Seattle Seahawks' Offensive Line: The Curse of Hutch Continues

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIOctober 15, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 02:  Damion McIntosh #77 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL game on November 2, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Buccaneers won 30 to 27 in overtime. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

As the Curse of Hutch continues to strike down Seattle’s offensive linemen, the Seahawks finally buckled and brought in Damion McIntosh, a veteran tackle with plenty of starting experience who has been available since the season started.

They did it because Brandon Frye is out for the season with a neck injury. 

Frye, who was the third starting left tackle of the season, will become the fifth lineman to miss games when the Seahawks line up against Arizona in a huge divisional game at Qwest Field on Sunday.

Frye was replacing Sean Locklear, who was injured in Week 2 while starting for Walter Jones, who still has not come back from knee surgery.

Now the Hawks are down to their fourth left tackle, Kyle Williams, who was hurt himself—though not badly—last weekend after he replaced Frye. Williams got some good experience last December when he started the final two games after Jones and Locklear had been lost for the season, so the former undrafted free agent from USC is not a complete newbie.

McIntosh is new to the Seahawks, but he’s not new to playing left tackle. He has logged 93 starts on that side and 111 overall in a 10-year career that was put on pause when Kansas City surprisingly cut him before this season. He had started at left tackle the past two seasons for the Chiefs.

Mike Solari coached him in 2007, so McIntosh is familiar with the zone scheme the Seahawks are all learning now.

If he is ready before Locklear returns from a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past three games, McIntosh probably would step in at left tackle.

There has been no firm prognosis on how long Locklear will be out. Cornerback Josh Wilson came back from a similar injury last week after missing two games. Best case would have Locklear returning after the Week 7 bye, which means he would have had five weeks to heal.

Meanwhile, things are almost as bad at left guard. Rob Sims suffered a sprained ankle in Week 4 against the Colts. He was replaced last week by Mansfield Wrotto, who then had to leave with his own ankle injury. That put backup center Steve Vallos at left guard to finish the Jacksonville game, so the Hawks finished that game with their No. 4 left tackle and their No. 3 left guard.

Wrotto is expected to be ready for the upcoming game, but if he’s not, Vallos figures to start. In that case, the Hawks would have to make another move and bring up Brian De La Puente for depth since the Hawks would be without five linemen.

Either way, it’s going to be Seattle’s fourth different starting line in six games.

This pandemic that has pancaked Seattle linemen has been going on ever since Tim Ruskell let Steve Hutchinson leave in 2006. That season, center Robbie Tobeck’s career came to an end. The next year, graybeard Chris Gray’s long career was over.

Meanwhile, Chris Spencer, Sims, and Locklear—the supposed future of the line—have not been able to stay healthy. Each has missed chunks of time over the past four years.

We know how the Hawks’ line (barely) stands now. They’re just trying to patch it together until Locklear and Sims come back (assuming that Jones does not). But what about the future?

It’s hard to say. Locklear was supposed to be the future at left tackle after Jones retires, but Locklear has not been able to stay on the field for an entire season. Neither has Spencer, the 2005 first-rounder who has been a major disappointment. Left guard is still a spinning turnstile even four seasons after Hutch left.

The most stable part of the line right now is the right side, where center Max Unger is playing out of position at guard and Ray Willis is holding the fort at tackle. But Unger figures to replace Spencer as soon as next year, and Willis is signed only through 2010.

Bottom line: The future is just as murky as the present. The only thing we know is this: The Seahawks had better draft a couple of good linemen next year.

Check out OTPB's NFL power rankings and weekly picks Outside The Press Box.