Archive for August, 2018

There’s really no need to second guess the Penny pick

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

This is the last we’ll see of Rashaad Penny in pre-season

Chris Carson looks great. Rashaad Penny has a broken finger.

Why did they spend a first round pick on him again?

It’s important to remember where the Seahawks were a few months ago.

Pete Carroll wants to run the ball. You might disagree. You might wish for a different approach, a more pass-centric offense. Yet Carroll decided who he is as a coach a long time ago and it involves running the ball as a feature.

Seattle’s running game wasn’t even hopeless last year. It was worse than anyone could ever imagine. It was probably embarrassing for Carroll.

To have the quarterback be your leading rusher, to have only one touchdown by a running back, to be so utterly useless in the red zone. Heck, to be so utterly useless in any situation.

And yet the win against the Eagles showed how good the Seahawks could be with a balanced attack.

Part of the issue was a bad O-line. Part of the issue was injuries to the running backs. Part of the issue was a lack of talent at running back.

So the clear focus this off-season was to fix this problem.

Not so fast though! The Seahawks had a bad cap situation and needed to move out several players to work their way out of a hole. On top of this, they’d spent their second and third round picks on Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown in an attempt to make one final bold push for a Championship with the old guard.

Now they had hardly any cap space, weak draft stock and a growing list of needs.

They simply didn’t have the cap flexibility or draft picks to address all the problems in one off-season. So they prioritised. They needed to boost the running game. They needed a pass rusher.

They had pick #18 and turned it into Rashaad Penny and Rasheem Green.

For what it’s worth, I’d mocked Green in round one many times. Lance Zierlein in his NFL.com blurb described Green as a potential top-10 pick in 2019 had he returned to USC. He lasted into round three and Seattle took a punt on him. They also landed the running back they wanted, not the one who happened to be left on the board.

Two holes filled.

The hand-wringing over the Penny pick now seems to be over whether he was even needed with Carson on the roster. Yet people forget how unreliable Carson has been in his career so far. As talented as he is, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He played four games for Seattle in 2017. He only had 82 carriers for Oklahoma State in 2016 and 131 carries in 2015 — missing several games.

Who else was on the roster? The perennially injured C.J. Prosise and Mike Davis. Could you really go into the 2018 season hoping for a change in fortune for Carson and Prosise? Would it be acceptable for a team so determined to dominate with the running game to carry only one semi-reliable runner in Davis?

They could’ve added a free agent but that backfired emphatically with Eddie Lacy.

They took their guy. They looked at a really good class for running backs and chose who they wanted. Rashaad Penny. Only Saquon Barkley was off the board at #27. They had their pick of a really good crop.

Had they not taken Penny at #27 the alternatives could’ve been Austin Corbett or Will Hernandez. Both players are really good and we spoke about them a lot pre-draft. Yet the Seahawks had only just traded for Duane Brown and spent a second round pick on Ethan Pocic. They’d signed D.J. Fluker, who they appear enamoured with, and neither Corbett or Hernandez was an ideal fit at right tackle.

Perhaps they could’ve taken a pass rusher at #27? Maybe. Yet there were plenty of concerns about the somewhat overrated Harold Landry. Certainly enough for him to drop to #41 when many expected a home in the first round.

For the purpose of the argument though, let’s give the Seahawks Landry at #27. So now they’ve addressed the D-line. Their next pick is at #79.

By that point virtually all of the top running backs are gone. Remember, Carroll wants to run the ball. That’s the identity of his team.

By #79 the following were off the board:

Saquon Barkley
Rashaad Penny
Sony Michel
Nick Chubb
Ronald Jones II
Kerryon Johnson
Derrius Guice
Royce Freeman

The next running back to leave the board was Nyheim Hines in the fourth round (#104 overall).

By not taking your pick of the running backs at #27 you miss out on the good ones. So you probably double-dip on defensive linemen right? Take Rasheem Green to pair with Harold Landry. Not a terrible plan by any stretch.

Yet you’ve still not addressed the running game. The key priority.

Your next pick is #120. A couple more runners leave the board. Do you take one here? Only if you want to miss out on Will Dissly — a player who appeared to be specifically targeted to also help Seattle’s running game.

How much longer are you going to await to address this need?

And again, let’s say you just roll with Chris Carson and hope for the best. Hope he stays healthy. What if, like the previous three seasons of his career, he isn’t available to take on a full work load? What if he misses numerous games again? What if the running game, for the second year in a row, is horrendous?

