After two weeks, the Carroll/Wilson noise is already here

September 23rd, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

The loss to the Titans appears to have opened some old wounds

It took two games.

When the Russell Wilson saga reached its peak earlier this year, we talked about this inevitability.

If there wasn’t a proper resolution, this would linger into the season and be a cloud hanging over the team.

Such a resolution, in my eyes, was simple. Either you make a trade or you recommit to your quarterback in the way of a new contract. They are two extreme outcomes, obviously, but that’s how serious things got. And there needed to be a line drawn otherwise this season would be impacted.

At the very least restructure his deal to create cap space. They could’ve done that at any point. It would’ve been a big statement because it would make it virtually impossible to trade Wilson next year. Instead, they’ve well and truly left that door open. Make your own mind up as to why.

The Seahawks chose to stay silent during the media storm. Clearly they hoped everything would go away. Then Pete Carroll and John Schneider conducted an intelligence-insulting press conference where they claimed it was all a media creation and a whole lot of nothing.

You know, despite the Athletic article which appeared to be sourced from the team and the subsequent agent-led response to Adam Schefter, listing Wilson’s four preferred trade destinations.

So despite the forced ‘Pete and John crash Russell’s press conference to show they’re best buds’ routine, there was always a danger that once the season started — this whole saga would re-emerge.

Cue the Brock and Salk podcast this week — with the main subject matter being Carroll and Wilson’s relationship. Salk started the broadcast by claiming he’d spoken to the connected Gee Scott to ask about how things are between the two. ‘It’s all anyone (in the building) is talking about over there’ was the response.

“Something’s going on” claimed Salk.

How will Wilson respond to Carroll’s couched finger pointing about his fourth quarter performance against Tennessee? Why was that second half so reminiscent of late 2020? Who is to blame? The player? Or is it more than that?

Especially, as pointed out by Salk, since Carroll’s peculiar answer to a question last week about Shane Waldren’s influence on the Indianapolis win.

“He’s open-minded to do things that we’ve done in the past”

Think about that for a second. What has the new offensive coordinator brought to the table? Here’s an invitation to give him some praise. The one thing that stands out? According to Carroll, it’s the fact he’ll do things they’ve always done.

That answer was all the more alarming in the aftermath of the Titans game — where the offensive game-plan appeared to be directly transported from 2020.

That’s not to excuse Wilson, who should’ve played better late in the game. Yet if you feared Waldren and Wilson weren’t going to be handed the keys to the offense — this wasn’t a reassuring Sunday.

Meanwhile, Colin Cowherd — connected to Mark Rodgers and the Wilson camp — is busy announcing on his show that the Seahawks don’t do anything well if it doesn’t have the quarterbacks prints all over it.

“Russell Wilson fools you into believing Seattle is a well-oiled machine”

Welcome to the 2021 Seahawks season. Where wins will quieten the noise temporarily and defeats will open up all the old wounds from the off-season.

I think Carroll and Wilson have done an admirable job trying to move forward. But they didn’t really have a choice, did they? For the Seahawks there wasn’t a trade scenario that was tempting. And if Wilson had pulled an Aaron Rodgers — well, Rodgers is still in Green Bay, isn’t he?

What choice did anyone have but to crack on?

Making a statement about having a newly brilliant relationship and all that jazz sounds good but it felt like an attempt to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

I suspect both share resentment. Wilson over the direction of the team and lack of post-season success. Carroll and co for the way he voiced those concerns so publicly.

That doesn’t just go away.

This is how the entire season will be played out. Either the Seahawks will win and keep a lid on this for a moment or two. Or they lose and we get this. If the season ends in glory — salvation. Maybe. If it’s more of the same (or worse) then change will be inevitable. Either in the form of Wilson being dealt, Carroll retiring or maybe both.

It feels like the team is facing a six month period that could determine so much for the future of the franchise.

And sure, you could argue a 710 ESPN podcast and Colin Cowherd isn’t exactly the thundering jungle drums of the mass international media. It’s a start though, isn’t it?

The Seahawks play Minnesota (A), San Francisco (A), LA Rams (H) and Pittsburgh (A) next. There’s potential danger ahead, not just in terms of record, but in terms of the noise that could surround this team.

Either they’ll come out of this stretch stronger and ready to push back against this talk. Or things are going to spiral and the noise will grow and grow.

This is a major stretch of games in the Carroll and Wilson era.

Make no mistake though, this is the cloud they’ll play under for the rest of the season. Winning at an elite pace will be the only antidote.

If you missed yesterday’s stream with Jeff Simmons, please check it out below:

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

A Seahawks debate with Jeff Simmons

September 22nd, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Rob Staton & Jeff Simmons get into the big topics following the week two loss to Tennessee. This is a stream not to be missed!

 

Curtis Allen’s week three watch points (vs Vikings)

September 21st, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Note:  This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

Time to get right back on the horse.

In Week Three, the Seahawks face a team that are paced by a dominant running back and a very efficient quarterback who is throwing to two threatening wide receivers.

Sound familiar?

Whether they can adjust, refocus and return a more complete effort than they did on Sunday against Tennessee might give us some further clues about how the 2021 season is going to unfold for this team.

Both the Seahawks and the Vikings have unfinished business from their Week Five matchup last season.

For the Vikings, it is obvious. They would love another shot at the Seahawks and the chance to break their head-to-head losing streak — particularly after losing their last meeting in a heartbreakingly dramatic fashion.

For the Seahawks, it might be less obvious but no less important. The Vikings dominated them on the ground to the tune of 201 rushing yards, pushing the Seahawks defense up and down the field and thumbing their nose at two excellent Michael Dickson punts that pinned them deep. 

The manner in which they won that match is hardly a sustainable recipe for success. Completing the circle in all three phases against that same tough opponent this Sunday could really send this team in the right direction.

This time around, the defense should have six players returning that did not play in last year’s game due to injury: Jordyn Brooks, Jamal Adams, Rasheem Green, Marquise Blair, D.J. Reed, and Darrell Taylor.

No two games are alike. The Seahawks have an opportunity to break the mode they have found themselves in with a game that is winnable for them.  How can they do it?

Contain Dalvin Cook

The beat marches on. The Seahawks opened their schedule with three consecutive games against a team that fields one of the top running backs and systems in the NFL.  How have they done so far?

Week One against Jonathan Taylor: Job done.

Week Two against Derrick Henry: Not so much.

Two out of three looks so much better than one out of three.

Limiting the damage Cook can do is key to having success against this offense. How can the Seahawks do that?

1. Set the edge on defense

The defense has witnessed two great zone schemes so far, but this one might be their biggest test yet. Why?

