Archive for November, 2013

Prospect watch: Oregon at Stanford

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Cameron Fleming (RT, Stanford) — good size (6-6, 318lbs) but plays on the right side for a reason. He’s never been truly convincing. Never fully delivered on his promise and dominated. He’s strong, he’s flashed at times. But there’s been very little consistency. Some have suggested he could move inside to guard. At least he has the physical tools. Too many Stanford linemen are technically brilliant and well coached, but they struggle to adjust to the next level. Fleming has a shot based on his size. Even so, he’ll need to improve his footwork and prove he’s quick enough to deal with speed. Tonight will be a good test.

Trent Murphy (DE, Stanford) — huge defender from a family of giants. He’s in the 6-6/6-7 range with plenty of power and aggression. He’s not a great athlete. When I’ve watched him this year he’s looked more of an effort guy than a pure difference maker. He does have 9.5 sacks though. Again, he’s another player who can make a point against Oregon’s bevy of athletes. He’s used as an outside rush linebacker at Stanford but likely has a future as a 4-3 end.

Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford) — a playmaker in the secondary, Reynolds so far hasn’t managed to repeat his 2012 production. Not an Earl Thomas-type player by any means. He lacks great speed and won’t fly around the field. He is a very intelligent player who always seems to be in the right position on the field. There’s every chance he’ll go in the first three rounds of the draft.

Wade Keliikipi (DT, Oregon) — decent inside rusher. Stood out against Washington with 1.5 sacks although he has missed some time this year. I’ve been waiting to see more of this guy and tonight will be a good challenge against Stanford’s line.

Taylor Hart (DE, Oregon) — a tall, long defensive lineman, the type Seattle has looked for in recent years. He’s 6-6 and 295lbs. Hart has three sacks this year and a couple of pass deflections. Not likely to be an early pick but if the Seahawks are looking for depth on the defensive line Hart could get a look.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) — one of the more high profile corners eligible for 2014. Doesn’t have the kind of size Seattle looks for (5-10, 190lbs). Does play above his size and when I’ve watched him this year he’s mainly lined up in the slot. He seemed to do a good job there, especially when he had to get off a block to make a play against the run. As with many of these defensive backs, a lot will be determined in the off-season. I don’t see Ekpre-Olomu as a high pick and he might not even crack the first round. But he’s one to monitor.

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) — I almost didn’t include Mariota, just because it’s too obvious. His performance against Washington was sensational. He’s yet to throw an interception this year and he has complete control of the Ducks offense. I have some reservations on how he’ll translate to the next level. He’s going to need a coach who won’t try and force him into an orthodox offense. There’s a lot of Kaepernick about his game but he lacks the same arm strength. Could easily end up as the #1 pick next year, certainly expected to go top-5. He has more upside than Teddy Bridgewater, even if Bridgewater is the more orthodox player. But he’s not on the same level of someone like RGIII. Still think he’ll be even better for another year in college.

Chris Whaley one to keep an eye on

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley caught my eye last year. He didn’t declare as a junior, but he’ll be part of the 2014 draft. And he’s one to monitor.

He’s 6-3 and 295lbs. Whaley only has a couple of sacks this season, but he also has two touchdowns — one on an interception versus Oklahoma, another following a fumble recovery against Kansas.

If we’re looking for difference making athletes with size and length — and the Seahawks nearly always are — Whaley should be on our radar. He’s a former high school running back (see: Henry Melton — also a former Longhorn) who had 6,174 career prep rushing yards and 79 touchdowns.

In fact he was recruited to play the position before a switch to defensive end and then eventually tackle.

As Carter Strickland notes, the NFL has been forecast for Whaley for some time:

“Chris Whaley will end up being in the NFL, I think.”

(Mack) Brown did not utter those words about any other player in 2011. He made passing mention to Kenny Vaccaro’s NFL decision, as well as a few other comments on players. But never did he so firmly comment on the player’s future potential beyond Texas.

He reminds me a lot of Lamarr Houston, yet another former Texas prospect who ended up with the Raiders. Houston was one of my favourite players in the 2010 draft — an athlete with size who was versatile enough to play in several positions on the D-line.

In a year without a lot of top end defensive tackle talent, Whaley could go earlier than people currently expect. Right now he deserves a very solid second or third round grade, with the potential to go earlier.

Meanwhile another defensive tackle has made it clear he intends to declare for 2014.

South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles has seven sacks so far this year — and has no doubt benefited from the presence of Jadeveon Clowney. Tony Pauline is a big fan, but I’ve not had a chance to really study him so far.

