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The Offensive Line Part 2: The Transition

This is the season Seattle lost Steve Hutchinson and the foundation of its offensive line began to crumble. Walter Jones was still among the very best at his position, but he was 32 and would turn 33 less than a week after Seattle was bumped out of the playoffs.

That run was paved in part by Tim Ruskell's first ever pick, Chris Spencer, replacing an effectively retired Robbie Tobeck, and rookie Rob Sims replacing the irreplaceable Hutchinson. When Spencer and Sims helped spring an already washed-up Shaun Alexander for 108 yards and two touchdowns against the sixth-ranked Bears rush defense, all was right, Ruskell was in good graces and the future of the Seattle Seahawks seemed bright.

The line was crumbling though. Jones was approaching old, and the intolerance to pain medication that once stood as a testament to his greatness began to loom as a horrible "what if?" Sims could not replace Hutchinson. Chris Gray was 36. Without that insane left side to protect him, Sean Locklear could no longer be trumped up by contrived stats. Seattle was halfway between the collapse of an all-time great offensive line and a rebuilding effort that couldn't possibly be as successful.

Seattle did not invest much into rebuilding the line in 2006. The draft was a bit top heavy and talent poor. Seattle could have selected Guy Whimper with its Sims pick, Willie Colon, Chris Kuper or Jeromey Clary, but if Sims has maybe not been the most valuable lineman selected in the second day, he has been a good player for the pick and more successful than much of his class.

Seattle could have spent an earlier pick but didn't. It's almost impossible to argue that had Seattle kept spent its first or second round picks on offensive linemen, it would be a better team today. Its first round pick, Kelly Jennings, has busted, but so has Winston Justice, selected 39th, and neither Deuce Latui, 41st, nor Daryn Colledge, 47th, strike me as significantly better players than Sims. It could have made a play at a tackle like Marcus McNeill, Andrew Whitworth, Jeremy Trueblood or Eric Winston, but it believed itself set at tackle, and it seemed to be.

Instead, Ruskell added Tom Ashworth. Ashworth was awful: Another body on the pile of winners and veterans that Ruskell has burdened the team with. But Ashworth was fourth string and therefore as likely to play as Kyle Williams. Sean Locklear had been healthy to that point. Ashworth was behind Jones, Locklear, Ray Willis and even Floyd Womack.

Injuries became a factor. Locklear missed five games. Willis missed 15 and was put on IR. Womack was starting at left guard. Locklear's injury forced Ashworth into action and he played like the fourth string tackle he was. The line did not play well and compared to 2005, it was awful.

The talent Ruskell had added was good. It was young and cheap and seemed promising. The line had declined from a peak it could not possibly reach again, but where it had been expensive, aged, but elite, it was now turning into cheap, young and serviceable.