Carroll again doesn’t have his preferred identity. He’s not accomplishing his vision.

They’re not playing his ball.

You can’t win that way. We saw what a team minus any kind of direction or identity looked like. It’s called the 2009 Seahawks under Jim Mora.

We live in a time where the value of the running game is being strangely questioned and overanalysed. Despite two of Seattle’s most recent historically great runners both being former first round picks (Shaun Alexander, Marshawn Lynch) there’s almost a disdain for drafting the position early. It’s easily forgotten that the first team all-pro list for 2017 was littered with players not drafted early (the running backs were both first and second round picks):

Tom Brady (R6)
TE Travis Kelce (R3)
TE Rob Gronkowski (R2)
WR Antonio Brown (R6)
T Andrew Whitworth (R2)
G Andrew Norwell (UDFA)
C Jason Kelce (R6)
DE Everson Griffen (R4)
S Kevin Byard (R3)
DB Darius Slay (R2)

RB Todd Gurley (R1)
RB Le’Veon Bell (R2)

Can you find running backs later in the draft? Absolutely. Let’s not pretend it isn’t possible for every other position though — or fail to recognise many of the top backs are drafted early.

Ultimately I think this best sums it up. Seattle took the second best running back in a draft billed as the ‘year of the runner’. They also manipulated the board to get a very intriguing pass rusher in round three. They still have a big need on the defensive line but guess what? The 2019 draft will be billed as the ‘year of the pass rusher’. Guaranteed. Next years draft will be loaded with defensive linemen.

Considering this isn’t a one-year reset, they probably played the draft the right way in 2018 while setting themselves up for next year when there’ll be a lot more cap space and a D-line friendly draft class.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

New podcast: Reacting to the Colts game

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

This week Kenny and I discuss the Colts game, overreactions on social media and we disagree on how likely Earl Thomas is to be an automatic starter if/when he ends his holdout. Check it out…

Instant reaction: Pre-season game one (Colts)

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Some quick thoughts…

— A lot of things seem clear, which is a surprise given the increased competition this summer. Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald have locked up the jobs at safety unless Earl Thomas returns. Rasheem Green is Seattle’s second best pass rusher after Frank Clark. Health permitting, Byron Maxwell is likely the #2 corner. The offensive line appears set. The key battles seem to remain in the kicking game and receiver.

— Green in particular was the major highlight tonight. His two sacks, quickness off the snap, great hands. This was a really exciting start. Green is big and quick and looks a natural for his size. On this evidence he has a chance to develop into something special. Seattle needed to find a pass rusher in this draft.

— Austin Davis had an ugly looking interception (Keenan Reynolds didn’t really help with a poor route) but it seems pretty safe to say he’ll win the backup job. Alex McGough should make it to the practise squad. McGough isn’t putting much pressure on Davis according to the camp reports and this game kind of solidified the QB hierarchy.

— In previous years the Seahawks would almost show off in the second half of pre-season games. The depth would flash and Seattle would smother opponents. For the first time in a while there was a pretty stark difference between the first and second half. The Seahawks have a lot of talented players in the #1/2 group. Their depth is not close to what it once was. It’s perhaps quite predictable given the turnover of players this year. But it was evident based on a sloppy second half.

— Akeem King looked good at corner based on the first watch through, Jacob Martin is quicker than expected, Justin Coleman looks ready for a second successive big season and the running back duo of Carson/Penny gives real cause for optimism (along with Rasheem Green). It was also good to see the Seahawks properly mix in the run and play action. I’ll watch the game again tomorrow to check on things I missed.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

Do the Seahawks need to add a pass rusher?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

As we prepare for Seattle’s opening pre-season game against the Colts, a couple of things stand out:

1. They seem a little banged up

2. The pass rush is an increasing concern

It pays to be cautious in August. If a player is carrying even a slight injury, it’s not worth risking. So the growing list of players sitting out during training camp isn’t a major worry. Yet.

The thing is though, it’s become a familiar sight. Seattle’s injury reports last season often contained numerous names. The Seahawks were not only missing several key players on injured reserve — the ‘survivors’ were also the walking wounded in 2017.

Hopefully this won’t be a problem come week one. It’s mildly alarming though that already several players are nursing injuries. The healthiest teams are often the ones that succeed in the NFL. Seattle hasn’t had one of the healthier groups for a few years.

