Archive for October, 2013

Instant reaction: Seahawks deal with Cardinals

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

It wasn't a good day to be this man

This should’ve been an absolute stroll in the park. And for the most part it was.

Arizona couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t throw the ball and Seattle were making just enough plays on offense.

At one point it looked like another 58-0 beat down in the making.

Yet just when you felt comfortable enough to consider getting another beer (and maybe even felt like doing a kind of strut thing to the fridge), the Seahawks said, “Woah…. where do you think you’re going?”

And if you’re anything like me, you stayed on the sofa and found something to clench.

Golden Tate had just run back a punt return to make it 21-0. Mike Morgan got called for a block in the back, but Seattle still had good field position on half way and a fourteen point lead.

“No problem!” a collective fan base cried.

“We’ve got this…”

And from the jaws of a beat down, they managed to snatch a close game.

There were a ton of positives in this game — and I’ll get to them. But I wanted to start by discussing why there are still, even at 6-1, a few things to clean up.

On 4th and short, the Seahawks went for it. They used an empty backfield, essentially tipping their cap on a quarterback sneak when Russell Wilson moved under center. They didn’t convert on a play everyone saw coming. It was as obvious and blatant as a Justin Smith hold.

Turnover #1.

A Cardinals field goal, the first of three Wilson fumbles and a short touchdown later — and it was game on.

Thankfully the Seahawks regained their composure after a little toiling and eventually waltzed to victory.

Once again, however, it was tougher than it needed to be.

On the quarterback fumbles, the pass protection was hideous. Michael Bowie had a nightmare. Wilson uncharacteristically didn’t feel the pressure. It was ugly at times.

What’s more, the repetitive bootlegs to the right and designed passes to the left played into Arizona’s hands in the second quarter. Bowie essentially became Wilson’s primary protector. And tonight, unfortunately, he struggled badly under constant pressure.

People writing off Breno Giacomini need to have a re-think.

Marshawn Lynch also had another fumble in the red zone. Once again, it wasn’t costly and Lynch recovered the football. Fumbles are a major problem for this team across the board for some reason, not just with Lynch. But it’s ten in one and a bit seasons now for Beast Mode.

He still does so much to help this team (as we saw in the drive to make it 24-13), but this is an area he needs to improve and quickly.

There were also the usual issues at the end of the half (fortunate to escape with a field goal for 17-10) and the decision making to throw at 31-13 and ultimately turn the ball over via fumble was incredible. There’s nothing wrong with three runs, time off the clock and a punt at 31-13 on the road.

Take away the errors and this is a surprisingly comfortable victory.

And that’s the frustrating thing. We’re seven games in and they’re so close — even with all the injuries — to being virtually unbeatable.

If they clean up and avoid the turnovers, they’ll get there. No doubt about it.

On the positive front, Seattle’s pass rush did what it simply had to do against a laughable Arizona offensive line. Everyone chipped in. It was a formidable display with seven sacks, two picks and two forced fumbles. The Cardinals managed 1.7 yards per running play and 30 yards total. They were 5/15 on third downs.

In other words, they were suffocated and dominated.

One huge improvement from last year is the interior pass rush. Michael Bennett had another sack and has been sensational from day one. Two other players — Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald — have also brought so much to the team this year and deserve credit.

Malcolm Smith had a terrific game and deserves to get snaps even when Bobby Wagner returns.

Offensively, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate both had big days. That was particularly important for Rice, who received some criticism recently.

Seattle managed 7/12 on third downs — a definite improvement.

I thought James Carpenter had a good game and it was a relief to see him return after hurting his ankle. Despite struggling to defend the edge, Carpenter and Unger did a great job in the run game. I didn’t see any obvious issues in pass protection. I know Carpenter gets a rough deal from some, but for me he continues to improve every week. Put him alongside Okung and he’ll go from strength to strength.

Russell Wilson — apart from the fumbles — was immense. A true franchise quarterback who will, without doubt, go on to become Seattle’s finest football player. The first touchdown was a thing of beauty and I’m still not sure how he generated enough velocity to pick out Rice with zero back lift. That might be the best throw we see by any quarterback this year.

It wasn’t just the three scores. His throw falling down to extend a scoring drive was another play only he can make. Wilson generally threw with accuracy and confidence.

There are still ways he can improve — but more importantly there are ways the team can make life easier for him. Namely, the offensive line getting healthy and the potential return of Percy Harvin against St. Louis next week.

Wilson really is two returning tackles (Okung, Giacomini) and a playmaker (Harvin) away from really exploding. I have no doubt about that.

