Tim Ruskell is determined to keep me happy and busy, and is there anything better than happy and busy? Let's rip into this, powered by Guided by Voices and gluten-free pizza this is The Week That Was.
Draft, Sign, Develop or Trade For a Starting Left Guard
Why am I so excited by a 30 year old guard with only one Pro Bowl and little press? Let's start with what this means for sure before progressing into what this might mean. Signing Mike Wahle likely ends Chris Gray's starting tenure. Gray was plain horrible by the end of last regular season, but though Holmgren seemed determined to give Porkchop Womack snaps somewhere, it was Rob Sims who took the tumble. Signing Wahle is the big symbolic move the Hawks needed to signal Gray's exit. He'll likely return for 2008 to motivate Sims and provide depth, not to mention make a final run at a ring, but Gray's days as a starter are all but over. As a backup, given his cap number, he's a decent value. His presence provides depth at right and left guard, not that he could function as a left guard, but because Sims can. Rested, Gray is a sound technician who's a decent pass blocker and assignment correct run blocker - A stopgap that won't kill you.
Wahle slotting into left guard moves Sims to right. In Holmgren's offense, the left guard is the premiere run blocker. Sims is a very good pass blocker, but never took to Holmgren's exacting run blocking system. Chief among his weaknesses was an inability to pull properly, that is, accurately run the designed blocking route, and an inability to deliver a good block on the move. Because right guard is positioned across from most team's 3 technique, or primary penetrative/pass rushing defensive tackle, Sims will be asked to pull less and more to simply dominate his space. The nimble strongman can do that. He'll need to cut down on his assignment lapses, but should he he's capable of becoming a fine right guard. So good, likely, his name will disappear from the pages and join the ranks of those chosen few who just get their job done.
So, if we assume that either Sean Locklear is re-signed or Seattle drafts a right tackle from this stacked class, the Hawks will feature above average or better pass blockers at every position down the line. The Hawk's line was already a very good pass blocking line, despite its 19th place ranking in adjusted sack rate. What that metric doesn't account for is Matt Hasselbeck's inability to scramble, Alexander's inability to function as an outlet receiver, the Hawk's depleted receivers inability to get open, Seattle's anemic rushing attack and the way opposing teams loaded up against the pass and Hasselbeck's willingness to take a sack versus throwing into coverage. Hasselbeck had good time on most pass plays, and that, rather than sacks, is the best indication of good pass blocking.
The final thing we know signing Wahle does is give talented youngster Mansfield Wrotto time to develop into a starting guard. Wrotto exited college more coal than diamond, but the talent is there. He has the athleticism of a Pro Bowler, but could use a year or three to get there. With Wahle's signing the pressure's off. Wrotto like Jordan Kent can learn the ropes on the practice squad free of expectations.
-Next- What signing Wahle could mean for Seattle's draft.