Walter Jones will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this morning, his second surgery on the same knee in eight months. The surgery will be performed in Seattle by Dr. Ed Khalfayan, and more details will become available after the procedure is completed.
Jones, arguably Seattle’s best player ever, has been the anchor of the offensive line for over a decade. The 35-year old tackle is still capable of performing at an elite level, if he can remain healthy.
With news of the surgery breaking yesterday evening, many Seahawks fans began to fear the worst. After last season, injuries are a very sensitive topic, and even the slightest speculation can trigger widespread panic.
Although Jones’ knee may be troublesome, there is no reason to panic.
Yesterday, Matt Hasselbeck downplayed the significance of the surgery. From an article quoting Hasselbeck at SeattlePI.com:
"“That’s probably a big deal to the outside world,” Hasselbeck said. “In a locker room, it’s ‘Hey, what are you doing this weekend? Oh, I’m getting a ‘scope.’”Hasselbeck then dryly noted Jones has missed multiple offseasons and training camps in the past – mostly over contract issues – then maintained his elite play.“Maybe if it was someone else (it would be big to be out all camp). But Walt has done it so many times: No OTAs, no minicamps, no training camp – Pro Bowl,” Hasselbeck said."
Regardless of Hasselbeck’s optimism, several fans are worried that the end may be near for the first-ballot Hall of Fame tackle.
While that pessimistic approach may turn out to be accurate, fans shouldn’t worry too much. The Seahawks have quality along the offensive line capable of replacing Jones in the lineup. And while there isn’t anyone you’d rather have playing left tackle on Sunday, the Seahawks have talented players who can step up if necessary.
If Jones isn’t healthy for the beginning of the season, Sean Locklear will likely replace him at left tackle. Locklear has mostly played right tackle for the Seahawks, but the organization envisions him as the heir-apparent to Jones at left tackle.
Locklear’s move to the left side will allow Ray Willis to enter the starting lineup at right tackle. Willis started ten games last season for the Seahawks, and proved that he is more than capable of competing in the National Football League.
Although injuries plagued the offensive line last season, it could have been a blessing in disguise. The Seahawks were forced to play several reserve players who gained invaluable experience through the additional time on the field. The depth developed last season may subdue any difficulties created by injuries to the offensive line this season.
My only concern regarding Seattle’s offensive line may be depth. If Walter Jones is out for an extended period of time, then the Seahawks will have to reach out and possibly acquire help at the position.
Kyle Williams, a second-year tackle from USC, is a capable reserve who started two games for Seattle last year. After him, there isn’t much quality depth.
The Seahawks could bring in a veteran like Levi Jones, who was the tenth overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was released by Cincinnati last May after the team drafted Andre Smith in the first round this year.
Although many fans are familiar with Levi Jones, he may not be the right answer for Seattle. Levi Jones’ character is questionable after an offseason incident in 2007, and his uncertain durability ultimately led to the Bengals going in another direction. Jones has been recently bothered by knee and leg injuries, missing twenty starts over the past three seasons.
It will be interesting to hear the outcome of Walter Jones’ procedure later this morning. If it is anything serious, then the Seahawks will have to make a few minor tweaks to their roster.
Fortunately, head coach Jim Mora is optimistic.
“We don’t think that it’s anything significant, but we just want to make sure.”
No need to panic … yet.