Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Line Has To Play Better

Seahawk Shining

There is a saying about the three most important things when you want to open a business:  Location, location, location.

Pretty much the same thing can be said if an NFL football team needs to be successful:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line.

I watched the Seattle Seahawk-Arizona Cardinal game Saturday and I was amazed at just how the Cardinal defense dominated the Hawks offensive line in the first half:  QB Russell Wilson sacked 5 times and under constant pressure.  34 plays run by the Seahawks in the first half and of those, 19 of them resulted in no gain, yards lost or a turnover.  One yard of offense in the first quarter and a total of just 94 yards for the first half.  A total of seven plays run inside Arizona’s 10-yard line and failed to punch it in and having to settle for a field goal.

While everything appeared to improve in the second half, I still am having a hard time as to why the O-Line has been so inconsistent.  How can they look so pitiful as they did in the first half and then seem to become above average as they did in the second half?

The play of the Seahawks offensive line is what will determine how well they will do in the playoffs.  And since we don’t know which O-Line will show up, us Seahawk fans are going to be sitting on pins and needles when the playoffs start.

It was evident what the Cardinals wanted to do with Russell Wilson.  Keep him in the pocket and do not allow him to extend plays.  You could see the Cardinal defense swing out wide when rushing the QB, daring him to run up the middle.  On most of Wilson’s sacks, at least two of the offensive linemen had blown their assignments.

I understand that Seattle GM John Schneider had to make a decision when building this team that somewhere on this team, money just could not be spent.  As of right now, the Seahawks have the lowest salary cap for the offensive line at $6, 259,177.  That’s nearly $7 million dollars less than the next lowest team, the New York Giants.

Tom Cable may be just about the best offensive line coach in the NFL.  But as with any profession, you are only as good as the ingredients you are given.

Let’s start with left tackle George Fant.  Amazing potential and has indeed come a long way this year.  But understand you are protecting your most valuable asset with a guy that didn’t start in a football game since his 8th grade elementary season.  He focused on basketball in his high-school days and had a decent collegiate season for Western Kentucky.  He was finally convinced to try football as he had a wife and child to consider.  He was either going to play basketball in Poland or hopefully play in the NFL.  He had no tape, barley any game footage but during a workout with the Seahawks, Cable saw him as a “long-armed athlete” and was convinced he would be a great prospect.

I am amazed at Fant’s production and improvement and I think he will be an excellent left-tackle.  What I fear is that with all that Cable is teaching him, when it comes time for a new contract, he’ll be gone since the Hawks won’t want to spend the money.

Center Justin Britt seems to have found a place that he can succeed at.  He was drafted by the Hawks in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.  He was a starter the last two years at Missouri playing  both left and right tackle.  Seahawks love versatility and saw Britt as a possible right tackle and was the starter there for the Hawks in 2014.  Despite being ranked as one of the worst rookie pass blocking tackles, Britt started all 16 games at right tackle and the divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers before suffering an injury.

After a poor showing in the 2015 season at right tackle, Hawks moved him to left guard.  Britt improved a bit, starting all 16 games at left guard but still was ranked as one of the least effective pass blockers in the NFL.  In 2016, Britt was moved to center and his game improved dramatically…so much that he was elected as a Pro-Bowl alternate for 2016.  Pete Carroll stated that center is what they had in mind for Britt when they drafted him 2 years prior.  My question is why the heck did they want so damn long?  Max Unger was at center in 2014, Britt’s first year.  Why didn’t they have him back up Unger the first year, get him to learn all the tricks of the trade from him and then have him start at center in 2015 and just leave him there?

The Seahawk offensive line is young with an average age of 24.2 years old.  I don’t have issues with the age factor but I do have an issue with the talent level.  Seahawks have been known to find some gold at other positions.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Tyler Lockett are proof of that.

They need to find the same gold for the offensive line coming up in next years draft.  I’m willing to keep Fant as left tackle as I believe he will become one of the best in the game.  I also will concede the center spot to Britt.  Anyone who can improve to Pro-Bowl caliber is just fine in my book.  But that leaves the 2 guard spots and the right tackle.  Starter left guard Mark Glowinski, starter right guard German Ifedie with back up at both spots of Rees Odhiambo don’t give me a feeling of security, especially when playing against huge defensive lines such as the Cardinals.  Right tackle starter Bradley Sowell and back-up Garry Gilliam are at best a couple of back-ups on other teams.

Release or trade guards Glowinski and Ifedie as well as right tackle Sowell and keep Odhiambo and Gilliam for back-up spots on the line.

Then I would go after these players in the draft:

For right tackle:  Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell.  Another player with a background in basketball, Davenport is 6-7 and 315 lbs.  He has the tools to be a solid left tackle and would be able to develop his skills on the right side.  Good versatility as both he and Fant could play either tackle spot.

Left guard:  Kareem Are, Florida State.  This is a big man.  Listed at 6-6 and 334 pounds, Are would be just the road grader needed to jump start the Hawks running game.  He is an excellent power blocker at the point of attack and with Cable coaching, he will only improve on his pass blocking.

Right guard:  Taylor Moton, Central Michigan.  Another big presence inside.  Coming in at 6-5 and 326 pounds, he would help solidify the inside running game the Hawks so desperately need.  He is versatile enough to be able to play right tackle as well.

Remember the three things needed to be a successful NFL team:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line!

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

running-lion

The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?

 

Detroit Lions – These Guys Are For Real & In First Place!

