2005 Seahawks Player Analysis: The Offensive Line

With the Seahawks' 2005 training camp just a few days away, Seahawks.NET will take a player-by-player look at the current roster over the next week. Everyone will be profiled, from the stars to the role-players on the bubble. We continue our series with the centers, guards and tackles - the men who make up the offensive line.

Centers

Robbie Tobeck
Age: 35  HT: 6-4  WT: 297 YR: 12 Washington State 

It’s never difficult to root for guys like Tobeck, a gritty, smart player with a wicked sense of humor who has used his determination to ascend from the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad in 1993 to his current streak as the Seahawks’ starting center for the last 64 games. While never a physically dominant player, Tobeck has used technique and savvy to cement his role in one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. He’s still among the better pass-protecting centers in the league, but he does have some run-blocking issues. It’s leverage rather than brute strength that Tobeck employs to beat the man in front of him. He can be pushed back by larger nose guards and defensive tackles.

2005 Outlook: Those who expected the first-round pick of Chris Spencer to spell the end of Tobeck’s starting time are in for a surprise. The level of trust that Tobeck has built with Matt Hassebeck is not easily replaced, nor can his ability with line calls be supplanted overnight by any rookie, no matter how talented. Tobeck will be manning the middle again in 2005, to the delight of his quarterbacks…and every Seahawks beat reporter looking for a good quote.


Chris Spencer
Age: 23  HT: 6-3  WT: 309 YR: R Mississippi 

Rated the number one center in the entire draft, Spencer is a two-year starter who is the most technically sound pivot man to come out of college in some time. Spencer played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman and started at center and both guard positions his sophomore season in 2003. Last season, as a fourth-year junior, Spencer earned All-SEC honors at center and stabilized the Rebel offensive line all season. Spencer has incredible strength (as a high-schooler, he set every power-lifting record in the state of Mississippi), outstanding quickness and is very intelligent. Some were surprised with his selection at the end of the first round, but there is no denying that Spencer is an incredible talent who should earn a starting spot very early in his career.

2005 Outlook: Spencer will back up both guard positions as well the center spot this fall. With his versatility, Spencer has already made himself invaluable to the Seahawks’ coaching staff. At the post-draft minicamp, Spencer was Tobeck’s shadow, mimicking the veteran’s every move on the field. Look for Spencer to get some time at guard this season if injuries necessitate a move, and then perhaps the starting role at center when the team takes the field in 2006.


Jean-Philippe Darche
Age: 30  HT: 6-0  WT: 246 YR: 6 McGill (Canada)

Signed by the Seahawks out of the CFL in 2000, Darche has been the team’s long snapper ever since. While he doesn’t possess the versatility or size to graduate to a starting center position, Darche earns his spot every year with accuracy and reliability in a job where you’re only noticed if you fail. Darche augments his ability with good open-field tackling.

2005 Outlook: While Tobeck continues to start and Spencer begins the learning process that will eventually have him on the line, Darche will continue his unheralded but important situational work. Like Alex Bannister, he’s worth a roster spot for his specific special teams abilities.


Guards

Steve Hutchinson
Age: 27  HT: 6-5  WT: 313  YR: 5 Michiga
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Each year, the list of NFL guards who are better than Steve Hutchinson gets smaller and smaller. Soon, that list won’t exist at all. A massive earthmover with a seriously nasty streak, Hutchinson teams with Walter Jones to form the best left side offensive line in the NFL. He’s dominant off the first step, sure in his technique, and rarely loses a battle once he’s engaged. He moves well out of the pit, is more agile than you’d expect from a guard, and he never gives up on a play. Hutchinson has lived up to every glowing scouting report written about him, both college and pro, and he will surely stand as an elite guard for years to come. Hutchinson has made the Pro Bowl two years running, and he might as well keep planning those post-season flights to Hawaii for the foreseeable future.

2005 Outlook: Here’s the scary part for every defensive lineman he’ll face this season – 2005 is Steve Hutchinson’s “walk year”. The Seahawks will certainly do everything in their power to ensure that he’ll play in Seattle for many years to come. There’s little doubt that Hutchinson will prove the wisdom of that thought process with every opponent he decimates.


Chris Gray
Age: 35  HT: 6-4  WT: 308  YR: 13 Auburn 

Gray has been a reliable, if unspectacular, guard for the Seahawks since 1998. He has started every game since the 2000 season, which displays both his toughness and the team’s lack of depth at the position until recently. Gray is likely coming to the end of a respectable NFL tenure. His initial push against a pass rush is still decent, but he no longer has sufficient quickness or athleticism.

