Talking points: Earl Thomas, safety options, D-liners

December 5th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Are the Seahawks going to need to draft a safety in round one now?

No, not necessarily. The shock of Earl Thomas flirting with the idea of retirement has started to wear off already. Presumably it was a raw moment for an emotionally charged player — left alone for a brief moment with his phone, probably while in a high degree of pain.

That’s not to say Thomas won’t call it a day. He’s now a seven-year veteran and turns 28 next May. His two pro-contracts total $61.1m in guarantees. He’s an extremely wealthy man with a Super Bowl ring. When he’s had enough, he probably will just walk off into the sunset. And it might be sooner than later.

Calvin Johnson did it when he was 30. Leaving with your health intact, moving onto the next chapter. It’s understandable.

Pete Carroll confirmed today it’s a serious injury. He’s out for the year and facing a lengthy recovery.

It still feels unlikely that this will be the way Thomas ends his legacy. His current contract runs until the end of 2018. He turns 30 in 2019. Let’s hope he decides to at least prolong his career until that date.

So there’s no need to overreact?

Not at all. There’s every chance Thomas returns for the 2017 season and this will be a distant memory by next summer.

Unless Thomas is deadly serious about retiring, it would make little sense to spend a high pick on a free safety you hope doesn’t feature.

It’s true that certain safety’s can be used in other positions — but it’s also difficult to judge how well a player can adjust to playing linebacker or nickel corner. You might end up wasting a pick on what amounts to a special teamer or second stringer.

By draft season the team will have a clear read on Thomas’ plans. They can play this one by ear. For now we have to assume he won’t call it quits. After all, it was just a Tweet at the heat of the moment.

So it’s a total no-no to go safety in round one?

Not 100%. Why rule it out completely? This is shaping up to be the best draft for safety’s in years.

If they decide that a player like Budda Baker has the kind of range they love at free safety, the ability to be versatile and play other positions and potentially replace Earl if needed in the future — of course you wouldn’t rule it out.

Baker looks like a good fit for the personality and style of Seattle’s defense — and you have to believe they’re going to be well on top of the major talent pool at Washington.

Did you know Baker actually leads the Huskies for TFL’s (nine)? That’s some achievement from a safety. He’s a player with great potential.

Equally they might see incredible upside in a player like Obi Melifonwu. He’s being tipped to own the combine and showed great versatility at UConn. He too could be an option.

It just comes back to the likelihood of Thomas actually quitting. If he doesn’t, Baker in particular is a luxury. Especially when there are more compelling needs on the roster.

Is there an alternative range where they could target a safety?

According to Over the Cap, the Seahawks are set to receive a third round compensatory pick for Bruce Irvin, giving them two in the third frame.

Washington State’s Shalom Luani could be an option here. His backstory and determination to forge a career in American football is inspiring. He appears to be a very good athlete with some playmaking qualities (eight interceptions in the last two seasons).

He’s the kind of player you can imagine the Seahawks drafting. Athleticism, grit, character. Luani’s one to keep an eye on.

Is there anything to update on other potential needs?

Garry Gilliam being listed as inactive against Carolina suggests his days are numbered in Seattle. They could retain Bradley Sowell or make an alternative free agent addition — but right tackle looks like a need for the off-season.

Utah’s Garett Bolles will continue to make total sense for the Seahawks until he either shoots up draft boards into the top-20 or opts not to declare. Like Luani, his backstory screams Seahawks. Bolles’ on field play is also perfectly suited to Seattle’s offense.

If Bolles doesn’t declare or they don’t go offensive tackle early, Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty remains another option (possibly for round three). He was a four-star recruit with a wrestling and basketball background. His play really improved as the season went along.

We’ll know more about possible O-line targets after the combine when we crank up the Trench Explosion Formula again.

What else?

Garett Bolles aside, a possible first round target could be an impact interior defensive lineman. That could be a big defensive tackle with plus pass-rushing ability or an inside/out DE.

The lack of sacks, pressures and TFL’s from Seattle’s group of interior linemen is a slight concern this year.

The three Washington defensive tackles could be in play (Vea, Qualls and Gaines). Tony Pauline reported the following today:

Assuming Budda Baker, John Ross and Sidney Jones are three of the six — and with Azeem Victor already suggesting he will return — there’s a chance all three defensive tackles are contemplating the NFL.

A lot of people praise Vea (and with good reason) but Gaines might be just as good. Vea has 5.5 TFL’s and four sacks in 2016 — Gaines has eight TFL’s and 3.5 sacks. Only Budda Baker has more TFL’s on the team than Gaines.

Qualls is another keep an eye on — he has five TFL’s and three sacks. It’s a really, really talented Husky defensive front.

Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi is also an option as we’ve discussed. He has unique strength, an explosive lower body and major pass-rushing production in 2016 (9.5 TFL’s, 5.5 sacks). Nnadi is an ideal combination of size, power and quickness. He’s only scratching the surface of his potential. It’s unclear if he’ll declare as a junior.

UCLA’s Takk McKinley would arguably be an ideal pick for the inside/out style DE. He has 18 TFL’s this year and 10 sacks. He’s very raw and needs to develop his hand-use and ability to get off a block — but his upside and closing speed is off the charts and he’s making plays despite a lack of refined technique. He appears destined for the top-15 if not the top-10. Expect a big time combine performance.

DeMarcus Walker would also be a nice option but his incredible 2016 season could also push him into the top-20.

Three other names to keep an eye on are Michigan’s Chris Wormley, Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson and Florida’s Caleb Brantley.

Any other options?

Without wanting to go over old ground too much, Temple’s Haason Reddick could be an ideal SAM/LEO. He leads the country in TFL’s (21.5) and reportedly has an incredible athletic profile. His manner in interviews seems very Seahawky.

The counter could be that they won’t necessarily see this as a key need. The Seahawks have four good EDGE rushers (they do) and Mike Morgan played 29% of the snaps against Carolina. Reddick could play some LEO and that could keep him on the field. But we need to realise how the Seahawks utilise the SAM in their defense.