The Kubiak offense schemes both inside and outside zone runs and does an excellent job of masking their intentions and getting blockers downfield. It is a fantastic marriage with Cook’s elite vision and burst. 

We have already seen it work both ways in 2021. Cook has four explosive runs out at the edges and three explosives between the tackles in just two games this season. 

So, pick your poison.

The Seahawks have proven to be vulnerable at the edges and in defending the screen game, as predicted, with K.J. Wright no longer on the team. As stout as they have been on the interior, they are lacking strength at the edge of the defense.

Let’s take a look at how the Vikings do it so well by examining how they succeeded in their game against the Seahawks last year.

On back-to-back plays the Viking offense wrecks the edges of the Seahawk defense and gives Cook room to run untouched.

The video starts at :49.  And it is not for the faint of heart…

Watch Bobby Wagner. He reads the play perfectly, reacts and knifes past Riley Reiff like he is standing still. Brilliant.

However Cook is just too quick to hit the hole and he runs past him. That is not a failure on Wagner’s part. 

Cook can accelerate because the edge has been blown wide open. 

Alton Robinson’s job on the play is to set the edge. If Robinson can even remotely set the edge, or disengage from the Irv Smith block to occupy that hole, Cook will be forced to hesitate and give Wagner just enough time to bring him down for a minimal gain or even a loss.

Smith blocks Robinson into the parking lot. The hole is so big that Cook easily accelerates away from Wagner and runs for ten yards as Robinson helplessly dives, flailing to try and make a play.

Let the video run. On the very next play, the exact same thing happens. Except this time Cook gets an escort to the end zone.

Off the snap, Reiff easily handles L.J. Collier and Kyle Rudolph stands up K.J. Fullback C.J. Hamm beats tracks through the hole and takes Wagner out of the play and Dakota Dozier gets two full steps to build up a head of steam to block Cody Barton and easily erases him. Touchdown Vikings.

Alexander Mattison gets a turn at it at 9:58 in that video in case you are not convinced of the Vikings’ run dominance in this game.

Ugly business.

They have to get tougher on the edges. 

Perhaps rotating one of their monster interior linemen out there occasionally is the answer? A Red Bryant type role might be an effective stopgap solution.

How about this – and trust me, I am fully aware of the irony of suggesting this, given what we just watched – using Alton Robinson more at that spot? 

He has gotten much more experience since that game last year, posted PFF grades of 63 and 71 for run defense so far in 2021, and has the versatility to both play the run and rush the passer — something Seattle does not currently posses an abundance of on the defensive line.

They need to get creative to find a solution or this Sunday’s tape will look awfully familiar to what we just looked at.

2.  Sound tackling is key

As you just saw, the zone system gives Cook gaps and holes to run in. The Vikings excel at opening holes and sending blockers through them to pave the way.

But it gets worse. Cook is not one of those flashy backs that breaks off big runs but goes down on first contact. He can both run away from defenders and regularly break tackles in tight quarters.

How good is he at breaking tackles?

Cook was the second-best at it in the entire league in 2020, behind only David Montgomery.

The Seahawks had a season-high eighteen missed tackles in that Vikings game last year. Every starter on defense recorded a missed tackle.

The good news is they did end the season with the fifth-fewest missed tackles in the NFL, so they are capable of better tackling. 

But there have been issues in 2021 so far with tackling. Pete Carroll was asked about this after the Colts game and said the ‘team has some things to clean up’ there. And we all saw that was true Sunday against the Titans.

For this game coming up, against that runner, facing that offensive system, they cannot afford to let Cook get past the first guy to get a hand on him.

They must be better at wrapping up in order to keep Cook from wrecking this game like Henry did.

And, as always, an effective run game sets up the play action.

Kirk Cousins is extremely good in play action. They ran about a quarter of their pass plays out of it and Cousins’ quarterback rating was a whole 24% better than when they did not.

Cook sets up their offense. They have to prevent him from using his speed and skill to open up their full package of plays.

Pressure Kirk Cousins at least 10 times

In Kirk Cousins’ three-year tenure in Minnesota, you can practically draw a straight line between the amount of pressures the Vikings allow and whether they win the game or not:

  • Average pressures in a Viking win: 6.9
  • Average pressures in a Vikings loss: 12.4

But that is just academic, isn’t it? Just about every team in the league can tie winning the game to pressuring the quarterback, right? 

What makes Kirk Cousins any different?

This does — when Cousins was blitzed in 2020, his completion percentage dropped from 71.40% to 59.50%.

You read that correctly. He goes from sharpshooter to peashooter when blitzed.

Here is the list of quarterbacks with 500 throws who had a bigger accuracy drop than Kirk Cousins when blitzed last year:

Deshaun Watson

End of list.

Another stat — in only four of the Vikings’ losses with Cousins at quarterback in the last three years did they surrender less than nine pressures. The other twenty losses? Nine or more.

Pressure Cousins. By any means necessary.

Preferably, that means bottling up Dalvin Cook first and forcing Cousins to be the answer. Then skillfully using the defensive line depth to create pressure. This includes solving the substitution challenges they experienced against the Titans.

And finally, mixing some creative blitzes as well.

If you are still not convinced this is a sound strategy, consider this about Cousins’ favorite target, Adam Theilen. Last year, 89% of Theilen’s catches were for either a first down or a touchdown. Those are elite numbers in company with other pass-catching greats like DK Metcalf, Mike Evans and Travis Kelce.

Passes to Theilen from Cousins traveled an average of 9.2 air yards per catch before they were received.

Which requires time for Theilen to get downfield and make his break.

Want to prevent Theilen from getting a first down or touchdown? Do not let Cousins have time in the pocket Sunday.

Minnesota’s offensive line has been banged up so far this year. The Seahawks must take advantage.

Use the tight ends

The Seahawks had success with their tight ends in the Week One win and then completely avoided them in the Week Two loss.

Getting them heavily involved this Sunday is not just a good idea; it is a critical key to success. Why?

Once again, let’s go to the numbers.

In 2020 the Vikings conceded an awful 12.3 yards per catch to tight ends. That was the next-to-last average in the NFL, beaten to the bottom only by the Jaguars at 12.6 yards per tight end catch.

How are the Vikings doing in 2021, you ask? Even worse. They have conceded 14 yards per catch, with four explosive plays in two games.

Did the Seahawks exploit this weakness in their game against the Vikings last year? Yes they did — but not nearly enough. 

Greg Olsen had one catch for twenty yards and Will Dissly had one catch for nineteen yards and a touchdown. 

Both of them only had one target each.

That is both bad and easy to fix.

There is another reason to involve the tight ends though — dominating the edges in the running game.

