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Thiel: Offensive Line Is Seahawks' Weak Link

Kelvin Kuo
AP Photo
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles while under pressure from the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016.

The Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

Knkx sports commentator Art Thiel told 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick the team has a good shot at winning despite having one glaring weakness.

Offensive Line A Big Problem

"It's pretty grim right now," Thiel said about the team's offensive line. "There's no getting around it. The Seahawks have only 15 points in two games. They've scored one touchdown in 22 possessions against the Miami Dolphins and the L.A. Rams. That's just about [the] worst in the league.

"It's really been a problem and it's got two main ingredients. The first one is the play of [quarterback] Russell Wilson. He's limited by a high ankle sprain.

"There's some debate going on about whether Russell should be playing or sitting. Because an ankle sprain, typically, takes six weeks - like, no play. And Russell sprained it against Miami and a week later he's playing.

"There's a whole lot of people saying, 'Wait a minute. Sit this man down. Let him rest.' But Russell won't have it. And, really, they're not prepared to do it with a rookie backup quarterback. So, he's going to try to power through this."

Young Players Need Time To Gel

"The second problem is the line itself," Thiel continued. "Historically, the Seahawks save money by not paying the offensive line [much]. And they do that because every team has to make that kind of hard choice under the NFL salary cap.

"You can't fund all positions with top players all the time. You have to make tough decisions. And they trust assistant coach Tom Cable with the ability to coach these young guys up - the less experienced guys - and by mid-season, or so, they're competent.

"That's pretty much what happened last year. And they had a great run in the second half of last season. That part is vulnerable right now.

"They have four new guys in four different positions. Only Garry Gilliam at right tackle is a holdover from last year. So, they've really done a high-risk maneuver here and they're paying for it right now."

When Will It Get Better?

"It will improve with the return of their rookie first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi," Thiel said. "He plays right guard and he does it very well. But he hurt his his ankle. He sprained it, just like Russell, three days before the season opener.

"That left the Seahawks to put in J'Marcus Webb, a veteran guy. But he's not very good. So when Ifedi comes back, they're thinking that that's going to be a big part of the fix.

"I think it's going to take a little longer for everybody to become cohesive. And the risk is that they're going to fall into a thing that they had last year, where they lost too many games early. And, even though they recovered in the second half of the season, they wound up not getting the division title, which meant they started the playoffs on the road.

"And we remember the horrors of the frozen tundra of Minneapolis! The coldest game in Minnesota history. So, that's the kind of thing you want to avoid."

Should Beat The 49ers

Thiel said the Seahawks' chances for a win this Sunday are very good.

"They're playing a less formidable opponent. The two defensive lines they faced against the Dolphins and the Rams were really top-flight defenders. This week, I don't think that's the case.

"San Francisco is vulnerable defensively. And they're not all that great offensively in the first year of Chip Kelly, the former University of Oregon coach.

"So, fairly safe bet to say that they're going to prevail against the 49ers at home. Then they have to fly to New York and play the Jets. That's going to be a challenge.

"And, somewhere, somehow, Russell Wilson needs to sit down for a few days and put his feet up. I don't know if the schedule will allow."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.