College football open thread & notes (week 5)

September 30th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Here’s what I’m watching this weekend in college football:

Washington vs UCLA
Kentucky vs Ole Miss
Oklahoma vs TCU
Alabama vs Arkansas
NC State vs Clemson

The TV gods are being very generous this week. All of the games apart from Kentucky vs Ole Miss are being broadcast in the UK — and I’ll be able to watch Will Levis against the Rebels using ESPN Player.

I’m starting this open thread a day earlier than usual so people can pass comment on the game tonight between Washington and UCLA. I won’t be watching this game live but will watch it on playback on Saturday morning.

Quarterback watch

I want to start with some thoughts on Jaren Hall from last night. This was far from Hall (or BYU’s) best performance. It was sloppier than his stat-line (17/27, 274 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions) suggests.

Utah State mixed between tricky opponent and hopeless. BYU’s first drive lasted two plays — two wide-open, easy throws were all Hall needed to get his first score. After that, however, the Aggies tightened their belts and forced a few uncharacteristic errors.

Hall’s second drive contained an awful dropped interception. He was flat-footed on the throw, inaccurate and lobbed it straight to a defender. This would’ve been a costly turnover deep in his own half and Hall was lucky to escape an ugly pick.

It was the first of three straight drives that ended with a punt. On the third of these drives, Hall took an avoidable sack (I have been saying he shares some of Russell Wilson’s traits).

He then sacked himself to end a drive that included a horrible dropped pass in the end zone that took a score off the board for BYU.

There were a few grumbles and groans from the home crowd but they re-grouped after half-time. Hall showed fantastic ball-placement on a 14-yard throw to the front right corner of the end zone. It was perfectly thrown — giving the receiver every chance to grab a touchdown.

Even then, on the next drive he could’ve had another turnover. He led his receiver too much on a throw and almost got him hammered by a lurking defender. The pass tipped off his fingertips and was fortunately caught by another receiver rather than a defensive back for a fluke completion.

His third touchdown was another easy, no-coverage/no-resistance jolly-up. An early Christmas present from Utah State.

I wanted to be wowed in this game and if anything, it was a bit underwhelming. It was certainly the least impressed I’ve been by Hall this season — having watched all of his games. BYU play Notre Dame and Arkansas next — so there’s a great opportunity to make a greater statement than he did here.

The game tonight involving Washington and UCLA involves the increasingly hyped-up Michael Penix Jr and the slightly underrated Dorian Thompson-Robinson. I understand why Husky fans are getting excited but a little bit of perspective is required with Penix Jr. He came to UW because he’s familiar with Kalen DeBoer and his scheme which, let’s be right, is very QB-friendly. No doubt he’s made some impressive throws recently but I also think his release is quite elongated and he has a history of injuries. It’s just something to consider. No doubt, though, this should be a fun game.

Will Levis vs Ole Miss will be box-office viewing. The Rebels have the more talented roster (by some distance) but Kentucky has the better QB.

Bryce Young gets to shoot it out with K.J. Jefferson in the Alabama vs Arkansas contest. C.J. Stroud and Ohio State host Rutgers. Anthony Richardson won’t play until Sunday after Florida’s game at home to Eastern Washington was pushed back 24 hours due to Hurricane Ian.

Tanner McKee and Stanford take on Oregon in a late game on Saturday evening. It’s a weekend off for Tennessee and Hendon Hooker. Miami also has no game this weekend — meaning we’ll have to wait a week to see if Tyler Van Dyke remains the starter.

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QB talk — Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, Jaren Hall

September 29th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

While the Seahawks’ defense goes about proving it’s more ‘Rings of Power’ than ‘House of the Dragon’ — the 2023 quarterback class continues to provide a welcome distraction.

It might not be the other-worldly group the media has spent considerable time promoting but it’s certainly intriguing enough to discuss week-to-week.

Ever since watching Georgia’s game against Kentucky last October, I’ve been talking up Will Levis. I hoped he might declare against expectations for the 2022 draft.

Increasingly he appears destined to be a very high pick in 2023 instead — and Kentucky are not backward in coming forward about their expectations for him.

Before the season started, Head Coach Mark Stoops predicted he would be the next #1 overall pick. This week, offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello repeated the claim:

“Will is as talented as anyone I’ve evaluated the last five years. The only two guys I would compare him to, where you could see it clearly, would be Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. I think he will be the first overall pick in the draft.”

Scangarello has a deep NFL background. He was Kyle Shanahan’s quarterback coach in San Francisco for two years between 2017 and 2018 before spending 2019 as Denver’s offensive coordinator. He was a senior offensive coach for the Eagles in 2020 before returning to the 49ers in 2021.

It’s not often you hear coaches speak so openly about a player in this way. Part of it, of course, will be promoting Kentucky to future transfer candidates. If Tyler Van Dyke transfers, for example, Kentucky would be a prime location. It doesn’t hurt to highlight the incumbent’s success (and NFL credentials).

Yet it’s also indicative of what Levis has become. He has everything — traits, leadership, pro-style experience, evidence of going through progressions, improv skill, incredible athleticism.

The comparisons to Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are not unfair and have been similarly voiced by the likes of Jim Nagy from the Senior Bowl.

There’s also this from an unnamed NFL personnel director, who has scouted Levis extensively and watched him live this season:

“He just needs to continue to work on his pocket poise, his timing and his accuracy under pressure, but he’s one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects in this class,” the personnel director said. “Josh Allen had some inconsistencies with accuracy and timing as well, but we’ve seen how that has played out.

“As [Levis] gets more comfortable and better rhythm in this scheme, I feel like he will be playing even better football at the end of the season than what he’s putting on tape right now. He has all the physical traits and a lot of upside.”

There’s the added factor that Levis is playing behind a porous offensive line with weapons who transferred to the team only this year. C.J. Stroud, on the other hand, is sitting in a perfect pocket most games throwing to an assortment of 5-star skill-players — all while receiving his reads from the sideline.

Don’t be shocked if there’s a battle next year to acquire Levis. I wouldn’t be surprised, given John Schneider’s preferences at the position in the past, if the Seahawks use their hefty draft stock to ensure they get him.

