Thursday, May 27, 2010

Russell "The Road Grader" Okung

Some might consider that nickname inaccurate, as Okung is more fleet, than power right now. The operative word is right now. I am almost always skeptical and of the "wait and see" mentality on drafts, but Okung has me excited. Of course, Max Unger excited me last year till I noticed he was not built like a center and would make a much better guard if anything.

Unfortunately, Okung will be compared to the guy he is replacing, future Hall of Famer Walter Jones.  The comparisons will be unfair, but Seahawk fans now know what a great left tackle looks like. Granted, Okung is lighter and thinner and needs to add on some nfl muscle before he is a factor in the run game, but he has everything you could ask from a left tackle.

He is athletic, has long arms, does not battle weight issues and most importantly, as good feet and balance. Footwork and balance are the most important traits of any offensive linemen, especially a left tackle. A left tackle works in space, against the teams best pass rusher and sees the most blitzes, as defenses like to blitz the quarterbacks blind side. A left tackle needs to protect against the outside rush while simultaneously guarding against inside blitzters. This requires quick and balanced footwork, if a left tackle is caught leaning or turns his shoulders, a good pass rusher will eat him alive.

Fortunately, Okung has great feet, and the long arms needed to get into the chest of a defensive end, thereby neutralizing him. 

My only concerns are run blocking, in Oklahoma States offense he rarely, if ever, was in a three point stance, and rarely did any real drive blocking.  To call OK State's offense soft would be generous. I like physical linemen, I know Okung has the tenacity, I just don't know if the fundamentals of physical run blocking have been taught to him extensively.   He comes from a soft scheme, and you have to uncoach soft fundamentals.

I expect this year to be a year of growing pains for Okung, just as it was for Michael Oher last year. I watched both games the Ravens played against the Patriots, and in the first meeting, Oher was completely lost. In the playoff game, he was much improved and reacted well to many of the same blitz packages that confounded him two months prior. 

Lucky for Okung, the frequent two tight end sets that the Seahawks use will help him pass block from run formations, as I anticipate a learning curve getting into his pass blocking stance from a three point stance.  This guy won't come in and kick ass like Big Walt did, but he definitely could be a pro bowler, especially at the hands of Alex Gibbs.

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