I looked at this NFC West double header as a chance to show this team means business. Two road wins in the division on Prime Time would be a statement of intent. I also thought 1-1 wouldn’t be a disaster, with a virtual gimme at home to Tampa Bay the following week.

They’ve already got one win — and on this display should feel good about making it two.

All it takes is a clean game and they will beat the Rams. As they showed today, they can win even with all the mistakes.

It’d be nice to avoid the stress for once, though.

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) vs Washington

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I’ve already re-assessed my take on the quarterback class for 2014. It’s not 2012-good, but it’s shaping up to be a very decent group with plenty of depth. If Marcus Mariota continues to play at the level we saw on Saturday, he’ll have a tough decision to make at the end of the season.

Zach Mettenberger and Teddy Bridgewater are both making strong cases to go early. Mariota would be right up there too if he declares. And there’s plenty of depth with Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd, Johnny Manziel and others.

The quarterback position, along with another deep crop of offensive tackles, should dominate next years draft.

This has been a busy week for me looking after the baby, I’ll be a little more active before and after the Cardinals game on Thursday.

Instant reaction: Sloppy Seahawks scrape by Titans

Monday, October 14th, 2013

A comfortable win almost turned into a devastating defeat

When the Seattle Seahawks play clean football, they will beat a lot of teams in the NFL.

It’s that simple.

There are some — Denver, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco — where clean football alone won’t get it done. But against the Tennessee Titans at home, it’s all they needed.

And this was anything but clean.

A routine victory came perilously close to a defeat. This was ugly. And had the Seahawks been beaten today, it would’ve brought their entire identity into question.

Win the turnover battle.

Run the football.

Play great special teams.

That’s the foundation this team is built on.

Today, you wouldn’t have guessed it.

The situation at the end of the first half was just the most ridiculous moment in a mistake-riddled afternoon. Granted, it’s not often you lose your kicker and are then thrust into a big decision at the end of a half. Yet the Seahawks handled it badly and suffered a 10-point swing that could’ve been crucial.

Firstly, why try to kick? So much could’ve gone wrong with your punter kicking and a backup holder taking the snap. Pete Carroll and Brian Schneider should’ve identified the risk. This was a bonus drive remember, after a botched punt by the Titans. Go for it. Seattle had the ball to start the second half anyway.

After the game, Carroll took responsibility. He had to, really. For the second week in a row the Seahawks gave up a huge 10-point swing. Thankfully this week it didn’t cost them.

It just made for the most frustrating half time any of us will ever experience.

There were two other key mistakes. Sidney Rice’s decision to extend the football despite already picking up the first down was frankly incredible. Ditto Marshawn Lynch’s careless fumble that almost led to another stunning points swing.

Lynch has nine fumbles since the start of last season and two already in 2013. The sheer fact that everything else about Lynch’s game is sensational masks this issue. He needs to be more careful. The miscue today chould’ve easily led to a Titans touchdown. Zach Brown had the perfect opportunity to run it home some 90+ yards and in fairness, probably should’ve done.

Again, it wasn’t costly today. Just as Lynch’s fumble wasn’t costly against the Redskins in the playoffs. But it will be one day. He needs to do a better job protecting the football.

There were several minor issues aside from this — Seattle got away with a Derrick Coleman fumble, escaped on a third down play where they fielded ten players and gave up a fourth down conversion shortly after Earl Thomas over-enthusiastically celebrated a third down stop (knocking Kam Chancellor to the turf after a 30-yard sprint).

Third down was again an issue on both sides of the ball — the offense converted just 5/13 while Ryan Fitzgerald made some simple conversions. I guess those long term issues still need to be addressed.

Play action was again ineffective. Have teams found a way to limit the damage after all the success last year? How often has Wilson gone deep after a play action — one of the staples of 2012? Seattle really needs to develop the checkdown and shorter game as a safety net.

All this really undermined what was good about today. Seattle held Tennessee under 100 rushing yards, allowed six points on defense, had two interceptions and Russell Wilson carried the offense with another under-appreciated display.

Michael Bennett had another sack. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas got the picks. All three must be re-signed in the off-season at the expense of any of the current big earners.

I’m not sure it’s the best time for a short week and a trip to 3-3 Arizona, but there’s a crucial two game stretch coming up against NFC West rivals. They’ll need to clean it up big time to be 7-1 when they return to Century Link to face Tampa Bay at the start of November.

