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2006 Season Review: Sean Locklear

Sean Locklear is a good young right tackle and while I wouldn't have a beer with the guy, he has good football character. That is, he's an exceptionally hard worker with a desire to be the best tackle in football. Those two traits, personality and work-ethic, are often crammed into one catchall, character, but they couldn't be more separate. Ray Lewis, Pac-Man Jones, Michael Strahan, LT and on and on ad infinitum, are players with significant concerns about the quality of their personality, but each has succeeded because they're dedicated and ultra-competitive. Lock is an excellent talent that has flashed the borderline obsessive drive of an NFL legend. With that said, I've yet to drink fully from the goblet of Kool-Aid when it comes to Lock. Rotoworld reports many people in their outfit thought that he was the Hawks' best overall offensive lineman in 2005--that's absurd, of course, and says much about the fickle nature of opinion. Lock is a strong man, agile and with a load of potential, but he is by no means in the league of Walter Jones or Steve Hutchinson. Not yet, anyhow.

Locklear is a solid all around lineman who can pull, deliver a good run block in space, seal the edge on an end rush and string a defensive end wide and out of the play. Honestly, though, I've always thought that Lock's strongest ability in pass-pro is disguising his holds. I don't mean that as a dig, either. We all know that a certain amount of holding occurs on every play, but that, with few exceptions, it's called only when the violation is flagrant. Lock has shown the ability to hold the opponent close enough to his body and briefly enough that he rarely gets called for it, but still attains an advantage. Football is often dirty, with chop blocks and leg whips (like the one that cost Beck 4 games) a near constant, but unsavory tactics and borderline cheating wins games. I'm not endorsing Tony Siragusa body slamming a prostrate Rich Gannon, but rather than take a puerile moralistic stance, I'll simply say: More power to Lock if he can get away with it. I don't think a little jersey grab is ruining the integrity of the game.

Last season, Lock was hobbled most of the year with a high ankle sprain. I wrote about the dreaded high ankle sprain a few months ago when Marcus Trufant was sidelined with the injury. The important thing to know when evaluating how it affected Lock's performance is that high ankle sprains are more serious than they sound and can continue to hamper lateral agility even after a player has returned from the injury. That's a big blow for a right tackle and it showed. Edge rushers were eating Locklear for brunch and dinner, roll-outs were regularly blown up and runs around right end were a joke.

The right tackle job has been opened to competition in training camp and after signing a one year tender, Lock's not just playing for pride or to seize the starting job, but for the promise of untold wealth come next off-season. That's a set of conditions that drives an already strong competitor into a frenzy. I expect him to play harder, train better and generally outwork any and all reasonable expectation throughout the season. A very good season could be the difference between a modest extension with the Hawks and making bank as a free agent. I prefer hard facts to gut feelings when forecasting, but I feel compelled to say Lock, healthy, entering his third season starting and with everything to prove and even more to earn, will have a huge season in 2007.