Ben Hamilton, Backup Center

Earlier this week, it was announced that Mike Gibson would be starting at left guard this Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. The change was somewhat surprising, only because Ben Hamilton seemed like a lock to start at that position through most of the offseason.

Hamilton, who signed with Seattle this offseason after spending nine seasons in Denver, was touted by coaches for his knowledge of the zone-blocking scheme. Especially with a rookie at left tackle, part of Hamilton’s duties would be to act as a mentor for the players around him. If he could still play, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Hamilton’s ability to play, however, may be in question.

After Josh McDaniels took over in Denver, the Broncos switched from their traditional zone-blocking scheme to more of a power-blocking scheme. Hamilton, as a smaller, more agile player, is much better suited in a zone-blocking scheme.

In fact, Hamilton was actually bumped from Denver’s starting lineup last season.

When he was relegated to a backup role, Hamilton was the longest-tenured Bronco regardless of position. It was the first time Hamilton had missed a start in which he was healthy since 2002.

After starting over one hundred games on an offensive line in the NFL, however, the body will take quite a toll. Hamilton did not play a game in 2007 due to a concussion and at 33 years old, he certainly is not getting any younger.

Following last season, it was obvious that Hamilton was expendable. He no longer fit the Broncos’ offensive scheme and there were younger, more viable options to fill his position. While conducting a position-by-position analysis after the season concluded, one article in The Denver Post assumed Hamilton would retire following a nine-year career in the National Football League.

Then the Seahawks came calling.

Hamilton is obviously a good fit in Seattle’s blocking scheme, but can he still play? Are we going to have to watch another older lineman struggle to keep up with younger, healthier players?

According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, Gibson will take over as the starter at left guard – for now. Sando also said that in his evaluation of both players, Gibson has been more impressive:

Mike Gibson will replace Ben Hamilton at left guard against the Vikings. He could stay there, I think, based on what we’ve seen from both players to this point.

Maybe Hamilton was only starting so he could mentor Russell Okung and aid in his development as a starting left tackle. Okung, however, will not be able to play for at least two more weeks following a high ankle sprain; ironically, Hamilton is the probable cause of the injury after landing hard on Okung’s leg against the Packers.

With Okung injured, Hamilton’s best asset, his knowledge of the zone-blocking scheme, is unnecessary. And if Mike Gibson is physically better than Hamilton, Pete Carroll’s theme of competition should prevail.

To make the situation a little trickier and definitely worth watching, however, Hamilton sat out of practice yesterday with an ice bag on his knee. On Tuesday, he worked as the second-unit center.

Is Hamilton’s demotion simply an opportunity for him to nurse injuries as the regular season approaches? More than likely, it is because of Mike Gibson’s superior play. Gibson will get an opportunity to prove himself and the starting job is probably his to lose at this point.

As the offensive line crumbles before our eyes, the left guard position will definitely be worth watching in the near future.

Shaun Dolence: [email protected]
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Topics: Alex Gibbs, Ben Hamilton, Denver Broncos, Injury, Josh McDaniels, Left Guard, Mike Gibson, Minnesota Vikings, National Football League, Offensive Line, Pete Carroll, Preseason, Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks, Zone-blocking Scheme

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