While Bill Barnwell of ESPN may think the Seattle Seahawks have had the worst offseason of any team in the NFL, there are plenty of fans who see the changes to the roster and coaching staff as reason for optimism. One of the positions groups that has received the most attention, not just this offseason but over the past several years as well, is the offensive line.
Fans, of course, are excited by the potential of the unit to improve following the replacement of both starting tackles, as well as the signing of a veteran center Austin Blythe in free agency. As for what the performance of the offensive line could look like on the field, some fans are convinced that the group will absolutely improve in 2022 with the addition of Blythe and the selection of Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas on the first two days of the draft. However, that said, it’s important to keep in mind that this is not the first time the Seahawks have used two early picks in the same draft on the offensive line.
Now, that was done in meme format because it’s not meant to be a serious analysis of the situation, and is rather simply a reminder that playing tackle in the NFL is hard, and even for highly drafted players there is often a steep learning curve. That’s not always the case, but there are enough cautionary tales regarding highly drafted offensive linemen who did not turn out to be high level performers in the NFL that it can’t be assumed that Cross and Lucas will develop into stars, or even competent starters.
That is, of course, not to say that they won’t become quality starters in time, just a reminder that as younger players it wouldn’t be a surprise if they struggled early while learning to play in the NFL. Penei Sewell, a top ten pick of the Detroit Lions in 2021 is a perfect example of this. His rookie season breaks down as follows:
- Games 1-8: 26 pressures, 4 sacks allowed
- Games 9-16: 9 pressures, 1 sack allowed
The simple fact of the matter is that young tackles tend to take time to develop. This has been shown over and over in the past few years. Back in 2018 Field Gulls looked at a rough development curve for tackles in pass blocking based on the Pass Blocking Efficiency metric developed by PFF.
Other research, including a 2020 piece from Timo Riske of PFF similarly found that it often takes offensive linemen until their third or fourth season to reach their potential.
So, early struggles wouldn’t be unexpected for the rookie tackles, assuming they both wind up starting. According to reports, so far it has been second year man Jake Curhan at right tackle, with Lucas working with the second team.
We also didn't see Marquise Blair. And with Gabe Jackson not here, Phil Haynes worked with the starters at guard. Rest of the OL as expected for now with Cross at LT, Curhan at RT, Blythe at center, Lewis at LG. Abe Lucas worked with second team at RT.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) May 23, 2022
That, of course, means next to nothing given that it’s still May and the regular season remains more than three months away, meaning it’s a situation to watch during training camp to see if Curhan can fend off the rookie.
Whether or not Curhan is able to keep ahold of the starting job at right tackle, the battle at that spot is an interesting example of the changes in personnel preferences for the team in the wake of Mike Solari’s firing. Solari, as most fans know, prefers behemoth maulers with long arms on the inside, and long-armed tackles who may not be the most fleet of foot. To that end, here are the tackles the Seahawks added during the four years of Solari’s tenure, along with their time in the 40 yard dash.
- Jamarco Jones: 5.50
- Chad Wheeler: 5.42
- Elijah Nkansah: 5.09
- Jake Curhan: 5.45
- Brandon Shell: 5.22
- Cedric Ogbuehi: 4.98
- Stone Forsythe: 5.13
Interestingly, though it’s likely completely random, there is a strong correlation between the number of snaps a player was given and how fast - or rather how slow - they ran the 40 yard dash. In any case, for comparison, here are Cross and Lucas:
- Charles Cross: 4.95
- Abraham Lucas: 4.92
It’s certainly interesting that both of the tackles the Seahawks selected in the draft this year had 40 times under five seconds, as that is certainly not a trait that is common. According to the Pro Football Reference combine finder, just 50 tackles have recorded a 40 time under five seconds since 2000, with Cross and Lucas two of the 30 who have run it in 4.95 or less. There are certainly players in the group who did not pan out in the NFL, but there are a lot of names in the list that will have Seahawks fans excited.
Tackles who have recorded a 40 time under five seconds since 2000
Putting it all together, fans may have been surprised at the dismissal of Solari several weeks into the offseason, however, the use of two early draft picks on tackles, as well as the athletic profiles of those tackles seem to shed light on why he is no longer with the team. Now, it’s simply a matter of giving Lucas and Cross the time and opportunities to develop, with fans certain to hope that their high level athleticism combined with changes in technique along the offensive line, and there is certainly reason for optimism going forward. That said, it will be important for fans to remain patient, because playing offensive line in the NFL is hard and it’s likely to take time for the youngsters to fully develop and perform at the level many fans will hope to see right away.