If you spend a high pick they better be able to play more than 29% of the snaps.

The other option could be a high pick on a running back. Adding bodies to the rotation, particularly given the injuries this year, seems inevitable.

The Seahawks spent a second rounder on Christine Michael when they already had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Adding a third wheel to combine with Rawls and Prosise feels likely. This could be a target area in rounds 2-4.

Seattle aggressively tries to fill needs and upgrade areas on the roster that are most open to improvement. At the moment that is arguably right tackle, interior pass rush and depth at running back.

If Thomas does retire, it’s a game changer. But let’s hope that’s a long way off.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks win, Earl Thomas to quit?

December 4th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

I don’t know about you but I struggled to focus on the game after this.

The Seahawks were driving late in the half trying to pad a comprehensive lead. They had two big plays to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Russell Wilson had a nice scramble.

Then the Tweet.

None of it felt important after Earl Thomas tossed out the possibility, randomly, that he might retire.

He suffered a cracked tibia after a mid-air collision with Kam Chancellor. He tried to stand up and couldn’t. He was carted off and took an X-ray. Seahawks fans held their breath for good news.

Then, with no update other than Michele Tafoya noting he left the X-ray room on crutches, this social media bombshell.

So 2016. So unnerving, chilling.

There’s a chance it was a heat-of-the-moment, emotional reaction from a player best described as ‘unique’. Having never missed any time in his career until last week a major, sudden season-ending injury might provoke such a Tweet.

It still leads to some big questions. Is Earl questioning his future in the game anyway? How serious is the injury? Can Seattle’s defense be effective without Thomas?

Making the situation more maddening is the sliding doors effect that led to the injury. A brutal Wilson interception on 3rd and 19 gifted Carolina a cheap possession and good field position. Two plays later Thomas was injured on a downfield throw. It was so avoidable.

You can second guess scenarios like this all the time of course. Who knows what would’ve happened if one play here or there ended differently? It just kind of adds to the overall misfortune of the situation though.

This really has been a season of brutality. Injuries galore — Wilson, Thomas, Bennett, Rawls, Prosise, Chancellor, Shead, Willson. That’s just the highlights.

Gronk a few days ago, Thomas today. Two of the best in the game both facing uncertain futures, suddenly and unexpectedly.

It might be time to break into the Budda Baker and Shalom Luani tape again.

And that’s worth noting at this point. It’s a really, really good draft for safety’s. So if the Seahawks want to add some depth to the position as Thomas heals or if they truly do have to seek a replacement — they will have some options. They just won’t get another Earl.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

At least there’s this:

Now would be a cool time for Earl to tweet ‘j/k’.

Onto other notes…

— Thomas Rawls and Tyler Lockett were clearly major positives. And while Russell Wilson is hitting an unusual November/December consistency slump, the skill players around him are looking dangerous again.

— Rawls still managed to get dinged up before half-time. And while they might not focus on running backs as an early round need, adding more bodies will be important in the off-season.

— Some of the run blocking was superb and Carolina are ranked among the best in the league vs the run. The Seahawks ran all over their opponent — and we haven’t been able to say that about this offense this year. No Luke Kuechly had an impact but this was still a good performance overall.

— The pass protection was, sadly, still a work in progress. On Carolina’s third sack they had 3 vs 2 on the left side. Justin Britt blocked one of the two pass-rushers to his right, leaving Germain Ifedi basically covering nobody while Mark Glowinski and George Fant were outnumbered. Whether it’s Wilson, Britt or whoever responsible for adjusting the protection — it looks like they’re still working this out.

— Cam Newton was kept on the sidelines for the opening drive for breaking a minor team rule. As a punishment, Ron Rivera had Derek Anderson throw an interception to spot the Seahawks three points. Ol’ Riverboat Ron really taught Cam a lesson with that one. It felt like an unusual punishment for what was revealed to be a ‘dress-code violation’ (reportedly, he didn’t wear a tie). Maybe next time they’ll ask him to do fifty push-ups instead?

— The defensive line had a few splash plays but they were surprisingly quiet against Carolina’s patchwork O-line. Frank Clark was arguably the best of the bunch but Seattle failed to record a sack.

— Aside from the big play immediately after Earl Thomas’ injury, Seattle pitched a shut-out and scored 40 points in the process. If it wasn’t for Thomas’ setback, this would feel like glorious revenge for the two defeats last season.

— The Seahawks are 6-0 at home — a big improvement so far considering they were 5-3 last season.

The Seahawks remain the #2 seed for now but a new challenger has emerged. Detroit are 8-4 against Seattle’s 8-3-1. With Atlanta losing at home against the Chiefs, the Lions and the streaking Buccaneers might be their two biggest rivals for a playoff bye.

I saw most of the Lions win in New Orleans. They’re looking very good — offensively and defensively.

Detroit hosts struggling Chicago next week. If they win and the Seahawks lose in Green Bay, the Lions will possess the #2 seed. The game against the Packers is significant and tougher than it looked three weeks ago.

Lions remaining Schedule:

vs Chicago
@ New York Giants
@ Dallas
vs Green Bay

Buccaneers remaining schedule:

vs New Orleans
@ Dallas
@ New Orleans
vs Carolina

Seahawks remaining schedule:

@ Green Bay
vs Los Angeles
vs Arizona
@ San Francisco

 

Two-round NFL mock draft: 2nd December

December 2nd, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Notes at the bottom…

1. Browns — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
2. 49ers — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
3. Jaguars — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
4. Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. Jets — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
6. Bengals — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
7. Titans (via Rams) — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
8. Panthers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
9. Cardinals — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
10. Colts — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
11. Packers — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
12. Saints — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
13. Browns (via Eagles) — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
14. Chargers — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
15. Titans — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
16. Bills — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
17. Eagles (via Vikings) — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
18. Buccaneers — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
19. Steelers — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
20. Broncos — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
21. Texans — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
22. Ravens — John Ross (WR, Washington)
23. Washington — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
24. Dolphins — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
25. Lions — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
26. Falcons — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
27. Giants — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
28. Chiefs — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
29. Seahawks — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
30. Patriots — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
31. Raiders — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
32. Cowboys — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)