The Seahawks will need to focus a lot of offensive attention on those edges this Sunday. Why?

The Vikings have reinvested in their defensive interior and it is producing good results. Michael Pierce is one of the stoutest tackles out there and even had two sacks in Week One to add to his repertoire. 

If Michael Pierce’s name is familiar, it should be. He paired with Brandon Williams for the Ravens game against the Seahawks in Week Seven in 2019. He helped hold Chris Carson to 65 yards and held him under one yard or less on 8 of his runs. Four of those were in the first half and four in the second.

Now being paired with Dalvin Tomlinson, they are going to be a formidable match in the run game for Kyle Fuller.

Conversely, the Vikings are vulnerable on the edge. How about giving them a taste of their own medicine on offense there?

James Connor had 27 yards on 5 carries attacking the Viking defensive edges Sunday.

How did he do in between the tackles? Not good. He had -1 yard on 3 carries.

The Bengals exploited this vulnerability in Week One with Joe Mixon. He had runs to the edge of 8, 10, 12, and 19 yards. 

Let’s look at the tape on the 19 yard run. 

Watch the Bengals motion their tight end CJ Uzomah to the edge and completely seal it off with fantastic blocks to spring Mixon (also, pulling guard Xavier Su’a-Filo chipping one guy and blocking another is a treat):

This type of play is not beyond the Seahawks’ capability. They had several nice creative runs to the edge against the Colts. We need to see that creativity continue to blossom.

Stubbornly ramming the ball into the middle of the defense is just not advisable. Especially when there is an opponent’s vulnerability in other areas of the field and usable assets at tight end that have not been fully activated yet. The tight ends must be featured in this game to restore the offensive balance that the Seahawks lost Sunday against the Titans.

Attack the corners — both of them

Patrick Peterson has been getting some of that ‘he is not getting thrown at because he is so amazing’ shine for Minnesota so far this year. That is nice. 

But here is the real reason teams are not throwing his way:

Breeland has been absolutely dreadful so far this year. At one point he had a perfect quarterback rating allowed. Why would you not throw at him?

While Peterson is still a good player, he is not what he once was. In two games against the Seahawks last year for the Cardinals he conceded 130 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 119 passer rating. That includes that strange busted-play interception in Week Seven off of Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks need to be like Tyler Lockett in that very game.

The first offensive play of the game, Peterson thought he would be cheeky and jam Lockett at the line. Not only did he fail to move Lockett in the least, the force of the jam rocked Peterson himself out of position just slightly and Lockett and Russell Wilson took advantage for a thirty-four yard beauty that let the Cards know just what was coming.

Get off me. I got things to do.

This is the attitude the Seahawks need to bring to Sunday’s game.

Note — On Wednesday at 2pm (PST) Rob will be hosting a live stream with Jeff Simmons. You can tune in live via YouTube or the blog or watch on-demand. You can subscribe to the channel to never miss a video by clicking here.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

Some key talking points after the Tennessee meltdown

September 20th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Wilson and the offense simply weren’t good enough in the second half

Are we seeing Russell Wilson’s limitations exposed?

Wilson is a phenomenal quarterback and nobody can argue otherwise. He’s destined for the Hall of Fame, he is immensely talented and he’s the main reason Seattle continues to chalk up winning season after winning season.

While ever Wilson is in Seattle, the Seahawks will always be in position to claim a winning record.

Yet this Titans game, paired with the end of last season, raises a concern.

The coordinator has changed but the same issues exist. Just as last year the offense would stutter and stall and have no way of getting out of a funk, the same thing happened against Tennessee.

When things spiral and start to go wrong, there’s seemingly no return.

Look at Ryan Tannehill yesterday. He was clearly aided by Derrick Henry’s running, for sure. But he was able to find the little checkdowns, take what was given and ultimately keep his offense on schedule.

Wilson is at his best throwing the deep ball and extending plays to make magic happen. Staying on time, getting the ball out quickly, working the middle — is he capable of doing the stuff you take for granted when a quarterback of his undoubted talent so often blinds you with dazzling downfield shots and making the improbable happen?

An offense with as many weapons as the Seahawks have shouldn’t be shuddering to a halt like it did yesterday. To only have one scoring drive in the second half — courtesy of a horrible blown coverage by the Titans — isn’t acceptable.

I fear we’re in a place now where Wilson’s personal ambition, to prove unequivocally that he’s one of the best of all time, requires him to play in a way that arguably doesn’t suit him. He wants to do some of the things the Drew Brees’ of this world found effortless but Wilson occasionally finds more of a challenge.

Essentially, he’s an improv and deep-ball specialist and really good at it. He does a lot of other things well too. But throwing the intermediate passes and playing a consistent timing/on script brand of football is more of a challenge.

To Wilson though, he needs to marry the two to get to where he wants to be. And maybe he can’t do it. Maybe, at some point, he’ll need to embrace what he is and isn’t.

You can change the coordinators but the same issues existed against Tennessee.

I can’t remember the Brees’ or Tom Brady’s ever having a stretch like Wilson had at the end of last season. And the fact it showed up in the second half again on Sunday is troublesome.

None of this is to diminish the extreme positives Wilson brings to the table. He’s an exceptional player and whatever happens in the rest of his career, he’ll be one of the all-time greats. He might be the prettiest deep-ball thrower of all time and he helped change the game in terms of how the NFL views quarterback size and mobility.

But yesterday’s game and the end to last season hints at road blocks for Wilson achieving the kind of world domination he hopes for. Too often, the stuttering and stalling has reared its head.

If the Seahawks and Wilson don’t find a way to stop that happening — and if they ultimately don’t move forward this season and go further than they have in previous years — then a mutual parting becomes increasingly likely.

How much longer will Pete Carroll go on?

Although many are prepared to dismiss what happened with Wilson and his apparent openness to a trade last off-season, it takes a serious suspension of reality to think that if the Seahawks don’t take a step forward in 2021, old wounds won’t re-open.

And if that’s the case, part of me wonders how Carroll will feel.

Does he really want to be the coach who oversees Wilson’s departure from Seattle? Does he really want to engage in a rebuild of the roster aged 70?

Cast your mind back to 2017 when things got ugly and the Seahawks were blown out by the Rams. Facing a reset in the off-season, Jay Glazer went on Fox Sports before the final game of the year and said the following:

“It’s gonna be Pete’s decision whether or not he moves on, they could be in a rebuilding year here, but Pete may or may not actually retire.”

Albert Breer had already written the following in the lead up to week 17:

“Crazy? Maybe. But with the future of several big defensive stars in question, and a possible overhaul of the roster coming, could Pete Carroll, 66, retire to southern California? It’s not the wildest idea out there.”