The curious case of Brandon Coleman

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Rugters' Brandon Coleman had a bounce-back game against Louisville

Working out Brandon Coleman might be one of the toughest things we have to do going into the 2014 draft.

We’ve talked a lot about him. He’s 6-5/6-6, 220lbs with speed to burn and physical qualities to die for. Essentially, something the Seahawks currently lack.

Pete Carroll, by his own admission, likes “the big guys”.

Coleman started the season with a sloppy (yet productive) performance against Fresno State. He then dropped off the radar with four lacklustre games where he tallied just six catches for 126 yards.

Last night he was back on form in Rutgers’ most difficult test of the season so far. He was productive against Louisville, making 66 yards on five grabs. He looked smooth, he ran good routes. It’s what we wanted to see all year.

So what is the cause of such inconsistency?

He had knee surgery in the off-season, with some observers claiming he just wasn’t the same player as a consequence. Having watched the Louisville and Fresno games, I didn’t see any hard evidence to argue for or against that. Coleman was never great when it came to short area quickness, but he has unnatural long speed for his size. He managed to get deep and create separation on a play downfield against the Bulldogs, but then dropped an easy catch.

It’d be reassuring to see him take a short pass 80-yards for a score as he’s done in the past. It might settle this particular concern. But ultimately this is a question that’ll be answered in the medical room at the combine. Teams will want to check out the injury report to see what state his knee is in. Staying healthy the rest of year can only help.

Whatever the situation, you want to see players making tangible progress. The mistakes against Fresno were alarming. While we’ve seen this guy make some incredible plays at Rutgers, he’s also good for the occasional mental lapse. Perhaps of more pressing concern is the repeated unwillingness to really high point the football. With his size and frame he should be nearly impossible to cover in jump ball situations. Yet we never really see evidence of that.

It’s kind of ‘meh’ when he should be ‘wow’.

Get your hands up, let your quarterback throw it up there. I’m craving to see it.

Right now there’s very little evidence of technical improvement made from the 2012 season. Again, the surgery possibly prevented him from putting in the time this summer. If that is the case, he has to show gradual improvement during the season. The work has to happen now.

Finally, the quarterback situation at Rutgers has to take some of the blame. The simple fact is, Gary Nova isn’t very good. And while Teddy Bridgewater did enough last night to keep his team ticking along, Nova threw four interceptions.

He’s inaccurate, he struggles under pressure, he hasn’t got a great arm and he’s frustrating to watch.

This doesn’t give Coleman a pass. Nova managed 346 passing yards against Arkansas and 283 against SMU. Of those 629 yards, Coleman had just 81.

He needs to be the #1 target. Simple as that. He’s their best receiver.

There’s quite a lot at play here that could be preventing Coleman from being the consistent target we all want to see. However, the chances are this is going to continue. Nova isn’t going to improve. The knee may or may not be an issue. And it could be argued it’s harder to make technical improvements during the season compared to focused work during camp.

He’ll probably still have two or three big games. And he’ll also have two or three where he barely registers.

This is the interesting angle though — how much are you willing to invest in potential?

The Seahawks have shown they’re willing to take a gamble. I suppose you could call it calculated risk. If the player ticks a lot of boxes but hasn’t quite got the consistent college production you want to see, do you back yourself to get it out of him at the next level? Do you back your coaches to make the required technical adjustments to uncover a gem?

Coleman has everything you want in a big receiver in terms of the physical side of the game. He can be a dynamic red zone threat. It still wouldn’t surprise me — health permitting — if he was a high draft pick.

And potentially a high draft pick for the Seattle Seahawks.

After all, John Schneider was at the Rutgers-Louisville game last night.

General (early) thoughts on the 2014 draft

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Best QB in the 2014 draft?

It’s still way too early to get a handle on next years draft, but I’ve had a chance to rattle through some tape in between changing a baby, feeding a baby and trying, in vain, to entertain a baby.

So here we go.

Top quarterback prospect – Zach Mettenburg (QB, LSU)

Teddy Bridgewater is getting the most attention, but Mettenburg is quickly developing into the superior player. He’s taken giant leaps this season after an underwhelming first year at LSU.

He lacks the mobility and elusiveness a lot of teams are looking for, but as a pure pocket passer he has a complete skill set. He’s reading coverages like a pro. Mechanically he’s sound with a good arm — and he makes very few mistakes.

The game against Georgia, even in defeat, cemented his position as a legit pro-prospect. One throw to Jarvis Landry really stood out — a downfield bullet into the tightest of windows, hitting his receiver right in the hands despite triple coverage. It’s a great example of Mettenberger’s accuracy, arm strength and ability to make big plays. Yet the performance on the whole was a masterclass. He was one step ahead of the Bulldogs defense all afternoon.

