Understanding Rob Sims Starting at Left Guard for the Seattle Seahawks

Seattle's offensive line is volatile, but one position that seems close to decided is left guard. Rob Sims is Seattle's starting left guard. That's a reversal. The team moved him to right guard to accommodate Mike Wahle in 2008. Sims played right guard at Seattle's 2009 mini camps, too. So why has the team shifted him back?

Mike Wahle was forced to retire by shoulder injuries. That's the company line. Sims, among Seattle's remaining personnel, has the most experience at left guard. Sims played his senior season at Ohio State at left guard, started five games including two playoff games for Seattle at left guard in his rookie season, and played 18 games including two playoff games the following season, 2007. So it's not unprecedented for Sims to play left guard nor is he inexperienced. It's just that he wasn't well suited for Mike Holmgren's system.

Holmgren wanted a guard that could pull, trap and cross block. He wanted a drive blocker at left guard with good feet and exacting timing. He wanted Steve Hutchinson. Hutchinson Sims wasn't. In Holmgren's system, Sims was better fit at right guard. He didn't need to be Hutch or carry the rushing offense. Sims could do what he does well: pass block and be dominant within his space. Not that Holmgren didn't want more from his right guard, but he could better suffer Sims inadequacies there. The Seahawks didn't need a great right guard. The Greatest Seahawks of all time, Walter Junior Jones, would not be wasted by a limited right guard.

Holmgren is gone and Seattle no longer needs a left guard that can execute Holmgren's refined style of drive blocking. Greg Knapp's zone blocking system has different standards. It needs a guard with the power to double-team and dominate a nose tackle. It needs a guard that can make quick reads. It needs a guard that can run quickly in a straight line. And a bendy line. But not a retreating semi-circular line. Potentially it needs a guard that can pull across the line and cut block. But if Sims can't do that (he can't) Seattle can assign other, more capable personnel (like Sean Locklear, Max Unger, John Carlson and John Owens) to pull and cut and execute the more technical assignments of a zone blocking system.

Now I'm not so sure about Sims and the bendy lines thing. He can run in a straight line surprisingly well. He was quoted at his pro day saying "...these are the things that I'm good at. Running and jumping," and he backed that statement with a 5.25 forty and 30" vert on a bad hamstring. The bendy line thing will reveal itself quick enough during the preseason. But if Seattle is committed to starting Sims, and given its talent pool it should be, it has a very good reason to keep him at left guard: For all his pass blocking technique and in-the-box power, Sims struggles against better three-tech defensive tackles. His most embarrassing series in 2007 came against Darnell Dockett. The Cardinals shifted Dockett to the defensive right and Dockett blew through Sims on three consecutive plays. Seattle went three and out. Sims struggled against Dockett's speed off the line. Sims is a good pass blocker, but his specific strength is holding ground against powerful nose-tackle types. He holds the integrity of the line and so doing protects against pass rush lanes, or inside rush lanes for the defensive end or a stunting left defensive tackle.

Keeping him on the left keeps him where his best skills are best used. The skills he lacked to be great in Holmgren's offense are deemphasized or deprecated. So it took me three nights of thinking about it to decide, but Sims should work at left guard. He should do there what he could do in 2007, and not be asked to do what he couldn't do in 2007.

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