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.