2011 Draft: The New Guys on the O-Line

Most of the commentaries I’ve read about Seattle’s 2011 draft class have been focused on two things: 1) what each player can do individually, and 2) how terrible it is that none of them are quarterbacks.  So, I thought I’d focus my analyses more on how the nine new Seahawks might fit in to the existing roster lineup and take some guesses as to how Carroll et al will use them on the field.

Since James Carpenter and John Moffitt were drafted first, it seems only fair to start by looking at the offensive line.  For reference, here are the guys the team currently has on the roster, followed by a list of notable free agents who were on the roster at some point during the 2010 season:

Name Position Age Measurements Years Left
on Contract
2010 Games
Started
Lemuel Jeanpierre Center 23 6’3″, 301 lbs 3 P. Squad
Max Unger Center/Guard 25 6’5″, 305 lbs 2 1 (of 1)
Paul Fanaika Guard 25 6’5″, 327 lbs 1 0 (of 0)
Mike Gibson Guard 25 6’3″, 298 lbs 1 8 (of 14)
John Moffitt Guard 24 6’4″, 319 lbs N/A N/A
Chris White Guard 28 6’2″, 295 lbs 1 0 (of 6)
Stacy Andrews Tackle/Guard 29 6’7″, 340 lbs 4 12 (of 13)
James Carpenter Tackle/Guard 22 6’5″, 321 lbs N/A N/A
Breno Giacomini Tackle 25 6’7″, 318 lbs 1 P. Squad
Russell Okung Tackle 23 6’5″, 310 lbs 5 10 (of 10)
William Robinson Tackle 26 6’5″, 297 lbs 1 0 (of 0)
Totals & Averages: - 25 6’4.6″, 311.9 lbs - 31 starts

 

Free Agent Position Age Measurements 2010 Games Started
Chris Spencer Center 29 6’3″, 309 lbs 16 (of 16)
Ben Hamilton Guard/Center 33 6’4″, 283 lbs 6 (of 7)
Chester Pitts Guard/Tackle 31 6’4″, 308 lbs 5 (of 7)
Mansfield Wrotto Guard/Tackle 26 6’3″, 316 lbs 0 (of 2)
Allen Barbre Tackle 26 6’4″, 303 lbs 0 (of 3)
Sean Locklear Tackle 29 6’4″, 310 lbs 15 (of 16)
Tyler Polumbus1 Tackle 26 6’8″, 300 lbs 7 (of 15)
Ray Willis1 Tackle 28 6’6″, 304 lbs IR
Totals & Averages: - 28.5 6’4.5″, 304.1 lbs 49 starts

On average, the offensive linemen the Seahawks have kept are younger and bigger than the guys they’ve let go, which more or less puts the final nail in the coffin of Alex Gibbs’ preference for smaller, veteran linemen.  Also, of the 80 regular season starts by the offensive line last year (5 linemen x 16 games), 49 were by players who are now free agents.  It might sound like a terrible idea to let that much experience walk out the door, but you have to take into account the quality of the players who aren’t coming back.  It’s no secret that the o-line wasn’t a strength last season.  Besides, 31 of those 49 starts were by Locklear and Spencer; both have failed to play up to expectations, and both have obvious replacements already on the roster.

With Okung entrenched at left tackle and Unger the likely starter at center, the only spots left available for Carpenter and Moffitt to fill are right tackle and both guard positions.  John Schneider has already gone on the record as saying that Carpenter is penciled in at right tackle and Moffitt at right guard, which would give us this o-line:

Okung – ? – Unger – Moffitt – Carpenter

Aside from the hole at left guard, that does look like a pretty decent way to go.  But before I begin to accept that as the most likely plan, I want to hear what happens to Stacy Andrews.

Andrews was a failure at right guard last year, so much so that he was benched toward the end of the season, but his natural position is tackle.  He was very effective in that role for Cincinnati in ’07 and ’08, then signed a big contract with the Eagles in ’09 and spent the year recovering from a knee injury and sucking at right guard.  I’m still not entirely sure why he wasn’t given a shot at the starting RT job in Seattle last season, but now that Locklear’s gone I’d love to see him get the opportunity to prove he can handle it.  If he does well enough in that role to justify his contract figures, then Carpenter can move to guard (he proved he could handle the switch at the Senior Bowl) and erase that unsightly question mark:

Okung – Carpenter – Unger – Moffitt – Andrews

But regardless of what happens to Andrews, we’re talking about starting two rookies on the offensive line in 2011.  Remember San Francisco last year, with rookie LG Mike Iupati and rookie RT Anthony Davis both starting?  Even factoring in Mike Singletary’s erratic coaching, Iupati and Davis made more than their share of mistakes last season and I expect to see much the same from Carpenter and Moffitt in their first year out. 

I know Okung looked like a seasoned veteran right from the get-go, but it’s a rare talent that makes the transition from college to the pros look that seamless.  I doubt Carpenter and Moffitt will pull off a similar performance; two rookies in the same unit means there’ll be one less veteran on the field to help them out, and starting both of them on the same side of the line will further compound their inexperience.

However, I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m down on these guys.  If Schneider and Carroll are correct in their assessment of our new o-linemen, then we can look forward to watching a couple of nasty, ill-tempered road graders who will delight in bulldozing defenders and improve steadily as the season wears on.  With any luck, they’ll prove me wrong by keeping their mental lapses to a minimum and keep their QB’s jersey clean even if they’re tasked with protecting one whole side of the pocket by themselves.  Besides, they’d have to fail pretty hard to be worse than the starting o-line the Seahawks fielded last year:

Okung/Polumbus – Hamilton/Gibson/Pitts – Spencer – Unger/Andrews/Gibson – Locklear

Here’s to a far less injury-riddled offensive line (and a consequently less-injured QB) in 2011.

1 Rumor has it that either Polumbus or Willis will be re-signed as backups.  Willis has been relatively solid over the years, but the knee problems he’s battled his entire pro career landed him on injured reserve before the beginning of last season.  Polumbus is less of an injury concern than Willis, which is appealing in a backup, but he’s also a less effective player.

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