Bridgewater is a fine prospect, but he’s a little over hyped. It’s assumed he’ll be the first quarterback off the board in much the same way it was assumed Geno Smith would be last year. He won’t sink like Smith (he’s a better player) but he’s no lock to be the first QB off the board. Like Mettenberger, Bridgewater isn’t the most mobile quarterback — neither is going to be running the read option. And in the key areas such as pocket presence, accuracy, arm strength and touch — Mettenberger gets the edge.

Both players could easily be top ten picks. But out of the two, right now, I think Mettenberger will be the first off the board. There’s plenty of time for that to change.

Who knows what the Cleveland Browns are planning to do with their two first round picks, but Mettenberger looks like a great fit for Norv Turner’s scheme. If they have to move up, could he be the guy they target?

I also want to say this is a better quarterback class than I initially anticipated. Watching tape over the last 6-7 days, I’ve been impressed with a handful of guys. Today in particular opened my eyes up to a couple of players. You’ll see the change in my rankings later.

Top offensive playmaker – Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU)

It’s none of the players we expected. Not Sammy Watkins. Not Marqise Lee. There’s no running back worthy of the status. Again it’s back to LSU. So far Odell Beckham Jr. is the top playmaker eligible for the 2014 draft.

The only thing Beckham lacks is height. He’s listed at 6-0. Aside from that he’s the complete receiver prospect. He wins jump balls against taller cornerbacks. He has huge hands that absorb the football — and he’s a pure hands catcher. He’s explosive. He runs good routes. In six games this year he has 686 yards and seven total touchdowns.

Really, what’s not to like?

He’ll have an immediate impact as a kick return threat and it won’t be a total shocker if he hits the ground running as a receiver. This year he’s looked like a NFL receiver on loan to college football. He just looks ready. And working within a productive passing game at LSU he’s thriving.

Like A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, Beckham oozes a natural instinct for the position. You just feel like he’s going to learn the playbook quickly and be out there making plays. Don’t be put off by his size — everything else is good enough to warrant major attention.

In a draft without any clear cut playmakers, Beckham offers the best value and could be a first round pick.

Need more convincing?

Top overall player – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)

Don’t be fooled into thinking the current drama involving Clowney will have a big impact on his stock. Even if he sits the rest of the season, eventually he’s going to turn up at the combine and put on a display for the ages.

Physically he is every bit as good as the hype suggests.

So while there’s a lot of hand wringing going on at the moment about his decision to sit out Saturday’s game against Kentucky due to a rib injury, the fact is he’s going to be nigh on impossible to pass on. We’re talking about one of the most talented players to enter the NFL in recent memory. In terms of sheer physical brilliance, he’s up there with Calvin Johnson. A real freak of nature.

And like Johnson, he might not go first overall if the team that owns the top pick feels they simply have to draft a quarterback. The first team that doesn’t desperately need a QB will draft Clowney. Simple as that. He is too good. There is too much potential.

He is going to be the player with the most upside in the 2014 draft and it isn’t even close.

Let’s assume Jacksonville ‘earns’ the #1 pick. They are several drafts away from relevance. And while they clearly need a quarterback, drafting one with the #1 pick won’t automatically turn them into a contender. There’s no Andrew Luck in this class.

So do you take a longer term approach and draft a player who could be an elite difference maker on defense? I say yes. They need to accumulate talent right now, not chase needs. The Jaguars would be better served drafting Clowney at #1 to help establish an identity behind their defensive minded Head Coach.

With the right coaches in the NFL, he’ll be a superstar. Gus Bradley would be a great coach for Jadeveon Clowney. And Bradley needs good football players across the board, not just at quarterback.

Position with the most depth – Offensive tackle

Again, it’s still early. But this looks like another year where we see a cluster of offensive linemen going in the top 10-15. There aren’t any guards as good as Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack, but there are several decent tackles.

The position overall is getting over drafted, so the league will be all over this crop.

All of the following could be early picks: Jake Matthews, Cyrus Kouandjio, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Antonio Richardson and James Hurst.

Out of that group, I wouldn’t rate any higher than 2010’s top tackle (Trent Williams), 2011’s (Tyron Smith) or 2012’s (Matt Kalil) going into their respective draft classes. They’re all good players. Are they great? Debatable. But the league likes the idea of drafting a tackle early.

