Over the course of the next four weeks, we will be breaking down each of the Seahawks positional groups as we slowly creep towards the start of training camp.
In a welcome change from previous seasons during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, let's take a look at the offensive tackle positions, which may be one of the most stable on Seattle's entire roster.
Projected Starters: Duane Brown, Germain Ifedi
Entering his third year with the team, Brown remains the undisputed leader of Seattle’s offensive line. Set to turn 34 in August, the veteran has shown no signs of slowing down to this point and remains one of the most reliable players at his position while protecting quarterback Russell Wilson. Though he didn’t return to the Pro Bowl for a second straight year, he started all 16 games and received the fifth-highest grade for any tackle (82.3) from Pro Football Focus in one of his finest professional seasons.
On the opposite side of the line, Ifedi may have benefited from the arrival of coach Mike Solari than any other lineman on the roster. After struggling with penalty issues and pass protection woes during his first two years in the league, he nearly cut his accepted penalty total in half compared to 2017 and made significant strides working against athletic edge rushers as the season progressed. Following Seattle’s decision to decline his fifth-year player option, he’ll be looking to take another jump forward heading towards unrestricted free agency next March.
Reserves: George Fant, Jamarco Jones, Elijah Nkansah
Brought back on a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, Fant will once again be in the mix competing at both tackle spots while also moonlighting as a tight end. The former Western Kentucky basketball standout returned from a severe knee injury that cost him the entire 2017 season to play in all 16 games last year, including making seven starts. He also caught his first career NFL reception on Monday Night Football against the Vikings and based on comments from coaches this spring, he could have a chance to make a few more plays in the passing game this season.
Returning from an ankle injury that ended his rookie season in mid-August, Jones will aim to get back to where he left off and compete for snaps at either tackle spot. The former Ohio State starter may not have a starting opportunity in 2019, but with Brown aging into his mid-30s and both Ifedi and Fant set to hit the free agent market after this season, his development will be crucial for Seattle’s future in the trenches.
Signed to the practice squad last September, Nkansah eventually earned a promotion to the active roster in mid-December and made his NFL debut against the Chiefs in Week 15. He only played one offensive snap, but made it count with a kickout block that allowed running back Chris Carson to find the end zone for six. With Fant and Jones in front of him, he may be looking at a return to the practice squad as insurance at both tackle spots.
What to Watch: There’s not much drama to be had at tackle barring injury, though right tackle could become interesting if Ifedi shows signs of regression and either Fant or Jones outperforms him during training camp. But assuming Ifedi continues to improve and another veteran isn’t surprisingly added to the fold, he and Brown should be locked in as starters, while Fant and Jones will provide quality depth behind them.
Stat to Know: As a clear sign that a new sheriff was in town coaching the offensive line, the Seahawks led the NFL by running 38 trap run plays in 2018. According to Pro Football Focus, they averaged over five yards per carry, sixth-best out of 12 qualifying teams.
X-Factor: Before succumbing to an ankle injury during the preseason opener against the Colts and landing on injured reserve, Jones looked primed to unseat a struggling Ifedi as the Seahawks starting right tackle. After opening training camp working behind Brown on the left side, coach Pete Carroll and Solari decided to give him a shot on the right side to put pressure on the former first-round pick. Solari lauded Jones for his ability to adapt quickly and if he’s able to recapture how he performed last summer, a potential face-off between him and Ifedi could commence.
Prediction: The Seahawks should open the season with the most experienced, battle-tested offensive line they’ve had during the Carroll era. Along with Brown and Ifedi returning as starters at both tackle spots, Fant should see extensive snaps as a sixth lineman and will be ready to step in at either position in a pinch if needed. As for Jones, he will be given plenty of work during training camp and Solari will continue to groom him as a potential replacement for Ifedi in 2020. Nkansah will be brought back as a practice squad signing in case injuries strike during the season.