Tag:Walter Jones
Posted on: August 22, 2010 5:31 am
Edited on: August 22, 2010 3:00 pm
 

Seahawks lose rookie Okung to ankle injury

By the end of the first drive of his second NFL game, Russell Okung -- the player Seattle drafted (and paid) to replace Hall of Famer Walter Jones -- suffered a "legitimate ankle sprain" which could keep him sidelined into the regular season.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said he wasn't sure if the sprain was of the "high ankle" variety, which often takes considerably longer than "low ankle" sprains to heal. High ankle sprains are known to sideline players for 4-6 weeks or more.

Seattle hosts NFC West division favorite San Francisco in three weeks to begin the regular season.

I attended this game and looked forward to comparing the play of Okung and Green Bay Packers' first round pick Bryan Bulaga (who was impressive ).

In watching Okung's three plays live, as well as watching and re-watching the recording of the game I took at home, I still am not sure how or even when, precisely, Okung was injured.

Neither were Carroll nor quarterback Matt Hasselbeck when interviewed following the game.

Okung started at left tackle and played each of the three offensive downs of Seattle's first drive. The rookie did not appear to be injured on either of the first two plays -- two runs by Justin Forsett.

Okung appeared to ease out of his stance cleanly into pass protection on third down. He was balanced and under control. The pocket began to break down and Hasselbeck made his throw -- which Deion Branch allowed to slip through his hands -- and the Seahawks were forced to punt. Though I focused on Okung throughout much of the play, I followed Hasselbeck's pass and didn't notice Okung being hurt.

Later, after it was announced that Okung had suffered an ankle injury and was "doubtful" to return, I asked some of the media and pro scouts around me if they had noticed Okung limp off the field or suffer the injury. None had. 

In fact, the first notion most (all?) of us in the pressbox had that Okung was hurt was when former offensive guard Mansfield Wrotto took over as Seattle's left tackle on the next drive. Seattle Post Intelligencer's Greg Johns reports that Okung was "helped to the locker room early in the first quarter." Okung did not return to the field, nor was he made available to the media following the game. 

Upon getting home this evening, I reviewed the film to see if there was a clearer view of the injury.
 
As I suspected, the television coverage focused on Hasselbeck's pass to Branch on third down. Okung appears to be comfortable in pass protection when the camera follows the ball. 

Often, when offensive linemen receive ankle injuries while in pass protection, they are rolled up from behind. The pocket was shifting as the play ended and it is possible that this is precisely what occurred with Okung. The television coverage I have, however, does not show Okung being knocked down. 

Regardless of how it happened, the injury to Okung could wreak havoc with the quiet optimism that had been brewing in Carroll's first training camp in Seattle.

The Seahawks struggled mightily with injuries along the offensive line last year; they started five different left tackles last season. Improved consistency and durability along the offensive line was considered as critical to the Seahawks improving from their 5-11 record last year as any other factor.

The usually energetic Carroll appeared somber in the post-game press conference, admitting that Okung's ankle sprain was "pretty significant."

He was short on specifics other than to say that Okung's x-rays were negative and that the No. 6 overall pick would undergo an MRI Sunday.

Carroll did, however, further acknowledge the severity of the situation.

"We obviously made it [left tackle] as big a priority as we could make it in getting him," Carroll said. "So, we'll have to see how it goes."

"That's a big loss if he can't come back. We put a lot of time and effort into getting this guy right and he's done everything we've asked of him. We'll just have to see how long it's going to take."

Mansfield Wrotto played the rest of the game at left tackle for the Seahawks.

Okung's injury is the second the team has faced in the past week along the offensive line. Ray Willis, who started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the club, was already out with plans to undergo knee surgery.  His injury, like Okung's, is expected to keep Willis out until at least the start of the regular season -- and perhaps much longer.

 


Posted on: August 7, 2010 3:43 pm
 

WR Tate, FS Thomas immediate hits in Seattle

With each of their first three picks of the 2010 draft -- OT Russell Okung, FS Earl Thomas and WR Golden Tate -- thought likely to win starting jobs for the Seattle Seahawks, their rookie class could be one of the more critical first-year groups in all of the NFL.

