You don’t have to tell Seahawks general manager John Schneider what Seattle’s most obvious need is – he had an up-close view from the sideline last season.
“I would say that we’d like to come out of the draft with at least one offensive lineman and one defensive lineman,” Schneider said. “Now, whether or not our board falls that way, I don’t know. But we’re not going to reach for guys just because we feel like we have to have one.”
The Seahawks started the rebuilding process up front last year by drafting Russell Okung No. 6 overall. The Oklahoma State product suffered high ankle sprains of both legs, but managed to play 10 regular-season games and was productive when healthy. By all accounts, Okung is the team’s left tackle of the future.
“Last year was … unique because Walter Jones wasn’t here so we needed a left tackle – a legitimate guy – so that was pretty nerve-wracking,” Schneider said.
Veteran center Chris Spencer and right tackle Sean Locklear are free agents and may not return. And with third-year pro Max Unger coming back from season-ending toe surgery, with his ideal position center, Seattle needs upgrades at left guard, right guard and right tackle.
The Seahawks’ offensive line has not been the same since perennial Pro Bowl player Jones succumbed to a knee injury after a Thanksgiving game against Dallas in 2008, leading to season-ending microfracture surgery and his eventual retirement before the 2010 season.
Since then, the Seahawks have cycled through 18 starting offensive line combinations, seven left tackles and four offensive line coaches.
The result of all that juggling up front has been inconsistent play. Seattle finished in the bottom third of the league in total offense the past three seasons.
So it’s no surprise that offensive line remains the team’s most obvious need heading into this year’s draft.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said improving the talent on both sides of the line is a priority. But because of the league’s labor dispute, Carroll did not have a chance to jump-start that process through free agency.
Seattle has some possible pieces to the puzzle already in the fold in interior linemen Stacy Andrews, Mike Gibson, Chris White and Lemuel Jeanpierre, and offensive tackles Tyler Polumbus, Breno Giacomini and Will Robinson.
But the Seahawks also will look to the draft, trade or free agency for help at those spots, with several mock drafts penciling in top interior line prospect Mike Pouncey of Florida or Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State for Seattle in the first round.
But perhaps the most important move Seattle made to solidify the offensive line was the hiring of former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable as the team’s offensive line/assistant head coach.
The Seahawks have been trying to install the zone blocking scheme since 2008, with then-offensive line coach Mike Solari starting the effort during Mike Holmgren’s final season in Seattle.
Solari left to join NFC West Division rival San Francisco’s staff after Jim Mora’s only season (2009) as the head coach of his hometown NFL team.
With the change of coaching administrations, Carroll brought in the father of the zone blocking scheme, Alex Gibbs, to take over.
However, Gibbs didn’t make it past training camp last summer, abruptly retiring just before the regular season began, and assistant offensive line coach Art Valero was left to pick up the pieces.
Valero did an admirable job, juggling 10 starting offensive line combinations as Seattle suffered through a rash of injuries on the line for a third season in a row.
The injury bug affected the team’s performance offensively, particularly running the ball, with Seattle finishing as the second-worst rushing team in the league, averaging 89 yards a contest.
At the end of last season, Valero was asked to move on after offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was fired by Carroll.
Valero is now an assistant offensive line coach at Tennessee, and Cable has the job of piecing Seattle’s line together.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks
INSIDE | B3
ROB RANG’s OL to consider:Will Florida’s Mike Pouncey be available at No. 25?
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN to consider
Rob Rang, senior draft analyst with NFLDraftScout.com, reviews offensive linemen Seattle might select in each round of this year’s NFL draft.
First round, 25th pick: Mike Pouncey, 6-5, 303, Florida
Rob’s rationale: The twin brother of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey, who was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Mike’s size, toughness and durability make him a perfect fit for Seattle.
Second ROUND, 57th pick: James Carpenter, 6-4, 321, Alabama
Rob’s rationale: Aptly named, this blue-collar left tackle projects best on the right side or at guard. He could step in and compete for a starting job at either spot immediately.
Fourth round, 99th pick: John Moffitt, 6-4, 319, Wisconsin
Rob’s rationale: Among my favorite players in the draft due to his toughness and physicality. He won’t wow with his athleticism, but could be a Pro Bowl player someday.
Fifth round, 156th and 157 picks: Keith Williams, 6-4, 318, Nebraska
Rob’s rationale: Big and athletic, he’s one of the primary reasons the Huskers were so effective running the ball against UW in September.
Sixth round, 173th pick: Derek Newton, 6-5, 311, Arkansas State
Rob’s rationale: An intriguing small school prospect who excelled at right tackle, Newton’s size and athleticism could push him higher up the board than my ranking indicates.
Seventh round, 209th and 242th picks: Willie Smith, 6-5, 310, East Carolina
Rob’s rationale: Like Newton, Smith is an intriguing prospect who, while raw, possesses the size and athleticism to warrant further development.