33. Browns — Ryan Anderson (LB, Alabama)
34. 49ers — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
35. Bears — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
36. Jaguars — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
37. Jets — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
38. Bengals — Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
39. Panthers — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
40. Rams — Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
41. Cardinals — Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
42. Packers — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
43. Saints — Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama)
44. Eagles — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
45. Chargers — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
46. Colts — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
47. Browns (via Titans) — Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
48. Bills — Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
49. Vikings — Ryan Ramczyk (T, Wisconsin)
50. Buccaneers — Jake Butt (TE, Michigan)
51. Steelers — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
52. Broncos — D’onta Foreman (RB, Texas)
53. Texans — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
54. Ravens — Bucky Hodges (TE, Virginia Tech)
55. Washington — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
56. Dolphins — Dorian Johnson (G, Pittsburgh)
57. Lions — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
58. Falcons — Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
59. Giants — Dion Dawkins (T, Temple)
60. Chiefs — JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
61. Seahawks — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
62. Patriots — Josey Jewell (LB, Iowa)
63. Raiders — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
64. Cowboys — Lowell Lotulelei (DT, Utah)

Players considered in the first two rounds for the Seahawks this week:

Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
D’onta Foreman (RB, Texas)
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
Any of Washington’s three defensive tackles if they declare (Vea, Gaines, Qualls)
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama)
Any interior pass rusher/disruptor or inside/out DL

Possible mid round targets:

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
Elijah Hood (RB, North Carolina)
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Dante Pettis (WR, Washington)

— Mitch Trubisky isn’t the best player in the draft but he’s probably the best quarterback. The Cleveland Browns fudged the Carson Wentz situation and can’t afford to be caught short again. Rather than take any risks in this mock they get their quarterback and move on.

— The Steelers taking a quarterback in round one? The often-injured Ben Roethlisberger turns 35 in March. Pittsburgh needs to start planning for life after Ben.

After yesterday’s needs-piece I wanted to give the Seahawks an O-liner and an impact defensive lineman. Unfortunately the board didn’t fall that way. Bolles instantly helps the running game and Reddick provides the defense with another gritty, athletic playmaker. Reddick leads the country in TFL’s plus he looks and sounds like a Seahawks defender.

— If Bolles wasn’t the pick in round one I would’ve gone with Derrick Nnadi.

— I’ll probably do an article on D’Onta Foreman soon. I spend more time deliberating on Foreman than any other player at the moment. I’m concerned he was only a two-star recruit but that’s not always an indicator of anything (Russell Wilson was a two-star prospect according to Rivals). His upright running style is a little concerning (will he get levelled?). Yet his breakaway speed, lateral agility and balance is interesting for his size. I like his personality and it probably fits Seattle. I suspect they could use a bell-cow. There aren’t a plethora of options for the Seahawks if they feel that adding a running back is the key to improving the run game. Bring on the combine.

 

Seahawks’ draft needs: Running game and D-line

December 1st, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Seattle’s run defense has regressed in 2016

1. Running game

The Seahawks are 27th in the league with 978 rushing yards. They’re averaging 3.7 YPA and 87.8 YPG.

Last season Seattle had the third most productive running attack (2268 yards), averaging 4.5 YPA and 141.8 YPG.

This is a huge, unexpected regression.

Clearly Russell Wilson’s immobility has had an impact here. He’s never had less than 489 yards in a season and last year, during his best ever passing campaign, he still managed 553 yards. He currently has 159 at an average of 3.4 YPC. He’ll do well to top 300 yards for the year.

Losing Wilson’s threat to run discombobulated the offense and that cannot be underestimated. It’s still concerning they weren’t able to run productively with Wilson hampered. You shouldn’t be relying on that one aspect to prop up your preferred offensive identity. It suggests they’re highly susceptible without Wilson at 100% mobility. They can ill-afford to endure such damaging results every time a quarterback as active as Wilson picks up an injury.

The Seahawks’ general rushing attack hasn’t been this bad since it ranked last in the league in 2010. Their inability to run in 2010 provoked the Marshawn Lynch trade and Seattle spent their first two picks in the 2011 draft on run-blocking offensive linemen.

They could be similarly aggressive in the upcoming off-season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they look to rectify this situation with additions to the offensive line and/or running back.

Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are clearly very talented but so far neither has shown they can stay healthy. Do the Seahawks lack a bell-cow physical runner to compliment the two more athletic/explosive backs?

Do they also need to keep adding pieces to the offensive line? We’ve talked about Utah’s Garett Bolles and how he might be an ideal acquisition for either the left or right tackle position. There won’t be a ton of options in what looks to be a poor draft for offensive linemen.

It seems inevitable that they’ll be active in improving the run game unless there’s a major upturn in performance over the next few weeks.

2. Interior pass rush

In 2013 and 2014 the Seahawks were able to rely on at least one player to provide pressure and production at defensive tackle. In 2015 and 2016, that production has practically disappeared.

2013: Clinton McDonald — 6.5 sacks
2014: Jordan Hill — 6.5 sacks
2015: Jordan Hill — 0 sacks
2016: McDaniel/Rubin/Reed/Jefferson combined: 1.5 sacks

In fairness the EDGE pass rush has never been so productive during the Carroll era. Cliff Avril has 10 sacks (one short of equalling a career high), Frank Clark is already at 7.5 sacks and Michael Bennett, despite missing a few games, also has three sacks.

Yet it was quite telling that Carroll referenced trying to find an interior rush when they concluded the signing of John Jenkins — despite his physical appearance screaming ‘nose tackle’.

The Seahawks don’t necessarily need an Aaron Donald. A 10-sack interior presence in the mould of Donald or Ndamukong Suh isn’t a realistic target without a top-15 pick. They just need someone who can fill that 6.5 sack hole vacated by McDonald and Hill in 2013-14.

