Seattle's offensive line has been much maligned for just about all of Pete Carroll's tenure in Seattle. During that time, the angst over Seattle's blocking has been fair in some cases and less so in others. The combination of Pete Carroll's philosophy for downplaying the short passing game in favor of shot plays, an extreme avoidance of turnovers that leads to Russ holding the ball instead of forcing passes, and the standard inflation of sack numbers due to having a mobile quarterback, have led to fans feeling like the pass blocking is maybe worse than it really is.
And while the pass blocking has been up and down, the run blocking has been generally solid to good. Marshawn obviously creates a lot on his own, but you don't put up over 5,000 yards in four seasons without a little help from your offensive line.
But, if Seahawks fans were moaning about the offensive line before, they've been howling since the end of the 2014 season. The offseason saw two starters leave with little brought in to ease fans' fears. The preseason only worsened those fears, and the first three games of the season confirmed that the Seahawks offensive line was unquestionably the worst it's been in at least a few years.
And then Monday night happened. The Seahawks' performance at home (!) against Detroit was the worst game by an offensive line I have ever seen in professional football. That might sound like hyperbole, but I have the video to prove that it's really not.
Right up front, lets be honest about the design of this play. It's a toss right, and the job of the left side of the line to not to outright block the backside defenders but to slow them down and prevent them from being involved in the play. Usually this is done by cut blocking, and I think we can all agree that the left side of the Seahawks line is definitely trying to do that, or something close to it.
Now lets be honest about the execution of this play. There is one successful block, and it's Drew Nowak cutting Justin Britt after his first failed lunge. Russell Okung, who has an admittedly tough assignment here, is so ineffective in his cut that Tyrunn Walker is nearly able to chase down Thomas Rawls for a loss. Britt whiffs twice, making Okung's job significantly more difficult by not slowing down Walker. Nowak looks like he tried real hard.
While the effect on the play is minimal, as the right side does its job and Rawls is able to pick up 4, the execution by these three is pretty embarrassing.
The effect Nowak, Britt, and Okung have on this play is much more significant. Nowak is the main culprit in blowing this play up, allowing Haloti Ngata to cross his face and then penetrate into the backfield with little resistance. At the same time, Okung takes a slight step forward and puts himself out of position to prevent the defensive end from slicing into the backfield. Rawls, unable to hit his inside target or bounce to the outside, is swarmed for a loss.
Justin Britt fell over.
Justin Britt got his ass handed to him is about all the breakdown this play needs.
This time Britt is fooled on a stutter step to his right followed by a swim to his left.
The line split and protection call on this play makes this a tougher assignment for Okung. He's on an island against the defensive end and the rest of the line down blocks away from him, opening a huge gap to his right. Okung gets caught lunging though, and the defensive end is able to easily swat away the punch and burst into the backfield.
It was a tough assignment for Okung, but he is only able to do minimally better than thin air would have done.
I almost didn't write this post because what do you even say about this stuff?
Sweezy gets bullied here and it's not a huge surprise. For all the things Sweezy can do very well, he can be a terror when he's on the move, his lack of strength can be exploited in these one on one match ups. You won't find many better examples of his struggles with anchoring in pass protection.
Seattle struggled with blitz pickups all game, and Gilliam has struggled with assignments all season (although if you believe Tom Cable they didn't miss a single assignment all game). Blitzes in general, and this one in particular, are designed to confuse and create free rushers though, so maybe you just kind of brush this one off. Except...
They called out the blitz! Russ hard counts, Ihedigbo shows blitz, Russ and Nowak call it out, and Sweezy and Gilliam acknowledge it! Gilliam's confusion is at least understandable as the end drops and the corner blitzes, but Sweezy has no excuse. The two unblocked defenders strip sack Russ and return it for a touchdown.
If you're looking for a silver lining in this, there are a couple that I can give you: First, the line improved quite a bit in the second half. There were certainly still issues, but the overall performance improved and they seemed to settle in.
The other silver lining is that Britt may be working through an injury to his right arm. If you rewatch the videos in this post, especially the third vine where Britt is fooled on a stutter step, you can see signs that he is protecting his right arm. That arm also has a pretty heavy duty sleeve on it. Obviously injuries are never good news, but it's possible that we'll see Britt improve as he gets back to full strength. Lets hope that happens soon, because the matchup next week only gets a whole lot more difficult.