Russell Okung ≠ Walter Jones

Optimism is good, but Russell Okung has some pretty big shoes to fill. With Walter Jones’ retirement finally official, Okung steps in as the starting left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks. As a first-round pick, expectations should be high; as Walter Jones’ successor, we shouldn’t expect another decade of near-perfection.

Russell Okung probably won’t start 180 games in a Seahawks uniform. If Okung is as good as advertised, the Seahawks probably won’t let him get away (think Steve Hutchinson). But that sort of consistency, durability, and longevity is almost unreal.

If  Okung is fortunate and talented enough to protect the quarterback’s blindside for more than 5,500 pass attempts, he’ll probably surrender more than twenty-three sacks. Especially if he has a thirteen-year career in the National Football League. Keep in mind, Walter Jones was injured and gave up three sacks in one game against DeMarcus Ware. When Jones was on the field, there wasn’t another player more dominant.

A first-round tackle like Russell Okung is going to be athletic, but Walter Jones was one of the greatest athletes to ever play professional sports in Seattle. Superstar treatment or not, nine holding penalties over a thirteen-year career is incredible. With so much athleticism and prowess, holding an opponent was never necessary. Russell Okung may develop into a Pro Bowler sooner than later, but he’ll make mistakes along the way.

All-Pro expectations are fair, but don’t assume Okung will set a franchise record for most Pro Bowl appearances. Walter Jones has more Pro Bowl appearances than any Seahawk in franchise history, including eight consecutive selections.

Okung may be good, but he won’t be Walter Jones.

Remember when Steve Hutchinson left Seattle? No fan base in the National Football League has ever been more focused on the left offensive guard position. Every poor soul who lined up to Walter Jones’ right received criticism. Hutchinson left big shoes to fill; Big Walt’s void is greater.

Everyone should be excited about Russell Okung. He should develop into a very good lineman, but he cannot be compared to Walter Jones. Jones was a once-in-a-generation talent and the best left tackle of his time.

Unfortunately for Okung, we’ve been spoiled at his position since 1997. As Seahawks fans, we’re not used to surrendered sacks, penalties, or mistakes coming from the left tackle. In fact, it is a position no one noticed until Walter Jones left. And that is a good thing.

Shaun Dolence: [email protected]
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Tags: Left Tackle National Football League NFL Draft Pro Bowl Retirement Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks Steve Hutchinson Walter Jones

  • Time will tell

    Give the guy a break! He hasn’t even played one game yet.

  • Shaun Dolence

    Thanks for the comment.

    I’m not discounting Russell Okung’s ability. I believe he’ll be a good player in the National Football League.

    But as Seahawks fans, we have to realize that we’ve been fortunate enough to watch one of the greatest athletes ever play left tackle. Comparing Okung to Jones is unproductive and unrealistic.

    I just wanted to make the point that if Okung cannot mirror Jones’ career highlights, it does not mean he’s a bad player in the NFL. We’ve been spoiled in Seattle.

    Okung can be a good left tackle, but he is not Walter Jones.

  • brian meyer

    Ya, Ya, Jones was the greatest. We will ALL miss him. I think this is the time to stop looking over our shoulder toward the past, and charge forward. Lets support this guy, (probably the best LT in the draft this year), and lets keep our old but good QB on the field. I think this guy may get beat a few times, but overall I think this guy is going to be a stud, (barring injury).

  • Shaun Dolence

    @brian meyer: I couldn’t agree more.

    I guess this post was interpreted a little differently than I anticipated.

    Either way, I’m excited about Okung and what he brings to the table. Throughout the draft process, I didn’t think we had a shot at getting him. Very happy to have him in Seattle.

  • Trakar

    I think I hear you clearly, I just don’t think most Seattle fans are aware of the difference between having a once-in-a-generation league dominant player at left-tackle, and merely have a really superior rookie left-tackle.
    Matt will benefit more from a switch in schemes and having both Okung and Ben Hamilton protecting his blind side, but we shouldn’t mistake Okung for a plug and play replacement for big Walt. I look forward to watching Russell grow and excell in his new role, but we have to be prepared for there to be a learning curve, and understand that Walt was unique.

  • Hawkstrap

    Nobody expects Okung to be the second coming of Big Walt. I think a lot of the talk about whether he can fill those shoes is based on timing. He arrived at Seahawk headquarters the same day Walter Jones retired so we are all reminiscing about how great Jones was. But the reality is we haven’t seen Jones on the field in a long time. I remember the misery of last season a lot more clearly then I recall the glorious decade of Walter Jones mauling people. Okung doesn’t need to be as good as Walter Jones. He just has to be better than last year’s variety pack of left tackle starters. There’s no way a guy with his talent can’t at least live up to that.