The Offensive Line Rebuild
I think that everyone can freely acknowledge that the offensive line is in shambles. We’re going to take as a given that something needs to change. [One caveat I will add is that not all great teams have great offensive lines. We look at the 2005 team as our barometer because that's how WE were successful, but that was a team with a clear offensive identity. This team does not have that same identity (do they have any identity?). The 2012 Seahawks will likely be more like the 2007 Ravens than the 2005 Seahawks if we continue on this trajectory.]
Assuming that there is no uncapped year in 2010, which looks less likely every passing day but still ought to be our baseline assumption, Rob Sims and Chris Spencer will both be unrestricted free agents after this year. Ray Willis will be a UFA in 2011. What do we really need to rebuild this line? Read on…
Locklear is fine at RT, Willis is better — more of a mauler — but his chronic knee pain continues to concern me. How long can you rely on a guy who is in pain all the time? I don’t know the answer to that. Behind Willis and Locklear is Brandon Frye who looked decent at LT in his first three starts, but his injury could potentially be career threatening (not that anyone has cared enough to update us). Kyle Williams is not an option. Still, we’re okay at RT for at least another year.
Max Unger has been really stepping up the last two weeks and is arguably the best zone blocking lineman we have right now. He still needs a fair amount of work, but don’t be surprised if the Hawks keep Unger at guard for another year. We all view him as the long-term center, but it takes a long time for most centers to get right in the NFL. Robbie Tobeck, for example, played guard for most of his early career before moving over and becoming a very good center. If Unger does slide over next year, Manny Wrotto or Sean Locklear could play guard. Neither is a particularly appealing answer, but I still believe it will be Unger.
Chris Spencer has been playing quite well this year, even over the last two games with a broken right thumb. People appear to finally be laying off the guy, and I think if the Hawks can sign him to a reasonable contract in this offseason, he is a fine fit at center for the next couple of years while we let Unger mature. If not, Unger goes in early. Either way, we may draft center/guard depth, but it seems unlikely with the team trusting Vallos as that depth.
Rob Staton has pointed out a fine physical specimen at guard and I’m sold. Rodney Hudson is a junior at Florida State University and is an absolute stud. I know it can be painful to watch the Seminoles play, but if you get a chance, check him out. He’s a beast, and, if he declares, he’s probably the most complete interior lineman in the draft. Could the Seahawks spend two first round picks on the offensive line? Why not? At this point, it’s unlikely the Hawks are very good next year, so build the offensive line up this offseason and give the running game and Matt a chance to succeed. More important than incredible skill on an O-Line is chemistry and familiarity. That’s what the 2005 team had, that’s what the Giants have had, that’s what the Steelers have. If you have Unger – Hudson – Okung (see next section) playing 16 games straight together (injuries notwithstanding) they will start melding and you could end up with a very, very good line sooner rather than later.
This is the obvious one. Sean Locklear is not the answer, period, end of story. He’s not even the multiple choice option that tricks students, he’s (D), the “oh, that wily teacher of mine, Ha!” answer. Unfortunately, Ruskell didn’t realize he was being ironic when he paid Lock LT money. Not only is Locklear not the answer at left tackle, but he’s our second best right tackle and possibly a better fit to play guard than either tackle spot. Realistically, Damion McIntosh outperformed Locklear in his two starts despite having only been in the system two weeks. He also faced easier tasks, but still.
So we need a left tackle, we need one who can start quickly, and we need one who is young. We attack this spot in the draft. Currently, the Seahawks are slated with the #5 pick in the draft (five teams have a 3-7 record, the Hawks have the worst strength of schedule thus far with .488). The only tackle worth taking at that spot is Russell Okung out of Oklahoma State. It is rare for the best tackle in the draft to slip to #5 of late, but there are a lot of potential superstars in front of Okung: Ndamakong Suh, Eric Berry, whoever the top two quarterbacks end up being between Bradford, Clausen, and Locker.
So, really, our O-Line is not good, but it’s not atrocious. We need two key spots filled, and really, we’re only desperate for the Left Tackle if we can re-sign Rob Sims, who has played very well considering. Rodney Hudson would be an upgrade over him though, and Sims could presumably go back to RG if we did keep him. My ideal line entering the 2010 season: Okung – Hudson – Spencer – Unger – Willis. What do you guys think? Is there any chance the Seahawks would spend two firsts on the Offensive Line? It seems highly unlikely, especially when we clearly need a big presence on the defensive line… still. Your thoughts?