Ultimately it won’t matter if the defense continues to be more Galadriel (“There is a tempest in me!“) than Daemon Targaryen. They’ll be picking early enough to avoid any drama.

I can’t let Anthony Richardson go

Regular visitors to the blog will know I’ve toyed with the idea of letting the Florida quarterback learn his craft, ignoring his draft potential for now. After all — his form is fluctuating, he’s majorly inexperienced and it shows on the field.

Yet I re-watched the Tennessee game this week and I just can’t leave him alone.

Richardson has remarkable physical talent. I’m talking about NFL MVP level talent. You watch him and think — if he can just put all this together, he could be a superstar. He can be a more nimble, quicker version of Cam Newton — with the ability to throw on the run and improv at the level of the current NFL greats.

There are plays against Tennessee where he throws on the move and you just have to sit back in amazement. His arm strength is remarkable and some of the throws he makes have a ‘wow’ factor that screams ‘special’. His pocket manipulation can be scary good.

He is clearly a long, long way from being ready. And he might need college starts rather than NFL redshirt years to reach the required level.

If he declares though — regardless of what happens between now and the New Year — I’d have a degree of interest. I’d be willing to go through the growing pains too if necessary.

I just get the sense that like Josh Allen (who was awful at Wyoming) he could start slowly, erratically and maybe even painfully — then a couple of years in, if guided by the right offensive coach, bang. He could be something very, very special.

Jaren Hall and BYU in action tonight

They take on Utah State in what should be a good showcase for Hall to impress. I really like him — he’s elevated his play this year and he looks superb. I’ve watched all of his games and said several times — he looks a lot like Russell Wilson with his escapability, lofted downfield passes and arm strength.

His age (25-year-old rookie) and size (6-1, 205lbs) likely keeps him in day two but there’s a lot to like here.

If you haven’t checked him out yet — try and watch the game this evening.

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Why Pete Carroll should be fighting for his job

September 28th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams…

 

Why Pete Carroll should be coaching for his job & QB notes

September 27th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Todd McShay shares our QB sentiments

ESPN’s draft analyst tweeted the following earlier today…

This is very similar to what we’ve been saying on SDB over the last month. A ‘top three’ has very much emerged in terms of this quarterback class.

If the Seahawks are going to take a QB early in round one — it’ll almost certainly come from the Levis/Stroud/Young trio.

Tyler Van Dyke is more likely to transfer than declare at this point. My recommendation to him would be to go to Kentucky in 2023, replace Will Levis and play within a pro-style offense in the SEC.

Anthony Richardson doesn’t appear ready to be considered for the pro’s (which isn’t a surprise given his limited number of starts). He has all of the tools but needs time to develop and learn his craft.

It’s also interesting that McShay name-checks Jaren Hall among his ‘risers’.

Hall has been extremely impressive for BYU — far more impressive than I thought he would be based on a study of his 2021 tape. He’s an older player (he would be a 25-year-old rookie) but he has a good arm, useful mobility, a creative flair, I like his throwing base and general technique, he appears to be a strong leader and he’s playing well even in challenging games (eg Oregon).

I still think his age and size (6-1, 205lbs) likely keeps him in day two but there’s an awful lot to like. I’ll also keep saying — it’s not just the #3 on his jersey that is reminiscent of Russell Wilson. He lofts touch passes in an almost identical way to Wilson at Wisconsin. He avoids pressure with similar moves (twisting away from pass rushers, throwing well on the run). He gets good height on his deep ball.

If the Seahawks win too many games to get close to Levis/Stroud/Young — the player I’d have my eye on is Hall.

I’m less enamoured with McShay’s two other suggestions of Hendon Hooker and Jake Haener. I think Haener is a fairly limited player, best suited to a system which relies on scheme over physical traits. He lacks the big-time physical traits but he’s also small (6-1, 200lbs).

Hooker meanwhile is playing well for Tennessee but there are issues you only notice if you study the games in depth.

For example — Florida’s defense was horrendous on Saturday. They gave up an enormous downfield pass by simply forgetting to cover a receiver on one play — then gave up a touchdown when the linebacker neglected to cover the running back in the flat. He had some very easy throws — gifts — from his opponent.

He also plays a lot of one-read concepts and rarely has to go through more than his initial read. You see a lot of half-field reads and at most he’ll offer a head-fake to hold a safety before going to the intended target.

His accuracy is inconsistent — he’ll throw high and wide and he took unnecessary sacks against Florida, including on a 4th & 8 play that led to a fumble.

Hooker does have good athleticism and he’s elevating the Vols to a level they haven’t been in a long time. I do think he’ll find the step up challenging though, based on what the tape shows. I suspect his stock will be limited to the middle rounds at best. There are also impressive throws on tape which make you think he could make it work at the next level — but there’s a degree of projection involved based on his tape/scheme and he might need a fair bit of time.

It’s validating to see what McShay is saying though — in particular the emergence of Will Levis as a legit, high first round pick (a train we’ve been on for almost a year).

If you missed my interview with Levis from a couple of months ago — you can check it out here.

Further evidence a Seahawks sale is imminent?

This was an interesting one earlier today…

By now most people are aware of the situation. Jody Allen is permitted to sell Paul Allen’s key assets to fund his philanthropy. She and the current Seahawks ownership group are nothing more than a holding pattern. It’s the same for the Trailblazers.

However, per the terms of the agreement with the City of Seattle, a sale before 2024 would cost the team hundreds of millions. So the timeframe is set in stone. Presumably negotiations would take some time, possibly dragging into 2025.

This is why Pete Carroll received a five-year contract in 2020. It was convenient for the holding ownership group to hand off the football operations to a vastly experienced Head Coach and VP of football operations. Especially one who, when he received that new deal, was leading a winning football team.

The problem is a lot has changed since 2020. Russell Wilson is gone. The team has started to lose games. The defense looks absolutely hopeless again — as it has done at the start of every season for however many years now. The ultimate power that Carroll wields suddenly feels like it could be a hindrance rather than a convenience.

The franchise badly needs strong leadership and fresh ideas. It’s gradually been going stale for some time. It also needs to move on from the never-ending Russell Wilson talk. As I was watching Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright talk about Sherman’s favourite topic on a podcast last week, it dawned on me that we’ll never be able to move on until everything is different in Seattle — including the Head Coach.