His production is clearly impressive. It’ll be interesting to see if the tape matches up.

Assessing Seattle’s tackle situation

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Michael Bowie has ended up starting earlier than expected

The injuries to Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini might actually be a blessing in disguise.

That’s assuming Russell Wilson survives the next couple of weeks of course…

They’re getting a chance to test Michael Bowie. They’ll have a whole lot of tape to judge him on during the off-season and be well positioned to determine whether he has long term potential as a starter.

They may decide he isn’t up to the task.

Either way, they’ll know.

The injury to Okung has highlighted the need for superior depth. As well as he’s played in Seattle, he’s also picked up injuries. And simply switching your left guard to tackle can’t be the backup plan beyond this season.

It’s hard enough finding one serviceable left tackle, let alone two. But that’s the task facing this front office.

The Seahawks are wiser for this experience. And there is a solution that makes at least some sense, it’s just incredibly difficult to implement.

When they drafted James Carpenter in 2011, I had genuine hope they’d drafted a versatile tackle who could play on the left and right. Although he struggled defending the edge as a rookie, Carpenter was a fantastic blocker for Alabama. It’s no exaggeration that he jumped off the screen in college.

In the NFL, it’d didn’t translate. They moved him to guard. And now he’s having to fight for a starting spot.

It’s quite likely they won’t be able to afford to keep Breno Giacomini next season. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and Golden Tate will all be priority re-signings. They will all cost money. And it’ll be a case of managing who you can and can’t keep.

It’ll be hard to replace Bennett or Tate in the draft (although I like the receiver class). Sherman and Thomas aren’t anywhere. Giacomini — an underrated player in my eyes — might end up being the unfortunate odd man out.

If that ends up being the case, they’re surely going to draft a tackle. It’s just whether they make it an early round priority.

For me, they need to go out and try the path that was possibly intended with Carpenter. Get a tackle who starts on the right side but can adequately backup Okung on the left if required, at least for a few weeks.

You’d have Bowie and Alvin Bailey for depth at tackle or guard. You’d feel more comfortable about spelling for Okung. You may even upgrade the right tackle spot on a cheap rookie contract. The whole situation can be improved.

Easy right?

Not exactly.

The Carpenter example shows how difficult it’ll be. Three tackles went in the top four last year and it’ll be no different in 2014. The best offensive lineman will fly off the board. And presuming an 8-1 team makes the post season, the Seahawks will face a similar situation to 2011.

A lot of people were underwhelmed by the Carpenter pick. Will people react the same way if they roll the dice again on another low profile tackle?

Even if they flop in the post season and pick around #21-23 overall, you’re unlikely to find an accomplished big name tackle in that range. Not these days. Any lineman athletic enough to man the blind side will be long gone.

A deep positional class might help the situation, but these guys are going earlier and earlier every year. It’s funny that all the time we’ve talked about moving up for quarterbacks or impact players over the years, the big move they might have to make is for a tackle capable of playing both spots.

They’ve avoided moving up at all costs so far, it almost seems slightly absurd to suggest they do it for a swing tackle. They found a franchise quarterback and a shutdown corner in the mid-to-late rounds and so avoided having to make any bold moves.

It could be that once again they rely on Tom Cable’s advice to go hunting later on for another gem.

Or maybe the chaos on the offensive line and the risk they’re taking with Wilson’s health will force a more aggressive turn?

Either way, there’s a lot to think about here.

So who could potentially play both right and left tackle?

Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) hasn’t had the year everyone expected in 2013. Some have suggested it will send him spiralling down the draft boards. I don’t see it that way. He has enough overall potential to easily find a home in the top-15. If D.J. Fluker can go as early as #11 overall, it’s hard to see Kouandjio dropping much further than that.

Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) might be better than Luke Joeckel — the #2 pick last year. If we’re talking about guys who can play left and right tackle comfortably, Matthews is the prototype. I suspect in the NFL he will revert back permanently to the right but he’s shown the ability to work the blind side in the SEC. He’s probably a top ten pick. Which is a shame.

Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) reminds me of Anthony Davis. Big, athletic guy who shouldn’t be able to move around like he does. And like Davis, Richardson isn’t showing his best football in college. The 49ers spent the 2010 #11 pick to cover both tackle spots. If the Seahawks want to mimic that plan, they might need a pick as high as #11 next year.

Taylor Lewan (Michigan) looks like a pure right tackle to me. Yet if Detroit are prepared to try Riley Reiff on the blindside (ditto Green Bay with Bryan Bulaga), then perhaps Lewan could at least play a few games on the left? His stock is difficult to project. Some see him as a top-15 lock. Others feel he could fall a bit. I’m yet to really make up my mind here.

Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) has looked terrific across from Jake Matthews. If he declares, he too could be a first round pick with major upside. I suspect he won’t declare and will likely start at left tackle for the Aggies in 2014.

James Hurst (North Carlona) might end up as a permanent right tackle like Lewan. Lunch-pail type of guy, nothing too flashy. Coped reasonably well against Jadeveon Clowney early in the season. Can he work at left tackle? I just have a feeling he’s more effort than athleticism. That will get found out at the next level. But he is physical.

Zack Martin (Notre Dame) doesn’t get enough attention for me. Big time recruit. Highly thought of by his school. Could be the guy.

Cameron Erving (Florida State) is a former defensive lineman who is showing enough athleticism to warrant major consideration. Technique wise, he has a way to go. That’s to be expected. There’s so much potential here but will there be serious growing pains?

Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is another former defensive lineman. And we know Cable likes guys like that.

Players I’ll be looking at over the next few weeks: La’el Collins (LSU), Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), Cameron Fleming (Stanford)

Instant reaction: Seahawks make life difficult, still win

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

This image is fun. The game... not so much

The Seahawks are 8-1. The Seahawks have never been 8-1 before.

A lot of people are going to hammer this team over the next 24 hours. I understand that. There are definitely legit concerns following the Rams and Buccs games.

Tampa Bay ran all over Seattle’s defense, the second game in a row that has happened. They were nearly unstoppable in the first half. And the three turnovers were guilt edged.

But here’s the convenient truth. They still won.

The second half was completely one-sided despite all the stress. The defense stepped up, the offense moved the ball.

By overtime I had no doubt the Seahawks would win. And clearly the deficit that lingered until the final two minutes made for uncomfortable viewing.

But never before has this team evaporated a 21-point deficit. And they did that today. That should be celebrated.

I’d argue two key drives ruined the first half for Seattle and stopped this being the blow out most people expected.

Russell Wilson’s red zone interception was part inaccurate throw and a heck of a lot of bad pass protection. He had to adjust his throwing angle due to the pressure and side armed it behind the intended target. It took points off the board and killed a productive first drive.

Then on Tampa Bay’s first scoring possession, a very dubious pass interference call wiped out a perfectly good interception by Earl Thomas. Not only was it textbook coverage, it led to a significant points swing.

Throw in Jermaine Kearse’s fumble and a once-a-season jump-ball touchdown and the scoreline looked pretty horrific before half time. In reality, it was pretty freaky and a little bit fortunate.

The Seahawks did what they had to do in the second half. And they won.

The only sour point was Wilson’s second pick. Surely that was an audible by the quarterback? Surely after last week Darrell Bevell didn’t call a pass on the three with the crowd begging for Marshawn Lynch? We wait for answers.

There are plenty of things to work on this week and Seattle desperately needs its injured guys back. Yet when they were needed, the healthy playmakers made the big plays to win a tough football game.

And that is why they lead the NFC at 8-1.

Now where’s the headache tablets?

***One final note ***

I received the following comment today on the blog from a reader called Michael:

“Where is the Saturday or sunday “Things I’m Watching For” column from this blog? No college players no hawk names or numberz no real discussions on game day or before. Why? There is only instant reactions? Thats not much coverage this year with all the tape thats out there with the new 22 film. Love this site but…. Disappointing.”

I thought I better remind people who missed it at the time. My wife gave birth recently and any parent will tell you how life changing (and time consuming) that is. I write this blog in my free time and at the moment, it’s at a premium. I’m still watching player tape regularly, just while cradling a baby. I’m still making notes with my free arm. And I intend to make use of that work in the lead up to the 2014 draft.

But I will warn you that right now I write when I can. My priority has to be wife/son, work and then the blog. And I apologise because that’s not what this place has been about. I ask for time. We’ll get back on it.

Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State) vs Ohio State & Syracuse

Friday, November 1st, 2013

A few people have commented on Allen Robinson — a junior receiver at Penn State. This year he already has 878 yards and six touchdowns. Last week he had a big day against Ohio State (see above) albeit in garbage time.

He’s eligible to declare for 2014. He’s listed at 6-3 and 210lbs. Check out the tape and let me know what you think.

It’s slightly unusual that for a taller receiver (even though he’s pretty skinny in the frame) he’s more of a YAC than jump ball specialist. No doubt he’s an athlete, but is he going to be able to compete with physical cornerbacks in the NFL? And is he enough of an athlete to compensate if not?