Third-worst in the NFL? No way the Seahawks’ O-line was that bad
I’m not telling you the Seahawks’ offensive line was good this year.
Not after watching Russell Wilson get sacked 31 times in the first seven games of the season and then seeing opponents like St. Louis’ Aaron Donald and Carolina’s Kawann Short treat blockers like speed bumps over the past four weeks.
But I will tell you that there’s no way that Seattle had the third-worst offensive line in the National Football League. None.
And that more than anything underscores why I continue to take the ratings from Pro Football Focus not with a grain of salt so much as the entire shaker.
There’s nothing wrong in the attempt to provide individual evaluations of a player’s execution on a given play. In fact, it’s an effort as admirable as it is difficult and those evaluations should give us a better key to understanding either a team’s success or the lack thereof.
But the truth is that the grades Pro Football Focus provides are inevitably compromised by the simple fact that the site does not know what a player is being coached to do on a specific play. That goes for the assignment the player is given as well as the technique the player was taught to use.
The analysts at the site are going on what they think a player is supposed to do. It’s a guess. An educated guess to some degree, but a guess, and there are simply too many times in which the grades Pro Football Focus assigns do not match up with the results seen on the football field.
This is one of those times.
The Seahawks ranked third in the league in rushing yards. They were fourth in total offense. They scored 30 or more points in four successive games for the first time in Pete Carroll’s six years as Seattle’s coach, and I’m supposed to believe they did all that in spite of the fact that five of the 11 starters on that offense comprised the third-worst offensive line in football?
No. Freaking. Way.
Here was Pro Football Focus’s summary of Seattle’s line: “It’s amazing that the Seahawks got as far as they did with a line that struggled to open many holes, and a pass protection unit that was sieve-like. It got better when Patrick Lewis came in, but their poor play serves to only highlight how good the backs were, and how talented Russell Wilson is at extended plays.”
Maybe you think that’s true. That an undrafted rookie running back and a hobbled Marshawn Lynch who missed more games this year than in his previous eight NFL seasons combined because of injury were enough to counterbalance what was the third-worst offensive line in football.
Or maybe we shouldn’t take at face value the grades administered by a site that doesn’t know the blocking assignments.
I’m not saying the Seahawks’ offensive line was good. I’m not saying it was even an average run-blocking unit.
The Seahawks have a quarterback whose ingenuity and scrambling adds to the team’s rushing total as does the read-option keeper, which doesn’t rely upon the offensive line’s run blocking so much as it forces the defense to assign a player to account for the quarterback.
But Seattle’s offensive improvement wasn’t achieved entirely in spite of the offensive line but because of the improvement up front, unless you think that two running backs – one of whom was injured – and the quarterback were enough to not just counterbalance that extreme deficiency but to become historically proficient.
And in a league where running backs have been devalued and in a season where Russell Wilson was at a plateau for the first eight games before improving dramatically over the final two months, to believe that Seattle’s offense became that proficient in spite of the third-worst offensive line does not jibe with what I saw.