Why Seahawks’ interior O-line is so crucial to success

Jul 4, 2024, 6:10 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2024, 12:04 pm

Seattle Seahawks Olu Oluwatimi center Arizona Cardinals 2023...

Seattle Seahawks center Olu Oluwatimi blocks against the Arizona Cardinals in 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There might not be a bigger question mark for the Seattle Seahawks this season than their interior offensive line.

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After losing left guard Damien Lewis and center Evan Brown in free agency and opting not to re-sign right guard Phil Haynes, Seattle will have new Week 1 starters at all three interior spots. And at all three of those positions, the potential starters are either inexperienced or coming off down years.

The interior offensive line, of course, is important for any team. But as former Seahawks offensive lineman Ray Roberts explained Monday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, it might be even more crucial for the Hawks – and specifically for quarterback Geno Smith.

“When you set and make the pocket for the quarterback, the guards and the center set the depth of the pocket and the tackles set the width of the pocket,” Roberts said. “And Geno is more of a step-up-and-then-get-out type of quarterback than he is a sprint-do-a-360-spin like Russell (Wilson) and run to the outside and make plays. He’s more of a step up and then slide left or right and can scramble that way and make better plays.

“And so it’s important that those interior linemen are able to set the depth there and not have a whole lot of penetration in that space. And last year, there was a lot going on in there, so then he was having to escape a lot and throw on the run – when that’s probably not Geno’s game.”

At left guard, 10th-year veteran Laken Tomlinson is expected to take over. Tomlinson was a Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021, but struggled the past two seasons with the New York Jets.

Second-year pro Olu Oluwatimi, who played in just four games as a rookie last season, is the favorite to win the starting center job.

And at right guard, it’s shaping up to be a three-man battle between second-year Anthony Bradford, second-year McClendon Curtis and rookie third-round draft pick Christian Haynes. Bradford started 10 games last year, but neither Curtis or Haynes have played an offensive snap at the NFL level.

Last year, the Seahawks’ offensive line ranked No. 28 out of 32 teams in Pro Football Focus’ pass-block grading. The unit was decimated by a slew of injuries, which forced Seattle into 10 different starting O-line combinations over the course of the season. With a muddled pocked, Smith’s production declined. After finishing seventh in ESPN’s QBR metric during a breakout 2022 season, Smith was 14th in 2023.

This fall, the Seahawks’ new-look interior offensive line will be tasked with taking a step forward and giving Smith better protection.

“To me, that is where the question mark is with the offense,” Roberts said, “because as they go, I think Geno’s production goes.”

Listen to the full conversation with Ray Roberts at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Wyman and Bob weekdays from 2 to 7 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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