Carroll tweeted in reaction to this talk to say he wouldn’t be retiring. However, Glazer is not an unreliable reporter. He never actually said Carroll ‘would’ retire either. He simply suggested it was on the table.

Generally you don’t throw stuff out there like that as a reporter unless you’ve heard something. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if Carroll at least considered it at the time.

That talk was also emerging with Carroll only a year removed from signing a contract extension which had two years left to run.

I’m not predicting anything here, simply offering this as a talking point. If there are many more performances like Sunday — and if the Seahawks don’t take a step forward in 2021 — I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that Carroll at least considers what he wants to do.

After all, he doesn’t owe anyone anything. Whatever happens from here, he’ll be a Seahawks legend who is much loved in Seattle. He’s a Hall of Fame candidate.

But if he was considering his options ahead of the reset in 2018 — I’m pretty sure he might do so again if the franchise is entering a period where they might be making even bigger changes.

The problem with the defense

One of the refreshing things about the Shane Waldron appointment was it came from outside of Carroll’s circle of trust. It provided some hope that maybe he’d be willing to cede some control.

Defensively however, the coordinator is very much one of the boys for Carroll.

Perhaps influenced by an improved second half to the 2020 season, there was never even any talk of Ken Norton Jr losing his job. Yet the powder-puff schedule played as big a part as anything in their ‘success’ — a situation put into perspective when the Seahawks played the Rams and were hammered by a thumbless Jared Goff.

Yesterday against the Titans was a throwback to the problems of last season. The Seahawks gave up major yardage, provided no resistance and couldn’t hold onto a big lead.

It felt like the New England, Dallas and Arizona games all over again. The offense puts points on the board but then stalls, then the defense capitulates under immense pressure.

Carroll referred to the amount of yards they gave up last season in a press conference recently. He suggested it was a freakish situation. An anomaly.

Yet look at Tennessee’s yardage compared to the other games at the start of 2020:

Atlanta — 506
New England — 464
Dallas — 522
Minnesota — 449
Arizona — 519
Buffalo — 420
LA Rams — 389

Tennessee — 532

I’ve long thought Carroll should take on the role of figurehead rather than controller. I think he should’ve self-scouted and read the tea leaves. He is a master motivator who delivers a terrific culture and environment.

Scheming, game-management and details are not his forté.

Appointing specialist coordinators to run the offense and defense and taking on a role as the man overseeing from afar felt like a good idea. It’s what Nick Saban has done in Alabama. Yet rather than delegate, Carroll doubled down on control last year as things started to go south.

The Waldron appointment was encouraging but with the same issues emerging on offense, you have to wonder if Carroll has truly taken the training wheels off his bike.

After all, when quizzed last week for an example of a play Waldron had introduced in the Colts game, Carroll instead praised his coordinator for his willingness to retain aspects of the old offense. It was a bizarre answer.

Defensively, the Carroll and Norton Jr combo remains unconvincing and uninspiring. And while people have been celebrating (and overstating, for me) the D-line depth and the pieces available — the unit is still far too easy to play against. Even in front of a raucous home crowd.

Admittedly it doesn’t help when you reflect on how they’ve constructed this defense. As we’ve talked about so much — massive investment at safety and linebacker is a head-scratcher. And if you’re going to spend two first rounders and a third, plus $17.5m a year, on a safety — you hope for game-changing quality.

Yet it’s so difficult for a safety to provide that. When you have a top-class pass rusher, they are in 1v1 situations all the time. How often do you see a great defensive lineman take over a game? Maybe even win you a game? The best in the business have a knack for it.

For a safety it’s so much harder to impact games. In the case of Jamal Adams, the team and the player himself feel obliged to try and manufacture impact.

On the long touchdown run for Derrick Henry yesterday, Adams aggressively attacked inside. Tennessee’s running back just had to bounce it outside and even if Tre Flowers’ positioning was better than it was, I’m not backing him in a 1v1 vs Henry.

When your safety is attacking the backfield, there’s always a danger something like this can happen. And you can’t help but wonder how Kam Chancellor would’ve been used there without the pressure to justify the price-tag and game-changer tag?

Chancellor never blitzed. Sadly, only in our minds can we imagine what a Chancellor vs Henry battle for contain would look like. I’m convinced he would’ve made a different decision to Adams — or wouldn’t have been given the freedom to do what Adams did.

The explanation of the Henry touchdown from both Head Coach and player was frustrating:

Isn’t it just a perfect representation of the Seahawks right now? Carroll reaching for a play from the expensive safety and revving him up too much. Only for Adams to make a bad decision, one he’s totally oblivious towards it seems, giving Tennessee an opportunity to change the game.

There will be games this season, no doubt, where Adams tries something and it comes off and we’ll have a week of media and fans alike talking about his brilliance. 100% that will happen.

Yet it’s the need to manufacture situations where if the gamble doesn’t come off, you get badly caught, that highlight the issue with Adams.

The Seahawks have invested so much in him and feel like they need to get a return on that investment. Utilising him this way in Carroll’s system (tweaked or not) is so majorly boom-or-bust.

It’s too late to do anything about it now but the Seahawks really should’ve thanked Ken Norton Jr for his efforts in January and moved on. Then they should’ve appointed someone with a background in the schemes where Adams succeeded in New York under Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams.

If you want to max out the investment here, isn’t that the best thing to do?

And Carroll should’ve been willing to take a backseat and let two new coordinators run things, while he concentrated on what he’s best at. Culture and motivating.

Quick hitting questions & notes post-Tennessee

— Why do the Seahawks’ staff so often lose the game of adjustments?

— Why do the Seahawks keep investing in tight ends only to struggle to involve them consistently in the passing game?

— How did the Seahawks not create more problems with their pass rush given the Titans O-line was in a state of total decimation?

— How did they go into an off-season knowing they had an issue at cornerback, only to emerge with Tre Flowers beginning the season as a starter? Flowers played 100% of the snaps on Sunday.

— Why are the Seahawks so average at home? They’re 21-13 at Lumen Field since 2017. That isn’t good enough.

— Why did Carroll suddenly decide to ‘teach a lesson’ to Jordyn Brooks for his late-hit penalty? Is that a thing he does now? Doesn’t he have to be consistent with that moving forward? For example, does DJ Reed need to be benched after his taunting penalty? I’m not sure why you take out a first round pick to play Cody Barton just to prove a point mid-game.

— For what it’s worth, Barton had the worst PFF grade on the team from his 11 snaps yesterday. Brooks had the second worst grade on defense — closely followed by Marquise Blair, Darrell Taylor and Tre Flowers.