Quinton Jefferson might’ve developed into that man before he landed on injured reserve. Jordan Hill was cut after another injury during the summer. The question is now — do they take a chance on Jefferson in 2017 or do they go out and seek another body to try and fill this need?

It could be a pure defensive tackle like Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi. He has underrated talent as a pass rusher, a nice thick, powerful, explosive 6-1/312lbs frame and could be the answer. They might also fill the need with another inside/out rusher — someone capable of playing end in base and kicking inside when needed.

The upcoming draft looks set to be well stocked on the D-line and could provide a solution.

3. Run defense

One of the lesser talked about regressions in Seattle is the run defense. Last year the Seahawks didn’t give up a single 100-yard rusher during the regular season. They also led the league in total run defense.

Look at the difference over the years:

Total run defense (ranking in brackets)

2014: 1304 yards (#3)
2015: 1304 yards (#1)
2016: 1102 yards in 11 games (#14)

Yards per game (ranking in brackets)

2014: 81.5 (#3)
2015: 81.5 (#1)
2016: 100.2 (#14)

You could put it down to the loss of Brandon Mebane although the 2014 Seahawks coped without Mebane after he landed on injured reserved before week 11.

For whatever reason this defense has only done an average job overall against the run. And it’s not like the numbers are influenced by freaky Russell Wilson-esque QB gains. Here’s the list of QB’s they’ve faced this year and their running totals vs Seattle:

Ryan Tannehill: 17 yards
Case Keenum: 5 yards
Blaine Gabbert: 22 yards
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 5 yards
Matt Ryan: 2 yards
Carson Palmer: 8 yards
Drew Brees: 1 yard
Tyrod Taylor: 43 yards
Tom Brady: 7 yards
Carson Wentz: 2 yards
Jameis Winston: 12 yards

Adding to the intrigue is the way Seattle hasn’t given up many ‘explosive’ plays in the run game. They actually rank #3 in the NFL for limiting runs of +10 yards:

1. Baltimore — 17
2. New York Giants — 21
3. Seattle — 22
4. Green Bay — 22
5. Carolina — 25

However, their ‘stuff percentage’ (defined as the percentage of rushes stopped behind the LOS) is only #18 in the NFL at 8.9%. The Dallas Cowboys are stuffing 16.5% of runs on defense, Los Angeles are managing 15% and Green Bay 14.8%.

This seems to be a D-line issue and not a second level problem.

Based on my amateur eye test, I wouldn’t suggest Athyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Tony McDaniel have played poorly. Yet perhaps needs two and three in this piece mesh together. Do they need a penetrating interior disruptor who not only impacts the passing game but also collapses the pocket and gets into the backfield to impact the running game too?

How often do you see Rubin, Reed or McDaniel pull off a dynamic swim/rip and force the RB to stall and adjust? How often are Seattle’s D-line tackling the runner at the LOS and not in the backfield?

How much is it down to a desire to focus on gap control, sound discipline and prevention of the big play versus being able to go out and actually make the big play as a Seahawks defensive tackle?

According to Sporting Charts, Seattle’s interior defensive linemen have contributed three TFL’s in total. For arguments sake, here’s the top performing DT’s in the league for TFL’s:

Aaron Donald — 15
Geno Atkins — 9
Kawann Short — 8
Timmy Jernigan — 8
Calais Campbell — 8
Kyle Williams — 8
Malik Jackson — 7

Aaron Donald, admittedly a truly elite player in the league, has 12 more TFL’s than Seattle’s collection of DT’s combined. Kyle Williams in Buffalo has personally accumulated five more than Seattle’s group.

It might not be a coincidence that Timmy Jernigan has eight TFL’s and Baltimore currently leads the NFL in run defense.

For the Seahawks to get back to being one of the best run defenses in the NFL — they probably need an impact player working the interior. Someone capable of getting 8-10 TFL’s in the way Jernigan has for the Ravens this year.

Two of the players named above — Calais Campbell and Kawann Short — are free agents at the end of the season. Are they too expensive for Seattle? Do they even reach the open market? Possibly not.

This is one of the reasons why a player like Derrick Nnadi might be intriguing. He has 9.5 TFL’s this year to go with his 5.5 sacks. He looks better, at least in my opinion, than Timmy Jernigan looked at FSU.

Again, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a pure DT. Demarcus Walker is an inside/out type of rusher and he has 16.5 TFL’s this season. Takk McKinley has 18 TFL’s. Solomon Thomas has 13. All three have the size and range to potentially play DE/DT.

If you want a list of the top performing players for TFL in college football, here you go. Note the national leader — Temple’s Haason Reddick — possibly an ideal candidate for the Seahawks to play SAM/LEO if he’s available in the round three range.

Other needs?

I’ve seen people suggesting receiver, SAM linebacker and cornerback recently. I think receiver would be an ideal ‘luxury’ pick if this was either a particularly good draft for WR’s (it isn’t) or the Seahawks didn’t have more striking needs elsewhere.

Fixing the run offense, run defense and finding an interior pass rush are critical needs for future success and for the core identity of the team. These have to take precedence over getting an upgrade over contracted players like Jermaine Kearse or Paul Richardson.

Basically you can live with Kearse and Richardson complimenting Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett. I’m not sure you can live with the current running game or D-line performance.

The SAM position is basically a two-down role. The Seahawks keep K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner on the field in any scenario and prefer to use an extra defensive back or pass rusher on key downs. Unless the player you’re drafting is a Bruce Irvin-style athlete capable of playing SAM and LEO, this is unlikely to be an area the Seahawks attack. It’s why Haason Reddick might be so appealing in the middle rounds.

Cornerback is also a slightly overrated option. The Seahawks have club control over DeShawn Shead in 2017 and they just re-signed Jeremy Lane to a decent contract. Corner hasn’t been a problem area short of a couple of iffy games for Lane and they prefer to develop players who fit a specific body type. It would be a bit of a surprise if the CB position wasn’t given, at best, the round 5-7 treatment in 2017.

