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Russell Okung has been in the league for three seasons. In 2010, he missed 6 games due to injury. In 2011, it was down to 4 games. And in 2012, Okung just missed the 1 game, week 2 vs. Dallas.
He’s getting more durable. Not only that, but he’s just getting BETTER. The two, I would imagine, go hand in hand.
When we drafted Okung with our top selection in 2010, our offensive line was in shambles. The very best player to ever put on a Seahawks uniform – Walter Jones – had finally seen his knees give way. We were a bad team looking to build through the draft, and thankfully that meant starting where every team SHOULD start: the offensive line. Russell Okung was our Walter Jones Replacement.
It’s just like any other team trying to replace a Hall of Famer – be it Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Favre, or even Joe Montana – those are some powerful big shoes to fill. Expectations fall immediately upon the replacement. Sometimes unfair expectations.
It’s tough to temper that side of fandom. After all, you get used to a certain quality of life. In the case of Walter Jones, that quality of life included being the best offensive tackle in the game for a decade. That meant punishing defenders, opening up gaping holes, and never letting your quarterback feel the brunt of the opposing team’s best pass rusher.
Sustaining that level of play is incredibly rare. We’d been so blessed to have a guy like Walter that we just assumed whoever we used as a high draft pick to replace him would step right in and maintain that Hall of Fame level of play. Which, as I said before, is probably unfair.
I think it’s reasonable to expect SOME form of greatness, though. I mean, he was a 6th overall draft choice. You don’t draft someone that high expecting to get an Aaron Curry out of the deal. You expect to get a starter and hopefully a Pro Bowl-quality starter.
Well, it took him three seasons, but Okung finally got that notch in his belt. I would argue he’s had this in him all along, but freak ankle injuries have prevented him from really showing his stuff. It’s good to see. There’s enough to worry about as a football fan. I can’t stand having offensive line be one of them.
Of course, what makes this team so special is the fact that Russell Okung – our highest-drafted player – isn’t even our BEST offensive lineman (which would fall to Max Unger). That’s going to take this team very far in the coming years.