Multiple teams could be targeting the position in 2014 which also helps, such as the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Florida State’s converted defensive lineman Cameron Erving. I need to get a better look at him, but he’s looked fairly accomplished so far after making the switch. The best athletes are playing defense in college these days — and it’s a serious problem for NFL teams trying to find blockers who can match up.

Seattle was ahead of the curve in looking for defensive players who can play on offense. Now some college teams appear willing to try their fringe defenders on the O-line. Both the NCAA and the NFL have to find a way to deal with the speed and athleticism that’s gravitating towards defense. The mismatch is too extreme.

I was very close to naming quarterback as the position with most depth. It’s right up there.

Players who have underwhelmed so far

Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
It’s assumed Nix is a top ten lock, but when I’ve watched him this year he’s looked sluggish and heavy. He has a reputation for a dominating, athletic nose tackle. Has he made any big plays yet? It’s time to raise some concern. He isn’t anything like the same kind of athlete as Dontari Poe (#11 overall, 2012). Teams are always looking for a good nose tackle, but right now he just looks average. A big body.

Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
As USC drifted into farce, Lee’s stock took a hammering. Instead of the unstoppable force we’ve come to expect, he’s made basic mental errors (bad drops, turnovers) and failed to make much of an impact. A lot of it is down to Lane Kiffin and the ridiculous decision to keep him on for 2013. But Lee doesn’t have outstanding physical tools and recently picked up a knee injury. On current form is anyone going to see him as a top-15 pick? Robert Woods’ stock dropped into round two last year and it’s not too unrealistic that the same could happen to Lee.

Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State)
I don’t really get what all the fuss is about. He looks like a classic JAG. Last year he made headlines for his production. Yet on tape he only played in flashes. There’s nothing particularly impressive about his physical make-up. Frequently he’s blown up in run plays or shoved backwards in pass protection. He hasn’t got the greatest motor and where’s the nasty streak? This season he hasn’t even got the production — with just one sack in five games. I wouldn’t even offer a mid-round grade at this stage.

David Yankey (G, Stanford)
Stanford offensive linemen are well coached and technically excellent. The scheme they use is a thing of beauty. It’s primed for players to excel, with lots of movement and pulling. If you execute, you’ll look good. But as we’ve seen with previous Cardinal linemen, it doesn’t always translate to the next level. You need a certain level of physical quality too, not just technical expertise. Jonathan Martin looked like a first round pick at times in college, but has struggled mightily in Miami. David De Castro was flavour of the month in 2012 but dropped into the 20’s for a reason and hasn’t looked all that great in Pittsburgh. Yankey looks like the next technically gifted Stanford lineman who just isn’t all that special.

Other underwhelming players: the entire tight end group (including Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Colt Lyerla), Aaron Lynch (DE, USF), Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame), Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State) and Stephen Morris (QB, Miami),

20 players I like the most so far

(Note — this is only based on the players I’ve actually had a chance to watch in multiple games)

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Elite talent, despite all the current negative publicity. Guys like this don’t come along very often.

#2 Zach Mettenberger (QB, LSU)
Looks like he could be the best QB prospect eligible for 2014. Pure pocket passer.

#3 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Better than Luke Joeckel, but not quite as good as some of the other top tackles that have entered the league recently.

#4 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Far from flawless this year but possibly has the most upside of all the tackles.

#5 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
In a down year for receivers and running backs, this guy stands out.

#6 Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
A pure playmaker on defense. Would be great for a creative defensive mind.

#7 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Not quite as good as the internet hype suggests, but still a solid prospect.

#8 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
Highly touted recruit whose best football will come at the next level.

#9 Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
16 sacks in his last 12 starts. Brilliant speed rusher.

#10 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Might be best suited to the right side.

#11 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Upside pick. Has looked a bit hit and miss this year. I suspect he’ll look good at the combine.

#12 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Not quite as good as some are saying. Technique still needs refining, gets by on physical ability.

#13 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
This isn’t a great draft class. Manziel at least offers some special qualities. There are lot’s of concerns, too.

#14 James Hurst (T, North Carolina)
Did well against Clowney and looks relatively solid.

#15 Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford)
Needs more attention. A flat out playmaker in the secondary.

#16 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Speed receiver who will make a nice #2.

#17 Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
Even despite the ACL injury, I had to include him here.

#18 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Catches the ball well in traffic. Big and strong. But is he enough of an athlete to impact the next level?

#19 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
Better than expected arm strength. Surprised me this year. Much better than I thought.

#20 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Needs to keep working on technique, but has a natural feel for the offensive line.