We need a new era of Seahawks football where the drama of yesteryear is consigned to the history books.

It’s too easy to dismiss a coaching change by assuming it won’t happen, due to the imminent future sale. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed. That doesn’t mean an intrepid reporter or two couldn’t or shouldn’t dig a little bit to find out whether it’s plausible financially. Does Jody Allen have the means to do it? Because if she does, she has a responsibility — as the custodian of this franchise — to consider it.

Sitting on your hands, even if you have to sell in the future, and letting the franchise drift should not be acceptable. Not for the fans of this team who will be here long beyond 2024/25.

Losing games isn’t a problem. This year was always going to be a slog as the team develops and rebuilds. It’s the manner of the losses that counts.

If the defense is this shambolic — as it has been for too long — why should fans be expected to invest any faith? Especially when the same problems pop up year after year?

There should be pressure on Carroll to deliver improvement and fast. We need to see more from the defense and from the running game. We need to see that this is a blossoming team, not one that can’t tackle, cover or put points on the board in the second half when the game of adjustments is typically lost.

There is such a thing, during a rebuild, as losing ‘the right way’. I would suggest the last two games are examples of losing ‘the wrong way’. What, exactly, is the plan on defense? Instead of leaning into the Vic Fangio background of the new staff, it just looks like a Frankenstein’s monster of Carroll’s back-catalogue. An idea taken from here, an idea taken from there. The results are not good.

When you’re a defensive-minded Head Coach, this is supposed to be your calling card. Seattle’s defense, to put it bluntly, has been bloody awful for too long. We’re seeing players like Darrell Taylor, Poona Ford and Jordyn Brooks — supposedly the future — actually taking significant steps backwards.

If this goes beyond a temporary struggle and turns into a consistent problem — it’s high time more people started to question whether the person in charge is the right man for the job. At the moment, it still seems like a fringe topic. Perhaps even a taboo subject.

Twelve years is a long time to be with a team. Few coaches last that long without things declining to the point of a fresh start being badly required. We’re arguably seeing the same issue in Pittsburgh currently.

With coaches like Mike McDaniel and Nick Sirianni showing what is capable with a fresh outlook and some new ideas — it’s becoming harder and harder to stick by a formula which hasn’t produced serious results for a long time.

Improvement must be witnessed in the next few weeks. Not for the sake of the 2022 season — but for the sake of faith being restored in the head honcho.

It shouldn’t be that Carroll gets to dictate the length of his tenure in Seattle. The team doesn’t exist to indulge his wants and needs to the point where he decides when he’s had enough.

Carroll has to prove he still has some of the old magic left. He should have to prove he’s the right man for the job for another three years.

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Monday scouting notes: 2023 class & QB’s in review

September 26th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

When you have a result and a defensive performance like we saw against Atlanta on Sunday, I really wish I could offer some positive draft news as a silver lining.

It’s not my intention to instil misery. I wish I could comfort myself, let alone any of you, with some exciting draft talk.

The reality, I’m afraid, is quite the opposite.

I’m going to get onto week four for the quarterbacks in a bit. Firstly though, I want to offer a quick general thought on the 2023 class.

Where are the top-10 picks?

We’ve already had a third of the college football season and I’m struggling to find legit early first round prospects.

I think there are three quarterbacks that could/should go in that range. Alabama’s brilliant pass rusher Will Anderson is absolutely worthy of that kind of rating.

Apart from that, it’s tough sledding.

Texas running back Bijan Robinson is worth a top-10 grade but his positional value plays into this situation. I think, at the moment, it’s likely he’ll go in that range simply because the alternatives aren’t there.

I’m a big fan of Bryan Bresee the defensive tackle at Clemson. Any defensive tackle who can run a 4.21 short shuttle warrants attention. In three games though, he has two TFL’s and half a sack. He’s not necessarily an ‘impact’ pass rusher who blows up games — rather he looks like a player with the athleticism to make plays just not on a game-wrecking level.

Michael Mayer and Jaxon Smith-Njibga are very good but are they worth top-10 picks? There are cornerbacks who could work into that range such as Kelee Ringo and D.J. Turner but so far they’re just not being tested. Linebacker Trenton Simpson is extremely athletic but in four games he has half a TFL and that’s it. For me, Jalen Carter is more of a late first rounder than a sure-fire blue-chipper. Mazi Smith, the defensive tackle at Michigan, looks like he has the athleticism and dynamism to perhaps work his way into the top-15.

Pass rusher Will McDonald, a player the league supposedly rates highly, has 1.5 sacks in four games. Myles Murphy, a player I think is a bit overrated, also has 1.5 sacks in four games. It’s tricky to work out what Nolan Smith even is at the next level (he’s 6-3 and 235lbs) but he too lacks production so far (one sack in four games).

Kayshon Boutte — touted by many in the media as a high pick — has 93 receiving yards in three games and zero touchdowns. Quentin Johnson — who I really like — similarly has just eight catches for 73 yards at TCU with zero touchdowns. Jordan Addison has started very well at USC. I do wonder about his testing results — his combine/pro-day workouts will be intriguing.

At the moment it’s hard to work out who the non-quarterback early first rounders are. At least this year you had some ‘big name’ talents like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Derek Stingley Jr, to go along with three top-10 offensive tackles and some high picks at receiver. Right now — the 2023 class looks quite poor at the top end aside from Anderson and the quarterbacks.

Before the Falcons game I was thinking about this and contemplated the Seahawks being very aggressive to ‘get their guy’ at QB while they had the draft stock to make a big move. I think that might be fairly likely unless their draft position means they don’t need to be aggressive. I’m just not sure what the alternative plan could be.

There will be fans watching the defense on Sunday, pining for additions there. With more people casting their eyes to the non-first round QB’s, I suspect discussions will be had this week online and on the radio about pumping resources into the defense and going with a QB later on. Or at least spending their highest pick on one defensive player.

