In my first article of this series I talked about Pete Carroll's Idea of ground and pound and stretching the field with a vertical passing game. Pete's model is very similar to the Jim Plunkett (First Hispanic player to be drafted 1 overall) Raiders. Pound the middle of the field with carries by a bruising running back. The then Tom Flores' (First Hispanic Head Coach) Oakland Raiders Won Superbowl 15 and 18 riding the same philosophy.
The advent of Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense caused a churning of the cycle that has repeated throughout football; run-heavy leagues turn to pass-heavy leagues, and eventually cycle back to being run-heavy. Note that we are not talking about extremes like the Run n' Shoot offense, or the Three Yards and a Pile of Dust offense. The median style of NFL teams tend to sway back and forth.
If its time for the pendulum to swing back to the NFL as a run-heavy league, the Seahawks are well ahead of the curve, and could be considered front runners. The core of any run game is the offensive line. Great offensive lines can make average backs look great and great backs hall-of-famers. We have a young, massive offensive line, averaging well over 300 pounds each.
Offensive linemen don't score a lot of brownie points from most fans, and are usually invisable to the average fan, until they make a costly mistake. Those costly mistake are usually attributed to rookies, but as our division rival found out, some players, like Richie Incognito, will continue to collect penalties and mental mistakes like its going out of style.
Other linemen become so good at what they do that they become invisible. This is the goal of most linemen. Seahawk fans have had the privilege to see up front when a lineman becomes so elite that they can take over a game. We were lucky to have two of the elite in Walter Jones and Steven Hutchinson for several years. They each could change a game on their own, but together they formed one of the most dominate offensive lines ever, just the two of them alone. They often made Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray look far better than the average players they were.
By the end of 2009, the Seahawks had one of the worst lines in the NFL. That line consisted of Chris Spencer, who I think is still a decent player, battling through a broken hand. Sean "My joints are stiff" Locklear, journeyman Mike Gibson, Ray Willis and Rookie Max Unger. Max is the only remaining starter remaining as the Seahawks churned everyone out and started from scratch. If Davis' approximate expected churn number, based on the Green Bay model, is anywhere near accurate for this Seattle Seahawks team, we can predict somewhere around 13 players to be lost in the turnover, and one or two of our linemen may be included. Let's take a look at some of the linemen on the roster.
Max Unger as a rookie was playing out of position at guard, and looked like he might be completely outmanned. After a toe injury kept him out of most of 2010, he didnt look to be a key factor to the Seahawks running revival. He did bring one factor with him that both Jim Mora Jr and Pete Carroll can both appriciate - he is a little bit of a dirtbag on the field.
He plays hard and through the whistle. He is always in the middle of any scrum. He is what the Seahawks hoped to become. A tough, throwback, "Nail-eater." Unger has become a very good NFL center, and is now a very important cog in the run game. He also has been entrusted with protection calls. Third year centers who havent seen much play the first two years usually are not trusted with such an important part of the offense, but Unger has shown he is a quick study. His rookie contract goes through this year, he is good and cheap. He should also be a key part of the Seahawks going forward. I wouldnt be surprised to see a contract extension before the new season starts.
In 2010, Pete's first draft pick was used on Russell Okung. He is a beast and a freak of nature. He bench pressed 225 lbs 38 times at the combine, and often shows that dominant upper body strength when manhandling opponents. He has a very good fan move when in pass protection, and has shutdown capability.
He has shutdown big names like Trent Cole, Demarcus Ware and most famously Julius Peppers. He does have small flaws in his pass protection, but they are minor. His biggest liability is his injuries, and he has missed several games so far in only two years. Ankle injuries and a torn pec dont shadow his immense talent, but could be something that shortens his career. In either case, he is far and away our best lineman at this stage. Okung had major pressure placed on him in trying to replace Walter Jones, so far he has lived up to rational expectations. Luckily for Seattle, he is signed through 2015.
Between the two young guys is a grizzled veteran in Robert Gallery and at 6-7, 325 he is a massive human being. He is the epitome of a dirtbag, and often plays not only through the whistle but also loves that 'extra carricular activity,' but is crafty enough to often get away with it. Early in the year Gallary looked like he might be a FA bust, but somewhere before the midway point poured some nitro in his tank. He will be 32 going into next season, but has a lot of fight left in him, if we get a couple more years it wouldnt surprize me at all. We have him signed for two more years, just enough time to finish polishing a project, or pick up a new one as a replacement.
John Moffitt is 6-4 320, and for the better part of the first half of the season was being man handled and abused. Near the end of his season he looked to be "getting it" and then a serious knee injury happened. It is unfortunate for Moffit though because generally speaking, he was performing a whole lot better, and looked to be worth the 3rd round pick. Moffitt is signed through 2015, and with a cheap contract, and showing enough promise before his injury, he will make the team, even if as a back up.
James Carpenter was another first round tackle for the Seahawks. Carpenter is another massive beast on our offensive line, but is average in comparison to our line. The major problem is he doesnt play as fluid or graceful as the other linemen. He often loses the leverage battle to smaller lighter DEs and also had some serious penalty issues coupled with giving up a bunch of sacks as well. Near the end of his season, he started winning more leverage battles, learning better running technique, but over all though he was clearly the biggest disappointment on the line. He is a first round pick and will probably get his shots throughout his rookie contract, that is up after the 2014 season.
Breno Giacomini is only 27 and is very versatile. He plays both guard and tackle positions, and was serviceable in his starts. He started 8 games in three different positions, and could battle both Moffitt and Carpenter for a starting spot. That said, he is now a free agent. He was released at one point last year, but re-signed again in less than a week. Still, he has shown at least some versatility and he might get looks form other teams. The Hawks should re-sign him, but if the price is too high, he could walk.
Paul McQuistan was our 7th Lineman this year, and has some potential, though going into his 6th year, hasn't made any noticable impact. He did fill in rather nicely in 10 games this season, and is the type of depth the team needs to continue to have. He is a free agent, and like Breno, hasnt been in high demand, but played well enough to be considered by other teams.
Lemuel Jeanpierre started 5 games for us and looks to need more experience and better technique. He wasnt overly impressive in his starts but as the 8th player in the depth chart and the fact that he is signed for another two years he will most likely come back as depth. He wasnt so bad in his starts that he should get cut, and with McQuistan and Giacomini both as free agents it looks like he will stick with the team.
Jarriel King is a project player. He has the perfect OT body with broad shoulders and long arms, but character issues and concussion issues were concerns on draft day. He made it to the active game day roster for one game and the coaches have said some possitive stuff about him.
Brent Osborne is another project player. Brent spent most of the season on the PS, and has been signed to a futures contract for next year. This is a clear indication that the Seahawks think he could compete and land on the PS again. He went to Harvard - that assumed intelligence could theoretically help with reading defenses but considering that he is only 285 pounds, it likely means he'll have to put on weight.
Ideally we keep everyone. Re-sign Breno and Paul to small contracts and let them push Moffitt and Carpenter. If two were going to be churned though, Breno and Paul might be the ones to go, considering they are free agents. Most likely King and Osborne will be retained, King on the active roster and Osborne would go back to practice squad. Gallery, Okung, Unger, Moffit, and Carpenter are safe, but no one else should be considered untouchable.