Does Seahawks’ Offensive Line Matter That Much?

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Tom Cable
Does Coach Cable really need to look that grumpy?

The age of pocket passers has been slowly diminishing and changing to the hybrid that can run and throw. Household names such as Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson (and soon to be Deshaun Watson) all fit this system. The question that seems to remain is a simple, yet complex one: does the quality of the offensive line still matter, especially for the Seahawks? The short answer is yes, while the longer, more complex answer is, not technically.

The only way for the running game to open up is for the passing game to be secure. The line will continue to blitz while the linebackers fall into a zone leaving the corners and safeties to pick up the rest. This is why play action is such a successful scheme. If you see the run, you take it. If the pass is available, you have that opportunity as well. So as long as you have the ability to have a good fifteen to twenty plays that can be passing opportunities, you will be able to open up your running game.


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With the Seattle Seahawks, the worst part of the game for the last few years has been that line. Let’s be honest here; I’m probably not the only one that was drinking a soda while yelling at the screen about why five linemen couldn’t hold up against three rushers (see Arizona vs Seattle), while other games we’re cheering for the same five that are holding their own. The line depends on a combination of rushing and passing plays. The moment that the playbook becomes one dimensional, the moment that the line becomes more important.

Being able to hold the line for three seconds is pivotal. Anything after three seconds statistically winds up being an incompletion or a sack. That is why you see players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers trying to release the ball around two. Now, let’s go back to that answer of “not technically”. The NFC Championship game with Seattle vs. the 49ers helped reveal to us that a quarterback’s legs can help even a terrible line out because his mobility forces the defensive coordinator to change his blitzing schemes and throw another defender back into a quarterback spy. This is the foundation of the Seahawks offense and is one of the reasons why it struggled so much when Wilson was injured.

While I’m happy that Wilson and Baldwin had an unbelievable season where we thought Wilson would be a pocket passer, we also saw what happens when we are not mobile. Our line is porous but as long as Wilson was mobile, that didn’t matter. So when he was injured during the Miami game (I still think that was somewhat intentional given Suh’s reputation) and re-injured during the Los Angeles game, our weakness was exposed even more because Wilson could not protect himself and get out of the pocket. Wilson’s signature spin, duck and run move was gone. Therefore he had to take sack after sack, leading his body to take a pounding that would be unprecedented if he was behind the Cowboy’s line. No wonder offensive line coach Tom Cable looked so grumpy so often.

However, the moment Wilson was back to 100%, we saw what we were accustomed to all along: line breaks down, Wilson spins out and is able to make throws. Once the defense backs off, the run game is on and balance is restored. I see future beasts out on that line, but they will not do themselves any favors if they let Wilson get injured again.

So while many of us fans are scratching our heads about the philosophy of the offensive line and coaching styles, remember: in Wilson we trust. His legs give the line the release that it needs to do its job and protect him. As long as he can still outwit and outrun opponents, it is safe to say Cable can still get away with mediocre talent on that line as long as the quarterback has legs.

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  • Greg

    “However, the moment Wilson was back to 100%, we saw what we were accustomed to all along: line breaks down, Wilson spins out and is able to make throws. Once the defense backs off, the run game is on and balance is restored.”

    Uh, did you by any chance happen to watch the divisional round playoff game against Atlanta, ya know, the one where their relatively weak pass rush was able to get to Wilson time and time again with only a four-man rush? Remember how that worked out for us? Yeah.

    Saying the O-line isn’t that important because Wilson has the ability to escape rushers is like saying the D-line isn’t that important because we have a really good secondary. No matter how good a team is at one position (or position group), if they’re terrible at another position then they are very likely not going to be a great team.

    We don’t need a great O-line to win a Super Bowl this year. Heck, we don’t even need a good O-line. But we ABSOLUTELY DO need at least a decent, average-ish one. If they’re terrible again, like they have been the past two seasons, then we’re once again looking at an early playoff exit and potentially another serious Wilson injury.

    • Todd Vandenberg

      Thank you for your calm and reasoned critique. Seriously. Opposing views can be civil, and it’s good to read yours.

      I’ll just say that I believe you and Zach, the author, are closer to agreement than it might appear at first glance. He closed his article with “it is safe to say Cable can still get away with mediocre talent on that line…”. Mediocre, as in average, ordinary. I believe it’s more a matter of semantics, or degree that lies between your two. As I see it, Wilson’s awareness and mobility simply allows the Seahawks to allocate more resources to areas other than a top ten offensive line.

      Again, thanks for your comment.