And then there’s the pass rush. It was already pretty thin. Dion Jordan’s continuing absence is making it a critical issue.

Frank Clark is a quality young pass rusher. He’s also struggled for consistency so far. Becoming ‘the guy’ instead of being #3 to Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett might be the responsibility he needs to take the next step. Let’s hope so.

Yet after Clark you’re looking at the likes of Barkevious Mingo, Marcus Smith, Branden Jackson and rookie Rasheem Green. Shaquem Griffin might add something as a nickel pass rusher but it’ll be a situational role at best.

This has to be a concern. At least if the team has ambitions to be seriously competitive in the NFC West. A lack of proven quality would be eased somewhat if the Seahawks had a quality interior rusher. They don’t.

Is it a situation they’ll simply hope to manage? Will they take a look at some veteran options? Do they consider a trade?

It’s hard to know what the options truly are. A year ago they were very aggressive to go after Sheldon Richardson and then Duane Brown. Do they have buyers remorse following the Richardson rental?

Do they have a different mindset this year? Twelve months ago did they go big to have one final push with the LOB era defense? Are they playing more of a long game these days?

Or is it just about opportunity?

This week ESPN posted a typical pre-season piece. It discussed a ‘trade candidate’ from every team. Click-baited up to the nines, impossible not to read. ‘Click me, you know you want to‘. And everyone does. We all do. Even though there’s barely any chance of a significant trade before the season begins.

ESPN’s Oakland reporter, Paul Gutierrez, suggested Khalil Mack. Yep. One of the best players in the league. Here’s the blurb:

Wait, what? Sure, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year who made NFL history a year earlier by being named first-team All-Pro at both defensive end and outside linebacker is a foundation piece for the Raiders. But his holdout, which reached 10 days on Monday, is mystifying to many in the organization. Now, would it be smart for Oakland to trade the face of its defense as it begins a rebuild under Jon Gruden? Probably not, but as Gruden himself recently told NFL Network, the Raiders’ defense was not that good in 2017 with Mack. Ouch. GM Reggie McKenzie (jokingly?) asked me at the NFL owners meetings in March if I had an extra $100 million to help him pay Mack. If a team dangled two first-rounders and, say, $8 million, the Raiders would be wise to listen.

I’m not sure anyone is ever going to pay two first rounders for a non-quarterback. Mack, as brilliant as he is, turns 28 next February. If he was two-years younger it could be a possibility. He’s one of the few defensive talents worthy of a big splash.

Yet if Oakland truly doesn’t see a possible resolution with him — and with Mack’s contract expiring at the end of the season — they might be open to some form of compensation. It would still be a bizarre move. It makes too much sense for Oakland to find a solution here and keep a fantastic player. They have $43m in free cap space in 2019. This should be as much of a no-brainer as an extension for Aaron Donald.

If there was a chance for the Seahawks to pull off a trade for Mack — and let me stress I think it is highly, highly, highly unlikely — it should be explored for two reasons:

1. The free agent options in 2019 are limited

2. It’s a very deep D-line class in 2019 but the top prospect should go #1 overall

Unless you’re willing to pay DeMarcus Lawrence or 30-year-old Ziggy Ansah $20m a year, free agency might not provide a solution for Seattle at the end of the season. Both players are very good but is Lawrence special? And is Ansah’s age a problem?

If they wanted to use their +$50m in cap space on a new pass rusher, those are the two best options (if they even reach the market). A deal for Mack would be more expensive and cost a draft pick — but there’s no doubting his placing at the top of the NFL’s best defensive players.

What about the draft? It could be an exceptional D-line draft in 2019. Tony Pauline at Draft Analyst has given fourteen players first or second round pre-season grades. That’s before he’s even covered the PAC 12.

Seattle should be able to find a pass rusher or two that they like (and new names always emerge during the season). Whether they can find a talent like Mack, however, is a major question mark. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is an incredible player. Possibly better than his brother Joey. He should be the early favourite to go #1 overall next year. Are the Seahawks going to be in range for him? Unlikely. Houston’s Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary and the Clemson quartet will also go very early.

So then it comes down to what you want. Do you prefer Mack and a huge +$20m contract or a cheaper rookie with no proven NFL quality? There are positives and negatives to both scenarios. Mack and Clark would be a formidable duo in 2018 though and could provide the foundation, with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, for a new era of defense in Seattle.

