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2006 Season Review: Chris Gray

Chris Gray is about as consistently mediocre and old as you'll find in an NFL linemen. Excepting 2005 and 2003, years when seemingly every member of the Hawk line simultaneously transformed into fearsome pass blockers, Gray has allowed 4 or more sacks every year he's started full time. That's a ton of sacks for a right guard. As a reserve, especially because of his experience at center and our need for depth at that position, he has value, but I truly hope he's not starting for Seattle in 2007. Gray presents nothing interesting in the way of projection and despite a terrible season in 2006, at 37, is likely only to get worse in 2007. He's a below average run blocker and can be a ghost in pass coverage, where stronger defenders move through him like a wisp. Gray is a couple shades above replacement level, or he was last season, and if he never again takes another snap in the regular season, instead getting paid to be a field mentor, a defacto coach, that would be just fine by me.

Ray Willis, a fourth round pick out of Florida State drafted in Ruskell's inaugural season, 2005, looks like the early front runner to earn the starting nod as Seattle's right guard. Willis is about as slow as they come, but he's a load and impressively strong. His technique, especially entering his third season in the NFL, should be polished enough to start. Willis is mostly valuable for his size, an attribute that allows him to hold the point of attack well, but he doesn't blow guys off the line and will never, ever be a functional pulling guard. Despite his size, Willis is top heavy and that coupled with his poor speed off the line makes him susceptible to the bull rush. Still, Willis mirrors well, and while he's no track star, his feet are quick-enough in a small space that he should improve the Hawks pass protection, if nothing else. Willis has suffered multitude shoulder injuries. Next to the knee and in some cases the foot, shoulder injuries can be the most debilitating of injuries for a lineman. At the time he was drafted, despite weighing 327 pounds, Willis was thought to be able to add some weight to a massive frame. It will be interesting to see how he plays in the preseason. On the surface, Willis looks like a very strong player without the necessary fast-twitch strength to be a true force, a player that helps hold the pocket, but isn't much more than adequate at opening rushing lanes. It's possible, though, with his shoulder injuries now two years behind him and a ton of time and reps to develop, that he's discovered the hand punch and quickness off the line to use his size to absolutely punish opposing defenders. The kind of blocker that holds the point in the first half and pancakes like a country diner in the second. All in all, Willis isn't a word class talent, but he doesn't need to be to be a productive player for a team desperate for an upgrade at right guard.

The final player in the mix is Mansfield Wrotto. Ruskell has already said that every player taken in the first four rounds of the draft will make the team, so regardless of his production, he'll be in the mix all season for snaps at right guard. Wrotto is thought to have the most talent of the bunch, but as I said before, I don't have any idea what to expect from him.