According to reports, the Seattle Seahawks are set to hire Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive line coach Andy Dickerson to be the team’s run game coordinator in 2021. That hire makes a lot of sense given that new Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron comes from a system that has used a different style of running than the Hawks in recent seasons, but it certainly leads to the question of what exactly Dickerson’s hire means for Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari.
The short version of a long answer is probably not a lot. Solari has been in the NFL long enough to have been through coaching changes and role adjustments. The past situation in Solari’s career which may be most similar to the the current came following the 2010 season. Solari had been the offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers for the 2010 season under head coach Mike Singletary, however, Singletary was fired late in the season and in the offseason the Niners brought in Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, of course, brought with him both of the offensive line coaches who had worked for him with the Stanford Cardinal in Greg Roman and Tim Drevno. At Stanford Drevno had been responsible for coaching the interior offensive linemen who played at guard and tackle, while Roman had coached the tackles and tight ends. In San Francisco Roman became the offensive coordinator and Drevno took over as the offensive line coach. Interestingly, the 49ers did not change Solari’s title from offensive line coach to assistant offensive line coach, nor did they make Drevno an assistant offensive line coach or give him the title of run game coordinator. So, for the three seasons from 2011 through 2013 the Niners listed both Solari and Drevno held the title of “Offensive Line Coach”.
What exactly the split in responsibilities or duties was between Drevno and Solari during that time was is uncertain, but they co-existed as co-offensive line coaches for three seasons. Moving ahead to today, it seems likely that both Dickerson and Solari should be able to work together in a way that is productive for the team, and which allows for them to work through any differences in coaching or teaching styles. Dickerson is, of course, coming in to be the run game coordinator, and should be more than capable of sharing with Solari the techniques and fundamentals the Hawks offensive linemen will need in Waldron’s system for 2021 and beyond.
Digging more into what exactly this move could mean for the Seahawks offensive line on the field next season certainly opens up several cans of interesting questions.
The first concern raised by many has been whether the Hawks have the offensive linemen athletic enough to play within a wide zone scheme given Solari’s preference for maulers. It’s certainly the case that many of the interior offensive linemen the Hawks have used in recent seasons, including D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati, lack the athleticism ideal for implementing a wide zone scheme. However, 2020 third round pick Damien Lewis’ athletic testing numbers from the combine put him at above average athleticism among NFL offensive linemen. That, of course, leads to the question of whether his testing was simply buoyed by combine prep because his film shows blocks missed in the second level due to poor angles and change of direction questions once up to speed, but from a numbers and testing perspective Lewis meets the criteria. In addition, both Brandon Shell and Duane Brown at tackle have the athleticism necessary to play in a wide zone scheme, though between age for Brown and heavy footedness for Shell, they may not be the perfect fit.
That said, the big questions for the Seahawks on the offensive line remain the same as they were prior to the hire of Waldron and Dickerson. Specifically, what will the team do at left guard and center. Ideally 2018 fourth round draft pick Phil Haynes would stay healthy and take over at left guard, but that could be a big ask for a player who has played exactly one regular season offensive snap so far in his career.
Center likely becomes the true beacon of what to expect from Seattle next year in terms of the run game. 2020 starter Ethan Pocic is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and lacks the size and power that Solari tends to prefer. However, the reason Pocic is on the roster is because he is a good fit for wide zone, and thus was drafted under former offensive line coach Tom Cable. That said, another name to keep an eye on once free agency starts is Austin Blythe, who has played more than 2,000 snaps at center for the Rams between preseason, regular season and the postseason in recent years. If the Hawks sign Blythe, or a similar player, to a contract of any material size for 2021, it will likely represent the intention to move away from the run scheme the Hawks had focused on the past three seasons.
Beyond personnel, there will be a multitude of questions about the offensive line going forward, including technique, style and everything down to splits.
That said, until preseason at the earliest, everything will be guesses and speculation. In the meantime fans and observers alike will be left to read the tea leaves of how the Hawks fill out the remainder of their coaching staff and the personnel moves they make during the offseason.