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Why the Seahawks moved on from Mike Solari

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Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

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.

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

Year Player Pos AV 40 Time
Year Player Pos AV 40 Time
2013 Terron Armstead OT 62 4.71
2013 Lane Johnson OT 68 4.72
2010 Bruce Campbell OT 1 4.75
2007 Joe Staley OT 104 4.79
2010 Trent Williams OT 97 4.81
2018 Brian O'neill OT 32 4.82
2009 Lydon Murtha OT 2 4.82
2007 Allen Barbre OT 25 4.84
2014 Taylor Lewan OT 54 4.87
2005 Alex Barron OT 30 4.87
2022 Dare Rosenthal OT 4.88
2022 Trevor Penning OT 4.89
2022 Kellen Diesch OT 4.89
2018 Desmond Harrison OT 3 4.9
2007 Gabe Hall OT 4.91
2005 Khalif Barnes OT 61 4.92
2014 Greg Robinson OT 27 4.92
2022 Abraham Lucas OT 4.92
2007 Joe Thomas OT 108 4.92
2022 Ikem Ekwonu OT 4.93
2011 Tyron Smith OT 101 4.93
2012 Donald Stephenson OT 20 4.94
2016 Jason Spriggs OT 10 4.94
2006 Eric Winston OT 64 4.94
2018 Kolton Miller OT 29 4.95
2013 Vinston Painter OT 0 4.95
2016 Joe Thuney OT 54 4.95
2022 Charles Cross OT 4.95
2017 Garrett Bolles OT 36 4.95
2019 Andre Dillard OT 6 4.96
2018 Joseph Noteboom OT 11 4.96
2011 Nate Solder OT 79 4.96
2012 Matt Kalil OT 38 4.96
2006 Guy Whimper OT 14 4.96
2009 Andrew Gardner OT 7 4.96
2022 Braxton Jones OT 4.97
2014 Matt Patchan OT 4.97
2004 Adrian Jones OT 12 4.97
2015 Cameron Clear OT 4.98
2015 Cedric Ogbuehi OT 16 4.98
2016 Caleb Benenoch OT 12 4.98
2000 Adrian Klemm OT 10 4.98
2004 Robert Gallery OT 44 4.98
2008 Jeremy Zuttah OT 55 4.99
2003 Jon Stinchcomb OT 49 4.99
2009 Jamon Meredith OT 15 4.99
2009 Gerald Cadogan OT 4.99
2016 Jack Conklin OT 53 5
2021 Landon Young OT 1 5
2011 Derek Newton OT 30 5

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.