Danny O'Neil is reporting that Sean Locklear will practice today for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain. Of the many injuries Locklear has endured, this latest might be the most worrying because of the chance of recurrence. The Seahawks will determine Locklear's fitness and start him, sit him or render him inactive. If he can, Locklear should start.
A week ago, Locklear's return would have seemed an essential step to Seattle playing itself back into contention. After Damion McIntosh performed ably against the Cowboys ferocious pass rush, I am sure many see no reason to bench him. There is one. Seattle wants Locklear to stick at left. Locklear is under contract and short of being cut (don't count it out) will be with Seattle next season. It needs to give him every opportunity to prove he can stick or demonstrably prove he can't.
McIntosh is not a long-term solution for Seattle at left. He will want more money in the offseason and that alone would put Seattle in a bind. It cannot pay Locklear and McIntosh good money to be mediocre tackles. Locklear is nearing his sell-by date. The essential idea of converting him to left tackle was smart, but it always had risk. Lock hasn't flunked out on the field, but 2009 marks his third season in the last four that he has lost significant time to injury. Dumb luck is still the best and most sound theory for why some players suffer injuries throughout their careers and others stay healthy. But following another season disabled by player injury, pressure will be the on Seahawks front office to expel injury report regulars.
The Seahawks still must balance winning now with overall talent evaluation. It cannot deny McIntosh's performance. The solution might be to start McIntosh over Ray Willis. Willis has not been bad, but he has not be good either, and he doesn't fit with what Seattle wants to do or where it's going as an offense. Tim Ruskell let Willis walk and I now understand why. It's a finesse blocking system and Willis is a bull in a china shop.
Ultimately, Seattle will probably be cautious with Locklear and retain the status quo. For the first time all season, the Seahawks offensive line looked good against a good opponent on Sunday. It held against multiple blitzes and got push in the run game. Rob Sims and Chris Spencer are the undoubted strengths of this line. Max Unger is coming along though he often looks bad. From what they have and who they can re-sign, one tackle spot should be filled, but the other is an overdue offseason priority. It Locklear can stick at left tackle, finding a zone blocking right tackle should be a test too easy to fail.