— Why did Carlos Dunlap play only 30% of the defensive snaps against Tennessee? Is he really that much worse in run defense than Rasheem Green (64%) and Benson Mayowa (65%)? Given they gave up 212 rushing yards, that would suggest he isn’t. And why did Alton Robinson play fewer snaps than LJ Collier?

— Jamal Adams’ PFF grade last season was 64.2. So far this year he’s graded at 70.7 (Colts) and 63.6 (Titans). Is this just what he is in Seattle? He also blitzed nine times against Tennessee — right around the mark he was blitzing a year ago.

— Kyle Fuller had an offense-worst 36.4 grade according to PFF. How did the Seahawks end up in a situation where he’s starting at center?

— Doesn’t it already feel inevitable that this season will end in a similar fashion to the last five and we’re now just slow-dancing to the end, having the same conversations as we go along, waiting to experience the same off-season debate and drama we had last year?

— Are ownership actively looking to sell, as was reported a year ago? An update on this situation would be welcome. And if not, what exactly is the long-term plan for the franchise short of ceding power and control to Carroll and hoping for the best?

If you missed yesterday’s instant reaction live stream, check it out here:

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks blow lead, lose to Titans

September 19th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

When you lead 24-9 at home, at half-time, and lose the game — it’s a problem.

When you play the way Seattle did in the second half, it’s a disaster.

We saw the worst of 2020 brought together in one horrible half, dumping a great big reality check on this team in the process.

The early-season 2020 wet-paper defense combined with the stuttering and stalling offense of the late season, to produce a defeat memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The Seahawks were hammered in the second half and the stats paint a depressing picture:

— Tennessee had 33 first downs compared to Seattle’s 17

— Seattle was 4/12 on third down

— The Titans recorded 532 total yards and ran for 212

— The Titans had over 20 more minutes of possession

Let’s just be honest here. The reason this game even went to overtime in the first place was down to Tennessee’s own mistakes. Horrendous blown coverages gifted the Seahawks points.

And while it wasn’t all horrible — Seattle ended the first half superbly with a fantastic late drive that hinted at real positivity — that second half is a gut-punch that exposed problems that have existed for years and a lot of people refuse to acknowledge or discuss.

You can’t blow a 24-9 lead at home. You can’t be outscored 24-6 after the second quarter.

The Titans’ coaches made adjustments at half-time and changed the game. The Seahawks staff had no response. They had no answers on offense when drive after drive became a painful toil. There was no resistance on defense.

The Seahawks have players who are capable of making individual highlight plays on defense but I don’t believe they have the difference makers to warrant attention and simply impact games with their presence.

When you need someone to step up and make a play at a vital moment at the end of that game, who’s going to do it?

Nobody could. Nobody was able to produce that moment of magic.

And why, still, is the offense so easily knocked off track with seemingly no return? Whose fault is that? The quarterback? The coordinator? Pete Carroll? The O-line? All of them?

The kicker missing an extra point, the 10 penalties (some painful and avoidable), Tre Flowers continuing to play for this team, the total inability to get the tight ends involved.

Being absolutely whipped up front, at home, again. Isn’t this supposed to be a team built to win up front?

We’ve all been here before.

This was simply more of the same.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

College football draft notes 18/09

September 18th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

— From early in the summer, I’ve been saying the 2022 quarterback class is a disaster. Draft media was regularly mocking the likes of Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell as top-10 picks. I never saw it. Howell looks like a fairly standard mid-round pick with little improv or mobility and Rattler simply isn’t ready.

Week one was a classic example of Rattler’s problems. He has the tools — arm strength, escapability and the ability to throw from different angles. Some of the stuff he does is Mahomes-esque. He’s creative — moving and re-setting, launching the ball with velocity from different angles.

However, he’s so unrefined as a quarterback. People are claiming on twitter today he’s regressing. He isn’t. His problems in 2021 existed last year too.

Against Tulane he threw two picks and it should’ve been three. Rattler trusts his tools too much. He throws into coverage and doesn’t anticipate situations. He was at it again today against Nebraska. He launched a pass into triple coverage and was fortunate the pick was dropped.

He doesn’t read plays or manipulate defensive backs. If the play is called, he’s throwing it. When he scrambles, he’ll take a chance. And at the next level he’s going to be a turnover machine unless things change.

On this evidence he isn’t ready for the pro’s and needs more time in college to work on his craft. It’s hard to imagine him going any earlier than round two based on what we’re seeing.

You’ll also see Nevada’s Carson Strong being mocked in round one at the moment as draft media desperately scrambles for a golden goose. Strong isn’t good enough. His arm strength and talent is overrated. For me he looks like a day three quarterback. Malik Willis at Liberty is exciting to watch but has significant technical flaws and is probably best suited going somewhere without the pressure to start immediately.

Ole Miss’ Matt Corral benefits from a well schemed offense run by Lane Kiffin which is, to be fair, prolific and user friendly. The talk of Corral elevating into a top draft pick is painful to observe. It says a lot about draft media, to be honest. It’s so thirsty for a big name QB to promote and rally behind for 2022.

At the moment I’m not sure you can justify projecting any quarterback in round one. So what does this mean? It means a huge market for Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and any other quarterbacks available for trade in the off-season. Houston drafted a quarterback this year, Green Bay drafted one in 2020. They wisely prepared for the transition because neither team will likely find a replacement next April.

The trade market for veteran QB’s next year will be red hot.

— On top of the 2022 being light at quarterback, there’s also a real lack of legit top-tier talent. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Derek Stingley will go early. Aidan Hutchinson will go earlier than many think. Kyle Hamilton is becoming a ball-magnet and by adding turnovers to his game, could easily work his way into being a high pick. There’s not a lot to get excited about though if you follow a team destined to pick early next year.

— It’s pretty clear the NFL is desperate at cornerback, across the board. It’s becoming such a need position, it’s reminiscent of the offensive tackle crisis that dogged the league. Don’t be surprised if a whole bunch of corners stack behind Derek Stingley.

— We highlighted Kenneth Walker (RB, Michigan State) a couple of weeks ago and he had another standout performance today. Walker rushed for 172 yards on 27 carries, while adding 17 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. He’s 5-10 and 210lbs and a Wake Forest transfer. He’s a tough, physical runner who’s difficult to bring down. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on.

— I’ve watched Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams twice this year. He’s slippery, dynamic and tough to stop when he gets going. He lacks the size Seattle looks for in a running back and he might be too small for the next level — but he’s fun to watch and a dual threat. He had 91 yards on 12 carries against Purdue, with two catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.

— Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is very athletic, can pull with ease and progresses to the second level superbly. I suspect, however, he might last well into round two due to a lack of power at the point of contact and you can drive him backwards. Of course, if he has a Senior Bowl and combine performance like Garrett Bradbury, all bets are off. Oregon center Alex Forsyth lacks the athleticism of Linderbaum but he’s Mr. Consistency and a player to monitor.

