Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chris Spencer - Better than fanvertised?

by: Chris Sullivan

John Morgan at the always perceptive Field Gulls posted a very good article on Chris Spencer yesterday. Morgan sees Spencer as a strong, athletic, and improving offensive lineman who was, in his estimation, the second-best offensive lineman for much of the 2008 campaign. With one false start penalty and only 2.5 sacks allowed, Spencer did indeed avoid most mistakes (he also had no holding penalties). Here's Morgan:

Spencer again proved reliable at the point of attack and able to match against the most athletic and most powerful defensive tackles. In 2008, he did so consistently. He improved his ability to react to free rushers and protect the quarterback within the pocket. Spencer overcame his greatest deficit, his feet, and began to turn his athleticism and raw power into blocks in the second level. He improved his ability to sustain those blocks as the season progressed.

There's not a whole lot to disagree with there. Spencer struggled from the on-set as he was thrust into the starting lineup early in his career and was harangued by Coach Holmgren ("a boss that humiliated and underappreciated him" says Morgan). Spencer's development in year one under Mike Solari was noticeable, and with Mora at the helm, don't be surprised to see Chris Spencer take the next step to being a real strength in the middle of the line. Max Unger should push Spencer to be a better player, though it very much remains to be seen whether that will happen.

We've been hard on Spencer as a center and have long supported him sliding over to guard for precisely the reasons Morgan mentioned -- he is strong, very athletic, and his feet are getting better all the time. There are two big questions about Spencer though: 1.) Can he play up to his first round status this year? If not, look for him to sign elsewhere in 2010; and 2.) Can he stay healthy? Spencer has the injury streak of Porkchop, but in a more important and regular role and with harsher injuries. His health is of paramount concern going forward, and if he cannot prove that he can get through a 16-game season, it will be hard to sign him to a long-term deal (if his play warrants one).

What do you think, Addicts? Will Spencer be able to take the final step and earn a new contract? Did Holmgren ever give Spencer a fair shake (remember, he was Ruskell's first draft pick...)? Sound off below.