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Assembling Seattle's Offensive Line from Ten Interchangeable Parts

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Greg Knapp calls them interchangeable parts. I call them ten guys that somehow will make one offensive line. It's far too far to determine who will comprise the line, and even assuming traditional roles, there's dozens of possible combinations, but a little common sense can tell us Pittsburgh's closer to Philadelphia than Miami, so to speak. So here's a super-early look at the most likely potential combinations and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

The Starters (Left to right): Jones - Wahle - Spencer - Willis - Locklear

Strengths: Run blocking, edge rush

Weaknesses: Injuries, interior pass blocking

The No-Jones: Locklear - Wahle - Spencer - Sims - Willis

Strengths: Run blocking, right side power

Weaknesses: Pass blocking, experience

The Youth Brigade: Locklear - Unger - Spencer - Wrotto - Willis

Strengths: Athleticism, right side power

Weaknesses: Pass blocking, blitz awareness

The Max Protect: Jones - Unger - Spencer - Sims - Locklear

Strengths: Pass blocking, run blocking left side

Weaknesses: Run blocking right side, angry Willis

The Power Run: Jones - Wrotto - Spencer - Sims - Willis

Strengths: OMG Power

Weaknesses: Technique, power

The As Read on Dark Poetry: Williams - Wahle - Vallos - Wrotto - Unger

Strengths:

Weaknesses: Pass blocking, run blocking

The Still Pretty Bad: Locklear - Sims - Vallos - Wrotto - Willis

Strengths:

Weaknesses: Pass blocking, run blocking

The Future: Locklear - Wrotto - Unger - Sims - Willis

Strengths: Athleticism, potential

Weaknesses: Pass blocking, skill

Actually, there's more than are worth listing.

The major variables are Walter Jones' health, Ray Willis' role, whether Max Unger starts, whether Chris Spencer starts, and who plays guard. If Jones isn't healthy, then Locklear and Willis play the tackle spots. If Willis is at right tackle, then Sims is the favorite to play right guard. Left guard is probably between Wahle and Unger, with Wrotto a dark horse for either guard spot. Center is between Unger and Spencer, with Vallos a worst case scenario. Jones is still the best offensive lineman, so you want him in as long as he's healthy and near his potential. Locklear is the second best offensive lineman, and he's a virtual lock to play somewhere. Spencer and Willis are next in line, both because their ability and the resources invested into them. Spencer could be benched if Unger surpasses him. Willis could be used as a super-sub. Unger could be a super-sub, but Seattle would be best off short-term and long-term if he wins a role outright. Wahle has some incumbent inertia, but not a ton, and I think he's both the most likely to be injured before the season starts and the most likely to be cut/traded. Sims has a home at right guard and if he takes to zone blocking, has the best potential. It's going to be Sims or Willis unless Wrotto breaks out and forces himself into the starting lineup. I think Wrotto projects best at left guard if he does grow into a starter. Spencer is on the shortest leash now that Seattle has drafted his replacement and if he's benched, I don't think he's coming back this season or ever. That would be a loss, because Spencer is a great talent, and because with Unger playing center, the team becomes thin at left guard.

Most of the line is to be won, with only left tackle decided. Tim Ruskell, Greg Knapp and presumably Mike Solari seem to think you can make a good or even great line out of good players that are well coached and played to their strengths. There's enough talent on the roster for it to work, but there's also a ton of scenarios where a few injuries make 2009's offensive line resemble 2008's receiving corps. This will shakeout during the preseason, and as I often say: hope for health and hope for the best talent to play the best.