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Clayton: New O-line coach Mike Solari could be the key for Seahawks

Mike Solari brings a new philosophy to the Seahawks' offensive line. (AP)

Mike Solari gave his first press conference Monday after the Seahawks’ OTA session that was open to the press.

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Even though the hiring of offensive coordinator Brian Scottenheimer is one of the keys to the season, signing Solari could have an even bigger impact. In some years, the hiring of an offensive line coach can be the most important acquisition a franchise can make during an offseason.

We’ve seen that when the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Mike Munchak and the Washington Redskins hired Bill Callahan. Solari can be that important to the Seahawks because the offensive line has been a problem for the past couple of years.

Solari has tailored blocking schemes to fit the needs of the offensive coordinator and the talent of the blockers for years. It is much different scheme than that of previous O-line coach Tom Cable.

Cable believed totally in zone blocking. He wanted speed and athleticism from his offensive linemen. That’s why he had great success taking former wrestlers or defensive players and forming them into zone-blocking linemen.

Solari is into power. He wants big bodies using their power to knock down defenders. While there will be some zone blocking in his scheme, Solari uses more man concepts and has a desire to overpower defenses with a downhill blocking style.

Over the past couple of years, the Seahawks have gotten bigger along the offensive line. Justin Britt is a 315-pound center. Germain Ifedi is 325. Duane Brown is a 315-pound left tackle. Ethan Pocic has bulked up to 322 pounds. The Seahawks signed 342-pound D.J. Fluker to be the right guard. That’s an average of 323.8 pounds per blocker.

The linemen have talent, too. Brown, Fluker and Ifedi are former No. 1 picks. Britt and Pocic were No. 2 picks.

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Solari was the New York Giants offensive line coach last year, and they needed Fluker when they had injuries along the offensive line. Although Fluker eventually suffered an ankle injury himself, the games he played helped the Giants average more than 25 yards per game on the ground.

“D.J. gives you a physical presence in there,” Solari said. “The whole thing again is that he’s got to compete for the spot, so we’re looking forward to getting him on the field to compete for the spot, showing the guys how to be physical – physical in the sense of getting the pads down, driving the backside knee, fundamentals, aiming points, hand placement and then critical just to keep those feet moving.”

The biggest change could come from Ifedi, who is a powerful, big blocker but looked out of place at right tackle last year. He struggled against quick pass-rushers and had too many penalties.

Solari has a plan for him.

“He’s working his way back,” Solari said. “He’s a big, physical guy. It’s exciting when you have somebody like that to work with. He’s working and he’s competing. He’s trying to get the technique and fundamentals down.

“A big man like that, the key thing is leverage, being able to bend your knees. Sometimes as a big offensive lineman, you get a little bit sloppy and rely on strength and you don’t bend and play with leverage. The game’s about leverage. Guys are so quick, you have to have your knees bent so you can react and adjust off of movement and things you need to do at the second level.”

Solari is going to work the silent angles and the fundamentals. His coaching could be the key to the season.

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