If there is one other position they might focus on it could be safety. Not for any particular reason other than this is looking like a superb class for safety’s and they might wish to tap into the goodness. As noted this week, Shalom Luani’s backstory and fight to make a career out of football screams Seahawks. He could be their guy.

 

Latest podcast: Kenny’s mock & Tampa Bay reaction

November 30th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week we look back at Seattle’s loss in Tampa Bay and Kenny puts together a mock draft, with Rob critiquing it.

 

Derrick Nnadi could be a first round prospect

November 29th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Derrick Nnadi. Beast.

“Derrick just gets better and better and better and better. He has no idea how good he can be.”

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach

Yesterday we discussed the possibility of Derrick Nnadi being a potential second round target for the Seahawks. Today we’ll discuss if he could work his way into round one.

Every now and again you watch a game and a player just jumps off the screen. That was the case watching Utah left tackle Garret Bolles. It was exactly the same with Nnadi.

Do the Seahawks need another defensive tackle? Yes, probably. Pete Carroll admitted recently they brought in John Jenkins to try and find an interior rush — and yet he’s ideally sized to be a big, powerful nose tackle. They released Jordan Hill and then lost Quinton Jefferson to I.R.

They’re giving up 100.2 rushing YPG (#14 in the league). In 2015 they gave up 81.5 YPG (#1 in the league). To be fair their pass rushing numbers (especially sacks) have increased dramatically this season — but for whatever reason the run defense has regressed statistically.

That fits the eye test too. They didn’t give up a single 100-yard rusher in the regular season in 2015. It’s a different story this year.

It could be the departure of Brandon Mebane. What they ideally need is someone with the incredible base and power of Mebane that is also capable of providing some pass rush. They don’t necessarily need a 10-sack guy (that’d be nice but it’s unrealistic). Is there someone who offers the production of Clinton McDonald and Jordan Hill in 2013 and 2014 (6.5 sacks)?

Nnadi is a candidate. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs. His height and size is ideal to win with leverage as he frequently does. Here are some of the highlights on tape:

— Collapses the pocket with low pad level, drives the guard into the backfield and moves the QB off his spot (Demarcus Walker has benefited a LOT)

— Superb bull rush at times, for example:

— Good initial jolt with his hands and shows quickness to create separation from the blocker, like this:

— Incredibly powerful lower body, explodes out of his stance, firing off the ball

— Regularly gains position, anchors and controls the run (even vs double teams)

— Controls his gaps nicely and shows the ability to run down the line and string out plays (seemingly important in Seattle’s defense)

— Increasingly flashes as a pass rusher — he looks quicker this year and spends considerable time in the backfield:

He’s a great big ball of power with a squatty, compact frame. There is some work to do on his overall hand use (he can disengage quicker when he gets caught up in a hands battle) but his base power, ability to control the line and offer some pass rush might be a nice combination for Seattle.

Is he unique enough? I wouldn’t expect an insane workout at the combine. He won’t run a special forty yard dash, he likely won’t own the short shuttle. It’ll be interesting to see his vertical though given his terrific base. He can squat 750lbs and that should translate to some lower body explosion. He can reportedly bench 525. That’s pretty freaky.

The D-line is a potential early round need, along with the O-line of course and the possibility of adding another inside/out rusher, a SAM/LEO, an EDGE, a multi-faceted weapon like Obi Melifonwu, a bell cow running back or even a wide receiver. I think we’re seeing recently that the Seahawks still probably lack a really dynamic bigger target on the outside — not that there are a ton of options in this class.

Nnadi could help them improve their run defense, provide more physical brutality and power inside and possibly add an extra pass rushing dimension.

Kawann Short plays at 315lbs — a similar weight to Nnadi. He looks longer (6-3, nearly 35 inch arms) and that could be a deal breaker between the two. Short is pretty unique with his overall size, power, length and quickness off the snap. That’s why he has 19 career sacks and is likely facing a big pay day in the future.

Nnadi is more squatty and we’ll have to see his measurements. It’s unlikely he’ll posses the same kind of length (Short has vines for arms). That said — he has 5.5 sacks this year and Short had 6.5 and 7.5 in his last two seasons at Purdue respectively. There was a feeling coming into the league that he was only scratching the surface of his potential and that’s the same for Nnadi.

I wrote this piece about Short in 2013, suggesting he’d be a really good option with Seattle’s #25 pick (later traded to Minnesota for Percy Harvin). Nnadi might provide similar value for someone.

When Jimbo Fisher says he doesn’t realise how good he could be — I think the same can be said for the wider public. Nnadi has something about him. A bit of a X-factor. If he declares as a junior for the 2017 draft — he could be set for a very impressive pro-career and maybe a first round grade.

 

Seahawks seven round mock draft

November 28th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks are more or less in the same position they were a year ago. Their biggest needs are in the trenches. They still need to reassert themselves as the bullies of the NFC.

That’s not a big shock. With hindsight it was probably always going to be a two-draft rebuild to become the bullies again. It was never going to be easy to rebuild the O-line, replace the presence of Marshawn Lynch and also replace the likes of Brandon Mebane on defense (while also finding another inside/out rusher).

This seven-round mock is never going to be accurate at the end of November, long before we even discover who will/won’t declare or boost their stock at the Senior Bowl or Combine. That said, it’s an opportunity to highlight some names and talk about something other than the disappointing game in Tampa Bay.

