The offensive line presents a problem: Pete Carroll emphasizes competition but Alex Gibbs emphasizes continuity. In the short term, those might not be contradictory ideas, but eventually, they are. Even in the short term, I think Gibbs favors naming his starters, sticking with them and allowing them to build cohesion and trust. The backups need to be able to fill multiple positions. Therefore, I will list starters for each position, and players in the mix, but it's probably better to think of anyone that doesn't start as either filling depth at tackle or in the interior. Teams can't afford to have a designated backup for their right guard.
Last season: Anyone and everyone.
Starter: Russell Okung
In the mix: Sean Locklear, Ray Willis, Jacob Phillips.
Competition is not always desirable. It would be a major failure if Okung somehow couldn't secure the left tackle position, but if he doesn't or he suffers injury, Locklear, Willis and rookie Jacob Phillips are potential replacements.
Last season: Rob Sims
Starter: Ben Hamilton
In the mix: Jeff Byers, Mitch Erickson, Steve Vallos
Just for purposes of order, I designated smaller, more athletic guards as left guards and larger, stronger guards as right guards. I did that to match the projected starters: Hamilton and Unger. The "in the mix" players are not designated backups for Hamilton, but the likely depth chart minus Hamilton. So, if Hamilton were sucked into a wormhole, I think Byers would be the next most likely player on roster to fill his position.
Last season: Chris Spencer
Starter: Chris Spencer
In the mix: Max Unger, Jeff Byers, Steve Vallos
Unger made 24 starts at center for Oregon and that and comments made by Unger himself support the argument that he is a natural center. I never bought that. He's too tall, wears his weight too high and isn't strong enough in the lower body to consistently take on nose tackles. However, it would be foolish for me to ignore the possible fit, ignore the possibility that he takes over center next season if Spencer is gone, and ignore that he might still win the position this season.
Last season: Max Unger
Starter: Max Unger
In the mix: Mike Gibson, Mansfield Wrotto, Adrian Martinez
Injury is probably the greatest threat to Spencer starting at center. And that threat is greatest during the preseason when roles are being defined and starts are being won. If Seattle starts the season with Spencer at center and Unger at right guard, I think it will stick with Unger at right guard regardless of Spencer's health. If Unger overtakes Spencer early, then Gibson, Wrotto, Martinez and also Byers, Erickson and Vallos could compete for snaps at right guard. I think Wrotto has one foot out of the VMAC. He seems like the poorest fit.
Last season: Ray Willis
Starter: Sean Locklear-Ray Willis
In the mix: Jacob Philips, Joe Toledo (?), Steve Vallos (?), Max Unger (?)
Toledo is listed at 330, but the former tight end is surprisingly athletic. I still don't see him making it. It's a good story anyhow and worth keeping an eye on. Vallos played tackle at Wake Forest and Unger played tackle at Oregon (27 starts), and so both are somewhat in the mix for right tackle, but in all likelihood, one of Locklear or Willis will win the position outright, Phillips will be signed as depth, and depending on the outcome, Seattle might be searching for a new right tackle in 2011.