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2006 Season Review: Walter Jones

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Walter Jones has always been a great run blocker, but job one for any blind-side tackle is protecting the quarterback. Here's Jones', and a few other notable Hawks, sacks allowed for their careers:

And here's a look at the Seahawks Adjusted Line Yards rankings for the last 7 seasons: for runs behind left tackle, around left end and overall.

Some Observations:

  • Before last year, 2003 was Jones' worst year allowing sacks. He followed up that substandard campaign with two of his best--including a phenomenal 2004 where he didn't allow a single sack. So while 2006 looks bad, and the instability at left guard certainly contributed, there is good reason to think he can rebound over the next few seasons.
  • Sims and Spencer split most of the snaps at left guard, but neither recorded many sacks allowed. Some of the sacks that were attributed to Jones are, no doubt, their fault. Spencer was clearly overmatched at left guard, and while Sims has excellent pass blocking technique, his awareness is still that of a rookie. He was susceptible to blitzing linebackers and speed rushers stunting to the inside not so much because he would get beat, but because he would be out of position.
  • The two worst Seattle performances in adjusted line yards were in 2002, a season Hutch missed 12 games due to a broken leg, and 2006, the Hawks first season without Hutch.
  • The major reason I think you see a rebound in rushes around left end and behind left tackle but an overall decline in rush blocking from Seattle's line is compensation. When Jones and Hutch lined up on the left, teams were forced to shade linebackers to that side or get ripped to pieces on run after run. In 2006, no such compensation was needed, and defenders ran roughshod over our middle and right side. From 2005, the Hawks lost 29, 27 and 21 spots in the ranking on runs up the middle, behind right tackle and around right end, respectively. While it's quite probable Chris Gray saw a decline, that doesn't explain the seemingly awful performance by Sean Locklear. I think, again, this is mostly losing Hutch and the dominant left side that he formed when teamed with Jones.

Conclusions:

First, I don't think Jones declined as much as it initially looks. Instability along the left side plus an overall decline in quality from best-guard-in-football Steve Hutchinson to a center and a rookie is likely more to blame for his awful sack totals and the general perception that Jones had a down season. Second, Jones, 33, is a good age for left tackles. One where he can be expected to see a rebound to his previously elite level of performance, but much of that depends on Sims' sophomore season. Will he progress? Can he become a more effective pass blocker? An elite run blocker? I'll try and figure that out tomorrow.