Before I get into the seven-rounder, here’s a top-40 projection:

1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
2. San Francisco 49ers — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
4. Chicago Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. New York Jets — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
6. Cincinnati Bengals — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
7. Carolina Panthers — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
8. Tennessee Titans (via LA) — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
9. Green Bay Packers — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
10. New Orleans Saints — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
11. San Diego Chargers — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
12. Arizona Cardinals — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
13. Tennessee Titans — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
14. Baltimore Ravens — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
15. Indianapolis Colts — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
17. Buffalo Bills — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
18. Cleveland Browns (via Eagles) — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
19. Philadelphia eagles (via Vikings) — John Ross (WR, Washington)
20. Miami Dolphins — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
21. Pittsburgh Steelers — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
22. Atlanta Falcons — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
23. Detroit Lions — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
24. Houston Texans — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
25. Washington — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
26. Kansas City Chiefs — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
27. New York Giants — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
28. Denver Broncos — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
29. Seattle Seahawks — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
30. New England Patriots — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
31. Oakland Raiders — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
32. Dallas Cowboys — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
33. Cleveland Browns — Ryan Anderson (LB, Alabama)
34. San Francisco 49ers — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
35. Chicago Bears — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
36. Jacksonville Jaguars — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
37. New York Jets — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
38. Cincinnati Bengals — Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
39. Los Angeles Rams — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
40. Green Bay Packers — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)

Seahawks seven round projection

Round 1 — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)

I’ve talked a lot about Bolles already — but here’s a quick refresher on why he could be an ideal pick for the Seahawks. He’s battled adversity throughout his life, facing a difficult childhood before being arrested for vandalism. He was kicked out of the house by his father and taken in by another family. He’s since completely turned his life around in a similar fashion to Bruce Irvin — going through the JUCO’s and being courted by virtually every major college in the NCAA.

There’s no question in my mind that Bolles is the best left tackle in college football and is destined to go in round one. Is it realistic he falls to the Seahawks if he declares? Possibly not. What works in their favour is the fact he turns 25 next May so he’s not necessarily a 10-year option in the NFL. With this looking like a particularly loaded defensive draft he might slip through the cracks.

Bolles could play left or right tackle at the next level. He’s a physical tone-setter — a terrific run blocker with the balance, loose hips and athletic profile to excel in pass-pro too. He’s a bully on the field and now a family man off it, expecting his first child with his wife. He just screams ‘Seahawks’.

The need is also abundantly clear too. Neither Garry Gilliam or Bradley Sowell look like a long-term option at right tackle and it’s still too early to judge George Fant’s staying power.

Round 2 — Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama) or Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)

Tomlinson ticks several boxes. He’s a former four-star recruit with a background including track & field and wrestling. He’s a punishing, physical tough guy with good gap control. He has great length and size (6-3, 308lbs, 33 1/4 inch arms, 10 inch hands) and he has a terrific physique with minimal bad weight.

Importantly, he’s also battled adversity and has an interesting personality. Tomlinson’s father died when he was five and his mother passed away in 2011. This article by Terrin Waack highlights his backstory and why he might also interest the Seahawks.

Tomlinson isn’t just a great athlete — he’s also a talented musician and an artist. You know that has to appeal to Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks did draft Jarran Reed a year ago and you could argue Tomlinson is too similar. He’s not much of a pass rusher and the Seahawks have been trying to find some interior pressure (Jordan Hill, Quinton Jefferson, Damontre Moore, John Jenkins). You can never have too many solid D-liners though for your rotation — and with the likes of Takk McKinley likely to go very early (possibly top-10) they might not be able to lean on the draft to get an inside/out rusher.

Tomlinson’s frame isn’t totally unsuited to playing DE/DT and he might be able to develop into that type of role in the future.

Nnadi on the other hand has shown to be more of a pass rush threat. He’s been an absolute terror for Florida State all season. He and Demarcus Walker have provided a formidable duo — helping to turn FSU’s floundering defense into virtually a top unit over the course of the season.

He has 5.5 sacks in 2016 plus 9.5 TFL’s. You’ll often find Nnadi a split-second behind Walker in the backfield — and frequently the pair combine to provide stats for each other.

Nnadi is well sized to work as an inside rusher. He’s squatty with an incredibly powerful base. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs and carries the weight really well. He’ll bull-rush his way into the backfield but he’s also capable of flashing a swim/rip or winning with a quick get-off.

It’s his supreme strength and power that sets him apart from other prospects though. We know the Seahawks love unique traits. How about this for Nnadi, per Ryan S. Clark:

Nnadi now can bench 525 pounds and squat an amazing 750. In other words, he’s about 30 pounds away from being able to bench Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield (182 pounds) and Bobo Wilson (184 pounds) all at the same time.

And as for the 750 pounds? It’s like squatting two of freshman offensive lineman Mike Arnold (339 pounds) — and that’s still 72 pounds below his max.

“He’s the strongest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” redshirt sophomore tight end Ryan Izzo said. “When he goes to do max, he fills up the whole bar [with plates]. The bar is bending. When he touches [his butt] on the ground, he’s probably the strongest guy I’ve seen honestly.”

You see this freakish power every week and on virtually every snap. He’s a player that impacts games. He’s a disruptor — a splash play specialist with core production in terms of sacks.

At the next level at the very least you’ll get a guy who can absorb double teams and provide the occasional spark. His upside could be a Kawann Short-style stat-collector. He has a similar size and playing style to Short. They also share a similar concern entering the league. Short’s stamina was seen as an issue at Purdue and Nnadi is spelled a lot more than Walker (who plays virtually every snap). Those troubles haven’t prevented Short making an impact in Carolina — and won’t necessarily be a problem for Nnadi either.

It wouldn’t be a total shock if Nnadi worked his way into late first round contention — if he declares.

Round 3 — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)

The Seahawks love freaky athletes. At his junior pro-day, Reddick reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and 235lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical. That’s special.

His production is exceptional too. In 2016 he has 21.5 TFL’s in 12 games, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s a hybrid linebacker/DE and could fit in nicely as a SAM/LEO in Seattle.

He’s a former walk-on who was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff at Temple led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship.

Like Bolles and Tomlinson — Reddick hasn’t had it easy. And yet here he is — on the brink of a pro-career and proving people wrong. The guy’s a grown man, you watch his interviews and feel like he’d fit in Seattle’s locker room. Production + athleticism + grit + battling adversity = a potential Seahawk.

