The Seattle Seahawks had one of the most dangerous running games in football in 2005 but have been well below average since then. The main reason for the struggles is the loss of Steve Hutchinson who was signed by the Vikings in 2006 when they offered him a contract that contained a poison pill. The contract would have forced the Seahawks to guarantee the entire 49 million offered by the Vikings because he was not the highest paid lineman on the team. The Seahawks ranked 22nd in the league in yards per carry with only 3.8 and 19th in the league with 37 sacks allowed.
The tackle position remains a strength for the Seahawks with the two veterans Walter Jones and Sean Locklear returning. Walter Jones has been named to the Pro Bowl team seven straight times and is still considered one of the best in the NFL at 34 years old. Jones has a big frame at 6’5” and 325 lbs and is a very powerful blocker. Jones has lost some of his quickness but he is still very athletic for a lineman and has excellent technique. He still has a few years left in him but the Seahawks will have to find a replacement for him sooner rather than later even though Jones says he wants to play out the last four years of his contract. Sean Locklear was the third round pick by the Seahawks in 2004 and has developed rapidly into a very good tackle. He is an excellent pass blocking tackle but has to build more strength in order to be an effective run blocker. The Seahawks were one of the worst in the league when running to the right side and Locklear was one of the reasons for those struggles. Floyd Womack, a fourth round pick in 2001 was resigned to provide depth at the tackle position. He has never managed to stay healthy but his versatility to play any of the tackle or guard positions make him a valuable asset. The Seahawks also signed Kyle Williams out of USC as an undrafted free agent but he is unlikely to have much impact.
At guard, the Seahawks have finally found a capable replacement for Steve Hutchinson in Mike Wahle. Wahle was released by the Carolina Panthers in order to save cap space and signed by the Seahawks to a five-year deal. Wahle is a very good run blocker but will occasionally struggle against big defensive tackles because of his relatively low weight of 305 lbs for a 6’6” lineman. Holmgren is a big fan of Wahle after drafting him with the Packers in 1998. Although he is not the Pro Bowl player he was in 2005, Wahle is still a big upgrade for this line. Starting at right guard will be the 24 year old Rob Sims who will make the move from left guard. Sims is a pretty good pass blocker but missed a lot of blocks last season and it was very obvious that he still has a lot to learn in Holmgrem’s scheme. The move to right guard is likely to be a good thing for him but he will have to be much more powerful in his run blocking if he wants to have success in the NFL. The 38 year old Chris Gray will return to the team as backup for both guard positions as well as the center position. Gray started all 16 regular season games in 2007 and although he is too old to be a solid blocker week after week, he will be a good backup who has a lot to teach to the younger linemen.
Former first round pick Chris Spencer will be returning as the starting center for the second consecutive season. Spencer has incredible strength for a center but his lack of experience has been exploited by much smarter NFL defensive linemen. He is a much better run blocker than a pass blocker and has the speed and strength to get to the second level as a run blocker. Spencer should continue to improve as he learns the NFL game and should look better in 2008 with Wahle on his left side.
The Seahawks line had a very difficult season in 2007 but things should be slightly better in 2008. Mike Wahle is a nice upgrade over the now 38 year old Gray at guard. Wahle was very important for the Panthers in 2006 as they averaged only 3.5 yards per carry in the three games that he missed as opposed to 4.1 in the 13 that he played. The Seahawks however failed to address the need for a younger tackle in the draft and it could very well hurt them this season if any of the linemen are injured for an extended period if time. This line has three young linemen in Locklear, Spencer and Sims who should all continue to improve but the Seahawks will have to hope that Jones can keep up his solid play. The left side now looks quite strong in run blocking and Holmgren will likely look to take advantage of that. Overall the line should be better and could be above average in the running game depending on the play of the new running backs but will remain average at best in pass blocking.