When something is difficult to quantify, it tends to create more experts.
These folks step into the subjectivity. They hug it, embrace, announce what they see and know, purporting it as fact. They are the offensive line assessors.
Picking out the guard or tackle who was misplaced during a play can be a chore. The results of others tend to tell the story of the line, particularly failure: Can’t run? Line’s fault. Sacked a lot? The line’s fault.
The Seattle Seahawks went through this last season, surviving much of the year with backups manning the line. Left tackle Russell Okung (eight games) and right tackle Breno Giacomini (seven games) missed large chunks of time. Center Max Unger dealt with various injuries and concussion issues. Right guard J.R. Sweezy missed a game. Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter rotated at left guard.
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The line — no matter who was doing the judging — was a mess much of the year. And two of those players have since departed. That’s why the Seahawks are often projected to take a lineman with their first-round pick in Thursday’s draft.
Giacomini and McQuistan went elsewhere in free agency. Giacomini landed closer to his native New England by signing with the New York Jets. McQuistan signed with the Cleveland Browns. Carpenter was sent notice last Friday when the Seahawks decided not to pick up the fifth-year option (2015) on his rookie contract. Since being selected with the 25th overall pick in 2011, Carpenter’s effectiveness has fluctuated. No need for a stat to confirm that because he shared snaps last season with McQuistan, whom the Seahawks did not feel compelled to re-sign.
The Seahawks began to bring in offensive line replacements in last season’s draft by selecting Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie in the seventh round. Bowie filled in for Giacomini and Bailey was used as an extra tight end in jumbo sets. Bowie is the in-house leader to take over for Giacomini. Bailey could rotate at left guard with Carpenter, replacing McQuistan. Seattle also signed Stephen Schilling for depth in the offseason. Still, the Seahawks are likely to pursue another lineman.
Seattle will have quality line options to look at late in the first round.
UCLA lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo has been linked to the Seahawks. He played tackle and guard during his three seasons with the Bruins. He started all 13 games in 2013, seven at left guard and six at left tackle. He’s 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds.
Su’a-Filo is already 23 years old because he spent two years on a LDS mission during college.
“I think my mission helped me mature as a man; not only emotionally, spiritually, but physically,” Su’a-Filo said. “It helped me in football. When I came home, it wasn’t easy. I had a full offseason to work out and prepare for that season, but I think as far as health goes and my game, I have a lot of things to work on.”
Another Pac-12 Conference lineman is also a possibility for Seattle.
Stanford’s David Yankey is a versatile guard who left college early. Calm, large and polite at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Yankey handled most questions with a smile. After measuring 6-foot-51/2 and 315 pounds, he’ll have plenty to smile about after being drafted May 8, particularly if he lands with the world champions.
Yankey is among the record number of underclassmen who have entered the draft early this year. He’ll be graduating this spring, which gets that priority out of the way.
“The thing that made it easy to make my decision is I wasn’t focused on what other guys were doing,” Yankey said. “It was about me and where I was as a person. It was something I talked about with my family a little bit. We felt it was right for me to come out.”
Yankey said he’s able to play everything except center – the kind of versatility the Seahawks used and coveted last season when linemen were injured.
Nevada guard Joel Bitonio (6-4, 302) and Virginia tackle Morgan Moses (6-6, 314) are also in the mix.