Round 3 — Elijah Hood (RB, North Carolina)

Compensatory pick — Bruce Irvin

It feels likely the Seahawks will add a running back at some point during the 2016 draft. The injuries they’ve faced this year and the sudden departure of Christine Michael has tested the depth — and that’s despite coming into the year with some nice options at RB.

We know the Seahawks have a ‘type’ at running back. And while Pete Carroll did admittedly discuss an ‘ideal’ frame during a recent press conference (making reference to a stud athlete at around 230lbs) — they’ve consistently drafted players in the 5-10/220lbs range:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware — 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins — 5-10, 217lbs

As noted in this piece I wrote for Field Gulls, they also focus on explosive athleticism. Turbin, Michael and Prosise are all very similar athletes.

Assuming the Seahawks don’t get a shot at the holy grail (Leonard Fournette), they might look to add another runner in the middle rounds.

Elijah Hood competed at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine and at 6-0 and 221lbs, he ran a 4.48, jumped a 42.5-inch vertical and had a 4.2 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score is an incredible 133.47 (anything over 130 is considered pretty special).

Hood fits perfectly with the type of runner the Seahawks have drafted in the past. He also has major production — 25 touchdowns in the last two seasons and well over 2000 rushing yards.

You see on tape his willingness to finish runs (also important) and not dip out of bounds voluntarily. He is sudden and capable of breaking off big gains at the second level but he also has the size to run up the gut. His personality is engaging and chatty without being overbearing. If the Seahawks remain consistent in the running backs they target — Hood could easily be on their radar.

Round 6 — Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)

Pete Carroll was asked about the Apple Cup last week and mentioned that they (the Seahawks) had watched a lot of Washington State this year. It might be because they’ve fallen for safety Shalom Luani.

Again, we know the Seahawks love athletes who show grit and fight to make a career out of football. Luani, originally from American Samoa, basically travelled to the U.S. alone with no house, no scholarship and about $400 in his pocket trying to realise his dream of playing college football.

This article highlights how he ended up living in a garage in a house homing 20 players. When they were evicted, a chance encounter led to an opportunity in the JUCO’s and then eventually a shot in the NCAA. It’s an incredible journey and I’d highly recommend checking out the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Luani has played safety and nickel so he has some versatility. He’s been touted as a possible ‘deathbacker’ too — earning praise from the man who virtually invented the position (Deone Bucannon). I watched a couple of games of Wazzu before the Apple Cup and he’s a playmaker — he has eight interceptions in the last two seasons, he hits like a hammer and he could contribute on special teams immediately.

He could go a lot earlier than this but I wanted to include him in this initial seven-round mock — plus Tony Pauline noted him as an UDFA candidate in his pre-season rankings so it’s not totally improbable he could last well into day three.

Round 6 — Kevin King (CB, Washington)

Compensatory pick — J.R. Sweezy

King has great size and like Luani might end up going a lot earlier than this. Tony Pauline projected him in this range during pre-season and a loaded class of corners could see him last a little longer than perhaps his talent warrants.

He’s a bit boom-or-bust at times. There’s no doubting his athletic profile and size (6-3, 195lbs). He’s a playmaker too — his incredible one-handed interception against Arizona State was testament to that. It was only his second pick of the season though and there have been times when teams have had success against King when they try and avoid Sidney Jones on the opposite side of the field.

He could be a nice project for the Seahawks and we know they like to wait until the later rounds or UDFA to draft and develop their cornerbacks.

Round 7 — Dante Pettis (WR, Washington)

The Seahawks have been willing to bring in later round or UDFA receivers — especially from Washington. Pettis isn’t likely to be an early round pick at 6-1 and 190lbs. Like Jermaine Kearse he’s made a lot of nice plays for the Huskies but that didn’t stop him going undrafted.

He is a touchdown maker (14 in 2016) and could be the next Husky given an opportunity to make the roster in Seattle. A lack of great size didn’t put off the Seahawks drafting Kenny Lawler in the seventh round and he had a similarly productive final season for Cal in 2015 (13 touchdowns).

— Other potential targets include:

John Ross (WR, Washington)
Possible range: Round 1
The Seahawks love explosive speed and playmaking quality. Ross has 17 total touchdowns this season with at least one more game to go. He’s battled adversity to come back even stronger after injury setbacks. He’s a twitchy, speedy, scoring machine. They already have Tyler Lockett but one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL (Sunday excluded) is never going to turn their nose up at a guy like this. He probably goes top-20 but if he falls into range, he could be a ‘Hawk.

Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
Possible range: Round 1
He fires off the edge like a cannon and plays with a great intensity. He looks like a LEO prospect who could develop into a SAM like Bruce Irvin. With players like Takk McKinley potentially rising up into the top-12 — prospects like Smoot could last into range for Seattle. The likes of Carl Lawson, Charles Harris and Demarcus Walker are also possibilities.

Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Possible range: Round 1
Compared to former UConn safety Byron Jones as an athlete, Melifonwu has lined up in the slot, as a single high safety, at strong safety and blitzing from the SAM this season. He’s an instinctive, big-hitting sure-tackler with the range and size to play multiple positions. He could be tried at corner, he could be used at strong safety or even linebacker like Mark Barron. Expect a big combine performance and a major rise up the boards.