I've attended several OTA and training camp practices at the team's facility since the draft, including today's morning practice.

Considering that he was the last 2010 rookie to sign his contract and the gargantuan shoes he has to fill in taking over for Walter Jones, former No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung is certain to earn plenty of attention this season. So far, Okung has been characterized as "solid, but not spectacular" by those close to the team. He lined up with the second-team unit on Friday, his first practice since signing his deal, but had been moved up to the first-team today.

The more impressive players, thus far, have been Seattle's "other" first round pick, free safety Earl Thomas and second round pick, wide receiver/returner Golden Tate.

Thomas' instincts, quick feet and ball-skills have been on display. Though veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been able to take advantage of the rookie's aggression, at times, Thomas has more than held his own. An interception in the end-zone was one of the best plays I saw during the June OTAs and he's consistently been in good position to make plays in training camp, as well. Considering Seattle's questionable pass rush and the rookie target on his chest, Thomas could be challenged early and often. With Thomas' ball skills and solid play from cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, the 2010 No. 14 overall pick could enjoy a rookie campaign similar to the stunning breakout campaign that Jairus Byrd had last year with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions last season despite missing a couple games due to a groin injury.

Tate has been characterized to me by Seahawks' staff as having "made at least one big play each day" so far. His strong, compact frame and vision has already made him one to watch for the quick passes that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likes and he's shown a burst as a returner, as well.

The impressive leaping ability that characterized many of Tate's best plays for Notre Dame last year was evident this morning when he jumped high to snatch a deep pass downfield thrown by J.P. Losman. Trufant, however, was in perfect position to knock the ball out of Tate's hands as the two came down. Though the pass ultimately was incomplete, Tate's athleticism gives the Seahawks the big-play threat they've lacked since the days of Joey Galloway.

It is always tough to gauge how well rookies will be able to acclimate to the NFL based on their performances in training camp. Still, for a team desperate for an infusion of talent at so many positions, Seattle's "big three" rookies should be among those making an immediate impact in 2010.

 
Posted on: August 2, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2010 11:59 am
 

Okung, not Suh/Spiller, most critical holdout

Despite lots of talk heading into the start of training camps about potential rookie holdouts, 29 of the league's 32 first round picks have signed contracts with their NFL teams in this, the first week of August.

The three remaining -- No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh, No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung and No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller -- were the three most celebrated senior players at their respective positions in all of college football last season. Obviously, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, respectively, want their first round picks in camp as soon as possible. Each are expected to be immediate impact starters for their clubs.

Suh and Spiller are the two more celebrated players and no doubt will generate more of the media attention. The Lions and Suh's agents -- Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker -- are thought to be relatively close to a deal which could put NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated 2010 prospect in Detroit by the end of the week.

Spiller, represented by agent Gary Wichard, however, could be in for a longer holdout. The reigning ACC Player of the Year seemed resigned to that possibility by indicating in a chat with fans at The Sporting News that he was going to "... let my agent handle all of that. We're not going to rush. We're going to make sure we cross our T's and dot our I's, however long the process takes. I just have to be patient. I can't get antsy about the situation. I've talked to a lot of veteran guys. My teammates aren't concerned about me holding out. They know that I want to be there, but at the end of the day it's a business. You have to do what's best for your family. It was good to get that support from veteran guys already — before negotiations have heated up."

It is Okung, however, whose holdout could prove to be the story.

Like Spiller, Okung's contract talks have appeared to hit a significant snag. ProFootballTalk.com reported yesterday that a deal between the Seahawks and Okung's agent Peter Schaeffer is "not even close." Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil noted that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll labeled his projected starting left tackle's absence as a "concern for him every day."

Suh and Spiller are readier to make an immediate impact. Suh is such a dominant player that I expect him to standout at defensive tackle as a rookie -- a truly rare feat. Spiller, due to his electricity and the relative "ease" of rookie running backs enjoying success in the NFL, projects as one of the league's surest highlight reel additions from the 2010 draft.

Okung, however, is being asked to play the position some believe is second only to quarterback in terms of difficulty adjusting from the NCAA to NFL. With the notable exceptions of Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long, few rookie left tackles have been able to come into the NFL and play well immediately.