This is really just a thinking out loud session. It’s fanciful to even think Oakland would do a deal. Would they consider a first rounder plus Earl Thomas? Maybe. But safety isn’t Oakland’s most pressing concern. It’s pass rush support for Mack. And a trade weakens a problem area further, it doesn’t solve anything.

Nevertheless, it feels like the Seahawks have to try and do something to help their pass rush. Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN yesterday he expected Seattle to be very good at defending the run. He was especially firm on that subject. There’s also a lot of hope and optimism that the running game will be fixed and that Russell Wilson will be his usual excellent self.

However, the pass rush has become increasingly important for success in the league. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as watching your offense put points on the board and then the defense struggle to get off the field because the opposing quarterback has all day to throw.

We’ll see if there’s some help available before the season begins. If not, they might just have to wait and see what the 2019 draft has to offer. It will be the year of the D-liners. There is quite a hit-and-miss nature to the position though. Just ask Dion Jordan and Marcus Smith. So if they can land some proven quality, it might address an increasingly problematic need.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

New podcast: Early training camp thoughts

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Kenny and I get into some early training camp thoughts, including my own take on why it’s way too early to read anything into the running back competition.

Check it out…

Wednesday notes: Speed at safety not so important?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

A new podcast will be recorded tonight. In the meantime here are a few notes…

Speed at safety not such an issue

There’s been a lot of talk about Tedric Thompson’s lack of speed, especially in relation to Earl Thomas. Thompson ran a 4.60 forty at the combine. That’s a long way off Thomas’ 4.3-4.4 range.

However, it’s worth noting that very few teams rely on exceptional speed at safety. It might be a bit more important for Seattle if they want to play single-high. Yet Pete Carroll isn’t going to set his team up to struggle.

Would they have played single high had Earl Thomas not been available at pick #14 in 2010? Possibly not.

Dan Quinn, a former Carroll protégé, starts Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen at safety for the Falcons. Neal ran a 4.62 forty and Allen a 4.61. Very few people identify safety as a weakness for the Falcons. Recently PFF ranked Atlanta’s secondary as the fifth best in the league.

The New York Jets spent a top-10 pick on Jamal Adams after he ran a 4.56. Harrison Smith in Minnesota ran a 4.57.

None of this means Thompson is destined for a great pro-career. It does highlight that teams don’t require blazing speed to have success at his position. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that players like Thomas are rare. Without him in Seattle, the Seahawks might have to tweak things slightly but they aren’t doomed without speed.

If Thompson does earn a starting job, at least we know from his time in college he has a knack for turning the ball over and making big plays.

Doug Baldwin injured but not seriously (it seems)

The first section of this tweet is terrifying…

… but ultimately it’s not terrible news. We don’t need to see Doug Baldwin in pre-season. He and Russell Wilson have chemistry. To be honest it’d be nice if many more veterans sat out to avoid injury.

This will increase the competition at receiver. It’s a decent looking group with jobs on the line. Baldwin’s absence means more reps in camp and in the pre-season games for those fighting for a job. It should be a fun battle.

J.R. Sweezy is back

Sweezy had his detractors in his previous spell in Seattle. Yet he did bring a lot to the running game and provided a physical edge. This move likely won’t break the cap and provides extra competition for a unit everyone is desperate to see take a turn for the better.

Considering the current priority seems to be fixing the run and making life as comfortable as possible for Russell Wilson, this feels like a logical move.

2019 draft shaping up to be loaded on the D-line

With the college season nearing I will start to look at prospects in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the great Tony Pauline is providing tons of information at Draft Analyst.

It’s good news for any team (eg the Seahawks) that could be in the market for a defensive lineman in next years draft.

Tony has worked through the SEC, Big 10, MAC, AAC and ACC, reviewing the draft prospects in each conference. With many more players still to come, here are the defensive linemen Tony has graded in the first two rounds so far:

Joe Jackson (DE, Miami)
Brian Burns (DE, Florida State)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Dexter Lawrence (DE, Clemson)
Austin Bryant (DE, Clemson)
Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)

That’s 11 names before starting on the PAC 12 and Big 12. New names will also emerge (they always do).

Seattle’s pass rush might be a little thin at the moment but next years draft could provide a long term solution. If Rasheem Green can show promise as a rookie and Frank Clark agrees a long term extension, a relative weakness could be seen as a strength this time next year.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!