Next up: Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State), A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama), Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson), Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU), Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami), Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt), C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama), Ha Ha Clinton Dix (S, Alabama).

Players I expect to stay in college: Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA), Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon), Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)

Final thought

This is the least excited I’ve been about a draft class in a long time. There’s still time for that to change, but so far it’s mostly been about disappointing performances, injuries, suspensions and character issues. This is pretty much the ‘bad news draft class’.

Let’s hope it gets better.

Monday draft notes – Odell Beckham impressive again

Monday, October 7th, 2013

First round talent? Maybe so

LSU’s Odell Beckham is a player I want on the Seahawks roster. In fact if they lose Golden Tate in free agency, Beckham would be an ideal replacement. He’s incredibly polished, has huge hands and has underrated athletic qualities. He’s also an explosive kick returner. Against Mississippi State he stood out again with nine catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He was the best player on the field. Beckham isn’t quite the big, physical receiver Seattle lacks (he’s 6-0 and 187lbs) but I don’t care. He still high points the ball (see his first TD here). He’s a smooth, fluid runner (and his second here is evidence of that). You need playmakers like this. I mentioned his hand size — and while I don’t have the measurements — it looks unnatural for his height. He absorbs the football into his mits. I don’t think this is going to be a great draft, although we know how that can change quickly. Right now I’d happily give Beckham a late first round or early second round grade.

Part of the problem with this draft class appears to be all the negativity out there. Marqise Lee at USC — once a sure-fire top ten lock — has suffered a knee injury, loss of form and seen his stock fall as USC drifts into farce. Dominique Easley, looking so good to start the year, picked up a fresh ACL injury. Notre Dame’s highly rated nose tackle Louis Nix looks cumbersome and heavy and he’s struggling to have an impact. Anthony Barr at UCLA hasn’t quite lived up to his hype, while Bradley Roby at Ohio State hasn’t looked anywhere near as good as last season. Ha Ha Clinton Dix has been suspended for the year by Alabama.

Even the anointed top prospect Jadeveon Clowney has got involved in the ‘bad news draft’. He decided to sit out South Carolina’s game against Kentucky with bruised ribs. That’s not too shocking. The reaction of Steve Spurrier, however, painted the situation in a different light. “(If Clowney) wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants. But if he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.” If Clowney is protecting himself for the NFL, it’s his prerogative. But it’s not a good look. A lot of this will be forgotten when he turns up at the combine and puts on a display for the ages. Right now he’s copping some flack. And it’s a long way until February.

Clowney wasn’t the only one making headlines this weekend. Colt Lyerla — a controversial figure at the best of times — has walked out on Oregon. Or he was kicked off the team. Whatever you want to believe, it’s still a mess. Lyerla has all the physical qualities you want in a modern NFL tight end, but you have to seriously question his mental make-up after this. Let’s not forget, this is the man who made ill-advised conspiracy theorist tweets about the Sandy Hook shootings. He didn’t feature against Colorado due to a team suspension, he’d been warring with Head Coach Mark Helfrich for most of the season. He’ll probably get a chance in the NFL, even if it’s as an UDFA. But he can forget any chance of being an early round pick.

On the subject of tight ends — and it’s a position Seattle might look at in the 2014 draft — it’s hard to see any going in the first round. Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks out of shape and had a crucial drop against Stanford. Eric Ebron had another good outing for North Carolina and recorded another nice touchdown. He looks like a solid second or third round player to me rather than a day one pick.

On a positive note, it’s a good year for offensive tackles. It’s the position of depth in this class. Even so, they all kind of blend into one. There’s no obvious stand out. Cyrus Kouandijo, Jake Matthews, Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan, Antonio Richardson, James Hurst. All could be first round picks, but who’s the #1 in that group? Whoever wins that particular race, it’s not too early to expect a cluster of tackles to go in the top-15 picks.

It might be time to start considering Clemson’s Vic Beasley as a first round pick. He’s not the biggest pass rusher, but his get off and pure speed is almost as good as Bruce Irvin’s. You can’t argue with his production either. Two sacks against Syracuse on Saturday made it 16 in 12 games during the last two seasons. This year he has eight sacks in five outings. I watched the game at the weekend and Beasley was constantly in the backfield — stunting inside, bursting off the edge. He made good plays against the run too. I’ve not seen a pass rusher as accomplished as Beasley this season.