John Schneider being at the Stanford vs Washington game on Saturday might fuel that discussion, with Michael Penix Jr facing Tanner McKee. It’s important to note, however, that when NFL teams play games close to college match-ups involving two highly rated QB’s — they often arrange their weekends around it. Had the Seahawks been playing at the Titans on Sunday, I’m sure Schneider would’ve paid a visit to watch Hendon Hooker vs Anthony Richardson instead (as the Raiders’ staff reportedly did).

I’m increasingly a big fan on BYU’s Jaren Hall myself and I think he’ll probably be a day-two type. Yet it’s hard to find the defensive pieces — short of Anderson (who could be the #1 pick) — to justify avoiding the high picks at QB to try and flesh out your defensive talent.

After four weeks of college football, this isn’t looking like a particularly blue-chip heavy first round. I would suggest you have Will Anderson, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Bijan Robinson and possibly Bryan Bresee or Mazi Smith, on top of maybe Kelee Ringo and D.J. Turner. You might be limited, however, to the first four names on that list.

I wish I had better news.

On to the quarterback reviews…

Will Levis impresses with no help

There are harder (although perhaps not ‘tougher’) opponents upcoming for Kentucky over the next few weeks — but Levis played very well against Northern Illinois despite receiving precious little help.

There was one glaring error, which I’ll come onto, but otherwise this was a fairly impressive display.

Increasingly it feels like Levis’ supporting cast is going to bite him — or cost Kentucky a chance to do something special this season. The offensive line has been dreadful every week and gave up another five sacks on Saturday. That’s 15 sacks for the season now in four games — despite facing Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Youngstown State.

Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Tennessee (their next four opponents) must be licking their chops.

ESPN described Levis as being constantly ‘under siege’ in the pocket in their post-game report. They weren’t kidding.

Despite this, he started the game with an eight-minute touchdown drive which was methodical, patient and well crafted. His second drive ended with back-to-back sacks. Welcome to the 2022 Kentucky Wildcats.

His third drive produced this incredible touchdown:

What a play. He stands tall in the pocket, knows he’s going to get hammered but just waits that extra second to allow the play to develop. Look at the velocity he generates with just a flick of the wrist. Teams will salivate over a play like that — vision, toughness, arm strength. Wonderful.

On the final drive of the first half, he also showed he can throw with perfect touch. Levis delivered the perfect pass only to see it dropped badly by the receiver.

The start of the second half contained the massive, glaring error.

Levis had a horrendous near interception. He stared down the receiver, had an extra hitch leading to a late throw and had no business throwing the pass where he did. The defender dropped the pick and he was incredibly lucky. His footwork was stodgy and lazy. It was a poor play in every sense and deserved to be punished.

This is something he needs to get together in the coming weeks. Levis’ footwork, base and throwing angles are typically very good. Yet he does have the habit of getting a bit loose at times. Last week it led to a sailed pass and an interception. This one should’ve been picked too.

I’d be more concerned if his technique wasn’t typically very good. It’s also worth noting that C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young have also had plays like this too.

His very next throw was a touchdown for 70 yards. Because of course. NIU were punished for failing to make the big interception. It was a great play design by Rich Scangarello and the execution to exploit a soft coverage was textbook. Levis just had to deliver the ball to his crossing receiver, he did, and it was a big YAC score.

Levis was excellent on third downs in this game. Kentucky converted 10/16 — many of which were throws — and were also 2/2 on fourth down.

He is running a pro offense and there’s so much to like about how he operates within the scheme. You can clearly see him going to three progressions. He converted third downs by going to a check down after running through two initial reads. This cannot be underestimated. He knew the down/distance, he was conscious of what was required to move the sticks, he has mastered the concepts within the offense. It’s why he looks the most prepared to start in the NFL of the 2023 class.

With 11:02 left in the game he had a fantastic deep shot which was dropped. It was perfectly thrown, he flashed his amazing arm and he was sliding to his left which added a degree of difficulty. The throw deserved a 40-yard TD rather than a drop.

He did get another score on 3rd and 12. Again Levis did brilliantly to stand tall despite a ton of pressure on a blitz — delivering a brilliant pass. The receiver made a defender miss and ran it home.

Overall this was a superb display, cementing his placing as a high draft pick. He finished with 70% completions, 303 passing yards and four touchdowns. The one error was a bad one but not a costly one. The next few weeks will be a great challenge and a test of Levis’ capabilities.

A quick aside — Brock Osweiler was commentating on this game and was great in the booth.

Tyler Van Dyke is benched

Mario Cristobal is not a good Head Coach. He didn’t make the most of Justin Herbert in Oregon. His team had their pants pulled down by Utah twice last season. Now he’s ruining talented young quarterbacks with his archaic, predictable, boring offense.

Look, TVD isn’t blameless. He’s been hesitant all season. He’s making mistakes as he did with his first interception on Saturday. Yet look at the second pick. They throw this pass all the time in the Cristobal offense. I’ve been banging on about this since the Herbert years in Oregon. If a random bloke in Rotherham picks up on it — is it any surprise opponents are too?

Middle Tennessee State did their homework and had their defensive lineman get in the predictable passing lane. Tipped, picked, pick-six.

Cristobal has turned a prolific passing QB who sprayed passes all over the field into a quivering wreck. Last season, his first as a starter, he scored 26 touchdowns and threw just six picks. He led Miami into Pittsburgh and out-duelled and beat Kenny Pickett and the ACC Champions.

It’s taken four games to make him look crap in this rubbish offense.

Who knows what happens now? He needs to get away from Cristobal. Either via the draft or via transfer.

Miami made a huge mistake in their coaching decision during the off-season. They and Cristobal deserved to be humiliated by MTS.

Some of the same issues on show for C.J. Stroud

There is so much to like about Stroud. The way he started the game was quite incredible.

His first big throw was beautifully placed in front of the safety, perfectly timed, with ‘wow’ velocity. It was special — the accuracy and the arm strength were different class. His second big throw was placed over the linebacker and in front of the safety. I almost stood and applauded the TV. A lot of players can’t make these types of throws.

His first passing touchdown continued the hot start. There was motion to the left and Stroud himself ran to that side. The defense flowed with the movement and didn’t cover the tight end running to the open space on the right hand side. Off balance, Stroud throws it back across to that side with ease. It’s not easy to execute but he made it look that way.

His second touchdown was an easy play action, he moved to the outside, the TE peels out to the flat. Simple toss once the defenders committed to Stroud running.

He was decisive and made the plays he needed to make.

But then there are the obvious issues we have to keep noting.

He threw an interception before halftime that was just awful. He patted the football unnecessarily and hesitated. Inevitably he throws late and off target. It’s too high and sails over receiver. The Wisconsin defender makes a great catch but it was a bad error from Stroud.

Then with the first throw of the second half he doesn’t read the dropping DE and almost throws a pick six straight to him.

This highlights another issue with Stroud and Ohio State quarterbacks generally. Everything is done for them. Great O-line, great weapons and they receive reads from the sideline. Before every snap he’s basically told what to do. He looks across at the coaches who tell him what the read is and then he gets to try and execute with an elite supporting cast.

For the most part he does a great job bringing it together. This isn’t translatable to the NFL though. And for all his clear physical talent — he isn’t going to have this supporting cast, facing overmatched opponents with coaches holding his hand in the pro’s.

It’s why so many Ohio State QB’s look amazing in college and flame out at the next level.

It took Wisconsin ages to work out a plan. In the second half they started dropping into two deep safety looks and had their LB’s dropping deep to send everything underneath. Stroud threw dangerously into that coverage, had a pass tipped and could’ve been picked again.

But just as it was all starting to get a bit frustrating — he absolutely fires in a slant for a hot touchdown. It was, admittedly, a dangerous throw. The safety was right there to make the pick but there was enough arm strength to force it by the DB. He has a great fastball and is very capable of fitting the ball into tight windows with tremendous velocity.

This is how I would sum up Stroud. Physically, I can’t remember seeing many players with skills as good as his. His ability to throw a laser with accuracy and make ‘wow’ plays is pretty remarkable. When he’s playing well, you just end up shaking your head in wonderment at times. At his best he’s a joy to watch. On top of this I like his base and his throwing motion. Stroud’s technique is a lot better than Justin Fields’ ever was.

Yet the caveat is he does get sloppy, he has got an amazing supporting cast and unlike with Levis — all the hard stuff (reading coverages) is done for him.

He could easily be the #1 overall pick based on talent. He could also need a fair amount of time to learn how to lead and run a NFL offense.

It’s very easy to imagine him being a NFL star or the latest Ohio State QB to flop. Quite rightly, someone will roll the dice on his special qualities. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s as the first player taken, or even the first quarterback.

On a different note — I really enjoyed watching Wisconsin safety John Torchio in this game. Big hits — a brilliant catch on the Stroud interception. He looked athletic, tough and impactful. He’s a senior.

Hendon Hooker vs Anthony Richardson

A lot of people ask me about Hooker — and increasingly ask why I’m not that high on him as a pro-prospect. I appreciate why that’s hard to comprehend with the Vols winning and Hooker putting up big numbers.

I think this game, despite Hooker’s success in it, highlighted what I’m trying to get across.

Several of his big plays were wide open, easy throws. And when I say wide open — I mean no defender in the same postcode as the receiver. He threw a handful of inaccurate passes that were fairly reckless — throwing high or wide of the target. He had a sack/fumble on 4th and 8 where he simply had to know you’ve got to get the ball out. He took far too long in the pocket. He took avoidable sacks.

I’m not completely blind to what he does well. He has impressive athletic qualities. His arm strength is good and he made some nice throws. He had a great improvised scramble for a good gain. He is elevating Tennessee and for the first time in years, they’ve found a productive QB.

I do think, though, that he’s more of a really fun, productive college QB than someone who necessarily will be a high pick. There’s a lot of one-read stuff. His scheme sets the table for a lot of what he does. He’s not always particularly accurate.

This isn’t me saying he’s useless or has no NFL future. I’m just trying to be realistic about his stock. Increasingly now — as soon as a college quarterback puts up great numbers, they get talked about as a high draft pick. We’re seeing it with Michael Penix Jr and others. Yet we’re living in an era where offensive production at a prolific level has never been more common, especially when we see very creative offensive coaches running a lot of college teams.

It’s important to remember that production, however good, doesn’t dictate stock or a projection.

On Anthony Richardson, this was a nice bounce-back game. He made better decisions, made several ‘wow’ plays of the ilk we saw against Utah in week one. This was a marked difference from his previous two outings.

He did fumble on a horrible looking quarterback-keeper that more or less ended the game as a contest — but even then, with time running out, he led a couple of touchdown drives when it would’ve been easy to press and make mistakes. His interception was only on a Hail Mary at the end of the game.

It’s hard to get a read on his stock. He basically has everything physically. He just looks inexperienced and undercooked. In time, everything is there to be special. You’ve just got to let it develop.

It’s very easy to forget that Josh Allen was fairly hopeless at Wyoming. Mistakes galore. Never elevated his team. He had some really ugly games. Now he might be the best player in the NFL — because he’s a physical freak of nature. Once he had time to develop, he delivered on his outrageous potential.

I do wonder if the same thing could happen with Richardson. He runs a 4.4. He has a special arm. He has ideal size. We saw touch passes in this game. He has shown an ability to process within a pro-style offense.

He might need a couple of years to learn but the upside of Richardson is basically unmatched. The question is whether he’ll deliver on the unreal upside or whether he’s just an amazing athlete.

Jaren Hall with another good game

No quarterback has surprised me more, so far, than BYU’s Hall. He looks a different player compared to last season (when he was supposedly playing through an injury).

Wyoming put up a heck of a fight on Saturday and yet, as with Oregon the week prior, Hall’s performance was consistently really strong.

He wears #3 and it has to be said — he does look a lot like Russell Wilson at times. There’s no getting away from that.

He improvises well — twisting and spinning away from pass rushers to extend plays and then throw confidently on the move. His touch and loft passes are so similar to Wilson’s at Wisconsin it’s uncanny. He throws with great base and positioning — with his shoulders consistently square to the target.

He doesn’t quite have Wilson’s arm strength but the more I watch of Hall, the more I like him. As a day two option with major upside — I think Hall is worth monitoring.

Bryce Young’s very easy day

Alabama played Vanderbilt and predictably, it was a walk in the park. Everyone was open. The running backs ran riot in the running and passing game. Young had all the time in the pocket. On one play with 15 second left in the first half, he threw to an area where two receivers were open, next to each other, in the same five-yard radius.

It was hard to learn anything from this game other than to say Will Anderson is fantastic and he remains a very realistic option to go first overall.

If you missed our post-Falcons reaction show, you can watch it here:

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Instant reaction: Seahawks lose battle of the bad D’s

September 25th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Another year, another season where Seattle’s defense is DOA.

Pete Carroll, a defensive-minded Head Coach, needs to find some answers pronto.

Yes — this is a rebuild year. Yes — there are going to be growing pains along the way as they figure this out.

Yet for the last however many years, the Seahawks have started badly on defense. They’ve felt unprepared, incapable, impotent. There’s no consistent pass rush. They struggle to force turnovers. Their run defense is bad.

Why does it keep happening?

Today they played a defensive unit that was equally awful. Seattle and Atlanta combined to produce a defensive performance so poor, it was akin to watching the Big-12.

Neither team could do much of anything. Atlanta’s pass rush was so anaemic, it almost felt like they’d left it on the plane. Seattle, meanwhile, gave up explosive plays galore.

Yet at the end — a Grady Jarrett sack (a moment of quality from a great player) enabled Atlanta to do just enough to escape with the win. All after Marcus Mariota had threatened to chuck it away with a botched hand-off.

The Seahawks have changed their defensive staff completely. They were supposedly tweaking the scheme (although Carroll keeps insisting things aren’t that different).

No kidding.

Too many of the same problems have remained over many years. Basic things too — such as poor tackling. What is Carroll doing to rectify these issues? Why do they come out of camp and pre-season suffering in the same way every year?

Why are the Seahawks so easy to play against on defense?

Why do they annually fail to produce a serious pass rush despite relentlessly talking about needing to fix it?

It’s not good enough and goes beyond the fact they’re in a rebuild. They have veterans in the front seven. Players like Jordyn Brooks who get talked up big time and for what reason, exactly? How did Quandre Diggs play today? The man they are paying a fortune to play next to the other expensive safety who is injured again.

This should’ve been a victory. Atlanta couldn’t do anything defensively themselves. Geno Smith had one of the easiest days he’ll have to lob passes across the yard. Let’s not pretend it was anything other than a very easy day for him (although he easily could’ve had two interceptions before the late fourth down desperation heave).

It wasn’t a victory because the defense is hopeless.

They can’t even do one thing right. At a bare minimum — take away the run. Nope. A career day for Cordarrelle Patterson (17 runs, 141 yards). It was embarrassing how easily he ran through Seattle’s defense.

The worst play, arguably, was the Drake London touchdown. Pre-snap you could easily see he was wide open and nobody was covering him. How did they not address that? Even before the snap, I thought, ‘I could complete that pass’. Horrible.

How can fans invest faith in the rebuild if the defensive Head Coach can’t even produce a barely competent defense?

In the grand scheme of things this result — against a rival for draft position — isn’t a bad thing. But in the context of the people in charge remaining in charge to oversee this build, it is very concerning.

 

Curtis Allen’s week three watchpoints (vs Atlanta)

September 25th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen. After the game today tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

A euphoric nail-biting win followed by the worst loss since the 42-7 drubbing by the Rams in Week Fifteen of 2017.  

The 2022 Seahawks:  Welcome to Wherever You Are.

Familiar patterns keep emerging each year, particularly on defense.  

Can the coaching staff avoid a sluggish start on defense for the third season in a row?  

No they cannot.  

2020’s excuse was, “We’re getting hands on the quarterback just not taking him down for sacks.”  

2021?  It was, “The guys are doing everything we need to see in practice just not executing on Sundays.”  

This year, it is, “The defensive linemen and linebackers need to work together better.”  At least Pete Carroll is acknowledging that this year’s defensive problem will need time to fix.

Can this team get a reasonable return on their investments at the safety position?  

No they cannot.  

Jamal Adams is injured and out for the season.  Quandre Diggs has dropped an interception and missed tackles.

Can this defense get off the field?  

No they cannot.  

They are bottom-10 in plays, sacks, first downs conceded, yards and penalties that result in first downs.  On top of that they are on pace to surpass their league-history worst mark last year of yards conceded to running backs in the passing game, allowing 11 more yards per game so far this season.

It is troubling and continually underlines that this team is lacking creative thought and a mindset that will get them going in the right direction.

****

In that context, it is somewhat comforting that Atlanta is coming to town.  Any list of the three least talented teams in the NFL must include the Falcons.  No one is surprised that they are 0-2 at this point in the year.  While they have had two one-score losses against New Orleans and the Rams, their inconsistent play has doomed them in both games.

In Week One they blew a 16-point lead by getting outscored 17-3 by the Saints in the fourth quarter.  To add insult to injury, they held the ball for 10 of the quarter’s 15 minutes.  They had a lead and could control their own destiny but failed badly.  The Saints cut through Atlanta’s defense when it counted most and squeaked by them.

Week Two saw a flipped script, with the Falcons doing the 17-3 outscoring in the fourth quarter against the Rams.  However, that is after they ended the third quarter down 28-10 due to poor play.  Their late scoring flourish was not necessarily a strong product of their competency, as they were helped along by Los Angeles, with an interception, allowing a blocked punt to be returned for a touchdown and a strategically conceded safety.

While the Falcons will provide a test this week, a Seahawks team who have hopefully been awoken by the hammering at the hands of the Niners should be able to handle them.  

This game could be like the Week Eight game last year against Jacksonville, where they cruised to a win and everything felt just a little better after losing three in a row.

Or it could be like the Week Sixteen game against Chicago, where most everyone expected an easy win and the visiting team rode a plucky veteran quarterback performance to beat them.

What will be the difference?  They will need to perform well in these areas…

They Cannot Fail on the Fundamentals Again

Last week this site covered three critical areas the Seahawks need to excel in in order to beat San Francisco.

While it is gratifying to correctly point out the key issues the Seahawks faced leading up to the game, it is extremely disappointing to see that they could not have played worse in these areas and it all added up to a terrible performance.

They were not ready to play mentally

Pete Carroll said they could see the signs all week leading up to the game and that he needs to do a better job managing that.  The trick plays felt like an acknowledgement that the team needed a spark, some kind of easy yards and points to give the squad a charge.  Unfortunately, they backfired badly.

As an aside, what ever happened to “every week is championship week” in Seattle?  In the heyday of the team, they displayed a steely calm that had fans and the press believing they could take on any challenge.  

When asked, they all mirrored one thought from Pete Carroll on down to the lowliest special teams player – that every week is treated like it is of the highest priority.  Therefore, no moment was too big for them.  

The last three seasons, we have seen more than one player publicly acknowledge they were not properly focused and that it hurt the effort on the field.  Pete Carroll has taken to blaming the short week for their challenges more than he ever has.  

When they are not ready to play, that leads to mistakes…

They did not play smart

Three turnovers, all of them a different variety. One of the everyday sort (Geno Smith’s interception), one that was hard luck (Tyler Lockett’s punt muff) and one patently absurd (Deejay Dallas’ half back option interception).  

They also got flagged for 10 penalties for 106 yards.  

Baffling coaching decisions also abounded.

They got obliterated on the ground

They gained 36 rushing yards and allowed 189.  They recorded 11 missed tackles.  It is no wonder that San Francisco possessed the ball a full quarter more than the Seahawks did, beating them by 17 minutes in time of possession.

It does not matter if you are playing against a Super Bowl contender or an also-ran.  That performance and those numbers will get you plowed.

Another week of “the dog ate my homework” simply will not do.

Stop The Falcons’ Run Game

The Seahawks’ front seven are likely sore after Sunday’s performance against San Francisco.  After observing that the run defense needs to get better on the edges following the Monday night game against Denver, the Seahawks got absolutely gashed in between the tackles by the 49ers.

They will need a quick turnaround in order to improve their performance Sunday.  Why?

The Falcons are currently averaging an impressive 146 rushing yards in their first two games, good for 7th in the NFL.  Cordarrelle Patterson is leading the way for them.  

He is one of the more fun stories in the NFL right now.  As a 31-year-old kick returner who never really realized his potential as a wide receiver, he has been reborn as a converted running back.  At 6’2” and 220lbs and wearing #84, he is a compelling curiosity lining up behind Marcus Mariota.

It is not just his position that has changed.  His skill profile has changed completely.  Whereas he has always been known as a speedy game-breaking type who operates in the open space of returning kicks or running routes as a receiver, now he is making a living using his size and strength as a runner in the trenches.  Most of Patterson’s runs have been between the tackles.

The front seven will need to be ready for him.  How can they succeed?

First off, there is a simple way to get better — play a weaker opponent.  Few offenses are as well coordinated and executed as a Kyle Shanahan offense.  Not only did their star players like Deebo Samuel make some great individual plays Sunday, they functioned very effectively as a unit.  The Seahawks should naturally show better by playing a team that is simply not as talented or as well-coached as San Francisco.

Secondly, they will need better individual performances from their defenders.  

Pete Carroll spoke of their front-seven woes as an issue of getting the defensive linemen more in sync with the linebackers so everyone functions as a unit.  He also stated that it does not happen overnight.  It needs time to really come together and make that work.

He is not wrong.  However, if individual defenders display fire and desire to attack their assignment, it can minimize the impact of the defense as a whole not being as tuned as tightly as a Formula One race car.

Let me show you an example of this.  Have a look at this 20-yard run by Ty Davis-Price in the first quarter on Sunday.

Awful.  Just awful.

Where could the Seahawks have minimized the damage with just one individual displaying a better effort?  It is obvious.  Quandre Diggs making the tackle there ends the play after just five yards or so and keeps the offense just outside of the red zone.  He has made that tackle many, many times in the past, often giving the runner a pretty good pop and leaving him with second thoughts about meeting him in the hole again.

The truth is though, with several better individual efforts on this play, the runner never makes it to Diggs.

Start with Boye Mafe.  The rookie falls victim to a clever block fake by Brandon Aiyuk and loses his balance and stumbles.  If he comes in clean and gets any push at all on Kyle Juszczyk, that hole gets narrower.  Davis-Price has to hesitate just enough to allow the streaking Darryl Johnson to catch his ankles and stop the play for no gain.

Mafe will learn.  It is his second professional game.  He only played nineteen snaps last week, let’s give him a break.

Al Woods is next.  He is initially double-teamed by the center Jake Brendel and the right guard Spencer Burford.  Brendel quickly turns 90 degrees and Woods allows it.  Brendel is in perfect position, with his butt pointed toward the gap.  But Woods does not read the play well or quick enough and Brendel is able to hand Woods off to Burford and block Jordyn Brooks, who has read the play and is moving like a guided missile towards Davis-Price.  If Woods reads that better and forces his attention on Brendel, Brooks stops the play for a small gain.

Finally, we come to Cody Barton.  What is he doing on this play?  Seriously.  The hole develops right in front of his eyes less than a heartbeat after the snap.  Brendel and left guard Aaron Banks’ body angles are literally signaling where the runner is going.  Holes do not get bigger than that.  There is no trickery in the exchange as Lance pitches it to Davis-Price right in front of Barton.  And yet he laterally drifts out of the hole and is swallowed up by Banks.  It is possible he locked on Kyle Juszczyk and mirrored him right out of position instead of concentrating on the runner.

It would be fantastic for Barton to read that play, jump into that hole and stone Davis-Price cold.  That would fire his teammates up something fierce.  But honestly, all he really needs to do is occupy the hole.  Aaron Banks’ job is to help Trent Williams with Jefferson and then disengage and take Barton on.  If Barton steps up into that hole, Banks has to get in front of him.  So even if he is blocked by Banks, that physical space is taken.  Davis-Price then gets redirected and does not go for 20 yards.

Any number of those players providing a more thorough effort and that play ends up with a much better result for the Seahawks.

But it is not all negative in this instance.  Let’s conclude with great examples of individual effort from the backside of the play.

