Let Russ cook? Former NFL OL Joe Thomas says Seahawks will face obstacle in 2020
Seahawks fans who subscribe to the ‘Let Russ cook’ movement rejoiced when NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz reported recently that Seattle is looking for ways to run a more up-tempo offense earlier in games. But could their offensive line overhaul be an obstacle to that plan?
Former Browns offensive tackle and 10-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas thinks so. He joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore last week and was asked for his thoughts on the Seahawks possibly having four new starters on the offensive line.
“It would definitely be concerning to me if I was a Seahawks fan, especially considering the shortened offseason,” Thomas said. “When you’re talking offensive line play, it’s all about experience, it’s all about playing together, being in the system for a long time. Having those changes takes time to get things figured out, it takes time to get on the same page because there is a lot of nonverbal communication that happens at the line of scrimmage before the snap.”
The Seahawks have said goodbye to most of their starting offensive line with George Fant, Germain Ifedi, Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker all departing this offseason. Even though Joey Hunt filled in admirably at center when Britt went down with a torn ACL in Week 8 of last season, he is not expected to win that role over free-agent addition B.J. Finney. So Seattle is looking at the very real prospect of left tackle Duane Brown being their only returning starter on the offensive line. That’s something that head coach Pete Carroll would have liked to avoid.
“I hope we can keep our guys connected here,” Carroll said at his end-of-season press conference in January. “I don’t want to see a big change there because we made good progress.”
Unfortunately, the Seahawks were not able to make that continuity a reality, but this isn’t unfamiliar territory. In fact, last year was Russell Wilson’s first since 2013 with four of his five starting offensive linemen returning.
So, what do the Seahawks need to do in order to allow this new offensive line to sync up in a shortened offseason? Thomas had an answer to that question, but it’s probably not what you want to hear if you are hoping the Seahawks ‘let Russ cook.’
“I think what Seattle wants to do, especially with a great quarterback like Russell Wilson, is be able to establish the run,” Thomas said. “Force the defense to come up on the line of scrimmage to try to stop the run. It gives Russell so many opportunities to try and extend the play and throw the football down the field. If you eliminate the ability to run the football because you’re getting tackled for loss or you’re getting leakage on the offensive line too consistently because guys haven’t played together and aren’t understanding the nonverbal communication that has to happen, that’s going to be a trickle down into the passing game and it’s going to hurt Russell.
“For Seattle to be successful they need to have a stout offensive line that can get the ball down the field running the football and open things up for the big plays with Russell Wilson’s arm.”
Thomas seems to think the best option in 2020 is a pretty traditional Seahawks approach of running to set up the pass, at least until the offensive line has established some chemistry. But if you’re still hoping to see Wilson pass more, there is one reason to think the turnover on the offensive line could support that. Wilson’s highest career pass attempts came in 2016 (546) and 2017 (553), seasons in which he only had two returning starters on the offensive line.