Last year, the Seahawks’ offensive line was in question. They saw a laundry list of injuries to the position, over 10 starting personnel combinations, and their coach, Alex Gibbs, abruptly announcing his retirement before the beginning of the season.
This was a recipe for disaster, but the team managed to make it into the playoffs for an unlikely victory against the then-defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
That didn’t stop Pete Carroll and John Schneider from using the draft to completely overhaul the offensive line, however.
And just as they did with the o-line in 2011, the Seahawks’ front office has given its fullest attention to the team’s biggest issue at the end of the 2012 season: The pass rush.
Using their first-round pick on a guy nobody saw coming — West Virginia DE/LB Bruce Irvin — they showed no hesitation in going after their guy, their way, when they could have them — critics and naysayers be damned.
Irvin addresses the pass rush in the most immediate sense for the Seahawks, as he now-famously indicated in his first radio interview following the selection:
“I love to eat quarterbacks,” he said.
Irvin was second in the country in sacks in his senior season with the Mountaineers with 14. His highlight footage tells the story.
The Seahawks followed by selecting Bobby Wagner, another linebacker, out of Utah State. While Wagner hasn’t been lauded as a pass-rushing specialist like Irvin, his tape brings to mind first-round pick Luke Keuchly, for his instincts, nose for the ball and tackling ability. His addition is a key grab for the Seahawks this year, given the departure of free agent MLB David Hawthorne to the Saints. Someone has to come in and fill the shoes of 100+ tackles, and Wagner appears as though he’s up to the challenge.
Carroll and Schneider didn’t stop there. Later-round picks including DE Jaye Howard, a monster of a man from Miami who was referred to widely as an “athletic freak.” He’ll add more to the pass rush and brings the size and skills necessary to compete for playing time from Day One.
Linebacker Korey Toomer followed, along with DTs Gregg Scruggs and J.R. Sweezy in the seventh round. Sweezy will be converted to guard, however, and Scruggs doesn’t have the size to immediately make an impact on the field.
The Seahawks’ tactics and strategy have been a mystery to several analysts and so-called experts this year, but sometimes, unconventional is effective. Sometimes taking a reach into some territory most other teams considered uncharted is the way to succeed, and Pete Carroll has demonstrated his ability to do that in his career.
But one thing cannot be ignored from this draft, at the end of the day — the pass rush has been addressed, and then some. The Seahawks have a group of immensely talented and even underrated players joining the team this weekend, and their skills could bring the answers where there have only been questions for far too long.