No Easy Answers for the Seattle Seahawks' Blocking Problems

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No Easy Answers for the Seattle Seahawks' Blocking Problems
(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)

The blocking by the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks has been atrocious lately, including giving up seven sacks last week against the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, there is no quick solution available for Seattle's beleaguered offensive line. 

There have been plenty of ideas proposed on how to fix the problem: playing Alvin Bailey at left tackle, trading for an experienced player, keeping tight ends and backs in to help block more often. Unfortunately, none of those ideas offer the improvement that fans are hoping for. 

 

Play the Rookie

One possible change that could be made would be to insert rookie Alvin Bailey in at left tackle. Bailey excelled in training camp and the preseason and looked like he would provide a nice upgrade over backup tackle Paul McQuistan.

The problem is that the Seahawks are, obviously, uncomfortable with the idea of adding more inexperience to the offensive line. Michael Bowie at RT is also a rookie. J.R. Sweezy at RG has only played in 18 games in his career, and had never played on offense before at any level before last season. LG James Carpenter, who’s in his third season, has only played in 24 games in his NFL career.

This is a very young unit as it is and to replace a veteran like McQuistan with a rookie would only add to the problem.

The exact value of McQuistan’s experience is difficult to assess, but it is clear that the Seahawks value that experience on the field. Removing Seattle's most experienced blocker and replacing him with a rookie seeing his first action as a professional is a risk that the Seahawks aren't willing to take at this time. 

Experience Of Seattle's Offensive Line
Position Player Years Career Games
LT Paul McQuistan 7 74
LG James Carpenter 3 24
C Max Unger 5 54
RG J.R. Sweezy 2 18
RT Michael Bowie Rookie 6
Backup Alvin Bailey Rookie 0
Injured Russell Okung 4 39
Injured Breno Giacomini 6 35

Pro-Football-Reference.com

 

Lack of Trade Deadline Moves

Another option would have been to trade for either a guard or tackle that would provide an upgrade. The deadline to make trades passed on Tuesday, and the Seahawks did not make any moves.

This is understandable from a football standpoint. Trading for offensive linemen in the middle of a season might work in video games but not in this situation. 

The Seahawks use a zone-blocking scheme. While there are teams that use some zone-blocking elements, there are surprisingly few who actually use a blocking scheme similar to Seattle's. 

Any player brought in at this point in the season would take weeks to acclimate to the new system and learn the playbook. By the time that player would be ready to play and contribute, the Seahawks will have left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini back from their injuries. 

 

Keeping Tight Ends and Backs in to Block

Getting tight end help for the underperforming tackles is a must and something the Seahawks are currently doing. The team has also been keeping a back in the backfield to pick up blitzing linebackers so the offensive linemen can double-team certain defenders.

Unfortunately, this is causing additional problems for the Seattle offense. By keeping in extra blockers, the team has fewer players out running routes. This makes covering those players easier. 

Here is an example from the fourth quarter of Monday's game against the Rams. The Seahawks have both running back Marshawn Lynch and fullback Michael Robinson to help the offensive tackles block the defensive ends. 

Predictably, no receiver is able to get open. Both outside routes are double-covered with safety help, and the inside route is being covered by all three St. Louis linebackers. The Rams have seven players responsible for covering just three Seattle players running routes. 

This is the problem created by being forced to keep extra blockers in to help protect the quarterback. Without a dominant wide receiver like Detroit's Calvin Johnson on the roster who can consistently defeat the double-team, the Seahawks simply cannot keep extra blockers in to protect quarterback Russell Wilson on every play and expect to be able to move the football regularly. 

 

The Waiting Game

With no new players to try on the line, the Seahawks are forced to try and ride this out until the injured starting tackles can get healthy. Unfortunately, there's at least one more game before there is any help on the way. Pete Carroll discussed his injured lineman in his press conference on Wednesday.

LT Okung is bound by the rules pertaining to being on short-term injured reserve. He can begin practicing on Friday and is first eligible to play in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. At this point, there is no reason to believe that Okung won't be ready to play at that time.

RT Giacomini won't begin practicing again until next week. This means he's unlikely to play until the following week, although playing in Week 10 hasn't been completely ruled out. Giacomini will be working out this week and will need to show that his knee is ready to return to contact. 

That means that the Seahawks will likely have to survive with their current offensive line for the next two games. Luckily, the competition over this stretch is conducive to the Seahawks surviving with their division lead intact. 

 

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