Seahawks off-season: Priorities, predictions & possibilities

February 19th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks need a LEO and Kemoko Turay could be an option

We did this a year ago. Time for the 2017 version.

— Nothing should be off the table. The Seahawks finished 9-7 for a reason and it wasn’t just down to a few missed field goals by Blair Walsh. Changes to the defense appear to be inevitable but practically anything should be considered, especially if it helps repair the struggling running game. This is a vital off-season.

— Get younger on defense. According to ESPN the Seahawks fielded the fourth oldest defense in the NFL in 2017. In comparison, they had the second youngest offense. The injuries are starting to pile up, fewer players are practising during the week. This has to change in 2018.

— Get cheaper on defense. The Seahawks are paying a disproportionate amount of money to their ageing unit. In 2017 the Seahawks spent $93,714,666 on their defense, more than any team in the NFL. The split between offense and defense was 36.37% vs 55.98%. They spent $60,885,063 on the offense — 29th highest in the league. Of the 12 biggest cap hits on the roster, nine were defensive players. The three offensive players were Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Luke Joeckel. Graham and Joeckel are both free agents. There has to be a greater balance in spending between the two units.

— Prepare to make a tough call on Earl Thomas. The Seahawks can’t afford a long drawn out battle. Do they believe they’re going to get their money’s worth from a big extension? If they have doubts or if Thomas simply asks for too much money, they have to be willing to see what’s out there via trade. One way or another a big decision is coming. Earl will either sign a contract extension before the draft or he’ll be traded.

— Check out the market for Richard Sherman. A year ago the Seahawks made it quite clear they were willing to listen to offers for Sherman. It’s worth reviewing the situation again. His age, injury and contract status might not scream ‘trade value’ but if this is his last year in Seattle anyway, you might as well see what’s out there. A weak cornerback draft class might aid the situation.

— Dion Jordan, Justin Coleman and Bradley McDougald all performed well in 2017 and should be retained. Jordan and Coleman are restricted free agents and it’ll be fairly straightforward to keep both. McDougald is an unrestricted free agent but played well filling in at both free and strong safety. With uncertain futures for both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, they could do with keeping McDougald around.

— Come up with a solution to the Sheldon Richardson dilemma. They could transition or franchise tag him, essentially providing another ‘prove-it’ situation for Richardson. They could let him walk and hope to get a decent comp pick. They could let him test the market and hope to re-sign him for a reasonable amount. Richardson is clearly talented but it’s difficult to project how the Seahawks will approach his future.

— Acquire extra picks. The Seahawks can’t afford to pick once in the first four rounds of the draft. There’s too much work to do. One way or another they need more. Either trade some veterans or trade down from #18. Or both.

— ‘Value’ and ‘opportunity’ should be the two key words in free agency. No big splashes. Firstly, to protect any worthwhile 2019 comp picks. Secondly, it’s time to work this roster 2010 style. The Seahawks need to start looking for the next core. A highly competitive environment is required, with players fighting to prove a point and get the opportunity to earn big money. Seattle has carried too many big contracts in recent years and they need to rekindle some of that scrappy, gritty personality.

— The San Francisco pair of Eric Reid and Carlos Hyde could be acquired. Reid is every bit as athletic as Derwin James but some teams might be put off by his connection to the protest movement. That won’t be an issue in Seattle and he could be willing to sign a one or two year ‘prove-it’ deal to play strong safety. Hyde would be a perfect hedge for the draft and might be cheap given his age and production. Another option could be Marqise Lee. In a competitive receiver market, Lee could be forced to sign a one-year deal similar to Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor a year ago.

— The strength of the draft in the early rounds is clear — OL, RB, LB. The Seahawks might take one of each if they acquire extra picks. The third day of the draft appears set to provide some value on the D-line and secondary. So use the early picks to finally repair the run and consider either some help for Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright or a SAM/LEO.

— Seriously consider selecting Billy Price, Isaiah Wynn or Ronald Jones II with your first pick. These three players stand out in a big way and would significantly boost Seattle’s offense and running game. Repairing the run has to be a key priority this off-season.

— Adding a LEO also seems crucial, especially if Cliff Avril departs. There are options in this draft. If they want to take one early, they could look at Boston College’s Harold Landry. Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay and Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter could be good options in the middle rounds. Keep an eye on the 10-yard splits at the combine (especially anyone who runs in the 1.5’s).

— Make a point of drafting another ‘Y’ tight end. Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both free agents so this position requires some attention. The jury’s still out on Nick Vannett. They could look for another athletic mismatch in the passing game or a red zone dynamo to replace Graham but if they’re serious about fixing the run — another in-line TE who can block wouldn’t go amiss. Stanford’s Dalton Schultz and Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe are two great options. I’m going to study Washington’s Will Dissly this week.