Team mate Tajh Boyd had a productive day in the stat column (455 yards, five touchdowns) but we’re not seeing a jump in consistency from last year. At his best (vs LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl) he looks the part of a first round pick. But last year he had a tendency to miss on simple throws, making life difficult for his receivers. We’re still seeing that. He had two picks against Syracuse, including a bad overthrow over the middle. It should’ve been a simple connection, he just missed. I kind of feel like we’re waiting for the day Boyd and the Clemson offense hit a wall. Last season that came against Florida State. The Tigers play FSU in two weeks.

Brandon Coleman continues to toil a little for Rutgers. I found out this week he’d had surgery to reconstruct his knee during the off-season. Is it hampering his progress? And did it impact he decision not to turn pro in 2013? He doesn’t look the same player so far and while he had a big catch and run against SMU, he was wide open on the play. The other receivers at Rutgers are getting the production. Coleman has so much upside but appears destined for a mid-round grade at best unless things pick up soon.

Instant reaction: Seahawks lose, but don’t blame the refs

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

This man deserved to win today. Simple as that.

The Seahawks suffered their first defeat of the season today, losing 34-28 at Indianapolis.

Overall it was an infuriating game. Seattle handled the Colts early but managed to throw away a 12-0 start with a blown coverage touchdown and a blocked kick returned for a score. Despite a rally at the end of the half, the second half was pure domination from the Colts.

People are blaming the refs, who admittedly had a lousy game. But for me that is not the definitive reason why the Seahawks lost.

– The offense went completely to sleep in the second half. Marshawn Lynch rushed just five times after half time, despite regularly gashing the Colts earlier. While Andrew Luck led touchdown drives of 86 and 80 yards, the Seahawks couldn’t respond and had to settle for punts and field goals.

– Third down was a nightmare all day and is becoming a concern. On offense they converted 2/12 (16%) and defensively they struggled to get a stop.

– Russell Wilson missed on two throws he needed to hit for touchdowns — one to Golden Tate before half time and another to Sidney Rice after the break. Yet in the second half, too often the receivers failed to make a play for Wilson. We need to see more from the passing game. It’s properly clicked in only one game so far — against the worst team in the NFL. Does it rely too much on Wilson improvising? It’s an argument that can be made. Yet a conservative game plan last week received some criticism.

– Andrew Luck was sensational and deserved to win this game.

– At times the Seahawks were a disorganised mess. They wasted all three second half time outs, one because they had twelve men on the field and another because they failed to get ready for a two point conversion. They then gave up the two pointer anyway. Stuff like that gets you beat.

– One huge play changed the complexion of the day. At 12-0, Seattle gave up a touchdown bomb to T.Y. Hilton on a blown coverage. That’s bad enough, but Earl Thomas had a chance to limit the damage and avoid a score but whiffed on the tackle. At that point Luck had no rhythm, the Colts couldn’t run the ball and Seattle was rolling. What appeared to be a one-sided affair instantly became a game. It wasn’t the only example of a blown coverage and Seattle struggled playing zone all day.

– Whether it was a lack of pass rush or issues in coverage, the Seahawks couldn’t get a handle on defense. Richard Sherman had a rare off day, but so did the rest of the secondary. Up front we saw the usual dose of pressure early on but it quickly went flat. Seattle has a good defense, but the reason they aren’t the best is because they’ll have days like this.

So yeah, the refs having a bad day played a part. But only as much as everything else listed above.

It’s hardly the end of the world to go to Houston and Indy and come out 1-1. Seattle will expect to rebound against Tennessee next week.

But some old problems came back to haunt this team today, such as the third down issues on both sides of the ball.

After such a prolific start to the game that suggested only one possible result on the night, to lose in this fashion is incredibly frustrating. Yet ultimately, Andrew Luck and the Colts deserved it.

The Seahawks did not.

Seahawks cut Stephen Williams

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Pete Carroll’s search for a quality ‘big guy’ continues.

Stephen Williams was a revelation during the pre-season. He’s been anonymous in the first four weeks of the regular season.

Carroll has often talked about his appreciation for big receivers who can make plays downfield. One of his first acts as Head Coach was to visit with Brandon Marshall. They showed some interest in Vincent Jackson. They made a project out of Mike Williams.

Seattle has some talent at receiver, but they don’t have a jump-ball specialist who is a major threat in the red zone. We saw in the Pro-Bowl how good Russell Wilson looked throwing to guys like that.

It remains a big need for the Seahawks and there are some options in the 2014 draft.

On a more positive note, this could mean good news regarding Percy Harvin.

And what does it say about how the team feels about Benson Mayowa? Despite the pass-rush depth on the roster, he remains. They clearly believe he has a big future. What other explanation is there?

