RENTON -- It was a yearly refrain from former Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable.
We're looking for the five best guys on the offensive line.
That search for the five best guys usually resulted in swapping players in and out of several positions, experimenting with position changes, replacing injured pieces and, eventually, settling on a starting five that likely wouldn't finish the season in the same roles or positions.
Barring some minor adjustments in training camp - mostly for injury or disciplinary reasons - the Seahawks have had the same starting five together on the offensive line: Duane Brown at left tackle, Ethan Pocic at left guard, Justin Britt at center, D.J. Fluker at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle.
Whether that continuity up front will create a marked difference in play from the unit remains to be seen. That's why they play the season after all. But the stable five up front has left a strong impression with another important piece of the puzzle.
"For the first time in a while, in my opinion, really since probably the year we won the Super Bowl, we've had a consistent offensive line in practice and that consistency is huge," quarterback Russell Wilson said after practice on Thursday. "Obviously guys fill-in every once in a while but I think that all the way from the left side to the right side, we're really solidifying out line, what we're doing, the calls and everything else. It makes a difference. It makes a big difference in communication and how guys step up and how they play."
Willie Beavers has rotated in at both right guard on days where Fluker was managing a knee injury. Isaiah Battle took snaps at right tackle when Ifedi was booted out of the team's scrimmage last week for a pair of penalties. But the core grouping has been the same since day one of camp. Really, it's been the same all offseason outside of Beavers working at guard in place of Fluker in OTAs.
Getting the line of scrimmage working better offensively has been Seattle's top priority all offseason. Whether it's re-establishing a rushing attack that was completely ineffective last season, or giving Wilson and the passing game more time to operate, it all begins with the offensive line. The firing of Cable was followed by the addition of Mike Solari as the team's new line coach. While the schematic shift has probably been oversold - the Seahawks are still a zone blocking offense first and foremost - Solari has brought different teaching techniques and emphases to the table.
"I think coach Mike Solari is doing a tremendous, tremendous job," Wilson said. "We were in the meeting room yesterday actually and just how he installs certain things or really talks about football, talks about what they're going to do, what we're going to do ... to listen to coach Mike Solari really explain blocking schemes and what we're trying to do in the pass protection game and why we're trying to do it and really explain the whys of football. And his meetings are really interactive, you learn a lot. It's cool just to watch one of the best offensive line coaches in the game of football - he's been that for a long time - to have him on our football team is a good thing."
It was a small sample size but the first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts seemed to be a strong first showing. Russell Wilson had time to throw on every passing drop he made on his only drive against the Colts. Running lanes were created for Chris Carson and Mike Davis on the first two possessions (Rashaad Penny wasn't quite as lucky). The biggest negative was likely the one false start penalty by Fluker.
"They felt strong," head coach Pete Carroll said of the line earlier this week. "They gave Russ a lot of nice spacing. Pocket was very solid. He moved because he didn’t find the receivers where he needed to find them, open, so he moved to make them open and he did it. It just felt better."
Given the struggles of the group over the past two seasons, the performance against the Colts was a nice opening act. It doesn't ensure anything for games that count. However, having your quarterback mention how much the consistency up front has helped even at this early stage can only be seen as a positive.
-- Training camp came to a close without free safety Earl Thomas reporting to the team. Thomas can be fined $40,000 a day ($680,000 for 17 days) and the Seahawks can recover $475,000 of his signing bonus proration for the year due to his extended hold out. When combined with the $84,435 he was fined for his absence from the team's mandatory mini-camp in June, Thomas has amassed just over $1.2 million in fines. However, the fines are collected at team discretion.
-- Running back Mike Davis was back at practice after missing Wednesday's session with a sore toe.
-- Wide receiver Tyler Lockett sat out practice after a collision with cornerback Elijah Battle in practice on Wednesday.
-- Brandon Marshall continues to look better just about every day. While the veteran receiver has shown a knack for working in the red zone, Marshall showed he can still perform between the 20's as well. He caught passes breaking over the middle of the field in front of Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman during Thursday's practice.
-- Linebacker Erik Walden has not yet reported to the team after reportedly agreeing to terms on a deal on Wednesday. With a game upcoming on Saturday and only a walkthrough practice remaining on Friday, it's possible he could wait to sign with the team until early next week. The team would have to clear a roster spot for Walden's addition.
-- Safety Bradley McDougald said Thursday he's now fully concentrating on strong safety for the Seahawks.
"At this point I’ve totally transitioned my mind to strong safety," McDougald said.
That's notable because it means Tedric Thompson has all but certainly become the presumptive starter at free safety (assuming Earl Thomas doesn't show up for the start of the season).
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 09: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the Indianapolis Colts at CenturyLink Field on August 9, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)