Max Unger to be a very important man in the middle

Jan 7, 2015, 9:30 AM | Updated: 10:10 am
Seahawks center Max Unger is on track to return after missing the last six games of the regular sea...
Seahawks center Max Unger is on track to return after missing the last six games of the regular season. (AP)
(AP)

RENTON – The middle of the Seahawks’ offensive line has been more of a muddle this season.

Seattle has started four different players at center with Max Unger – a two-time Pro Bowler – missing 10 of the team’s 16 regular-season games with a pair of injuries.

But after recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s game in Kansas City, Unger is back for the playoffs.

Seahawks’ net offensive averages with and without Max Unger: 2014
Stat With Without
• Total YDS 392.5 365.7
• YDS/play 6.21 5.69
• Pass YDS 188.67 211.8
• YDS/pass play 6.51 6.58
• Sacks 2.17 2.9
• Rush YDS 203.83 153.9
• Rush YDS/ATT 5.97 4.81

The significance of his return is spelled out by the numbers. In the games that Unger played, Seattle’s rushing average was up 50 yards per game and a full yard per carry while the Seahawks allowed fewer sacks.

“That’s his guidance and his experience for the other guys up there,” coach Pete Carroll said, explaining the difference. “He’s an expert at recognizing looks and calls and directing what’s going on there so it just stands to reason that we maximize more so with him there.”

In fact, you could argue that Seattle might be riding a 10-game win streak were it not for Unger’s injury.

Unger left the game in Kansas City with the ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter, the Seahawks facing a second-and-goal from the 4-yard line. A touchdown would have given Seattle the lead.

The next three plays gained a total of 2 yards and Seattle turned the ball over on downs after a fourth-down incompletion to Doug Baldwin. Seattle had two more possessions after that but gained a total of one first down on the next two drives, losing 24-20.

Seattle started Stephen Schilling earlier this year when Unger was out with a foot injury, but he went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis both started for Seattle in December.

On Sunday against Carolina, Unger will be back in the middle of Seattle’s offensive line, an asset considering his experience playing for offensive-line coach Tom Cable.

“He and Tom have communicated so well,” Carroll said. “He really knows what Tom’s looking for and what he wants so we get that really, the benefit of that great connection that those guys have.”

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Max Unger to be a very important man in the middle