Sunday's Seahawks game was a refreshing, hard fought matchup with lots of interesting, pertinent angles. We'll take it slow this week and attempt to ring out as much information as we can from the tape. Today, we'll talk mostly about the line. From a heartening showing from Seattle's left side to an occasionally dominant showing from its right, and Steve Vallos somewhere in the middle of it all.
Steve Vallos, I hardly knew thee: In the beginning, I was high on Steve Vallos. Vallos was a multiple All-America tackle and four year starter. He didn't have the size or strength to play tackle at the next level, but I thought he could make a valuable sub at either guard or center. A versatile and capable second string linemen is good value for a seventh round pick.
At that same time, I was skeptical about Brandon Mebane.
I think if you're consumed by a need to have been right, you're guaranteed to be wrong. Scouts questioned Vallos' ability to play at the next level. They were right. He's easily shed or bullied when isolated and looks a bit like a bird grooming an elephant when support blocking. Vallos is a huge man and surely a great athlete, but he's not huge enough or athletic enough to cut it in the NFL. Seattle is sure to upgrade its center depth. That might start this season.
Sean Locklear, the future...?: As a top player on Super Bowl dynasty, Richard Seymour has an outside shot at the Hall of Fame. He's good enough.
The knock on Sean Locklear is his size, strength, resilience and ability to hold up against more powerful ends. Seymour, outsized, powerful, in his prime and nearing a career high in sacks should be the perfect foil for Locklear. Locklear is shorter and even lighter than Seymour. Seymour is the best 3-4 end in the NFL. Locklear was on the wrong side of the line.
But Locklear handled Seymour: Working well in space when pulling, retarding Seymour's bull rush, getting adequate push on run plays, recording three bona fide good blocks and only once getting shed/beat. For all the talk about Seattle needing a left tackle of the future, I'm not so sure Seattle doesn't see Sean Locklear as its left tackle of the future. He regularly starts at left during practice, and in what game time he's had, has played well. Fans tend to want to replace their best player with a comparable protégé. Locklear may not be Plato, but a team could win with him. I hope Holmgren exercises some prudence and restraint and sits Walter Jones. Why needlessly risk the future Hall of Fame inductee? Why rob Seattle a chance to test Locklear at left tackle?
Floyd Womack. Just Floyd Womack: Womack does what he does. He's good at run blocking and probably the most assignment correct of Seattle's remaining offensive linemen. He doesn't pass block well and gets gassed on longer drives. I don't think Womack sticks with Seattle but he could. Wherever he ends up, Womack has rebounded from a joke to a competent guard. All in all, that's something to feel good about.
Mansfield Wrotto pancakes Mike Wright: Wrotto can be a little clueless at times, milling between defenders looking for someone to block, but he's also the most aggressive guard Seattle has had since Steve Hutchinson and probably the strongest. Wrotto has that rare quality of taking every matchup personally and when he does get beat initially, has a vendetta gear.
On the eleventh play of Seattle's epic first drive, Wrotto unleashed his vendetta gear on reserve nose tackle Mike Wright. This probably doesn't happen against Vince Wilfork.
Seattle sets 3 WR, TE, Rb. New England sets in a 3-3 nickel with Wright playing over the right "A" gap. At the snap, Wright gets over and around Wrotto's right shoulder. The pressure forces Wallace to fade slightly and then begin to move up into the pocket. Wrotto recovers, engages the attacking Wright and rides him into the turf. The downed linemen and dropping linebackers open a massive rush lane for Wallace who scrambles for 13 and the first.
Wrotto still isn't real technically sound. He's often staggered pass blocking but recovers well. His footwork pull blocking is good, but he doesn't always know where to go. But his strength and ability to physically dominate are impressive.
Ray Willis is one mean pachinko ball: Willis doesn't handle speed rushers well. He blew one block and chased a couple more. Should Seattle see him as a long term solution at right tackle, and they could and maybe even should, he's going to need the occasional handicap chip blocker.
Guy's big. When he uncoils, he looks like the biggest player on the field. He probably is. And for a big guy, he's rangy; looks projectable in the way scouts love.
On the eighth play of Seattle's first drive, Willis blindsided Bruschi and then chipped in for two more blocks to seal the inside.
Seattle sets 2 WR (Left), 2 TE (Right), Rb. The outside tight end recessed. A rare power formation Seattle flashed often on Sunday to compensate for its patched together offensive line. New England sets in a 3-4. Heller played inside tight, Carlson on the end. At the snap, Carlson engages Bruschi but gets no push. Willis turns perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and sprints straight at Bruschi's flank, delivering a jarring hit that removes Bruschi and with him New England's outside containment. Carlson is freed to move up and engage Jonathan Wilhite. Willis bounces back towards the interior and blocks two unidentified linebackers. Leonard Weaver rushes for seven.
Brandon Mebane consistently beat 2007 All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins: Mebane discarded Mankins and came free to the ball carrier three times in just 14 plays. Seriously, get this kid to the Pro Bowl. No Seahawk is more deserving.
Baraka Atkins was already heating up: He recorded two penetrations in the first and looked consistently disruptive. I hope Lawrence Jackson understands when he doesn't start next week.