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No doubt you have seen the recent trend of the past few years of NFL teams stockpiling defensive linemen in an effort to rotate them into games to maintain a premium energy level for the defensive line. Throw in the complexity of today's NFL defenses, disguising coverages, and multiple adjustments on the line of scrimmage by NFL defenders, and then you'll understand why there is such a premium on elite offensive linemen to counter the problems posed by today's NFL defensive linemen.
Skill players are needed – yes, but games are won and lost in the trenches. In 2005, the Seahawks had the best offensive line. Short yardage? Everyone knew Shaun was going to run to the left. Hawks said here it is, just try and stop us. No one could. Hutch was considered best NFL guard behind only Alan Faneca. Even so, you don’t pay $6mil for a guard. Well the landscape has changed. Salary cap has exploded. Top rated guards now earn LT money. We need to build an upper echelon line again. How will that happen?
First, let’s evaluate what we have. We learned you cannot just plug-in a guard? I like Womack and Womack should be re-signed for a backup role. He can play 4 positions. We need that. He knows the west coast offense. He has had many injuries, so why risk him as a starter. Spencer and Sims gained valuable experience and will be the foundation for the future. Sean Locklear must be re-signed. He is being targeted by several teams. We must minimize change on the offensive line to develop continuity. Sean is a good young talent. Ashworth is another valuable backup. He can play RT and RG (only). I watched SB 38 today and Ash played very well at RT lining up opposite of Julius Peppers. Chris Gray is a grisly veteran. What he lacks in physical abilities, he has made up for it by using his experience to outsmart the competition. He is the only veteran equipped with knowledge and ability to make the line calls for blocking. Gray's experience and instincts could teach Spencer and Sims the mental part of the game and shorten their learning curve. He could help Spencer to call out the blocking assignments. He can backup at Center as well as guard. If we can get him at the veteran minimum it would be worthwhile to do so. Ray Willis is on the bubble. I’ve heard good things about him, but in 2 years he has hardly been active on game day. Pat Ross could be a backup center, but having 2 young centers would leave us vulnerable. So where do we go from here?
Typically, your left guard is your quicker, more athletic player. They should be athletic enough to get outside to lead on traps, sweeps, and pulling plays. Whereas running teams prefer bigger, more physical right guards for power blocking on short yardage runs.
With this in mind, if we were able to acquire a 27 year old Derrick Dockery, 6’ 6” 335 pounds, he would be the quintessential right guard and we can retain Sims at LG. Dockery is a great power blocker. Big and tall, the LBs won’t see the RB until it’s too late. When Portis was down, backups continued to rush for 100 yards behind Dockery. You won’t see many DTs bull rush him successfully to get to the QB. Dockery was teammates with Marcus Tubbs and DD Lewis at Texas.
Two other veteran candidates would necessitate having Sims start at RG. Eric Steinbach is 27 years old, 6’ 6” 290 lbs and in the run game he is considered one of the best pulling LGs in the NFL. He has played all positions on the line, but is a natural at LG. Gifted athletically, intelligent and excels at pass blocking. A little light for straight ahead power running game, but with Walter on his right and with Spencer a bigger center than Tobeck on the right, he will do fine.
Kris Dielman is 26 years old, 6’ 4” 310 lbs and is of the perfect size for a LG in Seattle’s line. He is an effective blocker in the running as well as the passing game. Dielman helped LT break Alexander’s record. Dielman offers a little bit of nasty, something that’s been lacking on the field since Hutch’s departure. He’s still going -12 seconds beyond when most of the others have finished a play. Other times, Dielman will simply get in a little extra knock just to let his opponent know he's not going anywhere. "I just like to get in there and get it going," he said. "If you've got to mix it up a little bit, you've got to mix it up."
In the draft, Ben Grubbs, the Auburn guard could slip to the middle of the 2nd round. He 6’ 3” 305 lbs, is very athletic and quick. He is a tremendous lead blocker when out in front. He has a nice ability to pull and trap and getting to the corner as lead blocker on running plays. Grubbs can get to the 2nd level to take on LBs. He gets a solid push on the pile. In the passing game, he has good technique and a decent base to hold up against bull rushers. He also has quick feet to slide to the outside on quicker pass rushers. He can play either guard position.
Josh Beekman, the guard out of Boston College has good size and bulk, 6’ 1” 320 lbs. Has a low base, gets a great push and does well in the running game. Always hustles and plays until the whistle. He is sound fundamentally and a good technician. He is strong and very intelligent. Sets up quickly in pass protection and uses his hands well. Isn't real athletic enough to handle elite pass rushers. He is not superior in any facet, but he is solid in all phases of protection.
Backups Womack Ashworth Gray Willis
Starters Tackles Jones and Locklear, Center Spencer, Guards Sims and pick-em
Preference for other starting guard is 1) Dielman, 2) Steinbach, 3) Dockery, 4) Grubbs, 5) Beekman
Well there you have it, the preferred list of candidates for a new starting guard. Will any of them be available for the taking? I hope so.