RENTON -- The offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks has long been viewed as a punchline whether deserved or not.
Even while the Seahawks were winning division titles, rushing titles and reaching the Super Bowl, the Seahawks offensive line was a group that frequently drew the brunt of criticism. While years of attrition through roster decisions did leave a dent in the capabilities of the group, the Seahawks have tried to secure a more functional unit over the last two seasons.
The acquisition of Duane Brown in trade from the Houston Texans in the middle of the 2017 season was the biggest boost to the unit. Free agent signings of D.J. Fluker last year and Mike Iupati this offseason add more credibility to the group as well. As the unit enters its second season under offensive line coach Mike Solari, Brown is extremely optimistic about what the group is capable of in 2019.
"Our line has a chance to be the best in the league," Brown said following practice on Wednesday. "We keep everyone healthy, the talent that we have, the mixture of youth and experience that we have, we have a chance to really be great and Mike has been a great addition for us."
The Seahawks had the best rushing attack in the NFL last season. They averaged 160.0 yards per game on the ground and their 33.4 attempts per game were second only to that of the Baltimore Ravens. The offense as a whole was tied for sixth in points per game, 26.8, with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The team returns four of five starters along the offensive line with J.R. Sweezy's departure to Arizona the only defection from the group. Iupati swaps places with Sweezy at left guard and brings a wealth of experience in Solari's system. Iupati played five seasons with the 49ers with Solari as the offensive line coach.
"I'm so happy we got him," Brown said. "I've been a big fan of his throughout the years watching him play in San Francisco and Arizona."
Brown, Justin Britt, Fluker and Germain Ifedi are all back for 2019. Additionally, George Fant, Jordan Simmons, Ethan Pocic, Jordan Roos, Joey Hunt and Elijah Nkansah provide an experienced group of reserves to compete for jobs in training camp. Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round pick last year, is also back after sustaining a torn ACL last year and missing his rookie season.
Without having to install a new system and with the numbers of pieces returning to the group for this season, Brown is extremely confident about the type of unit they can be.
"We're very comfortable," Brown said. "Having a year with him, with the system, you have your lumps that you get over. We ironed it out. You saw the production we had throughout (last) year and this year being a year better for it. This time of year is all about just getting the information, getting back up to speed on things, and we haven't missed a beat. We added Mike, he's stepped in and we haven't missed a beat. We're communicating everything well. No one is confused out there. Once we get pads on, the amount of physicality we'll play with will be demoralizing for defenses. So I'm looking forward to it."
-- Quarterback Geno Smith was back at practice after missing last week's OTA open to reporters to deal with a personal matter.
-- Jason Myers converted a 58-yard field goal attempt among his tries during the team periods of practice.
-- Running back Chris Carson (knee), safety Bradley McDougald (knee), defensive tackle Jarran Reed (sports hernia), defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), wide receiver Gary Jennings (hamstring) and linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven were among roughly 16 players to not take part in Wednesday's session. Linebacker Bobby Wagner continues to be a spectator as he is choosing not to practice and risk injury heading into the final year of his current contract with the team.
-- Actor Rainn Wilson, aka Dwight Schrute of The Office, attended practice on Wednesday. The Seattle native and Seahawks fan was thrown into a special teams drill where he held a field goal try for kicker Jason Myers. The attempt is below in a video posted to the Seahawks' twitter account.
Photo Credit: GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30: Offensive lineman Duane Brown #76 of the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)