— Use the middle and later rounds to bring in highly competitive, young defensive players. Speed, toughness, size, length, attitude — the foundation of Seattle’s initial charge under Pete Carroll. If the early rounds are rich for interior offensive linemen, running backs and linebackers — the later rounds will provide some options at cornerback, safety and D-line. Would they work with a misguided talent like LSU’s Kevin Toliver at corner? He’s a former five-star recruit who might last into their preferred range for cornerbacks (R4-6). Will they find the athleticism of Virginia’s Andrew Brown, NC State’s Kentavius Street or Florida State’s Josh Sweat appealing? How early will Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter and South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard go? Is there a safety or two they like, possibly Jessie Bates III, Terrell Edmunds or Kyzir White for example? Is Kemoko Turay a great option to play LEO? And will they see new potential leaders in players like Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis or Auburn’s Jeff Holland?

— Create a proper competitive environment. The draft and free agency needs to be the starting point. Heated competition needs to return to Seattle across the board. Look at the way they churned in 2010 to find the initial pieces to build around. That continued deep into 2012 when Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson to start at quarterback. It’s been a great run but with so many established starters, there wasn’t much room for competition apart from the jobs on special teams or deciding who was the fourth or fifth running back on the roster. True, legitimate competition needs to return. Multiple starting positions need to be up for grabs.

— Lean on key players during what could be a transition year. The Seahawks under Carroll will never have an accepted ‘off year’. They will go for it every season. They also think long term. Change is coming and it’s time to find new stars and move on from some of the older players. It might benefit the Seahawks to have some new names fighting on the field to make an impression. They’ll still need to depend on some key veterans. Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Duane Brown and Russell Wilson could be tasked with this challenge.

— A possible plan could be: R1 — OL or RB (Price, Wynn, Jones II), R2/3 — OL or RB (Ragnow, Corbett, Chubb), LEO or SAM/LEO (Turay, Carter, Leonard), R4 — TE (Schultz or Smythe), R5-7 — DL, DB. This would obviously depend on picks being acquired. It would allow the Seahawks to address their running game early and add young talent to the defense.

— Unlike in previous years, however, there’s still a lot of clarity needed before projecting what could happen. Who is staying/going? What picks are they going to have? That ‘plan’ above could look very different in a month.

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How much work does Seattle’s O-line require?

February 17th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s a complex question and there are many layers to the answer.

It’s possible the existing group will grow and improve. Will they take a big step forward under the guidance of Mike Solari? Do some of the players, like Germain Ifedi and Ethan Pocic, just need time? And will Duane Brown’s veteran experience help bring things together?

At the same time, you could easily build a case for making big changes. Is Ifedi ever going to be a long term solution at guard or tackle? Is Pocic good enough? Why were there so many errors and missed assignments? Does the responsibility lie with Tom Cable or do the players share the blame for not executing?

Did the running backs contribute in making the O-line look worse than it was? We know Russell Wilson occasionally runs himself into trouble, so how many bad reads were the running backs making?

You could write a piece arguing absolutely anything about the O-line and make it seem logical. Let Solari work with this group before judging, give Ifedi another year, bring in a veteran left guard, draft a left guard, blow the whole thing up and start again. Nothing should be off the table.

They probably don’t want to re-start the whole thing. After all, they’ve spent so much. Justin Britt wasn’t just a second round pick, they’ve also given him a $9m a year contract. Ifedi and Pocic were first and second rounders. Brown cost a second and third round pick.

Has any other team invested more in their O-line? This has been a concerted effort to fix a problem. And yet it remains mostly unfixed. The Seahawks have shown they don’t necessarily need the Dallas Cowboys O-line to succeed. Look at 2013. They do need a line that functions, however. One that isn’t a liability.

And in the post-Marshawn Lynch era they can’t rely on a future Hall-of-Famer to make up the difference.

A degree of ruthlessness is required. Brown will remain at left tackle. It’d make sense to let George Fant compete with Germain Ifedi at right tackle. They have some options at the position, so another high pick at tackle seems unlikely.

The interior is the big question mark, as evidenced by this tweet:

Seattle didn’t run the ball well enough up the middle. If you look at the results running to the left or right, the difference between the Seahawks and Rams is minimal. Yet Los Angeles and Todd Gurley averaged 3.02 yards before contact running up the middle compared to Seattle’s paltry 0.82 yards (#31 in the league).

That’s where the serious debate needs to happen, especially approaching a draft class filled with interior O-line talent. The first two or three rounds are really appealing at guard and center.

If the Seahawks trade Earl Thomas for a first round pick, would anyone really argue if they spent their two first rounders on Billy Price and Isaiah Wynn? It’d be a serious infusion of talent to the interior. It might not be the best use of resources given what they’ve spent on the O-line already but would it finally solve a big problem once and for all?

Such a scenario might be unlikely. Appealing but unlikely. Yet it’s the kind of conversation that is worth having. If they’re going to eat some bad contracts on defense in an attempt to get younger — do they need to eat some money and picks on the O-line to get better?

Will anything aid the Seahawks more than the ability to field a dominant run game in 2018? Look what it did for Dallas in 2016. They didn’t have a star-studded defense but were still able to control games thanks to a creative, mobile quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott and a terrific O-line.

Seattle has a proven track record of developing defensive talent. Would you bet against Pete Carroll being able to field a complimentary defense for a new, supercharged running game?

It’s something to think about during this horrible pre-combine void.

