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2008 Season Retrospective: Ray Willis

Ray Willis

Overview: Willis started seven games at right tackle and three at right guard. He played in all sixteen games. Seattle sees Willis as a starting right tackle or at least a starting capable sub at guard and tackle. He is a free agent.

What Went Wrong: Willis is sometimes slow off the line. Willis is often clueless as to whom to block. Oh, that's all. Of the potential archetypes of a successful offensive lineman, with the ever assignment correct but never flashy young Chris Gray representing one extreme and the often dominant but sometimes sloppy Alan Faneca another, Willis aspires to be a Faneca. It's a demanding style and one unforgiving of injury. Essentially, if Willis is not physically and athletically dominating, he's not effective.

Quintessential Game: Seahawks at Rams

Willis and Wrotto are big and bruising and bumbling. Wrotto doesn't quit blocks, but man does he ever miss blocks. Willis: ditto. Since starting the replacements, Seattle has looked best running right. I'm not certain the rude data provided by play-by-play would back that, but the line flexes better that way, the lanes look cleaner and the blocks more dominant. Seattle has also looked sloppiest running right. There are more free defenders, penalties, linemen standing in zones and ardent triple teams while another defender runs free.

What Went Right: But oh is it beautiful when it goes right!

Quintessential Game: Patriots at Seahawks

Ray Willis is one mean pachinko ball: Willis doesn't handle speed rushers well. He blew one block and chased a couple more. Should Seattle see him as a long term solution at right tackle, and they could and maybe even should, he's going to need the occasional handicap chip blocker.

Guy's big. When he uncoils, he looks like the biggest player on the field. He probably is. And for a big guy, he's rangy; looks projectable in the way scouts love.

On the eighth play of Seattle's first drive, Willis blindsided Bruschi and then chipped in for two more blocks to seal the inside.

Seattle sets 2 WR (Left), 2 TE (Right), Rb. The outside tight end recessed. A rare power formation Seattle flashed often on Sunday to compensate for its patched together offensive line. New England sets in a 3-4. Heller plays inside tight, Carlson on the end. At the snap, Carlson engages Bruschi but gets no push. Willis turns perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and sprints straight at Bruschi's flank, delivering a jarring hit that removes Bruschi and with him New England's outside containment. Carlson is freed to move up and engage Jonathan Wilhite. Willis bounces back towards the interior and blocks two unidentified linebackers. Leonard Weaver rushes for seven.

Outlook: I think the edge rush will victimize Willis throughout his career. Speed off the line and an ability to shadow speed rushers is just not a skill tackles often develop mid-career. Against elite edge rushers, Seattle will need to weld John Carlson to his hip or employ a back that can chip. That limits the kind of wide open plays and formations teams sometimes use against attacking, blitz-heavy defenses. Continued experience in a zone blocking system should help Willis identify and engage the proper assignment. That's one skill I think Willis will develop. Still, Ray will never be a technician and his contribution to the team is dependent on his ability to contribute more on his good plays than he debits on his bad plays. His value to the team is dependent on him staying healthy and staying cheap.