'We have to improve fundamentals': Meet the man trying to fix Seattle's offensive line

RENTON, Wash. – It’s probably fair to say the average NFL fan doesn’t know the name of their favorite team’s offensive line coach.

It’s also fair to say the vast majority of Seattle Seahawks fans got to know Tom Cable’s name quite well over the past few years.

Cable, frequently the target of fans’ ire as the well-known leader of a notoriously underperforming unit, was replaced in the offseason by a man who fits the mold of anonymous offensive line coach so perfectly that you could be forgiven for not knowing Mike Solari is beginning his second stint with the team.

Solari, who was hired by Mike Holmgren in 2008 (Holmgren’s last year in Seattle) for what turned out to be a two-year gig with the Hawks, said he decided to come back because he wanted to work with another top-tier head coach.

“The key thing in my background that I’ve always taken great pride in is the head coaches I worked for and worked with,” Solari said during an exclusive interview with the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX. “I’ve moved many times just because I wanted to be associated with that head coach and just find out what makes them such a great teacher, a great coach. Whether it was a Mike Holmgren – I knew it was only going to be one year, but it was worth it to me and my family to be with Mike, to see why he was such a great coach and a great teacher. That’s just part of the profession I love, given the opportunity.

“Being with Pete Carroll – I mean, what a great coach. What a great communicator. What a great job he does getting the most out of his players. What a great job being in San Francisco, competing with him all the time. What a great job he did to get that young nucleus to play at such a high level. Wow.”

Solari didn’t comment on the path blazed by Cable, who now holds the same job with the Oakland Raiders. He did say he’s going to start with the basics as he molds his line.

“I think the key thing, the emphasis, is fundamentals,” Solari said. “Fundamentals and techniques. We just have to improve on our fundamentals. The details, the precision of the blocking unit. We just have to crystallize some things and make sure we’re better. Striking with leverage coming off the ball. Being more physical. And being able to control the line of scrimmage, both in the run and the pass.”

A core focus for Solari – and just about everybody else on the Seahawks’ payroll – will be regaining the team’s mojo in the running game. Seattle picked up just 1,629 yards on the ground last year and 1,591 the year before that after averaging 2,406 the three years previous.

“The great thing that Pete has done with this program, this organization, is to compete every day,” Solari said. “So, in my mind, every man is competing. Just like coaches: We’re competing to be the best teachers we can be, to improve our communication, our teaching ability, our skills, and communicating with the players so they know exactly what you want. Exactly. Making sure it’s crystal clear.”

Solari’s still getting to know his line, of course, but he had some early thoughts on some of his key question marks:

On D.J. Fluker: "You bring a young man that loves the game. He has tremendous passion, and he’s strong, he’s powerful, you love the way he plays the game. You love the toughness he brings, you love the passion he brings. He makes the offensive line better just walking in the room with his presence, with his … how to be a pro."

On Jamarco Jones: "We liked what we saw in his athletic ability, we liked the way he operated in space. He’s a smart football player, and yet he needs to be developed, he needs to get stronger and so forth. And yet, all young players have things that they need to improve on. We’re excited about Jamarco, we’re excited about him putting the pads on and competing and ascending as a young football player."

On Ethan Pocic: "You like the way Ethan goes about his business. He’s a hard worker, he’s smart, he takes pride in how he goes about his work. Everything you ask him to do, he does. He’s worked hard in the offseason program, he’s done a beautiful job. We’re excited to see him in pads. It makes a big difference for offensive linemen in pads. So we’re excited to see how he’s developed, how he’s grown. He’s done some real nice things, developing his skills and techniques and fundamentals. Now we’ve got to be able to take that from the offseason into the season when the pads come on and be able to execute that at a high level in the preseason games and take it into the season. We’re excited where Ethan’s at right now, and he’s just gotta be able to take that into the pads and put that into his game."

On George Fant competing to be the starting right tackle: "I believe he will compete. We haven’t been able to get him on the field. But again, he’s in the classroom, he’s learning, and the key thing again is you’ve got to drill it, to be able to teach it, to be able to make it a habit, where you don’t have to think about it. You can just go out there and execute and perform at a high level. But again, he will be one of the top offensive linemen competing."

On Germain Ifedi potentially moving back to guard: "They’re all competing. Like Pete always says: He wants to get the best football players on the football field. So the best five players will be on the offensive field at the same time."