Why Michael Bennett is a star, OL issues overblown

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

This was a scary sight on Sunday

For all the attention given to the Percy Harvin trade, Michael Bennett might be Seattle’s best acquisition this year.

And keeping him for future seasons will be a crucial priority for continued success.

Greg Bedard at MMQB.si.com has tallied together the most effective pass rushers in the NFL through four weeks.

Bennett is at #1, ahead of Aldon Smith and current sack-leaders Justin Houston and Robert Mathis. He’s at #1 despite missing most of the Houston game through injury.

According to Bedard’s stats, Bennett has drawn 12 quarterback hurries, hit the passer six times and registered 2.5 sacks. This production has come from just 102 snaps. In comparison, Houston’s sacks for Kansas City have come from 26 more plays. His partner Tamba Hali has taken 150 snaps so far.

Simply put, Bennett is making the most of his time on the field.

We don’t really need a graph and a bunch of statistics to determine Bennett is playing well. He jumps off the screen. He’s consistently dominating. Despite the re-introduction of Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons, he’s still taking snaps at the LEO and mixing in some interior rushes on third down. Bennett’s looked effective rushing all angles and he’s opened up the defense to even more creative looks.

The Seahawks have been crying out for a guy who can just create havoc from multiple positions on the d-line. Heck, they’ve been crying out for someone not named Chris Clemons to come to the party. They struck gold getting Bennett to Seattle.

Now they have to keep him.

It’s almost certain that Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will receive new contracts at the end of the year. For me, Bennett has to be an equal priority. He’s not one of the original guys, but already he’s become too important to lose. Barring an injury setback (and they dodged a bullet last week) or dramatic loss of form, he should be considered one of Seattle’s keepers.

Sure, he’s on a prove-it deal similar to Avril. Yet this isn’t a one-year wonder we’re talking about. Bennett’s been playing at or around this level ever since he was cut by the Seahawks as a rookie.

Michael Bennett is without doubt one of the stars in Seattle’s defense. As vital as Bobby Wagner, Sherman and Thomas.

They have to keep him. Even if it means having to cut a few of the other well paid veterans to get there. If you can keep Sherman, Thomas and Bennett by cutting Brandon Mebane, Sidney Rice and maybe even Clemons or Avril — it’s something you simply have to consider.

There are going to be some really tough decisions to make for this front office over the next couple of years. But it’s a good sign when you’re worrying about who to keep.

Bedard also discussed how the offensive lines rank. It’s no big surprise to see Seattle at #31. It’s not just the loss of Russell Okung, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini. You’ve also moved your starting left guard to tackle. Only J.R. Sweezy remains in his intended position at this stage and they’re starting a 7th round rookie at right tackle.

They’ve also faced three of the best pass rushing teams in the league — Carolina, Houston (both on the road) and San Francisco. According to Bedard, the Texans are the #1 pass rushing unit in the league (no surprise — they’re well coached with stud players). The 49ers are ranked at #4 with Carolina at #7.

Even the Jaguars are just below average at #22.

All things considered you could argue it’s a shocker that Seattle has managed to avoid being ranked as the worst performing offensive line in the league (that honour goes to Philadelphia).

The point is, I wouldn’t panic too much about this unit. Not yet, anyway. We wouldn’t declare Seattle’s passing game in crisis if Russell Wilson missed two weeks. Neither would we criticise the secondary too much if two members of the Legion of Boom got injured and it led to a noticeable drop in performance.

In fact there are trends within Bedard’s line rankings. Houston are also struggling (#28) and are also missing their starting left tackle. The Eagles and Seattle both use mobile, scrambling quarterbacks — that’ll naturally lead to more sacks. On the other hand, traditional quick-fire passing teams like Denver (#1), Detroit (#2) and San Diego (#4) all rank well. This despite the fact the Broncos are missing Ryan Clady and nobody would call the offensive lines in Detroit or San Diego ‘elite’.

Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford and Philip Rivers are drop-back-and-throw passers. The Seahawks aren’t playing it that way. You’re not going to see any of that trio running for big gains, avoiding pressure and sprinting for key first downs like we saw on Sunday.

They’ll also concede less sacks. That’s just the way it is.

I suspect Seattle will nearly always be ranked near the bottom of this list. It’s all part of being “the best scrambling team in the league” (Pete Carroll’s words).

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I’m just pointing out there’s also room for perspective.

B.J. Daniels is a Seahawk

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Kip will be happy… He wrote this piece about Daniels in March.