— This is going to be a much better draft for tight ends. Jalen Wydermyer has had a quiet start at Texas A&M but has the talent. Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson has a complete game, as does Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert. Iowa’s Sam Laporta is someone I want to watch more of. Today he had a career high seven catches for 65 yards and a comfortable redzone touchdown. For all of Washington’s struggles, Cade Otton has a future at the next level. He had a touchdown against Arkansas State. I’m looking forward to seeing what Greg Dulcich will do for UCLA tonight (along with running back Zach Charbonnet).

— Two pass rushers have flashed that are worth monitoring. One is Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson — lumbered on a hopeless team after transferring from Georgia. He’s playing with great effort and quickness and is making an impression at FSU. He led the team in tackles against Wake Forest, shared a sack and had a QB hurry. The other is USC’s Drake Jackson who had a wonderful sack/fumble. He’s 6-4 and 255lbs and showed great speed attacking the edge against Washington State.

— Somehow, Georgia’s massive defensive tackle Jordan Davis remains underrated. He’s 6-6 and 340lbs but he knifes through gaps like a man 50lbs lighter than he is. As you’d expect, he can stack blockers and control the interior. He’s a tremendous player who will test better than anyone expects. He helped force a safety today. He’s a freakish athlete. I’m not sure how early he’ll go but he’s a terrific pro-prospect. For me he’s a first round talent. Meanwhile, Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall looks really quick and physical. He stood out in the first half against South Carolina. At SPARQ he ran a 4.19 short shuttle and jumped a 40 inch vertical. For Georgia’s opponents, receiver Josh Vann showcased big play ability downfield plus the ability to high-point and compete for the ball. Vann scored a superb touchdown, creating great separation. He looks like the next impressive wide out to enter the league from South Carolina. Vann is definitely a player to have on your radar.

— I’m not sure Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener has the physical qualities (6-1, 195lbs) to excel at the next level but he was sensational in an upset win against UCLA — playing with an injury to lead an improbable last-gasp game-winning drive. The Bruins have been highly entertaining this season so far but using Zach Charbonnet for just six carries in this game is a major head-scratcher. He scored on a third of those carries. His two touchdowns were typically impressive — dragging defenders for yards-after-contact to get into the end zone. Tight End Greg Dulcich went without a catch or a serious look in the passing game. You’ve got to make the most of your talented players.

— I really like Arkansas safety Jalen Catalon. He led Arkansas for tackles against Georgia Southern and broke up two passes. He’s a terrific redshirt sophomore and the heartbeat of the Arkansas defense. Another defensive back to watch for is cornerback Montaric Brown. He’s 6-0 and 190lbs, plays well in run support and could be a nice project.

— He might not have the hype of his brother but Taulia Tagovailoa is a really fun player to watch at Maryland. He’s led them to a 3-0 start and he flashes a lot of talent. He finished with 32/43 passing for 350 yards and a touchdown in a close 20-17 victory over Illinois (adding 25 yards as a runner). He won’t go in the same range as Tua but he’s a player worth following this year.

— Alabama running back Brian Robinson, a senior, is one to keep an eye on. He’s 6-1 and 225lbs and will get plenty of opportunities to impress this season in the SEC. He stood out against Florida with 75 yards on 14 carries. Robinson scored twice (once as a receiver). He has talent and could be a value option in the draft.

— I watched several games this weekend. Please, ESPN, we get it. The Manning brothers are doing an alternative MNF football broadcast this season. We don’t need to be reminded literally every five minutes during college football Saturday.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

Live stream: Seahawks vs Titans preview

September 16th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Rob & Robbie conducted a live stream earlier today looking ahead to the Titans game in week two. I also shared some early thoughts on the 2022 draft class…

You can watch the recording below:

 

Curtis Allen’s week two watch points (vs Titans)

September 15th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Note:  This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

Week Two is easy to look forward to, with the Seahawks handling a good Colts team on Sunday and the Tennessee Titans looking decidedly average in a big loss to Arizona.

But it is best to reset expectations and consider this game a tough test, as we all did when the schedule initially came out.

The Titans played out of character last Sunday.

The NFL’s best turnover-differential team in 2020 lost that battle 3-1.

Their offensive line surrendered a career day to Chandler Jones.

Julio Jones lost his cool and took a foolish penalty to kill a drive.

It’s possible to get that version of the Titans on Sunday but the odds are that Mike Vrabel will have his team ready to play their standard brand of football when they come to town for the Seahawks’ 2021 home opener.

Let’s dig into the watch points and see how the Seahawks can advance to 2-0 this weekend…

Hold Derrick Henry under 100 yards rushing

This is job number one.

When the Titans get 100 yards from Henry, they are 21-2. When they do not, they are 6-12.

While it is always true that your chances of winning the game are vastly better when you do not give up 100 yards to any runner —  against the Titans, holding Henry under 100 yards is the single best key to success. Why?

Tennessee has built their entire offense around him. They have a formidable offensive line and a quarterback who is very effective within the limited framework of their scheme.

They love to do what the Seahawks are trying to implement with new offensive coordinator – run the bulk of their offense out of the same personnel and pre-snap look to disguise their intentions. They frequently bunch all 11 players closely together and run a variation of plays out of the same set.

Henry allows the Titans to run this simple offense very effectively. 

He has unheard of lateral agility and light feet for a player of his size.  They run a zone concept that is very similar to what the Seahawks faced against Indianapolis last week:  get the defenders moving horizontally instead of downhill and give Henry two gap options to choose from on cutbacks. He is fantastic at reading and picking the one not soon to be occupied by a tackler. 

Watch him and the offensive line shut the door on Baltimore with a master example of this concept:

The linemen have everyone shuttled toward the sideline (also kudos to Ben Jones for getting under Justin Ellis even though he’s turned 180 around), Henry has two gaps to choose from and sees that Queen, Harrison and Clark have over pursued and will shortly be helped to the ground by the linemen reaching the second level. He hops laterally and accelerates in nearly the same motion.

No Earl Thomas to stiff arm, just a free path to the end zone leaving Derek Wolfe on the ground to ponder his life choices.

Of course, that is a prime example but not what happens on every single play. Yet the threat of Henry allows them to run quick passes off play action. When Henry is established as a runner, defenders must key on him and this allows Tannehill to use play action and quickly get the ball out before pass rushers can get home.

One play the Titans love to run off the play action is an extremely simple crossing route off play action to AJ Brown. This play is a staple of their offense and Brown and Tannehill have perfected it.

