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Rookie Projections: Max Unger

Tim Ruskell showed great proficiency in the second round of last April’s NFL Draft. The Seahawks sent their second-round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Denver’s natural 2010 first-round selection. Staying active late in the first day of the draft, Seattle maneuvered back into the second round, trading their third- and fourth-round selections to Chicago for the 49th overall choice.

Seattle used the pick obtained from Chicago to draft Max Unger, a highly rated offensive lineman who was projected as a late first- to early second-round choice. The Seahawks achieved great value in selecting Unger late in the second round, and the pick could pay dividends as soon as this season.

Will Max Unger start in 2009? That isn’t the appropriate question to ask; the actual issue is when and where Unger will start once given the opportunity.

Max Unger is a talented, athletic offensive lineman whose best talents and ability can be described by one word: versatility. Unger has the ability to play at any spot on the offensive line; he was recruited to Oregon as a guard, but played two seasons each at the left tackle and center positions. Unger was an All-Pacific-10 player at both spots.

As mentioned previously, Unger offers excellent versatility and athleticism to the offensive line. Unger’s physical strengths lie in his foot speed and overall athleticism, and he should be a very capable lineman in the National Football League. His only problem may be handling larger defensive tackles, but Unger possesses enough talent and strength to compete for one of the interior offensive line positions.

As the Seahawks offensive line continues to get older and more vulnerable to injury, Unger seems to be a perfect fit and should inject youth and additional depth to the group. Last season, the offensive line was decimated by injuries; the five players who finished 2008 aren’t the planned starters for 2009.

During minicamps, Unger was getting a lot of repetition at left guard. I believe the Seahawks plan to develop Unger as a versatile commodity in the National Football League, and he could start at any of the three interior positions in the near future. The time spent learning at left guard could indicate a lack in confidence in current starter Mike Wahle. Wahle recently had surgery to repair an injured shoulder, and his body seems to be deteriorating more each season.

According the Jim Mora, the plan is to move Max Unger along slowly, and allow him to learn one position at a time. But if the Seahawks suffer injuries along the interior offensive line again, Unger could see significant playing time next season.

Unger’s versatility may also create a dilemma next off-season; Chris Spencer and Rob Sims will be free agents, and both players could be on their way out now that the Seahawks have developed good depth behind them. Sims and Spencer combined to miss twenty games last season, and neither player has lived up to expectations. If either player departs, Unger may find his new job at one of the vacant starting spots.

In 2009, I don’t expect Unger to immediately earn a starting spot out of training camp. However, according to a report from ProFootballWeekly.com, Max Unger is simply too good to not be a starter this season.

I don’t deny Unger’s talent, but I have to disagree. I think he’ll provide additional depth this coming season and find himself as a key reserve on the offensive line. In a perfect situation, the players penciled in as starters will remain healthy, allowing Unger to slowly learn the nuances of the professional game and develop into a better player.

Bottom line, Unger has the talent to be a very good player in this league. Though the Seahawks have had trouble staying healthy along the offensive line, there is no rush to push Unger into a starting role, yet. His athleticism and versatility will make it hard for the coaching staff to keep him off the field, but giving Unger an opportunity to learn slowly will help his development at the professional level.

PROJECTED STATISTICS:

Games Played:            14

Games Started:           3

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Tags: Alphonso Smith Center Chicago Bears Chris Spencer Denver Broncos Free Agent Injury Jim Mora Max Unger Mike Wahle Offensive Guard Offensive Line Offensive Tackle Oregon Ducks Rob Sims Rookie Tim Ruskell

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