Going into a new season, the Seahawks expected their offensive line to be among the NFL’s best with four starters returning from last year’s playoff squad.
While that still may wind up becoming the case and Seattle still found a way to squeak out a 21-20 victory over Cincinnati, Sunday’s season opener showed the group has a long way to go before entering the conversation as one of the league’s elite.
From the outset, breakdowns in protection left quarterback Russell Wilson under constant duress, bringing back not-so-welcome flashbacks to earlier seasons in his career. On Seattle’s first three offensive possessions, he was sacked twice and hit four times, leading to three quick punts by Michael Dickson.
In total, a swarming Bengals defense sacked Wilson four times, and if not for his innate ability to escape pressure, it could’ve been much worse.
“I was really surprised that we had trouble protecting today and we struggled with our play pass stuff, which has been really strong for us.” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “It just didn’t work out as well as we wanted to, so we didn’t get our shots and we wound up in a lot of negative situations behind the sticks and all that.”
“It made for a hard day.”
Along with struggling to keep Wilson clean, the Seahawks offensive line also struggled to open up running lanes for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. The talented duo combined to rush for only 64 yards on 21 carries and the team rushed for just 72 yards as a whole, well below their 150 rushing yards per game average from last year.
Carroll wasn’t too pleased with the lack of productivity on the ground, which he felt played a role in getting Seattle’s offense off schedule.
“We didn’t run the ball well – 75 yards is not enough for us. We need to run the ball better than that. But I felt like we were not in command of the sticks and that’s where the play passes and everything fits together. We were behind a lot – we’ll be better.”
The start of the regular season always presents unique challenges, as starters don’t see many reps during exhibition play and rust can be a legitimate factor in the first meaningful game of the year. Playing an unfamiliar opponent with a new coaching staff can make it even more difficult.
But tackle Duane Brown isn’t having any of it. While he credited the Bengals front seven for playing well, he holds Seattle’s experienced offensive line to a different standard and viewed the performance as unacceptable.
“Preseason isn’t an excuse. We have to be able to come out and play to a certain level. We didn’t start off that way. We had some great moments, but we just have to have it consistently.”
As illustrated by a rapid turnaround after a rough start last year, Seattle’s offensive line has ample time to right the ship and meet the lofty expectations Brown and teammates set for themselves. One game shouldn’t cause fans to go into a state of panic.
But with a gauntlet of games against high-powered offenses such as the Steelers, Saints, and Rams coming up in the next several weeks, they’ll need to examine the game film and fix whatever issues ailed them in quick fashion.