The Seattle Seahawks have been looking for solid play at both offensive guard positions since their appearance in Super Bowl XL seven years ago. That season was the last year All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson played for the Seahawks and it was also the last time his fellow guard on the team, Chris Gray, played at a high level.
Ever since losing Hutchinson in the famed “poison pill” contract controversy in 2006, it seems as if the Seahawks have been cursed at guard. No team in the NFL has had the position as scrutinized by its fans as much as this organization.
Underwhelming performers such as Pork Chop Womack, Mansfield Wrotto, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims (who has actually gone on to be a solid performer for the Detroit Lions), and Max Unger (who went on to become a Pro Bowl center) among others have attempted to play the position well, but ultimately failed.
There have also been free agent bust signings to play left guard in an attempt to fill the void that Hutchinson left such as Mike Wahle in 2007 and Robert Gallery in 2011. Neither of them lasted for more than a season.
With all of the doom and gloom surrounding both guard positions, there is hope for this upcoming year. Former first-round draft pick, James Carpenter, will get the first chance to fill the black hole known as left guard for the Seahawks. Carpenter enters the off-season healthy with the potential to be a solid performer.
If Carpenter fails, the steady, yet unspectacular, Paul McQuistan will most likely play the position. While McQuistan isn’t a good player, he’s not bad either. He can get the job done well enough to not be a liability, which is what the Seahawks have had too much of since their Super Bowl season.
Basically, left guard is equipped with a high-upside player in Carpenter and a solid-enough performer in McQuistan should Carpenter fail.
Right guard (of which McQuistan could factor into the equation if Carpenter plays extremely well from the get-go in training camp) will most likely consist of a competition between 2011 third-round draft choice, John Moffitt, and 2012 surprise seventh-round draft pick, J.R. Sweezy.
Moffitt started at right guard out of the gate in his rookie year until he was injured late in the season and landed on injured-reserve. At the time of his injury, he had been showing steady improvement and seemed destined to be entrenched as a long-term starter starting the following season.
However, two things happened that seemed to change those plans. The first was an elbow injury during training camp that required minor surgery and later a week three injury to his knee that forced him to miss over a month. By the time he returned, he came back out of shape and ended-up out of favor with the coaching staff for his lack of conditioning and even wound-up a healthy scratch the last two weeks of the regular season.
Then there was the emergence of Sweezy, who had been a defensive tackle at North Carolina State only months before. While extremely raw and inexperienced, Sweezy displayed impressive athleticism in the running game, yet struggled in pass protection in his three regular season starts. He is definitely an intriguing talent to watch moving forward, especially after having now gone through an entire season learning the ropes of playing on the offensive line.
Sweezy hopes to join the ranks of players such as former San Diego Chargers guard, Chris Dielman, who had been an underwhelming college defensive linemen but became very good on the other side of the ball in the NFL.
Whoever starts at right guard for the Seahawks will have had to have forced a worthy opponent to the bench. One can say that Moffitt has the upper-hand if he comes into camp in tip-top shape, yet one can say the same for Sweezy if he continues to tap into his potential with an entire off-season to work on his craft at a position that is no longer foreign to him.
For the first time in almost a decade, I believe the Seahawks will not have to worry about the quality of their starting guards. While they may not have a star like Hutchinson on their line, they also do not have to worry about an abundance of poor options for either.