*Includes all games minus Week 10, Divisional Round and the second half of Week 3 and the first half of week 1.
On the Morris draw in the redzone: The play call was fine, IMO, but Chris Gray caused a cascade effect that left Morris without a vital lead blocker. 8th play of Seattle's first drive, Hawks break with 3 wide receivers and an I formation. At the snap, Walter Jones, Rob Sims and Sean Locklear control their assignments, Chris Spencer orchestrates a very slick pull block, but Gray is obviously overwhelmed and steadily falling off his block.
On the third play of the Hawks' final series of the half, Seattle set up a modest screen to Leonard Weaver on 2nd and 15. I say modest because only Spencer was out lead blocking, but, boy, what a determined, dominant block Spencer was dishing out. Spencer, quietly, has really improved. He's not falling over, he's diagnosing blitzes and disengaging combo blocks to pick up free blitzers, and he's beginning to show his huge potential as a pull blocker.
Young and Old united in sucking: Jones and Chris Spencer each blew a block in the run game. Jones no longer sustains run blocks like he used to, something made that much more glaring by Alexander's maddening foxtrot behind the line of scrimmage. Spencer did what Spencer does, trip. On both plays, a better running back could have escaped, specifically, on Spencer's blown block Alexander needed only to run around the fallen defender (he had, in fact, tripped over the tripped Spencer) to get to the edge and two pulling blockers, but on both plays Alexander froze, allowed Cleveland to swarm around him and then he futilely cutback into the pile. We have to hope Jones has plateaued, that he's declined, but is not declining further. Not yet at least. Spencer's footwork is quickly rising to a paramount concern. The Hawks drafted him so he could be an athletic force pulling and picking up blitzes. If he can't move around without falling over, that potential disappears.
The Seahawks go for it. Half-a-yard and the drive's sustained, Seattle will have 3+ downs to crawl 10 yards into the outer limits of Brown's range. The Hawks break huddle with three wide receivers, Will Heller on the left end and Morris the lone back. At the snap, Rob Sims pulls, Chris Spencer springs upright against two Browns defenders and is exploded back, Sims glances off his blocker, and Morris does little more than plunge ahead into the barely visible crease between Sims and the collapsed Walter Jones. He's well short of the first. Browns' ball. Game over.
Quietly, like an approaching flash flood, Spencer turned the bend. In 2008, the churning, onrushing wall of blue and white arrives—maybe. Spencer was the first player ever drafted by Tim Ruskell. His profile: Ultra-toolsy but raw. It’s not surprising, then, that in his first three seasons Spencer endured persistent blown assignments and botched blocks. What startled, even scared was Spencer’s slippery feet and complete lack of power. But potential buys patience. Late in the season, as Chris Gray collapsed, Spencer began to get it. He wasn’t blowing through defenders or making highlight reel blocks, but he was assignment correct, moving efficiently through space, winning blocks off the snap and if never looking dominant, looking competent. The athletic force the Seahawks drafted needed only competent skills to be a top-tier center. Alas, that Spencer might be lost. For the second straight offseason, Spencer underwent shoulder surgery. How much that has contributed to Spencer’s apparent lack of explosiveness is beyond my ken, but for an offensive lineman, shoulder injuries can ruin careers. Depending on the power and resilience Spencer has left on the operating table, he could be a great center just entering his prime or a competent center hardly worth his draft slot. Stay tuned for Training Camp.