We’ve talked a lot about Wynn and Price. They along with Ronald Jones II are very appealing in round one if the Seahawks are serious about focusing on improving their running game.

Wynn is without doubt the most unflappable offensive lineman I’ve watched since starting the blog nearly ten years ago. His senior year at Georgia was an exercise in calmness, control and sheer dominance. He isn’t a big physical powerhouse like Quenton Nelson, destined to be the second coming of Steve Hutchinson. He might be, however, an unheralded star at a time when the league badly needs solid and consistent O-line play. Wynn was the best player at the Senior Bowl. I’m not sure it was all that close.

Jones II is as close to Jamaal Charles as you’ll ever find in a player. They are eerily similar. He’s smaller than Seattle has drafted for the position in the past yet he’s incredibly tough and physical. He’s a star in the making with a major X-factor very few players possess.

I wanted to spend some more time today, however, talking about Price. We’ve discussed his physical traits and playing style before. He’s going to surprise people at the combine with his power and explosive athleticism. He plays at maximum intensity, launching himself into the game and setting the tone. He’s a relentless ball of power, occasionally playing with some reckless abandon but more often than not having the ability to play within the scheme and execute some very technical double teams and blitz pick-ups.

If you watched Taylor Lewan against Seattle in week three and thought — ‘I want that type of O-liner on our team’ — Price has that kind of edge and nasty.

Need evidence?

He’s also comfortable on the move:

This second clip of Price pulling is even better. Look how smooth he is to the second level and delivers a key block:

The block below is exactly the type of thing you want to see when watching these interior O-liners. Price plants the anchor and is just immovable — there’s no push or inch given against the pass rusher. This is pure lower body power and strength:

There’s one other way he stands out though and this could be important for Seattle. Too often in the last couple of years there have been mistakes. Missed assignments, players not working as a collective group. Price is an organiser. So while he’d bring a toughness to Seattle’s O-line he might also help the group function.

Watch the video below from 30 seconds in and listen to his answer about transitioning from guard to center. Here’s the quote in full:

“I’m kind of the voice of the offensive line, myself and Jamarco (Jones). There’s a lot of things that I have to make sure I understand completely otherwise we’ll go out on the field and look like idiots and that’s something I can’t let our boys do.”

I’m not trying to suggest for a second that Justin Britt isn’t capable of this or is responsible for the mistakes that happen on the O-line. Britt might talk in a similar fashion when quizzed on this subject. After all, like Price he switched to become a guard.

Yet having experienced Seattle’s errors on the O-line like everyone else for two years, you can’t help but listen to Price here and wonder if this is a solution. Can he come in, lead Seattle’s O-line the way he did Ohio State’s and avoid, to use his words, letting his boys ‘look like idiots’.

Urban Meyer clearly has a lot of respect for Price:

After an absolute shellacking by Iowa during the 2017 season, Price took it upon himself to deliver a crucial speech in the locker room after the game. Meyer has credited that speech as a catalyst for turning around Ohio State’s fortunes. They went on to win the BIG 10 and nearly qualified for the college football playoffs despite that hammering by the Hawkeyes.

Watch how Price carries himself during practise, assuming a leadership role:

This is an interesting film session with Price, where he talks about blocking and his duties as the center:

There’s an awful lot to like. He’s an organiser, he takes responsibility for the group. Maybe they need that type of leader?

He’s also durable, starting well over 50 consecutive games at Ohio State. It’s the one big edge he has over Isaiah Wynn who is currently recovering from a torn labrum and won’t workout at the combine.

The Seahawks have an opportunity to improve their much maligned running game this year. The options are there in the draft — this is a strong class at running back and interior O-line in the early rounds. There’s also enough defensive talent from round three onwards to feel comfortable waiting on that side of the ball. There’s even 2-3 really good blocking tight ends to further improve the running game.

They’re probably going to be aggressive in making changes to the defense. It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive they are changing the O-line too.

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What constitutes jaw dropping change?

February 15th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Gee Scott predicted ‘jaw dropping change’ during a piece on 710 ESPN recently. Here’s what he said:

“When were the Seahawks most successful? They were most successful when Pete Carroll first got here and he says, ‘hey — I’m going to get a bunch of guys that believe and are all bought into me. So I’m going to draft that way.’ So even the folks that were here, they’re really like, ‘ah this Pete Carroll guy we don’t know about him.’ Well that’s OK because I’m going to draft the Earl Thomas’, the Kam Chancellor’s, the Richard Sherman’s, the Russell Wilson’s and so forth.

“Now with that being said, Pete Carroll’s about to do it all over again. Hence the reason why he made the huge changes with the coaching staff. And remember I said this — I’m going to say it right now. (voice rasies) There are about to be huge changes with this Seahawks team. I’m talking about jaw dropping changes to this Seahawks team. This is going to be a young team, it’s going to be unrecognisable. But at the end of the day, whoever is left still standing are people who I believe Pete Carroll thinks is going to buy in with what’s going on in the future.”

Change is expected. Mike Silver originally touched on it. The players themselves have discussed it. The extent of the churn is yet to be determined.

