Seahawks training camp: Heaps, Wyman and Clayton on Lewis and center competition

Aug 21, 2020, 1:47 PM | Updated: Sep 4, 2020, 9:23 am
Seahawks OL Ethan Pocic...
Seahawks OL Ethan Pocic has gotten more first-team reps at center than expected. (AP)

The majority of talk surrounding the Seahawks this offseason was about the defense, which was the worst statistical defense head coach Pete Carroll has had since he arrived in Seattle in 2010. Specifically, the defensive line and pass rush was the key area of concern. But the other side of the “trenches” will be looking very different from last season.

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Returning starters are left tackle Duane Brown, who will once again protect star quarterback Russell Wilson’s blindside, and left guard Mike Iupati, who is fighting to keep his spot and prove he can stay healthy. But the rest of the line will absolutely have a new look to it.

Gone are starters Justin Britt (center), D.J. Fluker (right guard) and Germain Ifedi (right tackle) and now, the competition is on at center and it remains to be seen if third-round rookie Damien Lewis will win the starting right guard position.

A few 710 ESPN Seattle hosts, such as Jake Heaps of Tom, Jake and Stacy, Dave Wyman of Bob, Dave and Moore, and “The Professor” John Clayton, have been observing Seahawks practices and provided some observations on the team’s new-look offensive line over the last few days, specifically at center and right guard. Here’s what they’ve seen.

Pocic starting over Finney?

When the Seahawks signed free-agent center/guard B.J. Finney and cut Britt, it was expected that Finney would get the starting nod at center. That may end up happening, but recently, 2017 second-round pick Ethan Pocic has been practicing with the first team and, according to the 710 hosts, has looked good in that role.

“He is continuing to run with the (first team) and he’s doing a good job,” Heaps said on Thursday. “I wonder if this is another classic Pete Carroll situation where ‘hey, I’m going to give the young guy or the guy who has the least experience or the guy who in my mind might be second on the depth chart, I’m going to give him an opportunity to run with the ones and he is going to stay there until he proves he can’t handle it.’ And so far Ethan Pocic has shown this staff that he can handle it.”

Heaps also noted that the Seahawks have a “mock game” on Saturday, and that game will be “a key one” for the starting center competition.

On Friday during 710 ESPN Seattle’s Two-a-Days, Wyman told Clayton that he thinks Pocic getting those reps at center may be because Finney is a more known commodity.

“I wonder if that’s that ‘hey look, we know B.J. Finney can do the job, let’s see if we can get Ethan Pocic to take that step,'” Wyman said. “… I like Ethan Pocic, but to me he never grabbed that job by the throat and said ‘this is mine’ and just kind of had the confidence to do that. I wonder if that might be what’s going on and certainly for Ethan Pocic, they’re giving him a good opportunity to really step up and own that job.”

Finney has seen time at both center and guard on the first-team offense, and Wyman thinks he could start at guard if needed.

But if Pocic were to beat out Finney at center, Clayton thinks that could go a long way in terms of chemistry on the offensive line since he’s been with the Seahawks for four years.

“What I’m kind of wondering on the Pocic thing is that it also gives (the team) a little bit of an advantage, even though again, he hasn’t been the center but he’s been here (for four years),” he said. “So if Mike Iupati winds up starting at the left guard position, the only thing that you’re changing … are going to be Damien Lewis at right guard and Brandon Shell at right tackle, so that might be less of a strain as far as trying to get together in a year like this where they had no offseason program and no preseason games.”

Will Lewis start?

When the Seahawks drafted Lewis in the third round in April, the team still had Fluker, who started at right guard for the Seahawks in 2018 and 2019, on the roster. He has since been released. But even when he was on the roster, Carroll made it clear Lewis would compete with him for the starting right guard position.

With Fluker gone, the path to the rookie starting is more clear, and he has seen the majority of reps as the starting right guard.

“Duane Brown had some really high praise for him and you just watch him out there and his technique is solid, his pad level is solid,” Heaps said of Lewis. “He looks like he is a guy, so far, that can come in and plug and play right away at the right guard position as a rookie, which would be extremely impressive under these circumstances.”

On Friday, Wyman said that Lewis has “looked like a rookie at times,” but because he played at a big program in LSU and was in the best conference in college football in the SEC, he is likely more pro-ready than most other rookies and that the limited offseason work may impact him less.

To listen to Heaps’ observations from Thursday, visit this link or use the player below.

For Wyman and Clayton’s discussion on the offensive line, an interview with right tackle Brandon Shell and more, use this link or the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps and John Clayton on Twitter.

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Seahawks training camp: Heaps, Wyman and Clayton on Lewis and center competition