Seattle Seahawks' O-Line and Anemic Offense Threaten to Derail Super Bowl Hopes

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystSeptember 18, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after being sacked by Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter of the home opening NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks entered the 2016 season with the same aspirations they had in 2015—representing the NFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston.

There's a big problem, though. One that's threatening to derail those title hopes. The Seattle offensive line is a hot mess. In fact, the entire offense is.

And unless head coach Pete Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson and company get things straightened out quickly, the Seahawks aren't going to have a real chance of winning the NFC Westmuch less the entire conference.

After a disjointed effort at home that saw the Seahawks score only one touchdown late in a 12-10 win over the Miami Dolphins, the belief was that a trip to Los Angeles would fix all that ails the Seahawks.

Yes, for whatever reason, the Seahawks had trouble with the Rams last year, losing both meetings. But this was a Rams team that just gave up 28 points to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. A Rams squad that looked like the worst team in the NFL last week.

The Seahawks were supposed to stroll into SoCal, roll the lowly Rams and all would be right with the universe.

Well, think again.

Sep 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looses the ball as he is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) during the first half of a NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Memoria
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If the Seattle offense was bad against Miami, I don't know what adjective should be used to describe its performance in a 9-3 loss to Los Angeles.

For the second straight game, the Seattle offense was dominated at the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks managed only 67 yards on the ground, down from 112 against the Dolphins. Tailback Thomas Rawls, who drew his first start of the season, carried the ball seven times for minus-seven yards before leaving with a leg injury.

Christine Michael actually ran the ball effectively, gaining 60 yards on 10 carries, but he also had a late backbreaking fumble that wrapped up the win for the Rams:

The biggest problem, just as it was in Week 1, was an offensive line that looked offensive. The line's debacle against Miami earned the team a Pro Football Focus ranking of 30th in run blocking and 32nd in pass protection.

And if it's possible, it looked worse against L.A.

Before the game, Wilson told John Boyle of the Seahawks website he was looking forward to seeing Seattle's O-line match up with the Rams' loaded front four:

I’m looking forward to our offensive line going against their defensive line. It’s going to be a great matchup. Our offensive line has been doing a really good job so far. They’re really strong and stout. It’s going to be an exciting game. That’s where most games are won, up front, offensive line and defensive line. You got to do a great job up front and we’ll see what happens.

We saw what happened, all right.

The Seahawks allowed a sack to defensive end William Hayes and a strip-sack of Wilson to Robert Quinn, the other end. All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald spent the entire game in Seattle's backfield.

That Wilson was only sacked twice is a testament to both his escapability and his toughness, as he spent the afternoon running for his life on a sore ankle. After the shots he took Sunday, you can bet the rent Wilson's ankle isn't the only thing that's sore.

The beating their star quarterback is taking on a weekly basis is only one of the problems the Seahawks have right now that can be traced to lack of any sort of push up front.

When the Seahawks last made the Super Bowl two years ago, Seattle gained more yardage on the ground than any team in the NFLover 170 yards a game. That number dropped last year with Marshawn Lynch banged up, but the Seahawks were still third in the league at 141.8 yards per contest.

This year, through two games, that number has fallen to 89.5 yards a game—a staggering drop-off for a team whose identity has long been built around the power run game.

It isn't Rawls' fault, either. Or Michael's. You could line up Walter Payton in the Seattle backfield, and he would struggle. There just aren't any holes to run through.

The inability to run the ball effectively is leaving the Seahawks constantly facing 3rd-and-long, and it's showing in their conversion percentages. Against the Dolphins, the Seahawks were 5-of-16 on third down. Their percentage against the Rams was nearly identical, with Seattle making good four times in 13 attempts.

A 30 percent third-down conversion rate isn't a recipe for success. The Seahawks just can't generate any offensive momentum. They can't sustain drives. The Seattle offense has effectively become Wilson scrambling around looking desperately for a big play downfield.

Wilson found one in the fourth quarter Sunday, connecting with Tyler Lockett on a 53-yard pass prior to Michael's fumble. But as Seattle radio personality Danny O'Neil pointed out, that single play accounted for over a third of the Seahawks' second-half offense:

This isn't a problem for which there's a simple fix, either. It's not like the Seahawks are waiting for an injured stalwart to return to action. There aren't any stalwarts on that line. According to Over the Cap, the $9 million and change the Seahawks have invested in their line in 2016 ranks dead last in the league.

In other words, right about where the line ranks in terms of performance. You get what you pay for.

All this isn't to say the Seahawks are doomed. Carroll is as good a head coach as there is in the NFL. The Seahawks made it to the divisional round of the playoffs last year with a line that wasn't much better than this year's incarnation. And Seattle remains one of the league's best defensive teams.

But were it not for that defense holding firm time and time again after the offense stalled, the Seahawks would be 0-2. And they haven't played anyone who would be considered a contender by any stretch of the imagination.

As Bleacher Report's own Doug Farrar tweeted as Sunday's game wound down, Seattle's offensive deficiencies and line woes leave Carroll and the team staring at an uphill climb:

And that might well be an understatement.

   

Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.