Here is another example that is like watching a perfectly tuned formula one race car:

Tannehill is so quick with the play action, acquiring the target and throwing, Vince Williams realizes half a heartbeat too late that it is play action and just barely misses getting back to the throwing lane. From there, it is just Brown accelerating into the daylight.

It is all made effective by the established threat of Derrick Henry.

So how do the Seahawks combat this? 

They got a top-flight tune up in the zone-read game with the Colts last week. A lot of the things the Colts do in the run game are very similar to the Titans.

While setting the edge in the defense is always important — and this is still an area where the Seahawks need to improve — the Titans usually keep their powerful interior linemen inside and looking to get to the second level as soon as possible.

The Seahawks deployed an interesting personnel grouping against the Colts – a sort of “Bear Front Plus One” with two of Poona, Mone, and Woods on the field, accompanied by two of Mayowa, Dunlap or Green. They supplemented this with a fifth man at the edge, such as Darrell Taylor, but also used Jordyn Brooks and Alton Robinson there.

They likely will use a similar grouping concept in this game, with a primary goal of keeping Wagner, Adams, and Brooks as clean as possible to fill those gaps.

It will be a tall task but the defense will be playing with some confidence after holding Jonathan Taylor in check the week prior.

If it makes you feel any better, the Seahawks are facing Henry at the best time possible.  September is his worst month by far.  He only averages 3.88 yards per carry in September in his career, a full yard lower than his career average of 4.9 yards per carry.

The lesson: Get at Henry early in the year, early in the season, early in the game. That is your best shot.

Not unrelated to Henry’s effectiveness is our next point…

Make Ryan Tannehill go to his second read

How has Tannehill had a career resurrection in Tennessee? 

There are a lot of factors but the primary one is his strengths perfectly align with the Titans’ offensive concepts.

He is not required to regularly create plays on his feet. The Titans run the ball incredibly well and then feed their receivers with quick passes that barely require Tannehill to even make a read.

Look again at that AJ Brown crossing route above. How does Tannehill make that play so quickly?

He does not really have a read. He knows where he is going and he can rely on the play action to open the lane for him. His biggest task is to time the pass properly. So, his job is much easier than a ‘standard’ quarterback. Make no mistake though, he is not a hack.  He consistently accomplishes what he is asked to do with a high degree of competency.

Watch Minkah Fitzpatrick on that play. He takes a bad angle that probably would have been acceptable and limited Brown to an 8–10-yard gain if Tannehill does not perfectly hit Brown in stride and allow him to turn on the jets.

That is what the Titans want Tannehill to do. Take the snap and throw on the first read. And he is very, very good at it.

In the 1-10 yard zone from the line of scrimmage, Tannehill’s QB Rating is 117.53 – an astounding 31% better than the league average.

There is job two, defense. Do not have him let his first throw.

The backfield is going to have a real task on their hands. Julio Jones and AJ Brown against DJ Reed and Tre Flowers does not inspire confidence.

But consistently giving a free release is not an option if you want to keep this offense in check.  The corners have to trust that Quandre Diggs has deep coverage and can time up those crossing routes correctly.

Jamal Adams needs to have a game Sunday. Whether it is providing three or four of those free blitzes, wrestling Henry down, keeping those passing lanes behind the LOS occupied or jarring the ball loose with a tough hit, this game is tailor-made for a player with his skill set.

The Seahawks need to attack the Tennessee tackles. The Titans have not settled their right tackle spot. In fact, their depth chart to start the season listed three right tackles in the first spot. Second round pick Dillon Radunz was a healthy scratch last week and David Quessenberry did not inspire anyone with his performance against the Cardinals.

Taylor Lewan also had a very rough game at left tackle against Chandler Jones last Sunday.  Is that a sign of things to come or just a bad day at the office getting back after a tough injury? Hard to say. Duane Brown had a tough day early last year against Aldon Smith and ended up having a terrific season overall for the Seahawks. It is very possible Lewan can do the same.

But there is an opportunity there to put some pressure on Tannehill. If the edge rushers can apply some pressure and the backfield even slightly disrupts the wide receivers’ routes, the Seahawks can turn the formula one race car into a sputtering Sunday grandma driver.

Control this game with the offense

The Titans defense was awful in 2020. They had few sacks, unreliable corners and were carried by a powerful run offense that does not make a habit of turning the ball over.

One area the Titans were especially poor in? First and 10 plays.

The Titans gave up an average of 6.77 yards per play(!) — a 70% completion rate on passes, and a god-awful 76 first downs on First and 10 plays. The worst numbers in the NFL apart from the Detroit Lions.

They went about upgrading their pass rush by bringing in Bud Dupree and Denico Autry and praying that Harold Landry can start sacking the quarterback again. They also brought in new corners.

How are they doing in 2021? Well admittedly it is a one-game sample — but not good so far.

They gave up 6.16 yards per play on First and 10 to the Cardinals and allowed three first downs. In all three of those drives they scored points.

This suggests the Seahawks have a very good opportunity to run their entire playbook whenever they want in this game. Logic dictates that the Seahawks can pass on first down if they choose and that might be a great way to take control of the game.

As well, they can mix the run and pass as they like.

A game like this against a tough opponent, some coaches like to gear down and attempt to match the Titans’ offensive physicality and intensity. But it will be beneficial to put some scoreboard pressure on the Titan offense and let the Lumen crowd exercise their vocal cords a bit for the first time in a couple years. It will open chances for sacks and turnovers and take Ryan Tannehill out of his comfort zone.

Just a thought, how about Russell & DK show Tannehill & Brown how the crossing route is really done?

Anything you can do, I can do better…

The Titans will be eager to keep unleashing their new pass rushers though, so this brings us to our final watch point…

Burn the blitz

It may be easy to look at the Arizona game and judge the Titans pass rush as poor.

Kyler Murray had 289 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, was only sacked twice and had one interception in a 25 point win.

But the pass rush did a fine job. 

They recorded nine pressures and a 25.7% pressure rate on Kyler Murray. 

Murray was just better with an outstanding performance.  So, so much better. 

When blitzed, he was 5 for 6 with three first downs, two touchdowns and a 157.6 passer rating. He crazy-legged his way out of trouble and created time for his wide receivers to uncover.

Sound familiar?

Russell Wilson’s numbers the last three seasons when blitzed are sparkling:

— 38 touchdowns against nine interceptions

— 201 First downs

— A 104 passer rating

Russell Wilson eats his opponents’ lunch when under pressure.

With multiple options at the tight end and running back spots for quick passes, and a Titan secondary likely up at night after watching tape of Wilson’s twin bombs to Tyler Lockett against Indy, there should be plenty of opportunities to make them pay for having the audacity to rush the passer.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks start with a win

September 12th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Job done.

