The Seattle Seahawks have all the makings of an elite team, but have one problem area that could keep them from going the distance this year: Their offensive line.
The Seahawks offensive line is without top LT Russell Okung, who is on short-term IR with a major foot injury. Seattle has also been without center Max Unger the past two weeks as well. Not only are those the two most important positions along the offensive line, but those are by far the Seahawks best two offensive line starters. Unger is expected back this week versus the Tennessee Titans, but that is far from certain at this point. The wait for Okung though will be significantly longer, as the star left tackle isn’t eligible to return until week 11, and it’s possible he could need more time than that.
Hopefully Unger returning can help stabilize the offensive line some, but it’s not likely he can work miracles. Paul McQuistan can’t be used at left tackle any longer, and J.R. Sweezy needs to get out of the starting line-up for starters. The team could use upgrades for James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini as well, but they should focus on the most important things first. The question though isn’t really identifying the problem areas, but rather finding an adequate solutions. The Seahawks though need to leave no stone unturned, in their quest to fix the line because the consequences of failing could knock them out of the division lead (and any home field advantage in the playoffs).
-Getting Unger back of course helps, but that probably isn’t enough from the internal perspective. The Seahawks already have 7 guys (and no Okung isn’t one of them) who have played in 100 or more snaps so far this season. The results haven’t been pretty, and it doesn’t make it too likely that the Seahawks can find 5 quality linemen from this group, since they have already been tested. The team has already resorted to starting Michael Bowie, a 7th round rookie these past two weeks. Finding more help from unproven back-ups isn’t likely going to work.
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The Seahawks could look to do some things schematically to help the weaker line, but unfortunately they already do a lot of the basic stuff with roll outs and some read option looks that can help an offensive line. Seattle could also look to use more sets with fullbacks or two tight ends, but of course that comes with it’s own limitations. Seattle could maybe find some things to limit the pressure on the linemen, but it can only help so much, especially if they don’t want to hurt their offense in other ways.
-It’s not the worst idea for the Seahawks. They are deep football team and definitely a major contender. The prices on players, particularly rentals is extremely low and the Seahawks should be checking in on just about every player. They don’t need a star, but just a veteran who they can rely on for a slight boost. The team could check in on impending free agents like the Jets Austin Howard or the Raiders Tony Pashos, but perhaps the guy to target would be LG Charlie Johnson from the Vikings. Johnson’s contract voids after this year, so the Vikings could be interested in getting something in return for him. Johnson has been solid at LG for them this year, but has played LT in the past and could be a fill-in for Okung now and then Sweezy when the star LT is back. It’s not a perfect option, but it could be an upgrade.
-There are a number of veteran offensive linemen still on the free agent market. While they probably wouldn’t start for most teams, with Seattle some of these guys could be upgrades, or at the very least quality back-ups. If the Seahawks are looking for a right tackle, Barry Richardson, Jason Smith and Dennis Roland could all be options. Some left tackle options could be Max Starks, Demetress Bell and Jared Gaither. If Seattle is looking for more of an interior options could be Nate Livings, Stephen Peterman and Jake Scott. It’s tough to know exactly who the best options are, as health is going to be a major determining factor, but these are all names the Seahawks should check in on. None of these options are great, but the Seahawks are desperate and they need to find a solution.