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Youth movement up front hinders Seahawks continuity quest

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For years members of the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff, from head coach Pete Carroll to offensive line coaches Tom Cable and Mike Solari and all the way to general manager John Schneider, have preached continuity up front as key. However, as training camp for the 2022 season quickly approaches, the current projected lineup for the Hawks is one that is expected to land near the bottom of the league in terms of continuity.

The reason for the expectation of such a low level of continuity is, of course, the addition of two tackles in the first three rounds of the draft, and the expectation that free agent signee Austin Blythe earns the starting nod at center. The starters projected to return are, obviously, Damien Lewis at left guard and Gabe Jackson at right guard. It’s certainly possible that Kyle Fuller could win the starting job at center, which would bump Seattle up into the large group in the middle, but given Blythe’s greater experience playing for Dickerson at both guard and tackle, that seems unlikely.

In any case, Lewis holds the distinction of being the longest tenured starter on the Seattle offensive line, in spite of the fact that he is just 25 years old. Blythe and Jackson are, of course, older at 30 and 31, respectively, but between their contract status and their age, it’s entirely possible 2022 could be the last season with the Hawks for both.

That said, the presence of Blythe and Jackson could be vital for the 2022 Seahawks. The projected starting five of Charles Cross, Lewis, Blythe, Jackson and Abe Lucas have a combined total of 193 career NFL starts, with Jackson accounting for nearly two thirds of those - 115 (59.6%) - on his own. What that means is that as Jackson’s recovery from whatever offseason knee procedure kept him out of OTAs could be an unexpectedly important variable in the performance of the Seattle line this season.

Specifically, if either Jake Curhan (5 career starts) or Phil Haynes (2 career starts) is forced into the starting role at right guard, it would make the Seattle line the least experienced it has been since the 2016 season. Specifically, the 2016 line that started in the postseason against both the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons of George Fant, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi and Garry Gilliam, had a combined total of 117 regular season starts worth of experience.

Now, that is not to say it’s a guarantee that the 2022 line will be bad, but there is a very strong correlation between inexperience and poor play up front. On the flip side, current offensive line coach Andy Dickerson went through a very similar situation with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, a very young group that improved very quickly over the course of the year, so hopefully he is able to replicate the kind of coaching performance in Seattle. Regardless of how many bumps and bruises there may be through the season, though, the future should remain bright, even if the 2022 line remains a single injury away from playing three first year starters, because there is a perfect correlation between an offensive line including three first year starters and that offensive line performing poorly in nearly every metric in existence for the position group.