Any of Washington’s defensive front
Possible range: Round 2
Watching them live last week sold me on the potential of this trio (plus Budda Baker was brilliant too). Vita Vea, Elijah Qualls and Greg Gaines are the real deal. I’m not sure which, if any, will declare for the draft — but they all provide a great combination of size, surprising athleticism and tenacity vs the run. Gaines is built like a nose but gets off blocks exceptionally well, Vea looked like the best pass rusher vs ASU but Qualls also has his qualities. Chris Peterson has a good group on both sides of the ball and it’ll be a surprise if the Seahawks don’t tap into this talent stream in 2017.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Possible range: Rounds 2-4
A receiver who does it all — he has special teams value as a gunner or returner, he’s a tremendous run blocker and he can be a clutch receiver. The Seahawks still lack size on the outside at receiver and Chesson could be a good-value, developmental option in this draft class. His run-blocking and special teams ability will get him on the field early in his career.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
Possible range: Rounds 3-5
Ideally suited to kick inside to guard, Bisnowaty was a four-star recruit with a wrestling and basketball background. He’s a tough guy with plus athleticism who plays a bit like Ethan Mathis. Mark Glowinski hasn’t been fantastic so far at left guard and they might look to add some competition there. Bisnowaty’s play has increasingly improved as the season progressed.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Possible range: Rounds 4-6
A playmaker for the Rebels with 10 TFL’s, six sacks and eight QB hurries in 2016. He also has three forced fumbles and an interception. If he tests well at the combine he could be a potential SAM/LEO target.

Note — The Seahawks traded their fourth round pick to the Patriots for the chance to draft Quinton Jefferson in 2016. They were also stripped of their fifth round pick due to OTA violations.

It’s also worth remembering there will likely be some money to spend in free agency. According to Spotrac, the Seahawks are estimated to have $27.2m in free cap room in 2017. While some of that will likely go towards rewarding Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and possibly Cliff Avril — it likely won’t preclude the Seahawks from being able to fill one or two needs using the open market.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks well beaten, drop to 7-3-1

November 27th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Blame it on the injuries, blame it on the offensive line. Blame the putrid offense or the crucial turnovers. Whatever your choice, this was bad.

It’s not unexpected that the defense would lose a step missing Earl Thomas, Deshawn Shead and Michael Bennett. That said, the ‘plan’ to handle Mike Evans at the start of the game was puzzling.

Pete Carroll’s mantra of winning games in the fourth quarter has aided this team so many times over the years. Their inability to defend Evans at all cost them 14 early points and put them in an immediate hole from which they never recovered.

Even so, the defense bounced back and made some plays. Frank Clark forced a safety, K.J. Wright’s stunning hit ended the half, they forced two turnovers and the Buccs ended the game without adding another point.

They gave the Seahawks a chance to claw their way back into it. They failed because the offense had arguably it’s roughest day in the Russell Wilson era.

The two competing games in terms of ineptitude are probably the 2013 Rams road game and the draw in Arizona this year. Against St. Louis, Wilson also had no time to do anything but still managed a couple of big plays (and two touchdowns) to secure a close win. Against the Cardinals, Wilson found some rhythm in overtime and moved the ball with relative ease.

Here — there was nothing. George Fant looked more like George Costanza trying to block Noah Spence. Bradley Sowell replaced Garry Gilliam almost immediately (why not just start Sowell?) and Joey Hunt matched up against Gerald McCoy for his NFL debut.

The results were not pretty.

— 1/11 on third downs
— 118 net passing yards
— Six sacks conceded

Wilson knew this line couldn’t block and it appeared to engulf him. He was antsy in a way we haven’t seen in a while. On a third down throw needing five yards he fired way above Tyler Lockett’s head and was nearly picked. He forced a throw to Paul Richardson and was intercepted. He doubled clutched several times and held onto the ball almost in vain hope that he’d get longer than a couple of seconds to find an open man.

His yardage at half time was a career low 20 yards — beating the 28 he had last time these two teams met.

Wilson didn’t play well — but an O-line featuring three rookies played just as poorly if not worse.

The offense consistently floundered. Even when they were given the opportunity to put points on the board — they turned it over. Wilson’s pick potentially took three points off the board before half time. Jimmy Graham’s fourth quarter fumble prevented them making it a one-score game. Wilson’s second interception ended it with a minute to go.

In a sloppy game they were in range to kick the nine points they required and turned it over on each occasion. They lost 14-5 with the offense scoring three points — just as they did in Los Angeles in week two.

Could they have done anything differently? Maybe some deeper drops from play action — but with no running game it’s not like the Buccs were going to bite on that. RB Screens? That’s often the go-to complaint from fans. The thing is, a good screen relies on the blockers not being tied up with a defender or on their backside. A badly performing O-line can actually be a major issue on screens because you’re dumping the ball off, hoping for YAC and downfield blocking.

Simply put — they had to find a way to block better and never achieved it.

Any hopes of a half-time adjustment were blown away with an immediate chop-block penalty on Hunt. 1st and 22. Three-and-out. Punt. Rinse and repeat.

They tried some WR screens and extended hand-off’s. It just didn’t feel like Seattle’s day. They didn’t deserve the win — and this time couldn’t find a way to get it done.

It ends more than just a three-game winning streak. Momentum was building. The talk of another fearsome late run was growing. This was a bit of a reality check in the sense that while key players will return soon — this team still has some flaws.

The loss almost certainly leaves the Cowboys with a free run to the #1 seed. With Arizona and Los Angeles both losing there was no damage suffered in the NFC West race. The key now is whether they can regroup, get healthy and get back on form against Carolina next week.

Is it a bad time to mention how resurgent the Panthers suddenly look?

On the plus side, K.J. Wright was sensational. His big hit to end the first half, his blowing up of an early screen pass and his TFL on Doug Martin at the start of the second offered hope. One of the more underrated players in the league was a rare positive today.

Frank Clark also had a handful of nice pressures on top of the safety.

It’s worth celebrating the defense in general. They battled and scrapped after the two early drives and at least kept Seattle in the game. If only the offense could’ve managed even an average day instead of an abominable one.

 

Apple Cup & college football open thread

November 25th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

For any thoughts or notes on the Apple Cup, head into the comments section. I haven’t got access to the game but will be watching Arkansas @ Missouri, Baylor @ Texas Tech and they’re replaying NC State @ North Carolina later tonight.

 

Thanksgiving podcast: Apple Cup, college football & more

November 24th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. In this latest podcast Kenny and I discuss our recent trips to Denver and Seattle, the Apple Cup, Russell Wilson and many other topics.

Check it out: