Archive for August, 2019

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat the Chargers

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

This was a much improved performance on last week. The Seahawks moved the ball well on offense and several players had a chance to shine.

Here are my notes…

— Mychal Kendricks stood out in a big way during pre-season and for the third consecutive week looked special. He was all over the field and had an impact operating in space and when pressuring. It’s going to be fascinating to see how he’s used during the season but he could easily be an impact player in 2019. He finished with a TFL and three solo tackles.

— The running back depth took a shot in the arm tonight. Rashaad Penny performed well even if his stat line doesn’t stand out. He finished his touchdown well. C.J. Prosise looked incredibly sharp when he came onto the field and also scored an impressive TD. J.D. McKissic showed what he can do and Travis Homer was pretty good too with limited snaps. This is a very competitive group and it makes you wonder if they might find a way to keep everyone.

— It was trending that way anyway but John Ursua is making the team. He only received two targets tonight and turned them into 52-yards. He plays quick — you can see his suddenness running a route and with the ball in hand. He looks the part and will be on the 53-man roster. Gary Jennings had a needless penalty on a Russell Wilson run and only caught one pass for 12 yards on three targets. He came very close to making a deep-play before half-time but was called out of bounds. If he makes it it’ll be because they don’t want to write him off after one summer. Jazz Ferguson’s targets dropped off with Paxton Lynch not in the line-up. It still seems likely the Seahawks will try to stash him on the practise squad.

— Geno Smith likely secured the back-up gig tonight. He’s the more conservative pick for sure. Paxton Lynch is younger, cheaper and the former first round pick. Yet Smith’s experience as a backup and his ability to just play within the offense will probably be the difference. Lynch impressed against Denver but struggled a bit last week.

— Jacob Hollister dropped a catchable pass early in the game and finished with three receptions from five targets. It was clear they wanted to get him involved. Has he done enough to warrant a spot? How do they incorporate him into the passing game given he’s not a Will Dissly, Ed Dickson or Nick Vannett type? There’s a question mark here on whether he makes it.

— The Seahawks need Ziggy Ansah and nothing tonight was reassuring about the pass rush. This is not a good Chargers O-line and they were missing Russell Okung. They needed big performances from the likes of Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin and simply didn’t get them. Cassius Marsh and Branden Jackson were Seattle’s best edge rushers and while the interior guys played well again — they just don’t have enough at defensive end. Watch Easton Stick’s touchdown throw. Jacob Martin is dumped on his back and Mingo is nowhere. Rasheem Green had no impact either. They can’t pin their entire hopes on Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier returning from injury. They’ll need to go shopping.

— Pete Carroll wanted a look at Ugo Amadi on punt returns. His fumble today likely makes that a short experiment.

— Elijah Nkansah gave up another sack in the fourth quarter. They need Jamarco Jones and George Fant healthy.

— Andrew Luck retiring is stunning.

Don’t forget to check out the updated 2020 draft watch-list posted earlier today.

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An updated 2020 NFL draft watch-list

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is highly impressive

With the college football season kicking off today, it’s time for an updated watch-list.

After the 2019 draft I posted an early look at the class. LSU safety Grant Delpit might be the most talented of the bunch. He’s a natural playmaker with the range, ball-skills and versatility to be a top-level safety in the modern NFL. Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown could’ve been a top-15 pick this year but chose to stay in school. He’s a complete defensive tackle with the stoutness and strength to play the run and the quickness and mobility to act as a pass rusher (he also has great intensity and a BAMF streak).

Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr might be the best player nobody talks about in the SEC. In every game last year he seemed to make an incredible play. He jumped a 39-inch vertical at SPARQ, ran a 4.26 short shuttle and achieved an overall score of 128.22. Florida’s Jabari Zuniga and Ohio State’s Chase Young will look to take a step forward as EDGE rushers and Raekwon Davis will be hoping to return to 2017 form to secure a top-20 grade.

On offense, Laviska Shenault Jr at Colorado is the ultimate X-factor weapon capable of scoring and making big gains in every way. His quarterback, Steven Montez, also continues to fly under the radar. The SEC is full of big name potential high picks on offense like Jerry Jeudy, Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is a strong contender and probably the clubhouse leader to go #1 overall.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at other names to add to the list.

C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
Henderson ran a 4.35 forty and a 3.92 short shuttle at SPARQ. He also recorded a 37-inch vertical. There’s evidence of an ability to play the back-shoulder throw which isn’t common among college DB’s. He gets his head turned and plays the ball rather than face-guarding. He’s diminutive with a lean frame but appears to have reasonable arm length. Henderson is very quick and agile and covers ground well as a blitzer (three sacks, five TFL’s in 2018). He made an incredible play against Tennessee where he chased down a receiver who was uncovered. Just as he was about to run in untouched, Henderson flies to make a big hit jarring the ball loose right at the goal line. It rolls out of the end zone for a touchback and a seven-point swing. He could be tried outside but if nothing else he looks like a terrific slot corner.

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
Listed at 6-5, Kinlaw played with 16% body fat at 300lbs last season. He has the length and size to play inside and the quickness to shoot gaps and burst into the backfield. He has great potential. His agility shines when he works down the line on stunts and he can move in space to cover ground and burst to the QB. He broke up five passes in 2018 and has great leaping ability. You’d like to see better hand use inside and he can do some of the little things better — bull rush, power move. Kinlaw managed 10 TFL’s last season and, as with a few South Carolina prospects this year, you want to see him take the next step this season. He has the physical tools to be a high pick and he flashes — now he just has to become more of a complete player.

Brad Stewart (S, Florida)
For a few years now Florida have been churning out quality safety’s and Stewart is next off the production line. He has great range and can get deep downfield to cover the long ball and sprint to the sideline to cut off throws to the outside. He can hit — which is to be expected from a Florida DB. He can play closer to the LOS and blitz or make an ankle tackle on a crossing route. He ran a 4.16 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 39-inch vertical. Stewart can really boost his stock in 2019 by making more plays (two interceptions in 2018, including a pick-six). Florida announced before their game against Miami that Stewart was one of four players serving a suspension.

Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
It was a pleasure to watch Andrew Thomas. At left tackle he just oozes control, balance and he’s never flustered. So many young tackles are manic getting into their stance. They struggle with stunts and too often create problems for themselves with bad footwork and spacial awareness. Thomas was a picture of consistency. Even against Alabama he was passing off stunts like a pro, he dominated any defensive end he lay his hands on and when he needed to get into the frame of a defender and drive in the running game he managed it. Thomas, on the evidence of his 2018 tape, is destined to be a high pick next year if he can continue to perform at that level. He managed a 101.52 SPARQ score (the highest by an offensive linemen in his class was Walker Little’s 107.25). An excellent pro-prospect.

Yetur Gross-Matos (DE, Penn State)
He has great hand use and works through traffic. YGM is very comfortable in space which is impressive for his size (6-5, 260lbs) and he sets the edge against the run. You have to love the agility he shows in the open-field and the motor to work across the line to chase down ball-carriers from behind. I’d like to see him win off the edge a bit more with speed this year. He has the frame, length, hand-technique and ability to stay clean or disengage. He had 20 TFL’s last season and could easily work himself into a high grade.

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
It’s strange that Patrick Mahomes felt like a unique case and yet two years later, a couple of quarterbacks with similar traits have emerged. Kyler Murray went #1 overall this year in part because of his amazing ability to make the unconventional a reality. Love also shares that quality. He can flick his wrist and zip the ball downfield on the run. He has a great range of throws plus the size and mobility to function as a NFL passer. He’s an exciting prospect and a wildcard to go top-five in 2020 if he has another strong season.

Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
What an athlete. He has great size and on tape you see the mobility and top-tier traits that could easily push Okudah into the top-15 next year. He’s a former five-star recruit and at SPARQ he ran a 4.49 forty, a 4.03 short shuttle and jumped a 42-inch vertical. His overall score was an elite 142.56. He’s listed at 6-1 and 200lbs. He has technical refinements to work on this year and he needs to make more plays but in terms of raw potential he’s a fantastic prospect.

Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
Another fantastic athlete. Moses follows in the footsteps of Devin White and Roquan Smith. His ability to fly to the ball-carrier is comparable to both and he glides through traffic with ease. Moses also hits like a sledgehammer helps set the tone on defense. A former 5-star recruit as an athlete, he ran a 4.56 at SPARQ plus a 4.09 short shuttle and he jumped a 37-inch vertical. He did all this at over 230lbs and scored a 132.48 overall. He’s a freakish athlete.

Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Diggs vs D.K. Metcalf was a fun battle last year. Metcalf won a couple of times in a big way but Diggs also earned his stripes with tight coverage and he matched up well given the size/speed combo he was covering. He does an exceptional job when his back is turned away from the football. He often reaches out at the last minute to make a key deflection. He’s smooth in retreat and looks like the kind of top-level athlete you’d expect from Stefon’s brother. He also has excellent size. Diggs needs to stay healthy but if he pulls it off he’ll be a high pick next year.

Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
Physical cornerback with good size. Likes a tackle and plays with attitude. Fulton is a classic man-to-man corner. He seems to do his best work on shorter-routes across the middle where he can battle receivers and break to play the ball. I have concerns about his ability to run deep and stick with elite speed. He gets a little bit grabby downfield. His stock might be a little more measured than some of the other corner’s eligible for 2020. If you want someone to be physical outside and possibly play some big nickel, Fulton’s a candidate. He jumped a 37-inch vertical at SPARQ.

Isaiah Simmons (S, Clemson)
There’s no real rhyme or reason for Simmons’ great play. He’s listed at 6-2 and 230lbs. His testing results were mixed at SPARQ. He only managed a 4.75 forty (at 211lbs) plus a 4.52 short shuttle. He did jump a 37-inch vertical though. Yet on tape he’s all over the field. He looks like a playmaking strong safety with the ability to play up at the line and attack. Simmons is forceful as an extra rusher and a positive force against the run. Yet you see evidence of him racing downfield and to the sideline against quicker receivers. He plays with a warrior-like intensity. He’s not likely to rock up at the combine next year and put on a great performance. Teams are going to love the different ways he can impact a defense though. And, dare I say it, there’s a little bit of Kam Chancellor to his play (although he’s not the same kind of hitter).

Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
His running style is somewhat reminiscent of former-Tiger C.J. Spiller. He’s not quite as quick but he has that burst and second gear to run away from defenders. He narrows his frame to get skinny in the tackle and run to daylight. Etienne ran a 4.43 at SPARQ and jumped a 37-inch vertical. He’s not a physical runner who will drive through contact and wear down a defense. However, he’s incredibly well balanced and it takes a lot to bring him down. He keeps his legs powering and there’s some explosive qualities to go with the quickness. In the modern NFL, teams are looking for backs like this. He was more patient last season operating in the shotgun and began to wait for gaps to develop. It’d be nice to see him expand his role in the passing game this year.

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
His footwork concerns me and likely forces him to the right side. His kick-slide is clumsy and at times he’ll just plant the anchor and rely on his great size/length to connect. At the next level he’s better off at right tackle or even inside at guard where he make the most of his phone-booth skills. That’s where the positives lie. He’s listed at 6-7 and 305lbs and he has an ideal frame with a strong base, long arms and extreme upper body power. He delivers a great jolt on contact. On one snap against Georgia he thumped an EDGE rusher to the turf with a two-handed punch. He’s willing and able to progress to the second level. There are positives and limitations here.

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Trades imminent?

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Michael Lombardi is well connected. If he says trades are about to go down it’s worth paying attention.

So which players and teams are involved?

The pre-season has highlighted a number of glaring needs on multiple teams.

Carolina’s O-line looks like a train-wreck and it wasn’t a surprise Cam Newton picked up an injury against New England. Several other teams have major needs on the O-line — including Houston and the LA Chargers. With Trent Williams’ future in Washington a serious doubt, a big move to acquire him could be imminent.

Tony Pauline is also reporting Laremy Tunsil could be dealt:

The other big name that has been touted in trade discussions is Jadeveon Clowney. Joel Corry highlights some of the stumbling blocks to a deal in this piece. The complexities are clear and there aren’t many teams capable of pulling it off. The Seahawks have the cap space, draft stock and ambition to make it happen. Yet the short-term possibility of the trade and the difficulty of finding a compromise on compensation makes it one of the trickier deals to calculate in recent memory.

One other name that has been mentioned is Everson Griffen. This one makes some sense for both the Seahawks and the Vikings. Minnesota’s in cap trouble and need to find some relief from somewhere. Griffen hasn’t had an easy 12 months and his contract is structured so that he’ll likely be a free agent in 2020. Pete Carroll coached Griffen at USC and the Seahawks are badly in need of an experienced pass rusher. John Clayton mentioned earlier in the week Seattle showed some interest in Griffen at the start of the off-season. The only issue could be price. Are the Vikings inclined to trade him to a possible NFC rival on the cheap? And how much are the Seahawks willing to sacrifice for a 31/32-year-old defensive end who might walk at the end of the season?

Finally there are a cluster of teams needing skill players. We’ve already seen Duke Johnson traded but it won’t be surprising to see modest moves elsewhere (eg John Ross).

It does feel like the Seahawks will be active before the regular season begins. They’re banged up and lack quality and depth at cornerback and the defensive line (pass rush). There are big question marks about Ziggy Ansah’s ability to stay healthy and Jarran Reed will miss the first six games.

They’ve made bold trades before, even at this time of the year. Whether it’s lower level manoeuvring or a splash — something feels inevitable.

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Thoughts on the roster after two pre-season games

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Seattle’s backup O-line struggled in Minnesota

Quarterbacks

Paxton Lynch outshone Geno Smith against Denver but he struggled against Minnesota. He looked frantic. Part of that was the offensive line play. Yet his overall performance was reminiscent of previous pre-seasons where Seattle fielded an incapable backup QB and didn’t really learn anything about their offensive depth. For example, Lynch has really zoned in on Jazz Ferguson as a safety net. Ferguson received seven targets against Minnesota (making two catches). John Ursua had two and Gary Jennings had one. If Lynch and Ferguson can help each make the roster, fair enough. But in the next game we need to see what Ursua, Jennings and some of the other receivers can do. And that’ll mean Lynch or Smith not just looking for the big guy on most snaps.

Smith’s stock received a boost without even playing. He’s the more conservative option for sure, with more pro-experience. It depends how much Seattle wants to develop a prospect versus having an older head as the backup. The hit on Lynch was so appalling it could cost him a chance to make an impression against LA and Oakland. Fingers crossed he returns quickly.

Running backs

Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny will be #1 and #2 respectively. Penny needs to be more decisive at the line and get more out of his runs — but the pile-on post-Minnesota seems like the latest example of a Seattle scapegoat. Travis Homer’s special teams value and a nice cameo against the Vikings puts him in a strong position to make the roster. One of C.J. Prosise or J.D. McKissic will probably make it. Prosise’s never-ending injury issues probably give McKissic the upper hand. McKissic is also well liked by the players and staff.

The most intriguing question mark is Nick Bellore. We’ve barely seen any of him as a fullback throughout pre-season. Why? He was signed to a two-year deal worth more than the minimum. We know he’s useful on special teams and it’s possible they’ll keep him for that and target specific games to incorporate him on offense. Yet the sheer amount of running they do out of the gun these days neglects the need for a full back.

Wide receivers

Tyler Lockett is all set for a quality season and Jaron Brown was impressive against the Vikings. D.K. Metcalf will have a frequent role on the offense and David Moore’s familiarity with the scheme and quarterback will secure a roster spot (even if he’ll be on a short leash to make plays early in the season). It could be that they only keep five receivers and if that’s the case, at the moment John Ursuah makes the most sense. He just seems to have something about him. He also has a very different skill-set to the big targets.

I previously thought the Seahawks would stash Gary Jennings to avoid losing him. However, Russell Wilson’s frank admission that Jennings ‘needed’ a good day at practise last week was telling. He was also a non-factor against the Vikings. Malik Turner is a wildcard given he received some snaps with the starting unit in Minnesota. Don’t sleep on him. Jazz Ferguson has made an impression but increasingly I think the Seahawks will roll the dice on him making the practise squad. Given his character flags in college and raw skill-set — there’s much more chance of him making it than some of the other names discussed here.

Tight end

Ed Dickson, Will Dissly and Nick Vannett are almost certain to make it. Jacob Hollister has received several positive reports from camp and could be kept as more of a pass-catcher. Keeping four TE’s for this offense isn’t unrealistic especially if they cut Nick Bellore. George Fant will be utilised as an OL/TE hybrid.

Offensive line

The starting unit impressed in Minnesota and looks big, nasty and the identity of this team. The injury situation, however is a concern. They’re banking on players capable of featuring in multiple positions. Ethan Pocic is a valuable depth player because he can play center, guard or tackle. At the moment, however, he’s having to start at left guard because Mike Iupati’s injured. Thus, they need another backup at left guard and center to cover the fact Pocic is starting. George Fant is another really useful player because he can feature at tight end but also cover spots at tackle and guard. The fact he’s injured at the moment is, again, a problem.

Jordan Simmons showed he can start in the league last year but he has a significant injury record. Jamarco Jones missed last season through injury and has been banged up again. The Seahawks have a good starting five and decent backups but the injuries are thinning things out. The decision on who makes the roster and who doesn’t will be heavily impacted by who’s healthy. Hopefully Phil Haynes can make an appearance before the end of pre-season.

Defensive line

The two big areas of concern right now are pass rush and cornerback. None of the nickel-back contenders are jumping out and Shaquill Griffin getting burned by Adam Thielen was unnerving. However, nothing is more concerning than the pass rush. The Seahawks traded Frank Clark and are without Jarran Reed for the first six games. That’s 23.5 sacks you’re taking out of a team that wasn’t a great pass-rushing unit in 2018. They’re hoping Ziggy Ansah can replace Clark but throughout his career he’s been banged up and currently he’s nursing groin and shoulder issues. Jacob Martin continues to look like a better role player than starter. Rasheem Green was practically anonymous again in Minnesota. L.J. Collier is injured and facing his rookie season. Depending on Ansah’s availability, their top pass rusher might be Cassius Marsh. The unit looks painfully weak and increasingly it feels like they have to do something before the season begins. It doesn’t have to be a blockbuster trade for someone like Jadeveon Clowney but additions are required — either via trade or after perusing the cuts from around the league. Barkevious Mingo has struggled in camp as a pass rusher but it’s worth noting Carroll said today he’s counting on Mingo to be a factor (he’s also seen as a key special teamer).

On the plus side, Poona Ford was exceptional against Minnesota and when Reed returns that could be a forceful pairing at defensive tackle. Al Woods also showed well which is reassuring, considering he’ll fill in for Reed. The Seahawks have consistently succeeded in finding useful defensive tackles without investing major draft stock or finances.

Linebackers

Seattle possesses the strongest group of linebackers in the NFL. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks is a starting trio any 4-3 team would love to have. Cody Barton has received rave reviews in camp. Austin Calitro won a job 12 months ago and appears hellbent on repeating that achievement this year. The big question is whether Ben Burr-Kirven has done enough to warrant a stash. Shaquem Griffin’s injury could turn into an IR job to protect him because at the moment it’s hard to see how he makes it.

Cornerback

Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers will start but there’s increasing pressure on Griffin to finally deliver on his potential. The depth is a worry at cornerback. Neiko Thorpe will almost certainly make it as the special teams captain. DeShawn Shead is mainly being tried at safety but he has the versatility to play corner too. Aside from the starting nickel, is there anyone else you’d keep around? Do they retain Akeem King for his ability to play slot and outside corner? And who even gets the gig in the slot? Jamar Taylor’s experience could be crucial (he will start vs the Chargers) but Carroll talked up Kalan Reed last week. None of the three shone against Minnesota. This is a position we’ll need to track for the next draft.

Safety

Tedric Thompson is another one of Seattle’s scapegoats. I feel for him. Imagine having to replace someone like Earl Thomas. The reality is, most teams have a starting free safety like Thompson. There are about 3-4 athletes like Earl Thomas in the entire league. He lacks the quickness and playmaking quality but clearly has earned the trust of the coaches and Seattle’s scheme is predicated on discipline and doing your job. Bend but don’t break. That’s why it’s very likely Thompson or Lano Hill will start next to Bradley McDougald. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair appear locks to make it and Amadi could even win the job at nickel corner. Shead will provide a hybrid DB capable of covering multiple positions.

Closing thoughts

With two pre-season games remaining a lot can change. However, it seems pretty obvious that there are two glaring weaknesses at corner and pass rush. Seattle’s kick-step scheme is difficult to pick up on the fly and it seems unlikely they’d be able to incorporate a new player into a potential starting role this late in the day. They can still add another pass rusher though. One way or another that feels like a necessity if the Seahawks want to be truly competitive.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks backups struggle in Minnesota

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Last week the Seahawks flashed some depth, a collection of players stood out and they won the game fairly comfortably. Today was a different experience.

Seattle’s top performers on the night were already established starters. With a number of players injured or rested, the depth was tested.

Overall it was a difficult game.

Minnesota out-gained Seattle 409-221 and moved the ball with ease in the second half. They had 14 more first downs and were 11-18 on third downs compared to Seattle’s 4-12. Defensively there was very little resistance and the offense looked disjointed.

The scoreline was deceptively close thanks to the boot of Jason Myers and a gifted pick-six. The Seahawks’ backups struggled and provided very little clarity on a number of position battles.

Here are the notes…

— Poona Ford was the stand-out player on defense. He impacted plays against the run and pass. He could easily have had a forced fumble but for a dubious whistle for forward progress. This was an exciting, impressive performance that will alleviate some of the concern about Jarran Reed’s six game suspension. With Reed also featuring today and having a terrific play shooting a gap to force a TFL, an accomplished partnership at defensive tackle could emerge from mid-season. Al Woods also showed well which is encouraging given he’ll fill-in for Reed.

— Jaron Brown and Tyler Lockett both deserve praise on the offense. They effortlessly got open to provide Russell Wilson with easy completions for decent yardage. When people ask why Brown is a lock for the team, this is why. You need players familiar with the league, Seattle’s offense and the quarterback. On this evidence Lockett will settle nicely into the #1 role and Brown will be a productive #2.

— The pass protection from the starting unit was excellent. Seattle really has done a good job turning around the fortunes of the O-line. They better hope for good health though because the backups were awful. As soon as they switched, the offense completely stalled. Elijah Nkansah at left tackle started with a bad hold to negate a nice gain from Paxton Lynch for a first down then gave up a sack off the edge. The running game collapsed as the line was pushed around. It was virtually impossible for Lynch or Rashaad Penny to get anything going. Any kind of pass or run was laboured. They need Jordan Simmons, George Fant and Jamarco Jones to get healthy and stay healthy to provide some insurance. Fair play to Joey Hunt keeping alive a Jazz Ferguson fumble leading to a Jackson Harris recovery.

— That’s not to say Lynch and Penny are completely blameless. Lynch looked flustered behind the porous line and never really settled. He should’ve been picked off in the red zone at the start of the fourth quarter. Penny looks like he’s overthinking. He’s tentative running at the line and looks a lot more comfortable working in space. The guy can play but he needs to start hitting the line with authority. There’s no doubting how much potential he and Chris Carson have as receivers though.

— Shaquill Griffin getting burned by Adam Thielen was a concern. Not because it’s Thielen — he’s a top-class receiver and one of the best in the league. It was the nature of the completion. Griffin gave Thielen a free-release and was left flat-footed against an inferior athlete. It’s the kind of too-easy big-gain this defense is designed to never give up. This is year-three for Griffin and he shouldn’t get beat like that. People might point to Tre Flowers’ DPI shortly after but that was much better coverage and so close to a fantastic play.

— The interception for Deshawn Shead’s big play was fairly straight forward but having forced a safety last week and now a pick six — along with his versatility — Shead is making the team. He did miss a tackle late in the first half on a big catch-and-run.

— None of the nickel corners contenders appeared to have a good game. Justin Coleman was always going to be an underrated loss but this felt like a poor day for Kalan Reed, Jamar Taylor and Akeem King.

— Twitter remains painful during Seahawks games. Hot takes galore.

— Ugo Amadi had the play of the first half after Shead’s pick six. You can watch it below. Anything like this gets Pete Carroll jacked. Look at the reaction of the sideline. That’s what Seattle wants on special teams. They need it to connect to the physicality on offense and defense. It’s a perfectly timed, clean, monstrous tackle.

— Mychal Kendricks looked a class apart. He moves so freely, plays with toughness and look at the way he chased the ball-carrier down on the catch-and-run after Jacob Martin lost in coverage and Shead missed his tackle. Kendricks will be a diamond for Seattle in 2019.

— The blown coverage on Minnesota’s touchdown before half-time was poor to see. Marquise Blair was stranded in no-man’s land. It’s not necessarily his fault but it’s hard to figure out what he was doing. If it is his error — this is why he’ll be a rookie backup. This defense is about discipline. They lived with Earl Thomas as a raw rookie because they had no depth in 2010 and he was an electric top-15 pick. Blair needs time to learn. Fans on twitter might not like it but Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill likely starts the season simply because they’ll make less mistakes. Doing things right is more important to Carroll’s scheme than people realise. Blair was carted off with a back injury which isn’t good news.

— It felt like Seattle blitzed a lot and needed to in order to create pressure. I’m going to copy this comment to paste in other instant reaction pieces throughout the season. Apart from a very brief flash here and there — the only thing today proved was how much they need Ziggy Ansah healthy.

— Minnesota moved the ball a bit too easily for comfort in the third quarter. The defense needed someone to step up and make a play but nobody really came close. Seattle’s depth was tested in the second half. They have a lot of injuries at the moment and rested a lot of players. They scraped the bottom of the roster today. Hardly anyone stood out in the second half.

— It was good to see Jazz Ferguson make another couple of catches but he had only two completions on seven targets and a fumble. John Ursua joined in late in the fourth with a 25-yarder. He only had two targets overall. It was surprising to see Gary Jennings have only one target all day (an incompletion I can barely recall). Lynch zones in on Ferguson a lot which is fine but we need to see the other receivers.

— Jason Myers was flawless which is excellent news.

— 3:35am British time was not the moment to bring out ‘sky cam’ (even for one snap).

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LISTEN: Some thoughts ahead of the Minnesota game

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

I made a quick podcast looking at the NFC contenders this year and looking ahead to the Minnesota game. Check it out and let me know what you think…

The injuries are mounting in Seattle

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Ziggy Ansah has suffered a setback and has a minor groin strain. Mike Iupati has suffered a recurrence of his calf injury. Jordan Simmons has had another knee surgery.

L.J. Collier was already out with an unusual foot sprain and George Fant has an ankle injury. Jarran Reed is suspended for the first six games of the season.

The running back depth is being tested. Bo Scarborough has a groin injury. C.J. Prosise, in a shocking turn of events, has been hurt most of the pre-season. Travis Homer only recently returned to practise this week.

The issues are growing and most of the problems are focused on the trenches.

Thankfully the Seahawks have enough talent on the O-line to make up for losing their left guard. The presence of Duane Brown, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi should keep things rolling. The injuries present an opportunity for Ethan Pocic to finally take a step forward after two and a bit years of underwhelming play. It’s now or never for Pocic.

The problems on the D-line, however, are more pressing.

Ansah is clearly talented and has had some dominant spells in his career. He also picks up injuries. He’s already returning from a shoulder problem and now he has a groin strain. Hopefully it really is a minor setback like Pete Carroll suggested earlier today. It’s concerning though because the pass rush is going to rely on his ability to make an impact.

Collier’s out and there should be modest expectations for his rookie season anyway. Jacob Martin is a nice complimentary piece to the rotation but isn’t a full-time starting threat. It’s impossible to have any faith in Rasheem Green until he starts to flash in real games.

Barkevious Mingo might not make the cut…

It has to be a concern. The Seahawks are well set on offense with a nice blend of youth and experience. They found their identity again last year and mixed in a productive running game with explosive plays by the quarterback. The defense is populated with extreme talent at linebacker and a good bunch of young players in the secondary.

You do need to be able to rush the passer though and have a decent rotation on the D-line. The setback for Ansah and existing injury for Collier has to raise some concern.

It’s starting to feel like they need to do something.

The big talk this week has been about Jadeveon Clowney. Multiple reports are indicating he’s available for trade. The question is simply whether anyone’s willing to pay a reasonable price for a player who must play on the franchise tag in 2019 and can’t be extended until next year.

It’s a difficult situation for all concerned. How far are you willing to go for a possible rental? The Texans meanwhile have to decide between getting ‘something’ in 2020 vs waiting it out for a likely third-round compensatory pick in 2021 (while hoping Clowney is actually willing to return and play this season).

Both the Seahawks and Texans have previous here.

Seattle wasted a second round pick in 2017 for a season of Sheldon Richardson. The Texans also endured an ugly hold-out with Duane Brown in the same year. He was so determined to leave Houston he gave up millions to hold-out. They eventually traded him for a second and third round pick. It felt expensive at the time but Seattle has had a great solution at left tackle for going on two years and the Texans have had a black-hole at the position ever since.

Like Brown, is Clowney prepared to give up millions of dollars to force a trade? And if so — are they better just getting what they can now to move on? Or do they wait this out, deal with the drama and settle on a future comp pick?

Brock Huard tweeted the following out earlier:

If the Seahawks are looking for a reference, they appear to have the perfect man in the building.

Yet they’ll also be looking at a huge haul of 2020 picks next year and contemplating that luxury after two years of draft penny-pinching. Seattle is building a team. Is now the time to be aggressive? You can make a case for or against very easily. There’s no right or wrong answer. Russell Wilson is the highest paid player in the NFL and it’s time to make his prime years count. At the same time, a lot of their previous bold moves haven’t worked.

If it’s not Clowney it might need to be someone else. Is there a cheaper trade target or someone like Nick Perry who they might take a look at in a couple of pre-season games? You’re then balancing out something/anything against a potential dynamo like Clowney.

It’d be a real shame to undermine the talent at other positions with a weak pass rush.

The game against Minnesota might be a deciding factor. A good performance there might be the clincher to hold tight with what they’ve got. If certain players struggle, a big call might need to be made.

With the injuries mounting though — I think we can all agree that it might be best if the Seahawks have a similar plan to the Denver game and hold out their most important veterans.

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Would the Seahawks trade for Jadeveon Clowney?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Back in May I wrote an article considering the possibility of a Jadeveon Clowney trade. This was before Seattle signed Ziggy Ansah.

In the last 24 hours multiple reports have suggested the Texans are ready to deal Clowney. It’s starting to feel inevitable he’ll move on before the start of the season.

Make no mistake — he’s a fantastic player.

In the last three years he’s accumulated 54 TFL’s. In 2017 his 21 TFL’s ranked #2 in the league and in 2016 he led the NFL with 17. Last year he had 16 but only ranked at #11.

In comparison, Frank Clark had only 11 TFL’s in 2018 and had 32 over the last three seasons.

This video from Brett Kollmann further highlights how effective Clowney has been in Houston:

So what are the chances of the Seahawks being one of the teams to show interest?

They pride themselves on being ‘in’ on every deal so if Clowney is being shopped, there’s a decent chance they’ve at least assessed their options. They currently have about $24m in available cap space this year and they have plenty next year too so that’s not a problem. They also possess a haul of 2020 draft picks including two second and third rounders.

The roster looks deep across the board with the only major question mark being the pass rush. The Seahawks aren’t a million miles away from being seriously competitive and Clowney has the kind of game-wrecking talent they lack on the defensive line (unless Ansah can rekindle his best form).

He’s also only 26-years-old. Any deal for Clowney could secure a player ready to enter his prime much in the way Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett did from 2013 onwards.

A pass rush of Clowney and Ansah complimented by L.J. Collier and Jacob Martin would potentially address Seattle’s greatest need and set them up for another Championship window.

So why wouldn’t they make the move?

There are a few reasons.

Firstly — the Texans appear determined to add a left tackle. They’ve been short at the position since trading Duane Brown. They need to protect Deshaun Watson. Any Clowney trade likely needs to provide an obvious solution to this problem.

With Trent Williams and the Redskins currently in a stand-off — a swap of players would make legitimate sense for all concerned. Both teams would address key needs and both would be removing a headache from their roster.

You don’t often see many player-for-player trades though. It’s also possible Washington and Houston will value their players differently. The Texans might need to trade Clowney first for picks and then offer some of the stock to Washington for Williams. Regardless, swapping Clowney for Williams could interest both teams.

Secondly — this will be a really difficult deal to pull off. The deadline has passed for Clowney to sign a long-term extension this year per the rules of the franchise tag. Any potential buyer will have to wait until the off-season and run the risk of losing him in free agency. For that reason, it’ll likely have a big impact on how teams value a trade. Yet the Texans equally aren’t going to want to give him away. Finding a fair level of compensation will be tricky for any team looking to part with picks.

It’s worth noting though that his salary will be between $19-21m if he’s franchised again in 2020. That’s about the going rate for a top pass rusher. The tag would provide security for a buying team in a trade and likely set the table for a long term extension. His contract status isn’t prohibitive in this instance — it’s just hard to make a deal for a player you’re only guaranteed to have for one or two seasons. When the Chiefs traded a 2019 first and a 2020 second rounder for Frank Clark — they immediately extended his contract to protect the investment. Does a buyer get a discount on Clowney because they can’t act? And are the Texans willing to accept anything less than the Clark trade compensation?

Thirdly — the Seahawks appear to be turning over a new leaf. They were very aggressive at the end of the LOB era. They traded for Brown at left tackle (a success) and for Sheldon Richardson (not so much) and lost serious draft stock for consecutive years. Now they’ve finally got a haul of picks waiting in 2020. The entire roster has been energised by a youth movement. Continuing to acquire young talent appears to be the approach rather than returning to bold veteran trades.

While there’s clearly an issue with the pass rush it also seems they’re willing to try and manage the situation. Carroll admitted, somewhat frankly, they were ‘looking for the blitzer’s’ against Denver. Finding ways to create pressure without relying on the rushers might be their aim. Whether it works or not remains to be seen — yet Seattle’s defense wasn’t a massive liability in 2018 with a similar problem. They relied on Frank Clark and Jarran Reed for pressures. Clark has gone but Reed will return after six weeks of the regular season. Ansah has provided a cheap solution to Clark, albeit on a temporary basis.

The Seahawks seemingly didn’t show any interest in Gerald McCoy or Mike Daniels after they were made available despite having the cap room to make a move. A big splash, weeks before the season, seems a bit more 2013-2017 than 2018-19.

Even so, there’s one more thing to consider. Listen to the audio below and fast-forward to 10:45…

Brock Huard says the defensive and offensive linemen went 1v1 at training camp yesterday. Usually this is a drill that suits the D-liners. Huard states there was only one clean win for the defense in the session (a concern).

He goes on to say Duane Brown dominated, that Jacob Martin had a rough outing, that Cassius Marsh had a couple of decent rushes and that Poona Ford and Jarran Reed bull-rushed competently. Overall it was poor from the pass rushers though and he ended the piece by emphasising Barkevious Mingo in particular had a ‘tough day’.

Gregg Bell at the TNT also wrote about Mingo here:

Mingo’s pass-rush drill Tuesday wasn’t much better than his subpar one Monday. Or his one from Sunday. Actually, it was worse.

On consecutive snaps, Mingo got thrown to the ground by an offensive lineman, starter and reserve alike.

The first time reserve guard Jordan Roos pushed down Mingo to the grass when the end tried to loop inside on a two-man stunt. The second face plant came when starting right tackle Germain Ifedi rode Mingo out wide, out wider than basically belly-flopped onto his back and pushed him prone into the turf.

You have to wonder if witnessing that drill might ignite interest in a potential deal for Clowney (or to bolster the pass rush in other ways).

It really comes down to their desire to build this thing slowly with draft picks and young players complimenting the star veterans on mega money — or whether they want to be aggressive to go after a Championship right now.

Some of their previous bold moves (Sheldon Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Percy Harvin) didn’t come off. For that reason alone some will say ‘no thanks’ to another splash. Here’s one thing to remember though. You’re not going to find a 26-year-old freak of nature and former #1 overall pick in the late first round next year. And the Seahawks aren’t a million miles away from being a serious challenger in the NFC.

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New podcast: Early pre-season thoughts

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Brandan Schulze and I teamed up this week to share some thoughts on the Denver game and Seattle’s pre-season so far…

Some things to consider with the Seahawks roster

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

Who you don’t want to lose matters

Clearly competition is important — in camp and in the games. It’s the foundation of Pete Carroll’s setup. That doesn’t mean you give up on players after one summer, however, if they’re outperformed by other players in certain environments.

Greg Jennings is a good example here. He was fairly anonymous against the Broncos despite playing more snaps (57%) than Jazz Ferguson (51%) and John Ursua (48%). Jennings received two targets in the game and failed to make a reception. Ferguson caught all of his four targets and managed 57-yards and a touchdown. Ursua had two targets with one leading to a 23-yard reception.

Based on the evidence of that game it’s hard to make a case for Jennings over Ferguson and Ursua. It’s a big call to give up on a player after one summer though. They clearly liked Jennings. He looked exactly like a Seahawks receiver at West Virginia and was a predictable target during draft season.

If they cut him in a few weeks time — he’ll be gone. Another team will claim him. He will not make it to Seattle’s practise squad. Last time they cut a high pick after one camp, Chris Harper was picked up immediately by the 49ers in 2013.

If they cut Ferguson or Ursua — they too could be claimed by other teams. However, one was an UDFA with character concerns in college and the other a seventh rounder. Jennings will get claimed. There’s at least a question mark about Ferguson and Ursua.

Competing isn’t limited to the players on the field. It extends to the front office. You have to find ways to keep the guys you want. The Seahawks will gather intel on various players to make key decisions on who may or may not make it to the practise squad. They’ll protect the ones they don’t want to lose.

Not everything is going to be decided in the pre-season in terms of who makes it and who doesn’t.

The Seahawks tend to stash players

Kristjan Sokoli, Benson Mayowa, George Fant. We can all recall players Seattle has protected as a sort of ‘redshirt’ prospect.

Even when the roster was at its most competitive — there was often room for a stash.

It’s important to remember that when working out what might happen with the team this year.

Again the aspect of wanting to ‘protect’ certain players comes into play. Team building isn’t simply about the here and now. It’s about the future too.

Would it be a massive surprise if they kept, for example, seven receivers? It’s more than they have in the past but if Jazz Ferguson and John Ursua continue to play well and are deemed unlikely to make the practise squad — are you ready to risk losing one? If they don’t want to give up on Jennings or roll the dice on Ferguson or Ursua, then stashing them isn’t improbable.

You can make the same case for the defensive backs too. The starting cornerbacks are set and the safety position is coming along. It’s not improbable they’ll end up stashing Ugo Amadi while starting Kalen Reed at nickel and retaining Neiko Thorpe for his special teams value and Deshawn Shead for his versatility and experience.

A lot of roster projections are compiled to try and max out impact and value at each position. There does have to be some long term thinking too plus some appreciation of roles. There will be certain players the Seahawks have scouted and coached who they really like — they just haven’t quite had a pre-season impact so far. Or they’ll have a specific, less attractive role (eg special teams). There will be room for at least one stash on this roster for a player they want to give more time to develop.

It also helps when you’ve got players who can play various positions. Seattle has tight ends who can take snaps at full back, they have safety’s who operate in the nickel and they have a tackle/tight end hybrid. When you have multi-role individuals, it can help create room to keep certain players at other positions. The Seahawks do have that luxury.

Veterans matter

I’ve read numerous suggestions about the futures of Jaron Brown, David Moore and Neiko Thorpe. Even if young players are performing in pre-season — you still need your veterans.

This is especially important at receiver. Chemistry with the quarterback, understanding of the offense and proven production matters. Brown and Moore have this and the Seahawks appear set to expand their roles this year. They are locks to make the roster and are under no serious threat from the younger group.

Thorpe is the special teams captain and is much loved by the coaches and players. This also matters. Pete Carroll is putting more emphasis than ever on improved special teams play this year. Thorpe is essentially a special teams dynamo first and foremost and the cornerback depth is a bonus. Outsiders may question the usefulness of that but it’s not a doubt in Carroll’s mind and it’s why Thorpe has been a mainstay for so long. I wouldn’t bet against that being the case again in 2019.

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