Heaps: Big offseason priority for Seahawks is to find ‘top-tier’ center

Jan 13, 2022, 12:41 PM

Seahawks Ethan Pocic...

Ethan Pocic and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks gesture before a play against the 49ers during a 2021 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Last offseason, the Seahawks had plenty of cap room as well as a quarterback unhappy with his pass protection. Despite that, the team ultimately brought back four of the five starting linemen from the 2020 season.

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Tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell returned as starters for the Seahawks in 2021, as did guard Damien Lewis, who moved from the right side to the left to accommodate for new right guard Gabe Jackson, who the team acquired from the Las Vegas Raiders via trade.

At center, though, the Seahawks re-signed 2020 starter Ethan Pocic as well as backup Kyle Fuller. But as Pocic was injured for most of Seattle’s training camp, Fuller won the starting job. Fuller struggled throughout the first half of the season and would be replaced by Pocic in Week 8.

Pocic and Fuller are both free agents this offseason and may be back with the Seahawks in 2022, but former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps thinks it’s especially critical that Seattle goes after a higher-end starter for the upcoming season.

“The reason why it’s a priority is because the center, it’s the starting point of everything,” Heaps said during Thursday’s edition of Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle. “Not only the snap, but it’s the way that you talk about combination blocks.”

Earlier in the week, Jake and Stacy talked to former NFL offensive lineman Ray Roberts, who’s an analyst on Seahawks radio broadcasts, and he said the Seahawks weren’t using combination blocks well enough in 2021.

“Sometimes that’s the guard who sets that combination block and then the center comes in and helps, and sometimes it’s the center that sets it,” Heaps said, referring to their conversation with Roberts. “But either way, those combination blocks that happen at the very beginning, a large part of it is how the center is working with the guards.”

Heaps said having an elite center helps “solidify everything.”

“They get everybody on the same page and not only can be a road grater themselves that helps bolster your run game, that helps win you the six-inch battle at the line of scrimmage,” Heaps said. “It helps you in pass protection being on the same page with your quarterback and setting the right protections and getting everybody on the same page.”

Heaps called it a “major blunder” that the Seahawks didn’t upgrade at center last offseason.

“As much as I was frustrated and upset about (the Seahawks not signing offensive tackle) Jack Conklin two years ago and the decision to move on from him, I am way more upset at the fact that they didn’t go after Corey Linsley (in 2021) when they had an opportunity to upgrade at the center position,” he said.

Linsley, who started his career with the Green Bay Packers, signed a lucrative five-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers last offseason after an All-Pro season in 2020.

“And oh, by the way, Corey Linsley goes on and has an All-Pro season with the Chargers and helps out (quarterback) Justin Herbert and his continual development,” Heaps said. “But that is something that they have to find here in Seattle. They have to find a top-tier center via the draft, what you could have had in (Kansas City Chiefs second-round pick) Creed Humphrey, or out in free agency via what you had in the potential of Corey Linsley. And that, to me, is going to help set the stage for your offensive line to be significantly better, much like what Rodney Hudson did as well with the Arizona Cardinals (after a trade from the Raiders).”

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Heaps: Big offseason priority for Seahawks is to find ‘top-tier’ center