What would ‘unrecognisable’ actually look like?

There’s already an expectation that Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor will retire or at least move on. A recent report from Ian Rapoport claiming Chancellor intends to continue playing deserves context. There’s a difference between an intention and being permitted to continue. This remains a situation that will be resolved by the doctors. Pete Carroll has stated it’ll be very difficult for either Avril or Chancellor to continue playing.

Michael Bennett has also admitted he doesn’t expect to be back.

These moves wouldn’t be all that surprising or jaw dropping.

Things get serious if Earl Thomas is dealt. He spoke at the Pro-Bowl and at the very least hinted at the possibility of a hold out if he doesn’t get an extension. It does feel like one way or another, Thomas’ future will be resolved before the draft. Either he signs a new extension or the Seahawks look for a deal. They won’t give him away, however. So theoretically he could stay on his current contract. It’s probably not an ideal scenario for either party, however.

Considering the weak options at safety this year, Thomas could be in-demand.

It’s also quite an unspectacular cornerback class which could mean relative interest in Richard Sherman. Considering his injury situation and contract status (one year remaining) he’s unlikely to provide any kind of value. Yet Mike Silver did say this in his piece on the Seahawks when he predicted major change on the defense:

Sherman, who tore his Achilles tendon in November, will be 30 next spring and is due to make $11 million (with a $13.2 million salary-cap number). The Seahawks shopped him in trades a year ago and are expected to move forward without him in 2018.

Sherman and Thomas departing, on top of Bennett, Avril and Chancellor would be major change. The entire defensive core, minus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, would be out the door. Legends would be departing. It would be the end of an era — for the NFL and the Seahawks.

It would, however, leave them with significant cap room to make moves in free agency. And they would likely acquire extra draft picks, providing an opportunity to address needs (running game) and start the remake on defense.

Not everyone will be in favour of this level of change. Increasingly, however, it feels possible.

A change in approach?

Whatever happens, it feels like the Seahawks are on the brink of going back to their 2010 roots. Competition was at the heart of everything. Constant roster churn, no stone unturned. Carroll and Schneider really went after the roster build.

If you didn’t pull your weight (Lendale White) you were gone. It was a ruthless yet fair approach. It created an immediate culture.

In recent years, Seattle has been less about competition and more about rewarding stalwarts.

Few argued against the Bennett and Chancellor extensions at the time (I certainly didn’t) yet both, with hindsight, were ill-advised. The thinking was clear. This was a competitive team still capable of competing. Change? It wasn’t needed. Rewarding great players felt like the right thing to do.

The cliff face came abruptly as the injuries piled up in 2017. Suddenly Seattle looked like an old team. Not the vibrant, aggressive, energetic bunch that took on the league and won from 2011 onwards.

Both players deserved a reward. Sometimes, however, there’s a fine balance between what’s best for the player and the team. There’ll be a significant dead cap hit when both eventually depart (quite possibly in the next few weeks).

Justin Britt’s extension also comes with a question mark. The Ethan Pocic pick a year ago looked like a hedge. Perhaps even a hint that Seattle was prepared to let Britt test the water in free agency.

Instead, he signed a deal worth $9m a year. It’s debatable whether he’d get $9m a year on the open market after a so-so 2017 season.

His dead cap hit to part ways this off-season is $5.5m more than his cap hit of $6.16m. The benefit of parting ways in 2019 is also minimal. They might be locked into Britt until 2020 unless they want to take on another sizeable dead cap hit.

If the Seahawks want to improve their running game, they need to work on the interior O-line:

That’s not to say this is all on Britt. Competent guard and running back play could be equally as important. Yet the Seahawks wanted to reward Britt for the progress he showed in 2016 and are now committed to another big contract.

Hindsight is a great thing but if the Seahawks had allowed Britt, Bennett and Chancellor to run down their contracts, they’d be about $25m better off in cap space this off-season.

The Seahawks need fewer of these deals and more competition. More players fighting to get the big money. And when those players reach a point where it’s time to talk contract, they need to be ruthless. Fewer third contracts, paying the best big money and being prepared, sometimes, to move on.

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Monday notes: Jeff Holland, Steven Mitchell Jr & more

February 13th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Before we get started if you missed it yesterday, check out the Seahawkers podcast this week. There’s a ton of draft info from 12:37 in…

On to the notes. Featured today: Jeff Holland, Steven Mitchell Jr, Ronald Jones II and Derwin James…

— Auburn finished the SEC season superbly. They built momentum, rallied after a difficult loss to LSU and suddenly became the team to beat. They absolutely hammered Georgia, then comfortably handled Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

The two teams that eventually met in the Playoff decider — taken apart by Auburn.

They managed it playing a very familiar brand of football to Seattle (at least the 2012-15 version). Point guard quarterback. Fearsome running game. Jacked-up defense playing with their hair on fire, flying to the ball. This was a band of brothers, playing together with all three units connecting. The defense danced, celebrated and set the tone. It was like watching the LOB in 2013.

I remember thinking at the time — this is what the Seahawks used to be like. That energy, the physicality. It was a Gus Malzahn offense but at the heart of everything was a very classic combination of good running game and great defense.