I personally attended and scouted some of Okung's first practices as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during June OTAs. While Okung's length and strength were obvious, it was also clear that the former All-American still had a ways to go before understanding the intricacies of Alex Gibbs' vaunted zone-blocking scheme.

Okung is in charge of protecting the blindside of a soon-to-be 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's being asked to replace Walter Jones -- the best player in team history.

The Seahawks certainly won't admit it publicly, but they know they need to get Okung in the fold. With Okung out, the Seahawks have former fourth-round pick Ray Willis, a natural right tackle, starting on the left side. When Willis was given Monday's practice off to rest, veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto, another former fourth round pick, was given the nod. Neither Willis nor Wrotto have demonstrated to this point the ability to consistently hold a starting position in the league. Both, due to marginal agility, are potential liabilities in Gibbs' system -- at any position -- much less the critical left tackle spot.

In a new offense with new coaches, the Seahawks could struggle to protect Matt Hasselbeck even with Okung starting. They're in a potentially dire situation without him.

It doesn't get any simpler for the Seahawks than this -- the more games Matt Hasselbeck starts for the Seahawks this season, the greater chance Pete Carroll has of improving on Seattle's 5-11 record last year. Until Okung signs, however, neither Hasselbeck remaining healthy nor the Seahawks improving in the win column seems likely.
Posted on: April 29, 2010 10:43 pm
 

Scout: Walter Jones "like Pujols"

With all due respect to Jonathan Ogden, Anthony Munoz, and Tony Boselli the greatest left tackle of the past twenty years -- and arguably all time -- hadn't retired.

He hadn't retired until today, that is.

Walter Jones entered the NFL as the sixth overall pick of the 1997 draft. He played all 13 of his seasons for the Seattle Seahawks. If he'd played for perhaps any other franchise in the NFL, his retirement would be generating more attention than it is. It certainly would be if he played for one of the prominent east coast or south teams.

Consider that in 13 years Jones was voted to nine Pro Bowls, including a string of eight consecutive years (2001-08). And while some have argued that Pro Bowl berths are essentially popularity contests, consider that Jones was voted to the All-Pro squad six years. Whereas the Pro Bowl may have become a bit of a joke in recent years, All-Pro means he was voted the best of the best. In 2005, The Sporting News voted him as the best player in the league, regardless of position.

Former Seahawks head coach and current Cleveland team president Mike Holmgren once characterized Jones as the best player he'd ever coached. Consider that Holmgren coached Brett Favre. And Joe Montana. And Steve Young. And Jerry Rice. And Reggie White.

In 13 seasons, Jones was flagged for holding nine times.

In 5,703 passing plays, Jones allowed a total of 23 sacks.

Revered offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who some have called the best of all-time characterizes Jones as the best he's ever coached, according to a well-written tribute to Jones on www.seahawks.com

 

“Walt Jones, he set the bar really, really high,” Mudd said. “The next guy I think of is Anthony Munoz, and he played a long time ago. This is 20 years later, and you’ve got another one who is like that. And I’m not sure Walt isn’t better.

“So the point I’m making is, Walt is maybe the best one that’s ever played that position. Walter was a phenomenal talent, and it started the day he showed up.”

I've spoken to scouts who compared Jones to former All-Pro left tackles like Anthony Munoz and Tony Boselli.

Perhaps the astonishing comment I've received about Jones, however, came years ago from a longtime talent evaluator who, unfortunately, refused to go on record.

"I compare Jones to Albert Pujols. Mudd used the comparison to Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. It doesn't matter. The point is the same. Those guys, they aren't just good. They aren't just the best. They're each so much better than everyone else that it is ridiculous to even mention other players in comparison. If you want to bring up the guys from 20-30 years ago, the Jim Parkers and guys like that, fine. But in today's game when the speed rusher really came into existence, no one was better than [Jones]. He was the standard that, as scouts, we were all looking to find again."

On Thursday, the Seahawks announced that they'd be retiring Jones' No. 71. They should. While Steve Largent might have been the face of the Seattle Seahawks throughout his career and is still the team's most popular player, there is no doubting Jones' was -- and remains -- the best player the team ever had.

 



 
 
 
 
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