In the build up to the 2020 NFL Draft many fans of the Seattle Seahawks were expectant that the team would spend significant draft capital on a tackle of the future. Whether that player would be expected to take over for Duane Brown on the left side, or for the recently signed Brandon Shell on the right side, many were adamant the team would address the position. The Hawks front office, however, had other plans, completely ignoring the position during the draft and reportedly only adding only one tackle as an undrafted free agent.
So, while fans have been quick to anoint newly signed center, B.J. Finney as the next starter in the middle of the line for the Seahawks in spite of the fact that he has played only 1,023 snaps during his five years in the NFL, those same fans have rejected the idea of either Chad Wheeler or Cedric Ogbuehi as a tackle of the future. The reason for the rejection of those two is not difficult to understand, as neither Wheeler nor Ogbuehi has performed at anything close to a high level in their previous stops, while Finney’s past performance at least offers some reason for hope. However, each of Wheeler and Ogbuehi have logged more playing time than Finney during their careers, and the 26 year old Wheeler and 28 year old Ogbuehi are both younger than Finney, who will be 29 this fall.
That said, of those three, Wheeler has a track record with Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari, having served as the backup left tackle for the New York Giants during the 2017 season. Solari was confident enough in Wheeler as a 23 year old rookie to have him start five games, so it should not come as a surprise that Wheeler could be seen as a viable fourth tackle option three years later with fourteen additional starts under his belt. Specifically, if one assumes that Brown and Shell are the starters, with Ogbuehi the George Fant style sixth lineman in jumbo packages, that leaves the team needing only one more tackle for depth.
Some have lobbied for Jamarco Jones to fill the depth tackle role, and while that’s a possibility, his Week 16 performance against Chandler Jones and the Arizona Cardinals was rough enough to scare some away. Wheeler, interestingly, compare very similarly to Jones from an athletic standpoint, which could lead one to believe Wheeler filling a depth role at the position could be disastrous. However, it certainly sets the stage for an interesting competition in camp between Jones and Wheeler for the fourth tackle role.
Physical and athletic profiles of Chad Wheeler and Jamarco Jones
|Category||Chad Wheeler||Jamarco Jones|
|Category||Chad Wheeler||Jamarco Jones|
|20 yard split||3.14||3.02|
|10 yard split||1.89||1.95|
For fans who are ready to move on from Jamarco after his performance against Chandler Jones after his performance against the Cardinals, Wheeler had a similar rough outing against J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans in Week 3 of 2018 in which he surrendered 3 sacks, but his performance improved somewhat over the remainder of the season. In any case, it’s obviously more than simply athleticism that will determine the winner of the battle for tackle depth, as technique, fundamentals and the on-field performance created by the athleticism will also be key.
In any case, the battles for the starting spots in the trenches will certainly be interesting in training camp, and could represent the realization of the complete overhaul of the strategy on the offensive line in recent seasons. In 2016 Seattle started the youngest offensive line in the NFL (age at end of 2016 season):
- LT George Fant (24)
- LG Mark Glowinski (24)
- C Justin Britt (26)
- RG Germain Ifedi (22)
- RT Garry Gilliam (26)
While in 2020 the team has the potential to field the oldest offensive line in the NFL:
- LT Duane Brown (35 in August)
- LG Mike Iupati (33 in May)
- C B.J. Finney (29 in October)
- RG Chance Warmack (29 in September)
- RT Brandon Shell (turned 28 in February)
In any case, the changes in strategy on the offensive line over recent seasons are readily apparent partway through a third offseason since changes to the coaching staff were undertaken. With the new direction of the team becoming better understood, it should now be possible to better predict how the team will address offensive line matters going forward.