If they want to get back to that — tapping into that Auburn spirit could be a possibility.

They’re not alone of course. Georgia got to the final with the same kind of ingredients. Alabama always play defense and run the ball. It’ll be interesting to see how many players the Seahawks cherry pick from those three schools.

The player I wanted to highlight today is EDGE rusher Jeff Holland.

He’s not the biggest (listed by ESPN at 6-2 and 250lbs) and it’s fair to say he’s not going to win Mr. Universe. He looks quite unremarkable in terms of his physique. He’s not the biggest or fastest.

Yet every time I watched Auburn in 2017, he stood out. He finished the season with 10 sacks, 13 TFL’s and four forced fumbles. Holland is a high-intensity, physical, fierce pass rusher with quickness off the snap. For his size he isn’t a liability against the run.

His best quality, however, is hand technique. His ability to use a two-handed swipe is highly impressive. He can rip and swim and he can beat a tackle off the edge with lean. Hand use continues to be one of the more lesser talked about features in the media — but it’s vital for a pass rusher. Holland spent a lot of time learning this skill:

Not being the biggest, fastest or most impressive athlete might dent Holland’s stock. He might not be on Seattle’s radar as a consequence. Yet there is talent to work with here and Holland did as much as anybody to embody the spirit of Auburn’s charged-up defense.

Look at this effort in pursuit (he’s #4):

On the first play he chases down the running back on a pitch, sprinting from the left hand side of the line to the right. On the second play he bullies the tackle before slamming down the quarterback on a draw.

Here’s an example of his hand use and how it keeps his frame clean and helps him get around the edge to the QB:

That’s the same play from different angles (broadcast & all-22). Look at the way he chops his hands at the tackle and stays clean.

He doesn’t have to use his hands. He has enough lean to get around the arc:

Here’s a clip where he uses the depth of the tackles’ drop to his advantage, jolts him off balance and beats him:

How is he working the goal line against the run? No touchdown here for Derrius Guice:

The Seahawks might need some of this attitude going forward:

Holland isn’t loaded with upside. He isn’t Frank Clark, Bruce Irvin or Cliff Avril. Unremarkable size and length. He probably won’t have an amazing combine. Admittedly, this would be a change of pace for the Seahawks. Against the bigger, stronger and quicker athletes at the next level, he might be less impactful.

He’s still intriguing in the middle rounds and you wouldn’t bet against this guy. Maybe they need one or two overachievers? You’re not going to have to worry about him being ‘all-in’. He might be able to fill a leadership void down the line. And if the Seahawks are moving on without Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, they’ll need to find some possible options to help the pass rush.

And he can do this:

— I haven’t spent much time studying him yet but I wanted to mention USC receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. He can be a ferocious and committed blocker. I’m not sure if he’ll be on Seattle’s radar but USC’s #4 kept showing up on Ronald Jones II’s runs. He had 644 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. He’s only 5-10 and 194lbs (per ESPN). Mitchell Jr is willing to hit though and do some of the dirty work. He seems to take a great deal of enjoyment from blocking (often celebrating after a key block). In SPARQ testing he managed a score of 107.34 with a 33.5 inch vertical and a 4.55 forty. He’ll need to run faster than that at the combine but based on his tenacity he might be a name to remember.

Here are some highlights:

— Speaking of Ronald Jones II, there’s yet more evidence why he could easily be a first round target for the Seahawks. Fumble rates are very important. Dane Brugler has worked out how each running back in the draft ranks. Jones II has the third best fumble rate in the class. Ball security is key and it’s another big positive next to his uncanny similarity to Jamaal Charles (also note LSU’s Darrel Williams at the top, a late round option for Seattle).

This is also an interesting series of tweets/clips highlighting his play using all-22:

To follow the full strand of Tweets in this review, click here. Jones II is a special player. In the past, with the Seahawks picking later in round one, we’d be having a conversation about him being off the board by their pick. We had similar conversations about Haason Reddick, Sheldon Rankins, Garret Bolles, Keanu Neal, Odell Beckham Jr and others. Players initially projected by the media as first or second round types but ultimately they go much earlier. Jones II, to me, is a legit top-20 prospect.

— We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Derwin James but one more note won’t hurt. James was invited to participate in an online game of Madden 18 on the PS4 over the weekend. He accepted the challenge against a Florida State fan, noting he would donate a pair of his cleats if he was beaten.

As you can see James won somewhat comfortably. The interesting thing is he chose to play as the Seahawks. It could be nothing. It could be something. Who knows. It’s February and there’s no harm in a bit of speculation to pass the time.

 

Talking draft: Seahawkers Podcast appearance

February 12th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

We cover a lot of ground here including potential Seahawks picks from the Senior Bowl, what it would take to stick with the #18 pick and why the Seahawks should consider spending an early pick on a running back.

There’s also a strand on what to look for at the combine in terms of the different positions relating to the Seahawks.