Stafford:  One of the best QB's in the NFL!
Stafford: One of the best QB’s in the NFL!

The Detroit Lions are relevant in December.  In fact, they are in first place in the NFC North, have a 2 game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and hold the tie-breaker as they swept the Vikings this year.

Green Bay could make a run but face an uphill battle as they move into a tie for second place with the Vikings.

And for the first time this year, the Lions decided to win in a much more traditional fashion rather than wait until the 4th quarter, beating the New Orleans Saints 28-13.  Granted, I am proud of that 7-1 record when trailing in the final quarter.  But I felt much better the Lions got the lead in the first and never gave it up.

A great day for Stafford, the true leader of this team.  30 for 42 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  The offense was methodical and time consuming, limiting the New Orleans Saints to only 23:08 while holding on to the ball for 36:52.

Golden Tate had a great day with 8 catches for 145 yards which included a sweet 66 yard touchdown catch on a critical drive in the fourth quarter to pretty much seal the game.

The running game, often the most criticized part of the Lions offense, gained a combined 85 yards with Zach Zenner leading the way with 44 yards.  It was effective enough to keep the Saints defense honest.

And how about that defense!  Intercepted Drew Brees 3 times while sacking him once.  And pretty much made WR Willie Snead a non-factor while holding the Saints to a collective 51 yards rushing.

Let’s take a look at the Lions, Vikings and Packers games over the next four weeks.  I’ll give my predictions for the record during that time.  I do believe the Lions will get a home playoff game for the first time since 1991.

Detroit Lions – Could go 3-1 but most likely will go 2-2.

12/11 – Home against the Bears.  This is going to be the easiest of the next four games and the Lions should have no trouble.  The Bears are simply a mess.  No offense since Cutler is yet again injured as well as WR Eddie Royal, both of whom appear to be out the rest of the year.  I doubt that Cutler will be back as the QB of the Bears next year as they are going to be rebuilding.

12/18 – At New York Giants.  This game is a toss-up.  Giants are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now winning their last six games.  But if the improving Lions defense can get to Eli, they can force him into mistakes.  Lions have played well on the road this year and if they can stay close to the Giants into the fourth quarter, perhaps Stafford can do his thing and pull this one out.

12/26 – At Dallas Cowboys.  If the Cowboys have the NFC East wrapped up, they may rest the starters.  Cowboys have a heck of a defense and we Lions fans can be envious of their offensive line.  Granted, the Lions do have a tendency to play the Cowboys tough as the Lions have an 11-12 all time record against the Cowboys.  But this is a very tough Cowboy team and most likely, Jason Garrett will play his starters until the game is in hand.

1/1/17 – Home against the Packers.  A statement game.  Packers have broken the Lions fans hearts several times.  I mean who could forget that Thursday night game with the hail-Mary with no time left on the clock last year.  I want to see the Lions get out fast and just pour on the points and blow out the Packers.  The Packers D is getting old and suspect and with the weapons the Lions have, it should be doable.

Minnesota Vikings – Vikings probably have the easiest schedule of the three teams but with the way they have been playing lately, I can’t see them doing any better than 2-2 even if Adrian Peterson comes back

12/11 – At Jacksonville Jaguars – Even this being a road game, the Vikings should be able to win this game.  Jags are a pretty self destructive team and QB Blake Bortles leads all NFL quarterbacks with 15 interceptions.  Vikings secondary is an opportunistic one and should get at least 2 picks.  Vikings are third in the NFL with 12 interceptions on the year.

12/18 – Home against the Indianapolis Colts.  Depends on which Colts team shows up as they are trying to stay alive in the AFC South.  They are only a game back of the Texans and with a win Monday night against Jets, they are fighting for their playoff lives.  So are the Vikings and both teams need wins.

12/24 – At Green Bay Packers.  This is still Lambeau Field and while both teams are considered “cold weather” teams, I have to give the edge here to the Pack.  Packers always seem to make a late season push.  A win by either team doesn’t do much for the Lions but perhaps if both teams beat each other up enough, the Vikings could run the gas out of the Packers when they visit Ford Field the following week.

1/1/17 – Home against the Chicago Bears.  Bears have nothing but pride to play for.  And they would love nothing better than beat a division rival to keep them out of the playoffs.  Vikings have a history of not closing the deal toward the end of the year.  A win here by the Bears helps the Lions.

Green Bay Packers – Packers have a brutal schedule down the stretch and most likely will end up 1-3 but no better than 2-2.

12/11 – At Seattle Seahawks.  These two teams have had some great games in recent years.  However, I don’t see Green Bay winning in Seattle.  Seahawks defense is getting healthier each week and the offense is starting to come around.

12/18 – At Chicago Bears.  As with the Vikings, the Bears would like nothing better than to beat a division rival and keep them out of the playoffs.  Bears have a better shot of achieving at home than opposed on the road against the Vikings.  Hard as it will be, we have to be Bears fans for a couple of weeks.  Don’t worry, there is plenty of Jamison’s to wash the bad taste out of our mouths,

12/24 – At home against the Vikings.  Perhaps the only win the Packers get over the last 4 games.  Packers will have a lot on the line and more often than not, come thru on big games.

1/1/17 – At Detroit Lions.  As stated looking at the Lions schedule, this is a redemption game for the Lions.  This is a statement game for Detroit and this time, the Green Bay Packers won’t be able to stop them.

Go Lions!