What does Shane Waldron want for Shane Waldron?
Seaside Joe 1159: The offensive line comes first, the quarterback comes next
This is what the Seattle Seahawks offense looked like prior to Shane Waldron’s arrival as the offensive coordinator in 2021:
If we reach a little deeper, add Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, and DeeJay Dallas to the running backs; Jacob Hollister and Colby Parkinson to the tight ends; Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, and Kyle Fuller to the offensive line; and Josh Gordon, Freddie Swain to the receivers group.
Now if the Seahawks were to release a depth chart today, how many changes would we see entering Waldron’s second season in charge of the offense?
QB - Wilson to Drew Lock (Geno Smith remains)
RB - Carson hands over duties to Penny and Kenneth Walker III
WR - Dee Eskridge is the most notable receiver addition
TE - Noah Fant steps in for Gerald Everett who stepped in for Greg Olsen
But perhaps most significant are the changes to the offensive line, which is probably where any offensive coordinator would want to start making adjustments in the mission to rebuild how the entire offense operates.
We will see at least an 80-percent turnover to the offensive line by 2022:
Duane Brown will be replaced by Charles Cross immediately at left tackle. Damien Lewis has shifted from right guard to left guard and after underwhelming in year two, may be in a fight for his job against Phil Haynes. Seattle made a notable trade for Gabe Jackson last offseason and has so far retained the veteran’s services at right guard. After spending an entire year riding the bench in Kansas City, Austin Blythe was signed to start at center after four seasons and 48 starts with the L.A. Rams. And the battle is on at right tackle between Jake Curhan, Stone Forsythe (both post-Waldron additions) and third round pick Abe Lucas.
There was a lot of post-draft talk about why the Seahawks would target two “pass-blocking” tackles. More than that, Seattle added two tackles who Waldron and fellow Sean McVay disciple Andy Dickerson feel fit into what they want to do with the Seahawks blocking scheme in the future. Same as the decisions that went into signing Blythe, trading for Jackson, and ultimately parting with the tackles (Brown, Brandon Shell, Ogbuehi) that Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer were keen on.
So what is it that Waldron wants to do? Keeping that a secret is part of the game behind the game and I’d caution against thinking that he intends to simply copy everything that he learned from McVay.
After all, when people talk about McVay, they talk about McVay. They don’t talk about Jon Gruden, Jay Gruden, or Mike Shanahan. And patience to find out what will make Waldron his own “guru” is key.
It’s at times like these that I always think back to Kyle Shanahan’s first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Many Falcons fans were crossing their fingers for Shanahan to be fired after one year—the team scored 42 fewer points than the previous year under Dirk Koetter and dropped from 11th to 23rd in passing touchdowns—but Dan Quinn cautioned everyone that “it takes a couple of years” when you make that transition at offensive coordinator.
2014 Falcons offensive line:
2015 Falcons offensive line:
From 2014 to 2015, the Falcons got better at left guard with the acquisition of Andy Levitre and right guard with veteran Chris Chester. They also replaced center James Stone that year, but Mike Person was only a stopgap. It was also in 2015 that Atlanta signed tight end Jacob Tamme and drafted running back Tevin Coleman in the third round, but the most important change was coming a year later.
2016 Falcons offensive line:
In 2016, the Falcons signed star center Alex Mack to a five-year, $45 million contract and could at least feel like most of their offensive line was now above average-to-great and most importantly, fit with what Shanahan wanted to do in front of Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Coleman. The Falcons also added receiver Mohamed Sanu and drafted tight end Austin Hooper in the third round.
The 2016 Atlanta Falcons ranked first in points, first in net yards per pass attempts, fifth in rushing yards and yards per carry, and had the fewest turnovers in the NFL—while only ranking 26th in pass attempts.
How much more transitioning will Seattle need to do with their offense before Waldron has his pieces in place?
Clearly, the Falcons couldn’t have gotten as far as they did in 2016 without Matt Ryan and the Rams were unable to win the Super Bowl until after replacing Jared Goff with Matthew Stafford. I can’t endorse the idea that the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator has found his ideal quarterback yet. A few days ago, Shane Waldron broke down some of Drew Lock’s film with former Cougs receiver Michael Bumpus and highlighted parts of the fourth-year QB’s game that he really likes:
At 2:45, Waldron emphasizes how important it is for Lock to “trust his offensive line” and that when he does that, big plays are possible thanks to Lock’s strong arm, good decision making, and poise in the pocket.
But these traits, like pretty much Seattle’s entire current offensive line, are only good in theory. We’ve yet to see Lock work out in practice for more than one or two games at a time when he was with the Denver Broncos.
Of course, it’s harder to stick in the pocket and make those passing plays when you don’t trust the o-line and clearly the Seahawks have been in a place for far too long where that belief does not exist. Whether Cross can be an upgrade to Brown in 2022 is unclear—it is the o-line position that most fans had the least amount of concern about heading into the offseason because of Duane Brown’s reputation as a Pro Bowl left tackle—but his future seems to be setting up to be the long-term solution that Seattle needed.
The fact that Blythe, Lewis, and Jackson are all now veterans of at least a few years (Lewis for the shortest amount of time, but he has more relevant recent experience than Blythe and a higher ceiling) is reason for hope. So is the fact that Waldron’s previous stop, the Rams, built their Super Bowl-winning offensive line off of patience and finding the right fit: Center Brian Allen didn’t become an NFL starter until year four, right guard Austin Corbett was cut by the Browns prior to landing as a guard with the Rams, left guard David Edwards was only a fifth round pick.
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I would also be encouraged by the fact that if right tackle ends up as Seattle’s weakness in the interim, that may be the least-worrying possibility of any of the possibilities. Despite some calls for the Seahawks to draft any tackle with their first round pick—even a right tackle—that’s not a theory I tend to agree with. Never worry about the right tackle position until after you’ve sewn up the left side.
Drafting Abe Lucas after Cross was a strong endorsement by Seattle that they believe they had immediately re-set left tackle with their number nine pick.
It now looks clearer than ever that the Seahawks are setting up to be successful—in 2023. Barring a historic change-of-scenery season by Lock, a Rashawn Slater-sized rookie season by Cross, and perhaps even the second and FINAL year of Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator (because if that happens, he’ll be swooped up as a head coach in a heartbeat), this upcoming campaign appears to be a re-do of getting Waldron’s pieces in place for the next version of the Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps some fans will even get their wishes for a star center next year.
What’s your current 2022 Seahawks record prediction following the draft? Let me know in the comments. How many points per game can Waldron get out of a Lock offense? Or will Geno Smith surprise everyone and grab the reins?