There’s plenty of info here and I’d really appreciate it if you check it out — I’m on from 12:37 in…

 

Saturday notes: Run-draft, Dalton Schultz & Keke Coutee

February 10th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

— The Seahawks haven’t had a running game crisis like this since the end of the 2010 season. Pete Carroll stated, clearly, at the end of that season that fixing it would be a priority. He made similar noises in his latest press conference. The response in 2011? Seattle spent their first two draft picks on James Carpenter and John Moffitt. When the lockout concluded, they signed Zach Miller and Robert Gallery.

When the Seahawks have a need they tend to go after it aggressively. And this is, clearly I think, Seattle’s biggest problem. Carroll will coach up and field a capable defense. Without the running game, one of they key focal points of his identity isn’t there. The circle is incomplete.

It’s still very early in the process. Things will change. There’s a reason, however, that we’ve spent an increasing amount of time looking at Ronald Jones II, Isaiah Wynn and Billy Price for their first pick. These are three of the players that give you a chance to properly address the running game and take the offense forward.

If they ended up trading Earl Thomas and acquiring another high pick, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if they added two of Jones II, Wynn and Price. Just at they targeted Carpenter and Moffitt in 2011.

There are defensive options that could be appealing. Maurice Hurst, Derwin James. Others too. Yet fixing the run is absolutely crucial. And Jones II, Wynn and Price are all worthy of top-25 consideration.

— With Jimmy Graham almost certainly on the way out and Luke Willson also a free agent, the Seahawks have to do something at tight end. That could be a free agent pick-up but it could also be a draft pick. Following the Graham experiment, it feels like they’re more likely to target a tight end who can block.

We’ve talked about Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe. He’s a classic ‘Y’ tight end and has shown a strong ability to feature as a blocker. At the Senior Bowl he also impressed mightily as a pass catcher. He’s well sized with a good character.

Smythe is one to watch. He has short arms though — not ideal for blocking at the line or competing for difficult red zone catches. The tight end class across the board is a bit overrated and Seattle’s options might be quite narrow. Thankfully, there’s a Stanford tight end who could also provide a solution.

Dalton Schultz is a terrific blocker. Look at the play below. Schultz goes 1v1 with the DE. He stones him at the LOS and then dumps him to the ground and finishes the block:

This is what the Seahawks need. A tight end who can actually excel as a blocker.

The difference between Schultz and Smythe appears to be length. Schutlz is tall and long but lighter (estimated to be 242lbs). Yet his ability to keep his frame clean, lock on and sustain blocks is crucial. Here’s what Lance Zierlein noted when watching Schultz:

Very tenacious and tough as a blocker. Well-schooled in blocking fundamentals. Leaned on as vital part of the run blocking unit. Initial hand placement is good. Ability to sustain and finish. Improves positioning after contact and can generate some movement at point of attack without a double team. Gave it to USC’s Rasheem Green on more than a couple of snaps when matched head to head.

Statistically Schultz has not been a big feature. Stanford have long been a run-heavy team and if anything that has increased since the Andrew Luck days. Schultz’s main responsibility is to block. I don’t think you can read too much into his paltry 555 receiving yards and five touchdowns in three seasons. He’s done what he’s been asked to do.

It could actually work in Seattle’s favour. While the rest of the league is looking for big slot receivers acting as tight ends, we know the Seahawks want to play a more classical style. They drafted Nick Vannett in round three. They might be able to land Schultz in a similar range.

There are solutions in this draft class for the Seahawks. A long list of running backs. A similarly long list of interior lineman. Now two good tight ends that excel at blocking. If ever there was a year to try and fix the running game, the 2018 draft could provide a jump start.

Here’s another video highlighting some of Schultz’s talents as a receiver/blocker:

— One other name to perhaps keep an eye on is Texas Tech receiver Keke Coutee. This isn’t a particularly exciting draft in terms of legit first round talent — but there are plenty of intriguing names for the middle and later rounds. Coutee could be one of those gems where a few years down the line, you wonder how he lasted as long as he did. Take a look:

Finally — if you missed it yesterday I was invited onto the Tasteful Profanity podcast. Have a listen using the box below:

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Tasteful Profanity podcast appearance

February 9th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If you need something to listen to this Friday, check out the Tasteful Profanity podcast. I was invited on to talk about the draft and was also warned to expect some ‘off-the-wall’ questions. There are most definitely some of those too. I’m not often lost for words so this was a unique experience for me. Give it a listen and if you want to subscribe to the podcast via Itunes, you can do so by clicking here.

 

Updated mock draft: 8th February

February 8th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If there was ever a year to sort out the running game, this appears to be it. The early talent at running back and the interior O-line truly stands out.

It’s just a shame the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to manufacture picks on day two to truly capitalise.

The defense is going to get a makeover. That seems inevitable. You could make a big case for making-over the O-line too and finally getting it sorted. Isaiah Wynn and Billy Price are fantastic prospects. Frank Ragnow could produce some of the old-school toughness and physicality perhaps lacking since Max Unger’s departure. The Seahawks have been linked to interest in Austin Corbett. There are other prospects worthy of consideration on the second and third day of the draft.

