Russell’s chest. If coach Solari’s scheme continues to be a better fit for Ifedi, this really could emerge as one of the strongest units on this team.
Flashy new(old)comer – Mike Iupati. JR Sweezy flew south to play for the Arizona Cardinals, and Iupati left Glendale to come play for the Seahawks. Iupati renegotiated last year so he could leave Arizona, and his cap hit for Seattle this season is $2.5 million, per Overthecap. Sweezy is now on a new two-year deal, and his cap hit his $3.9 million. Iupati is a former first-round pick and been to multiple Pro Bowls. JR Sweezy was a seventh-round Tom Cable project and…plays hard. Iupati has been this good in the past:
Mike Iupati was the No. 2 guard in run blocking at +23.4 in regular season— PFF (@PFF) February 4, 2013
… while PFF ranked Sweezy as the 71st best guard last year.
The point is, if Seattle can get somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve games out of Iupati they got far and away the better end of this free agency swap. Mike’s age has also been brought up in offseason conversation, but he is 32 this season while Sweezy is 30. Besides QB this is the place to maintain a high level of play at an older age. The NFC West is currently witnessing some great linemen playing into their mid-thirties (Andrew Whitworth, 37; Duane Brown, 33).
Best interview – DJ Fluker and it’s not even close. If you haven’t heard Fluker talk about…basically anything, you’re missing out. He’s given several masterpieces since coming to Seattle. He got stuck in a smart car on a dare, he took Ndahmukong Su to the water, and got in bed with Tyler Lockett.
Hopefully you’ve kept up with all of his post-game antics in Seattle, but here’s an additional gem from before Fluker came to the PNW.
Best Madden 2019 Rating – Duane Brown, 84. Tied with phenom punter Michael Dickson.
Most interesting stat heading into 2019 – 325.6 lbs, average weight of the starting five for Seattle. They’re projected to be 2nd in the league. Only the Oakland Raiders have a heavier front, clocking in at 333lbs, in large part because of the 380lb bulk of Trent Brown.
* Disclaimer* I realize this is not a very traditional football statistic. But it is good to be one of the best at something, and the Hawks O-line could sure use the win. All weight totals pulled from each team’s currently posted roster.
Obviously, the rosters for 2019 are not finalized. However, the majority of teams were not close in this all-important, league-defining category. If it was close, I tried to use multiple team sources to determine the projected starting rotation heading into this season.
For most of the league, the gap between the Seahawks’ size and their opponents is substantial. In many cases I weighed Seattle’s starters against the five heaviest guys on a team’s roster and Seattle still came out on top. The Jets, Vikings, Patriots, and many others fall into this category. The main difference seems to be the size of Seattle’s guards, and that Justin Britt is well above average for a center. His 315lbs sets him apart, nearly tying the heaviest player on the Atlanta Falcons roster last year (Ra’Shede Hageman, 318).
We’ve been hearing since the acquisition of Mike Iupati that offensive line coach Mike Solari likes big guards. What surprised me is that Seattle came out to be the only team with both of their guards bigger than both tackles.
Obviously, weight is no real indicator of talent. Every NFL position is a fine balancing act of when too much weight negates too much speed to be worthwhile. However, these particular Seahawks have proven that they’ve got plenty of talent packed into their massive jerseys.
Mike Iupati and Duane Brown have each been to four Pro Bowls. Britt has been a Pro Bowl alternate.
These guys are good, they are massive, and the Hawks’ run game should once again stand out in an NFC West full of basketball on grass. I for one, am excited to see a Hawks team this season whose energy and leadership comes from the big guys up front. It’s promising to be a long season for opposing defensive lines.