Seattle Seahawks

J.R. Sweezy is back. Can he be as successful in Seahawks’ new man blocking as he was in zone?

The Seahawks on Wednesday brought back former starting right guard J.R. Sweezy (73). Sweezy signed a free-agent contract after two, injury-filled years and only 14 games played with Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks on Wednesday brought back former starting right guard J.R. Sweezy (73). Sweezy signed a free-agent contract after two, injury-filled years and only 14 games played with Tampa Bay. AP

The Seahawks’ offensive line is bringing back an old face to try in its new system.

The team on Wednesday signed free-agent guard J.R. Sweezy, who started for Seattle when it won Super Bowl 48 four years ago.

The Seahawks waived guard Avery Young with an injury designation to make room for Sweezy on their 90-man preseason roster. Young signed this offseason as a free agent as was a deep reserve.

Sweezy left the Seahawks before the 2016 season. His $32.5 million contract offer from Tampa Bay in free agency that spring was too rich for Seattle to even consider matching.

Sweezy, 28, lasted only two, injury-shortened seasons and 14 games played on that five-year contract. The Buccaneers released him last month. He didn’t play in a game for them in 2016 following back surgery he got soon after signing. He started the first 14 games of the 2017 season for the Buccaneers before injuring his leg and going on injured reserve. He had knee surgery. That put him out of Bucs workouts this offseason.

At first glance it appears the Seahawks are getting back a blocker familiar with their offense and system.

But Seattle is bringing Sweezy back to a different system than the one he left two years ago.

The question is whether he can have the same success with new offensive line coach Mike Solari’s man-, drive-blocking system as Sweezy did in former line coach Tom Cable’s zone-blocking scheme with the Seahawks from 2012-15. New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer estimates 30 percent of the Seahawks’ playbook is new from what he and Solari want to do this season.

Sweezy was Cable’s most successful project. The coach turned the former defensive tackle in college at North Carolina State into a seventh-round pick then Super Bowl-champion starting guard in the NFL.

The veteran of 59 games, 49 starts, in his league career goes into a Seattle line that lacks proven, experienced depth. The Seahawks have 2017 second-round draft choice Ethan Pocic starting at left guard and newly signed road-grader D.J. Fluker at Sweezy’s old spot at right guard.

Pocic has gotten stronger since making his debut as a Seahawks rookie last year. But at 6-feet-7 he needs to continue to work on leverage and staying low out of his stance to do Solari’s drive blocking.

Fluker missed much of Seattle’s offseason work following a knee injury that limited his 2017 season with the New York Giants (where Solari was coaching last season) to six games.

Sweezy’s first practice in his Seahawks return is likely to be Thursday when the team returns from a Wednesday’s day off from the field in training camp.

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