If you wanted to make some big changes you could do. How confident are they in the incumbents to provide a solution? Will a new coach in Mike Solari provide a catalyst for progress? How do they feel about Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi? It’s probably too early to make any kind of judgement on Ethan Pocic but is he considered a long term fixture now? Has he shown enough to warrant that kind of backing?

Nothing should be off the table this off-season. And that’s probably true at many positions.

Running back similarly provides an opportunity early. They’re probably going to sign a hedge of some description in free agency. They almost have to. Depending on the interest he receives, Carlos Hyde remains a decent shout.

For a while now it feels like the Seahawks have been trying to create a double-headed monster similar to the New Orleans Saints. A tough inside runner paired with a more versatile weapon. The initial internal excitement over C.J. Prosise felt genuine. It hasn’t worked so far for Prosise but it most certainly did for the Saints with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Chris Carson and Hyde would provide good competition for the ‘Ingram’ role. They could then go for a dynamic partner like Ronald Jones II. That would provide a highly exciting backfield — one to feel confident about moving forward.

Alternatively they could target two running backs in the draft to fill those holes (especially if Jones II is off the board, which needs to be considered given his incredible and underrated talent). Could they, for example, look to bring in Nick Chubb to be the thunder and someone like Akrum Wadley to be the lightning?

Here are the two possible scenarios:

— Sign Carlos Hyde, pair him (plus Chris Carson) with Ronald Jones II as an early pick

— Draft Nick Chubb and Akrum Wadley (for example) to compete with Carson, focus on O-line (Wynn? Price?) or defense first.

It’s hard to make a proper projection because it feels like there’s so much that needs to happen first. What picks will they acquire? Which veterans will move on? It’s just a shame they’re going to have to replace picks rather than add.

For that reason doing mock drafts at the moment feels more useful for other teams than Seattle. That’ll likely be the case until well into free agency, when we know what’s happening with the likes of Earl Thomas etc.

I do think, whatever happens, we’ll see the running game and offense addressed early with a focus on defense later on. This is how the first iteration of Pete Carroll’s vision was created. And while many of the national mocks and pundits will focus on potential high profile defensive departures (Bennett, Sherman, Thomas perhaps), this is a team that backs itself to coach up and develop a defense. They’ve got the track record. And that’s likely why they’re reportedly investing time in watching Jessie Bates III — looking for the gems in rounds 3-7, just as they did in 2010-11.

Here’s the mock draft with trades (detailed below):

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 Buffalo (via Ind) — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#4 Arizona (via Cle, Hou) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#5 Denver — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#6 New York Jets — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#9 LA Chargers (via San Fran) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#10 Oakland — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#11 Miami — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Cincinnati — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#13 Washington — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Cleveland (via Ari) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#16 LA Rams (via Bal) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#17 San Francisco (via LAC) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#18 Atlanta (via Sea) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#19 Dallas — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#20 Detroit — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#21 Indianapolis (via Buf) — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#22 Indianapolis (via Buf, KC) — Harold Landry (LB, Boston College)
#23 Baltimore (via LAR) — James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Seattle (via Atl) — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#27 New Orleans — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#28 Pittsburgh — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#29 Jacksonville — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#30 Cleveland (via Min) — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
#31 New England — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#32 Indianapolis (via Phi) — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)

Trade details

Buffalo trades #21, #22 & #53 to Indianapolis for #3
The Bills move up to draft Sam Darnold

Arizona trades #15, #47 & 2019 R1 to Cleveland for #4
The Cardinals move up to draft Josh Rosen

LA Chargers trade #17, #84 and 2019 R1 to San Francisco for #9
The Chargers move up to draft Baker Mayfield

LA Rams trade #23 & #87 to Baltimore for #16
The Rams move up to draft Derwin James

Atlanta trades #26 & #90 to Seattle for #18
The Falcons move up to draft Maurice Hurst

Cleveland trades #33 & #161 to Minnesota for #30
The Browns trade up for Derrius Guice

Indianapolis trades #36 & #163 to Philadelphia for #32
The Colts trade up for Kerryon Johnson

Notes

— Teams aggressively traded up to get at the quarterbacks a year ago. That could happen this year too. The Bills and Cardinals need a solution and aren’t expected to be in the running for Kirk Cousins. The Chargers need to think about the future (Philip Rivers is 37 this year) and Baker Mayfield would generate some much needed excitement for the franchise in LA.

— I genuinely believe Ronald Jones II is a legit option for the Seahawks, possibly with the #18 pick. He is a fantastic prospect. I also wanted to do a mock where he’s already off the board. Thus, he ends up in San Francisco here.

— The Seahawks made a deal with Atlanta a year ago so we know they’re willing to work together on a mutually beneficial trade. This deal allows Seattle to acquire a third round pick and move down before drafting Isaiah Wynn to fill the left guard spot.

— We don’t know what picks the Seahawks are going to have in rounds 2-3. If they do trade some of their veteran players, they might be able to acquire some day two picks. For this kind of scenario to work, presumably they would have a way to land one of the remaining running backs (for example, Nick Chubb). It seems very unlikely that they’ll come out of the draft without one of the highly regarded RB’s. The running game is too much of a need and the talent pool too strong in the first three rounds.

