In 2018, Germain Ifedi is better.
You can ascribe his improvement to a number of factors, weighted however you wish. I don’t care how you distribute the credit. I care that he’s better. This marks a disappointing turn of events for many fans who were heavily invested in him being bad and remaining bad. For him, and for the rest of us? Good news.
Ifedi has always been an easy guy to root for and an easy target for critics. The first-round pick arrived in Seattle with loads of natural talent, plenty of fire, the nasty streak you want in your linemen — but the steep learning curve at tackle in the NFL has been his biggest obstacle yet. After two years of, let’s be very honest, suboptimal results, including a bad habit of collecting penalties in 2017, he needed a solid ’18 to confirm the promise John Schneider saw in him a couple drafts prior.
And, this year, it’s happening; he’s better. It’s very simple. He used to be less good, now he is more good. It’s a new coaching perspective, or natural improvement, or the result of new effective work on his part, or that third-year bump we saw with Justin Britt, or maturation, or the fruit of experience — or possibly all of the above.
The ten plays below are representative of his last week of work, in the London Laugher. I’ve watched every clip of his run blocking and pass blocking from Weeks 5 and 6, multiple times of course, from multiple angles, via the magic of All-22 — and the following film study is a pretty honest recap of his performance.
(tl;dr? he’s better. he’s looked better all season, and he was outright good against Oakland. it’s rather neat.)
Play 1: 13:13 Q1, 1st and 10, ball on SEA 33
Fourth play of the game; fourth run. Third time going to the right side, too.
Arden Key has no chance from the snap, as Ifedi engages him, doesn’t let go with good hand technique inside the shoulder pads, maintains contact, and directs the defender out of position. Chris Carson gains eight. Behind another RT, or last year’s Ifedi, maybe it’s half of that.
Play 2: 10:11 Q1, 2nd and 10, ball on OAK 27
Chris Carson gains only two yards. What’s the big deal?
Watch 65 exclusively. He removes 55 from the play’s sphere of influence. He’s quickly in the second level. Remember that. We’re coming back to that ability later.
Play 3: 5:57 Q2, 2nd and 10, ball on OAK 27
For the third time in our tape study, Ifedi proves to be a tough dude to escape from. He’s holding his blocks today without holding, and without getting called for holding. Every offseason piece about Ifedi seemed to mention that he led not just the Seahawks, but the entire league in accepted penalties.
Knowing Pete Carroll’s distaste for OL penalties, specifically penalties that put the offense behind schedule, I would be shocked if a major portion of Ifedi’s offseason regimen wasn’t specifically working on how to manhandle a defender while avoiding cheap flags.
Above, Ifedi hangs on to 59 long enough to create space for Rashaad Penny, then releases soon enough to look clean. It’s actually pretty good technique. Maybe one of the advantages Ifedi has with 38 games of experience is knowing when to disengage now?
Play 4: 5:12 Q2, 2nd and 10, ball on OAK 49
More second-level presence and presence of mind. It’s a theme. Ifedi’s good at getting there and finding a body to push around — most the time. We’ll show a fail in that regard later. But enjoy this one for now.
Plays 5, 6 and 7: 0:39 and 0:34 Q2
Three consecutive pass plays. Three consecutive positive contributions, even if one doesn’t count because of a teammate’s penalty.
1) washes the DE out, 2) just plain nasty, playing past the whistle, retaliating for hands to the neck, and 3) takes over blocking responsibilities and locks Key up. Very smooth transfer in the last clip.
One other thing I’ve noticed: in pass pro, Ifedi projects a great deal of certainty in his pre-snap movements and preparation. Not to read too much into film, and not to read too much into his mind, but there appears to be a fresh confidence about his stance, a stability I’m not sure was always there in the past. He doesn’t look like a false start waiting to happen. He’s precise in his timing and his get-off.
Play 8: 0:30 Q2, 2nd and 15, ball on OAK 36
Ifedi loses the physics battle to a shorter D-tackle with a lower center of gravity.
Lacking leverage, Ifedi is quickly beat and Wilson has to scramble for a handful of yards, which is probably not the play Brian Schottenheimer drew up at the edge of field-goal range right before halftime.
This is Ifedi’s lone negative play — in my amateur opinion — of the entire second quarter. Out of 11 snaps.
Play 9: 8:06 Q3, 1st and 10, ball on SEA 33
Ifedi and George Fant assert their will even when the playcall takes the runner to the left side. They like contact. Which is good for an offensive lineman, on a running team. We saw a lot of Fant, flanking either tackle. On running and passing plays alike. Schottenheimer stayed unpredictable with personnel, a good sign.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fant claim 10-20 snaps again soon, especially against poor run defenses like Detroit and Kansas City.
Play 10: 2:57 Q3, 2nd and 9, ball on SEA 39
Here’s an example of Ifedi getting a little excited in the second level, with nobody in his immediate vicinity at first. He fails to make the kind of block that could lead to an explosive run.
The hole closed up pretty quickly anyway. This was once of only twice I saw Ifedi react, reach and wave with his arms instead of plowing into a fool. He’s built for the latter. It’s pretty cool to no longer see the former very often.
Charting + and –
The other part of watching one lineman for 63 plays (I included snaps on which a flag was thrown against the Seahawks, because why not?) is that you start to see the bigger picture.
The Seahawks ran 36 times, and I charted 21 positive plays for Ifedi, 14 neutral, and one negative. I don’t mean the play itself had a positive, neutral, or negative result. I mean his contribution was independently positive on 21 occasions, neutral most of the rest, and almost never negative.
On pass plays, Ifedi was less dominant. 17 positive snaps, five neutral and five negative. But not bad by any stretch, just less dominant. Let me rephrase: on 22 of 27 pass pro snaps, he didn’t endanger Wilson or the play. He was rarely a liability. He allowed one sack, on a play where Wilson held the ball for 3.5 seconds, and Key had enough time to close in pursuit after maneuvering around Ifedi. I’m inclined to believe the quarterback shares equal blame for getting hit there. Ifedi allowed another pressure. That’s it.
There’s plenty to be said for quality of opponent. The Raiders don’t have a Von Miller, or a Khalil Mack, because Ifedi got to see Mack in Chicago instead. The rookie Key lined up opposite Ifedi much of the day, and the Raider was no match physically for the Seahawks RT.
If the Seahawks are indeed going to run a disproportionately large amount of the time, they’ll be helped on rushing plays by Ifedi’s bulk, technique, savvy and ability to knife into the second level. They are unlikely to be hurt very often by his presence, and when they do, it could be for very few plays. The Lions game on Sunday will tell us a great deal about Ifedi’s staying power, and how much of a trend-setting performance his awesome game against the Raiders was — or how much of a blip.