Given the occasional unpredictable nature of week one, not to mention the prep time afforded to coaches, getting out with a win is all that matters in your opening game.

The Seahawks handled their business with an assured display.

There were two big positives to accompany the victory.

Firstly, Russell Wilson. There’s no other place to start. This was a majestic performance and exactly the kind of showing you get when you possess a legit franchise quarterback.

The Colts have some pieces on defense and certainly the Seahawks weren’t given a comfortable ride into the 2021 season. They had a stretch of consecutive drives that went nowhere, with a Carson fumble sandwiched in the middle.

Yet Wilson was able to take the opportunities that were there. Four touchdowns, each involving a high degree of skill and accuracy.

Wilson quietly put up a four touchdown day as if it was a fairly mundane occurrence. There was a time, pre-Wilson, that we might’ve spent the rest of the season talking about such a performance.

The ability to read the defense on Tyler Lockett’s two scores and deliver the perfect pass. The velocity and placement on the D.K. Metcalf touchdown. The Gerald Everett play was perfectly schemed and executed.

This was a statement performance by Wilson, drawing a line under his struggles at the end of last year.

Seeing the quarterback in this kind of rhythm is the ultimate positive from week one.

Along with that, the edge rushers did a good job creating pressure on Carson Wentz. The Colts are banged up on the O-line and they had to take advantage. They did, clearly.

Being able to use Benson Mayowa as a rotational cog rather than a 90% snap lineman is crucial. Darrell Taylor had a splash play. Carlos Dunlap and Rasheem Green got involved. Bryan Mone flattened Wentz at one point.

It was particularly enjoyable to see Taylor so involved, given what happened to him a year ago.

I’d still like to see Geno Atkins added this week because you can never have too much up front. Yet this was a very good showing from the pass rush.

The results speak to that too — Indianapolis were only 5/13 on third down and 0/3 on fourth down. They only averaged 4.7 YPP.

They had a lot of time in possession and had their moments but it always felt like the Seahawks were in control of the game. There wasn’t a nervous moment, from the minute Lockett scored for the first time to the conclusion.

It has to be said there will be tougher challenges ahead. I think people were almost so surprised that Wentz wasn’t a disaster, especially coming off an injury, that they gave him a bit too much credit online. He looked stupefyingly average to me.

That merely served to punctuate the brilliance of Wilson.

Next week the Seahawks host Tennessee, who looked surprisingly awful against Arizona today. Whether that was merely a loosener for the Titans, who knows? But Seattle has a great opportunity to start 2-0.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!

 

Arkansas safety Jalen Catalon has a big future

September 12th, 2021 | Written by Rob Staton

Jalen Catolon has all the tools necessary to be a very good NFL player

Arkansas have taken a huge step forward under coach Sam Pittman. Last year they were competitive for the first time in years. This year, they appear to have taken another big stride.

They’re well drilled, organised and they know what they are. There’s a lot to be said for selecting your identity, having clarity on it and executing a plan that makes sense. Sounds simple but often teams get muddled in their thinking and team construction.

Arkansas mask their weaknesses by punctuating their strengths. Thus, you see a team running for 333 yards against Texas, giving them an absolute hammering, combining that with a well coached defense.

They also have a lot of talent, however. It’s not just a case of being well-structured.

Nobody highlights that more than redshirt sophomore safety Jalen Catolon.

I watched the Arkansas vs Texas game on Sunday morning intentionally to watch Catolon, who I have watched from 2020 already. Although he didn’t make any major plays like last week (where he had two interceptions) — he organised the defense, made adjustments and stood out as the best player on the field.

He’s listed at 5-10 and 200lbs but he plays bigger than that. Catolon plays the run well and is very comfortable working to the LOS to help play contain off the edge or knifing through to hammer a ball-carrier. In the open-field he’s capable of bone-crunching hits and he has that fear-factor ability, lurking deep then showing off his quickness to cover ground and hammer opponents.

He’s more quick than fast — similar to Quandre Diggs in that regard — but he’s very capable of playing deep and in space. He undercuts routes well and shows good anticipation and read/react ability. The ball, at times, acts as a magnet to him. He already has five career interceptions in basically 1.2 seasons.

There shouldn’t be any concerns about him playing free safety. Watch the Florida game where he was able to stick in coverage vs Kadarius Toney, leaping and hanging in the air to break up a pass in the end zone.

He’s a good tackler — jolting and forceful.

And I come back to the way he was recognising Texas’ plays, making adjustments, communicating with team mates and making sure everyone was on the same page.

Steve Sarkisian is an overrated coach. Look at his record — 34-29 at Washington including three 7-6 seasons, then 12-6 at USC. I appreciate this record comes with the knowledge he experienced some personal struggles — but short of being able to go and organise Alabama’s cluster of elite recruits, he hasn’t shown much to date.

It was a surprise Texas gave him the keys to their gig. Or then again, it’s Texas. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise.

He was embarrassed by Arkansas. The 40-21 scoreline actually flattered Texas. It’ll be interesting to see how Arkansas fair in a stretch of games coming up that includes Texas A&M, Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn in consecutive weeks.

Regardless, Catolon is a name to watch for the draft in 2022 or 2023. He has every chance to be a superb NFL safety.

Other notes from Saturday:

— I wasn’t able to watch much CFB this weekend due to work commitments on Friday and Saturday. Apologies, I will catch-up in the week. The following are statistical notes and observations.

— It’s a better tight end class for 2022 and Jalen Wydermyer is one of the better players eligible for the draft. He had four catches for 66 yards and Texas A&M escaped with a 10-7 win against Colorado. Cade Otton made three catches for 33 yards during Washington’s latest shambolic performance at Michigan.

— Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is listed at 6-4 and 220lbs. However, those numbers are deceptive if you’re expecting a hammer in the Kam Chancellor mould. Hamilton is a gliding, quicker player with great awareness and the ability to cover ground. He’s versatile and you wouldn’t rule out him being able to compete at free safety. He had two TFL’s in a narrow win against Toledo.

— The 2022 quarterback class is absolutely honking. Players need to emerge quickly if anyone is going to salvage things. This week I spent time watching Nevada’s Carson Strong and I think he’s probably worthy of a fourth or fifth round grade. Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, meanwhile, was benched after throwing three interceptions against Iowa. No wonder the Houston Texans are sticking to their guns in terms of trade compensation for Deshaun Watson.

On Sunday I will be writing my usual instant reaction piece to the Seahawks/Colts game and hosting a live stream once Robbie returns home from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Please consider supporting the blog via Patreon (click the tab below)…

Become a Patron!