— I don’t think it’ll be much of a shock if teams initiate some cheap trades to get back into the late first round to get at the running backs.

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Seahawks looking at Wake Forest safety?

February 7th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Tony Pauline is reporting that the Seahawks are ‘looking hard’ at Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III:

Eyebrows were raised when Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III announced he was entering the draft, but this was primarily from people unfamiliar with his game.

Bates’ film is impressive — he’s an athletic center fielder who plays with excellent speed, displays great range and really stands out in pass coverage.

Though he’s just a redshirt sophomore, Bates plays disciplined, assignment football and is never out of position.

There are some who feel his ball skills are good enough that a move to corner is possible. While I don’t necessarily agree with this, I do believe Bates is the type of safety who can line up over the slot receiver when necessary.

While we presently stamp Bates with a fifth-round grade, there are a few teams who believe he could go as early as the third round. The Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are two of the teams looking hard at Bates.

Anyone getting deja vu?

Back in 2010 Earl Thomas was often described as an athletic centre fielder with great speed and range. Thomas was also touted as a possible cornerback convert and he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore.

Bates III is listed at 6-2 and 195lbs. That’s clearly bigger than Thomas. So we’re not talking about a like-for-like player but good luck ever finding another Earl. He’s one of a kind.

People will read the report and automatically make the connection to Thomas’ uncertain future in Seattle. And that might be the right thing to do. Who truly knows what’s going to happen there? It’s impossible to speak with any certainty or authority on that topic. We just have to wait and see. Yet it seems, one way or another, something is going to be resolved in the next couple of months. Either he signs a new contract or he’s moving on.

Yet the reported interest in someone like Bates III could just be a nod to the need to prepare for the future.

So what is he all about?

I quickly went and dug out some Wake Forest games and he is a very interesting prospect. It was hard to believe some of the plays he was making as a freshman. He could read an offense, react to the quarterback and use his range to play the ball. Disciplined, decisive and a player who executes.

He had five interceptions as a redshirt freshman and two touchdowns. Teams seemed to be wary of his presence in 2017.

In one play against Florida State last September, the Seminoles broke off a run from their own one-yard line. The running back gets into the open field and has a clean run for a 99-yard score. Bates III chases him down at the Wake Forest 30 to save the touchdown.

In the same game he also had this excellent play in coverage:

He showed well running upfield to play the run, delivering a number of clean tackles when a back found the edge. Overall his tackling appears sound and he often tries to rip the ball out once contact is secured.

Bates’ is also a finisher when he gets his hands on the ball. He had a return for a touchdown in college and a couple of pick sixes:

There are big differences between Bates III and Earl though as you’d expect. He’s nowhere near as sudden and quick. Earl runs like a heat-seeking missile and plays with a relentless intensity you just barely ever see from players of any position. Bates III is more measured and he’s athletic rather than extremely fast.

Earl’s athleticism is probably his greatest asset. For Bates III it’s the ability to work out the defense and make sure he’s in the right place at the right time. He’ll read the QB’s eyes and break on the ball. He’ll identify a certain route pre-snap and put himself in a position to make a play. His range is good — but Earl’s on a totally different level (again though, that shouldn’t be a big surprise).

Bates III also looks big. Not Kam Chancellor big — but tall and long for a safety. Their body types are very different.

He appears to be a good character:

Pauline says he might be a third round target (and it’s another hint that one way or another the Seahawks are going to be acquiring picks on day two of the draft).

Increasingly I think we could see something like this for Seattle during the off-season:

— Substantial change to the roster as predicted/reported by many. John Clayton said earlier today he expects Michael Bennett to be released within the month. Gee Scott suggested ‘jaw dropping’ changes were coming. It really feels like he’ll be proven right.

— Focus on value in free agency with players being brought in on short-term contracts to see if they can become part of a new core. Possible targets could be people like Carlos Hyde, Eric Reid, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the large group of talented receivers.

— Regardless of what picks they have, the early portion of the draft could focus on improving the running game (including a high pick on a running back). The second half of the draft could be about finding young defensive talent.

On that final point — it makes sense for a couple of reasons. The early part of the draft provides good value at running back and interior O-line. The defensive options from round three onwards are capable of providing some value. One of the things I talked about in the Field Gulls podcast (listen below) is the weak edge rush options early in the draft and the possibility of some D-line/front seven gems later on:

Kentavius Street (DE, NC State)
Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
Duke Ejiofor (DE, Wake Forest)
Chad Thomas (DE, Miami)
Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
Justin Jones (DT, NC State)
Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Jeff Holland (DE, Auburn)

This is just a sample too. The combine will reveal more possible/probable targets.

If you missed yesterday’s podcast, have a listen here:

 

Field Gulls podcast appearance

February 6th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

I was invited onto the Field Gulls podcast this week. It’s going to be a busy week for podcasts — I’m set to do two more before the weekend. I’ll post all of the links on here and hopefully by the end of the week you aren’t sick of hearing my voice!

We covered a number of topics in this one. The first half is Super Bowl and general NFL stuff, the second half is Seahawks/draft/free agency.