Friday, December 12, 2008

Is Big Walt's Expiration Date Approaching?

by: Chris Sullivan

Frank Hughes had an interesting article in today's TNT asking what a few others have been pondering around the world of Seahawkia: is the Walter Jones era in Seattle coming to a close? I think that, for the most part, we can all agree that Walt probably has only another two or three years left in him based on both his age and the wear on his tires. Still, the reasons being speculated about are unfair from where I'm standing:

Because Jones was uncharacteristically beaten by Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware for two sacks in a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game, some are speculating that he is nearing the end of his career.
There are three major things playing into my belief that getting beaten twice was no big deal. First, DeMarcus Ware is one of the top three to five pass rushers in the NFL; he beats just about anyone he's going up against. Second, and to me most importantly, it has been transparently obvious that he struggles when put next to someone he needs to worry about, which Walt himself has said. Big Walt was lined up next to Womack, who has been pretty solid all year but had not lined up next to him for a single snap in years, and who was himself next to Steve Vallos enjoying his first (or second?) career start at center. Third, which Frank mentions soon thereafter, is that Jones' knee was injured enough to keep him out of that game, but did not for, uh, who knows what reason.

Jones is among the best players in NFL history by just about everyone's estimation. He has been plagued with injuries the last few seasons, and I don't expect that to change too much going forward. Taking the last four games off this year should help, and not playing an extra two games should also help in his rehab (hurrah for no playoffs!). I expect to see #71 dominating right ends for another two or three years.

That said, I do expect this to be the year that the Seahawks attempt to draft Walt's successor. In reality, they will probably draft Locklear's successor, with him set to move into Jones' shoes at the appropriate time--unless we grab the successor in 2009, at which point things get shaken up a bit. A first round draft pick will rarely sit on the bench for two or three years; Walter Jones, for example, has started 100% of the 180 games in which he has played. Jones will not be benched for a draft pick, but could Locklear be? Is Willis the longer term successor?

April cannot come soon enough. ~END~