Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Why the Seahawks’ line isn’t as offensive as you feared

Seahawks tackle Bradley Sowell (78) blocks as Trevone Boykin (2) hands the ball to running back Alex Collins (36) during Saturday’s exhibition game at Kansas City. Sowell, a backup for the Arizona Cardinals the past two seasons, is currently the Seahawks’ first-string left tackle responsible for protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side.
Seahawks tackle Bradley Sowell (78) blocks as Trevone Boykin (2) hands the ball to running back Alex Collins (36) during Saturday’s exhibition game at Kansas City. Sowell, a backup for the Arizona Cardinals the past two seasons, is currently the Seahawks’ first-string left tackle responsible for protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side. The Associated Press

Your fears were well-founded.

Seahawks fans saw that the five projected starters on the offensive line appeared to be in positions assigned by having their names pulled from a hat.

(Justin Britt at center, really?)

None had started a single NFL game at his new position for the Seahawks. Not one game.

So, for observers to be even slightly less skeptical about the status of their line in mid-August represents a significant status upgrade.

This new collection of kids and converts and castoffs played together one preseason game, Saturday against Kansas City. But the unit did well enough that they no longer occupy Threat Level Red.

There’s plenty of time for this to fall apart, or the early results to be revealed as the product of a small sample size. But it’s still much better than it could have been.

One main reason: urgency.

The unsettled nature and across-the-board inefficiency of the offensive front early last season was the prime reason for the 2-4 start. Even the 8-2 rally thereafter meant the Hawks had to go on the road in the playoffs.

With Arizona again looking loaded in the division, the Seahawks can’t afford a similarly sluggish start.

The Seahawks have expended six draft picks the past two years on the offensive line, including this year’s first-round guard Germain Ifedi.

This infusion of players leaves them green, with frighteningly scant experience functioning as a unit. But individually, they’re younger, stronger and more athletic.

And that all seems to represent a big upside as they head into Thursday night’s second preseason game against Minnesota at CenturyLink Field.

Britt, a second-round pick in 2014, was plugged in at right tackle as a rookie. If he’d been effective, he’d still be there. But he was next tried at left guard last season to mixed results.

Moving him to center, a job deemed more complex by the requirements of snapping the ball and making the blocking calls, seemed something of a desperate shot at finding him a place.

But his play so far has caused coach Pete Carroll to wonder whether Britt should have been there all along.

Against Kansas City, often in the face of 350-pound Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, Britt looked sharp and strong. He generally fired out low and got a good push; his snaps were clean, and for the most part, the communication across the front seemed solid.

His play has been considerably better than miscast center starter Drew Nowak last season.

Both guards, Ifedi and second-year Seahawk Mark Glowinski, have looked strong and nimble enough to double-team and then scrape off to the second level of the defense, as is often their run-play duty.

The possible solidification of three young guys on the interior — Glowinski, Britt and Ifedi — would be so critical. The fastest path to the quarterback is up the middle, and even if the tackles surrender ground, a solid wall by the inside guys creates a better pocket for the passer.

Ah, yes, the tackles. That may take some more time.

Nagging injuries to presumptive right tackle J’Marcus Webb have made his contributions sporadic and uncertain.

Garry Gilliam was shifted over to left tackle from right tackle before the season but has reverted to the right side with Webb down. Veteran Bradley Sowell has stepped into Gilliam’s spot on the left.

Are these tackles good enough to control the best pass rushers in the NFL? Well, no. Certainly not yet. But so few teams in the league have those kinds of tackles. There aren’t enough of them to go around.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable said the starters “did their jobs really, really well” in Kansas City. He called it an overall good start, with much to learn and improve upon.

Pete Carroll seemed relieved. “I thought we were tight in our pass protection, we really hit some runs against a really nice front,” Carroll said. “The best evaluation was our ones against their ones — a bunch of plays there, and that gave us a really good feel.”

Maybe the good feelings are relative compared with the sickening feelings regarding last season’s inconsistent line play.

We’ll find out quickly; these guys open against a Miami defensive front featuring Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh. And in Week 2, they go to Los Angeles to play the Rams, a team that sacked Russell Wilson 10 times in two games last season.

The five Seahawks who will line up against the Vikings are huge (averaging 6-5 1/2, 315 pounds) and young (24.6 average age).

And maybe they are being measured against the low threshold of last season’s line, but there’s definitely been improvement.

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