Seahawks O-Line Prove There's Life Without Jones

Rob StatonCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2009

RENTON, WA - JULY 31:  Center Max Unger #60 of the Seattle Seahawks is shown in action during training camp at the Seahawks training facility on July 31, 2009 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

It went largely unnoticed in the Seahawks' 28-0 demolition of the lowly St. Louis Rams, but Matt Hasselbeck was untouched.

Kudos must go to an offensive line missing two starters, Chris Spencer and Walter Jones.

Some will point to the fact it was "only" the Rams.

There's no doubt that tougher tests will come in the upcoming weeks, none more so than the difficult trip to San Francisco on Sunday.

But it wasn't a complete walk over against the St. Louis.

Steve Spagnuolo might be in the early stages of a massive rebuild, but he brought over some of those successful blitz packages from New York to keep Seattle guessing.

There were other factors that added to the impressive performance.

It was the first test for the newly installed zone blocking scheme and a debut for rookie Max Unger at guard.

Replacement center Steve Vallos was making just his sixth career start.

Sean Locklear, considered by some as the long term successor to Walter Jones at left tackle, had to show he's capable of making the switch.

After a year on injured reserve, Rob Sims was making his return to the lineup at left guard.

All things considered, the O-line put in a much more credible performance than it initially appeared.

Reports suggest both Jones and Spencer will practice this week, with a potential return to the starting lineup as soon as this weekend.

The dilemma facing Head Coach Jim Mora is whether to stick with the guys who did so well against the Rams or recall the veterans.

It'd be previously unthinkable to keep a healthy Jones on the sidelines, but that might actually happen.

Let's face it, the Seahawks will never know if guys like Locklear can fill the void Jones will eventually leave unless they get a chance.

Bringing the future Hall of Famer back slowly might be best to preserve his long-term health for the rest of the year, whilst in the short term, offering a vote of confidence in Locklear's abilities at left tackle.

Any move will probably affect rookie Unger, too.

When Jones does return, Ray Willis could move from right tackle to guard.

The Seahawks aren't used to experiencing this kind of selection problem, particularly on the offensive line.

If everyone can stay healthy, Coach Mora won't mind having to make a few tough decisions.

Whoever starts, the importance of maintaining the Week One performance cannot be underestimated.

Hasselbeck put up solid numbers against St. Louis, despite a rusty opening.

No doubt, the Seahawks will only go as far as their franchise quarterback can take them, and keeping Hasselbeck harm-free will be vital after his injury plagued the 2008 season.

Quality play up front will also keep the Seahawks run game relevant.

Not many people have written positively about the Seattle running backs in preseason, but Julius Jones's 117-yard effort on Sunday raised a few eyebrows. A lot of credit has to go to the blocking not only from the line, but also from fullback Justin Griffith.

Yes, it'll be a tougher test against the 49ers. But let's not downplay the offensive line's performance last week.

They've set the bar high for the rest of the year, we'll soon find out if they can maintain it.