When the Seahawks become disputatious for real Sept. 12 in Indianapolis, here’s my wager in early August for a new offensive starter: RT Cedric Ogbuehi.
Not because his contributions have been so noticeable in training camp. Hey, these guys haven’t put on pads yet. Evaluating offensive linemen before contact begins is like buying a car in a dark garage.
Ogbuehi stands out at the moment because he’s the lone player so far to draw what amounts to a public apology from coach Pete Carroll over a mistake in 2020.
“Competition is everything around here,” Carroll said Saturday, “and I missed that opportunity last year to give him the opportunity to show off where he fit.
“That’s my roots, and I just screwed it up. I didn’t do enough. So I’m going to do better.”
Carroll figured Ogbuehi (6-5, 308 pounds) fit the profile of a left tackle. Ogbuehi, 29, who signed a one-year free agent deal in March 2020 and then another worth $2.3 million this spring to stay in Seattle, wanted to play right tackle.
“I’m just a very right-hand, right-foot dominant person,” he said. “Everything just is more comfortable. This is one of those things the naked eye can’t see the difference from watching film. But myself, I just I feel different.”
Carroll didn’t pick up on that.
“Cedric looks like a left tackle, he was drafted in the first round (21st overall by Cincinnati in 2015 out of Texas A&M), has played left and right tackle, but I wanted him to develop as a left tackle,” he said. “He wanted to be a right tackle. He said that, and I didn’t give him enough credit for how important it was for him to compete at that spot.”
The Seahawks had durable fixture Duane Brown starting at left tackle. On the right side, Ogbuehi was beaten out in 2020 by Brandon Shell, also a free agent signee who got bigger money (two years, $9 million, $5 million guaranteed).
Ogbuehi played only 14 snaps until Week 11, when Shell sprained an ankle. But Ogbuehi’s first start the next week, a 23-17 win over Philadelphia, did not go well. Shell returned for the next two games before re-injuring the ankle. Ogbuehi was re-inserted to start the final three games against the tough defenses of the Rams, 49ers and Washington Football Team. Something changed.
Against them, he gave up combined three pressures, one QB hit and no sacks. A case could be made that he was playing as well as any Seahawks O-lineman not named Brown. Pro Football Focus graded him in those three games with an average score of 71.2. PFF graded Shell’s entire season at a career-high 71.4, after three years in the low 60s.
“He did do well,” Carroll said. “We don’t have any doubt about Cedric’s movement, ability, strength, all of that. He just has to grow and develop as the player that you can count on a regular basis, which he hasn’t had a chance to do.”
In his post-season exit interview with Carroll, Ogbuehi admitted being pissed off.
“I’m a competitor,” he said. “I was a little upset, and just telling him how I felt. He listened. This year, he’s giving me a better shot.
“Those three games, I got a chance to show what I can do. It was needed, especially because the first game versus the Eagles wasn’t my best.”
Carroll is committed to a 50/50 split of camp reps between Shell and Ogbuehi. The other contested O-line spot is between incumbent Ethan Pocic and challenger Kyle Fuller.
Brown, 36, who hasn’t practiced but is in camp, perhaps awaiting a contract extension, is entrenched. Last year’s rookie star at right guard, Damien Lewis, has moved to the left side to accommodate free-agent newcomer Gabe Jackson.
Despite QB Russell Wilson’s post-season sourness about poor pass protection, a unit that included the oft-injured and now-retired Mike Iupati, PFF ranked Seattle 16th in pass-blocking, the best of Wilson’s career. The entire O-line finished 14th.
This month, Carroll, while admitting misjudgment, isn’t handing the right tackle job to Ogbuehi.
“Brandon Shell is a terrific right tackle; we have no problem with B-Shell as our starting right tackle,” he said. “But now Cedric is going for it. He’s trying to get that job from him. It’s good, old-fashioned competition. They’re going to battle it out and the best man is going to win.”
Ogbuehi, who fell out of favor after four seasons in Cincinnati and played a season in Jacksonville before joining Seattle, knows it wasn’t just Carroll holding him back.
“As you grow as a player, I guess it takes some longer than others to truly find themselves,” he said. “Took me a while. Now I’m here and I feel like I’m ready. I’ve put the work in, so I just got to showcase it.”
It also can take some coaches longer to find them.