2005 Outlook: Although he signed a two-year deal with Seattle in April, Gray’s starting spot could be in serious danger with a wealth of young, developing talent who could play right guard. Mike Holmgren does have a liking for tough veterans on the line, which may be Gray’s salvation in the short term.


Andy King
Age: 26  HT: 6-4  WT: 310  YR: 3 Illinois State 
(not pictured)

2005 Outlook: King, a former St. Louis guard, has good size and made some noise during the Rams’ training camp last year. The question is, how many roster spots at guard will be open when the final cuts are made?


Tackles

Walter Jones
Age: 31  HT: 6-5  WT: 315  YR: 9 Florida State
 

Over the last few years, the debate has been unresolved. The subject: Who is the NFL’s finest left tackle? Jones has been in the mix with Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden and St. Louis’ Orlando Pace. After signing a 7-year, $52.5 million contract in February, Jones will attend training camp for the first time since 2001. That alone could push Jones ahead of his compatriots as the best at his position. Jones has great intelligence, is very sound with his technique, takes great angles, and his footwork is stellar. When he’s grounded, having gained the initial advantage off the snap, he’s almost impossible to get by. Although his pass protection has always been more highly rated, Jones is a fine run blocker.

2005 Outlook: Pencil it in, folks…whoever faces Walter Jones in 2005 will get closer to Matt Hasselbeck via e-mail than he will on the field. This is as good as it gets.


Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack
Age: 26  HT: 6-4  WT: 333  YR: 4 Mississippi State 

Womack is an enormous load to handle, and he’s been more and more valuable to the Seahawks by way of his versatility. Now that Walter Jones will again make training camp a part of his schedule, Womack can focus on a possible starting right tackle job as opposed to the best Jones imitation he can muster. A very effective run blocker with decent pass-blocking technique, he’d probably have a bit more potential at guard from an athletic standpoint.

2005 Outlook: Womack will be given a long look at right tackle during camp. He would be effective in that spot, but it might be better for the team if someone makes the competition interesting and moves him one place inside.


Sean Locklear
Age: 24  HT: 6-4  WT: 301  YR: 2 North Carolina State 

2005 Outlook: Who’s that someone? Sean Locklear. NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang had Locklear as the #2 rated tackle in the 2004 draft, and it was easy to see why when he spot-started on the left side when Jones dealt with minor injuries down the stretch. Locklear has the athletic ability to start in the NFL – the deciding factor will be how advanced his technique is in camp, especially against the outside rush. At the very least, he’ll be a most effective backup.



Ray Willis
Age: 22  HT: 6-6  WT: 327  YR: R Florida State 

Starting opposite All-American tackle Alex Barron, Willis didn’t receiver the attention that his talent warrants. Willis is an amazing run-blocker, who uses his strength and explosive quickness to get good angles and open holes for runners. He played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman - he started two games and didn’t allow a sack. In his sophomore season, Willis started eight games and then finally moved into the starting lineup for good as a junior. His strength is run-blocking as opposed to pass protection, but he has quick feet and the necessary arm length to keep pass-rushers at bay.

2005 Outlook: Since the Seahawks already have several prospects to take over the right tackle position vacated when Chris Terry was released this offseason, some are projecting that Willis may see time as a backup at one of the guard positions. His selection early on the second day of the draft helped to solidify the depth along the offensive line, and he can back up four of the five offensive line positions. They don’t call him “Big Die Slow” for nothing…this guy is tough.


Wayne Hunter
Age: 24  HT: 6-5  WT: 303  YR: 3 Hawaii 

2005 Outlook: Hunter was a tools project when he was drafted in 2003, having played only one season on the O-line during his time at Hawaii. This was indicative of the modus operandi of Ted Thompson and Scot McCloughan, Seattle’s former draft experts, who sometimes picked athletes who happened to play football. Things don’t work that way in the new regime – Tim Ruskell wants football players above all else. Hunter has been standing in the shadows, slow in his development, and he’ll need to make a very big impression in camp this year if he wants to survive the final cut.


Jerry Wunsch
Age: 31  HT: 6-6  WT: 339  YR: 9 Wisconsin

2005 Outlook: A good journeyman tackle, Wunsch may have difficulty staying on the depth chart. In the past, he has been able to make up for iffy pass-clocking technique with good strength and push, but with so much competition on the right side, Wunsch could be the odd man out.





Doug Nienhuis
Age: 23  HT: 6-6  WT: 307  YR: R Oregon State 

Seattle’s final draft choice in 2005 and one pick away from “Mr. Irrelevant” status, Nienhuis has some potential as a backup, with decent power and good size.


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