Darryl Johnson is unblocked, reads the play, accelerates all the way across the backfield and just barely misses the runner.  If he has a 10-yard split like an Avril or a Taylor he probably makes that tackle.

Watch Josh Jones on the play as well.  He has a coverage assignment on a tight end, who stays in to block.  Jones engages him, reads the play, disengages and chases Davis-Price down from the other side of the field.  That effort ends up saving four points early in the game, as the defense then held San Francisco out of the end zone.

Those are the kinds of efforts that the Seahawks need Sunday.  Everyone may not be on the exact same wavelength but if they let their coaching, desire and athleticism take over, they will be able to make plays to keep the Falcon rushing attack from controlling the pace of the game.

Pass to Set Up the Run On Offense

The Falcons had the worst pass rush in the NFL last year.  They recorded a league-low 18 sacks as a team.  

How bad was that?  The Eagles were the next-worst team with 29 sacks.  T.J. Watt (22.5) and Robert Quinn (18.5) each out-sacked the entire Falcon defense.  

The Falcons’ team pressure rate?  A league-low 16.7%.

They missed out on the top 3 pass rushers in the draft and opted to take Drake London at #8, which has been a very good pick for them so far.  But that does not help the pass rush.

They do have 5 sacks in 2 games.  But their pressure rate has dropped even further from 2021, standing at a putrid 14.3%.  Put another way, they are not pressuring the quarterback 85.7% of the time.

We all know the typical way to address not having effective pass rushing coming from your top four players.  Blitz.  A lot.  The Falcons are sending extra rushers at a pretty good clip so far, with 25.33% of their plays sending a blitzer.  How is that working out?

They have recorded one sack.  But they have conceded 9 first downs on 18 throws, three touchdowns, and a 132.9 quarterback rating.  Those are disastrous numbers.  Just about all they have accomplished in blitzing is taking another pass defender out of the play.

It is showing up in the individual stats for their defensive backfield:

-CB A.J. Terrell has conceded three touchdowns and a 75% completion rate on passes for a whopping 138.9 QB rating

-CB Casey Hayward is a little better with 60% for a rating of 87.5

-SS Jaylinn Hawkins is surrendering 70% for a rating of 123 (hello tight ends)

-FS Richie Grant is the best of the bunch, conceding 50% for a 59 rating

Those numbers are reflected in their PFF scores as well.  The average score of their starting backfield is 61.2.

They cannot get pressure with their front four.  They get burned badly when they blitz.  The defensive backs are vulnerable.

The Seahawks must take advantage.  There is no game on the schedule quite so obvious as this one.  With the receiving weapons they have and a quarterback who can be accurate when he is not being pressured, the game plan should be clear.  Pass to get the tempo set, get a lead and then help your vulnerable defense by controlling the game script.

 

College football open thread & notes (week 4)

September 24th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

I’ve returned from Italy, having watched England deliver a ‘hold my beer’ performance in response to Seattle’s loss in Santa Clara. Ah, the joys of fandom.

Here’s what I’m watching this weekend in college football:

Florida vs Tennessee
Wisconsin vs Ohio State
Wyoming vs BYU
Northern Illinois vs Kentucky

Sadly the footballing gods have conspired that none of these are early kick-off’s so aside from the Florida/Tennessee game, I’ll likely watch the other three on Sunday (a 5am night of CFB probably not the best idea given it’s my son’s birthday party tomorrow).

Quarterback watch

Although I’m watching Florida vs Tennessee, I’ll be doing so with low expectations. Anthony Richardson has played so poorly in the last two games he’s more likely to be benched than drafted in the early rounds. He needs time and development, not the pressure of his personal stock weighing on his shoulders. I don’t really see Hendon Hooker as a high draft pick either. I’ll watch both and reserve judgement — but this game is less intriguing in ‘quarterback watch’ than the other three I’ll be viewing this weekend.

C.J. Stroud has had a couple of cupcake games and today faces a trickier opponent in Wisconsin. Ohio State should still win comfortably and that’s what I want to see. I want Stroud to dominate this game, make those outstanding ‘wow’ throws but also show he can deliver with accuracy on the intermediate level, progress through reads and prove the basics can match the physical talent.

BYU’s Jaren Hall has really impressed me this year, even in a heavy loss to Oregon last week. I’m eager to see if he can continue to build momentum against a Wyoming team who were blown out by Illinois and needed three overtime periods to beat Tulsa.

Can Will Levis deliver a ‘complete’ game? Can he show off the good aspects of his game and avoid turnovers against Northern Illinois? His next four games after this are Ole Miss (A), South Carolina (H), Mississippi State (H) and Tennessee (A). He’s getting to the crucial point of Kentucky’s schedule and needs to hit a peak soon.

Miami’s offense will probably continue to bore the living daylights out of everyone against Mid Tennessee State. Poor Tyler Van Dyke. Alabama and Bryce Young take on Vanderbilt this week.

UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson faces struggling Colorado. Stetson Bennett will get another stat-padding day when Georgia take on Kent State. It’s a big game for K.J. Jefferson and Arkansas against Texas A&M.

I don’t have access to Washington vs Stanford but it will be fun and intriguing to see Michael Penix Jr square off against Tanner McKee. I will try and find footage of that game in the coming days.

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Video analysis of the 2023 QB class (so far)

September 20th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams

 

The reality of what we’re seeing from the 2023 QB class

September 19th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

While watching Seattle’s latest outing against San Francisco, you may have taken comfort in thinking about next years draft.

After all, the media have done a great job telling you it’s a remarkable quarterback class loaded with options.

Unfortunately, after three weeks of the college football season, there are more questions than answers.

Nobody has started in the way Joe Burrow did in 2019 for example. There are some intriguing players but that’s the adjective you’d have to use to describe them. Couched language is necessary at the moment.

I’m afraid to say this is not a group so far that is ‘other worldly’ — as has been portrayed. I want to go beyond the rhetoric of the ‘amazing’ quarterback class and try and describe what’s really going on.

For a variety of reasons the group is yet to really get firing. There’s still time for that to happen — but it has been a bit of an underwhelming start.

At this stage I don’t think we can assume that the antidote to that performance in Santa Clara yesterday — and the future of this team — is going to be readily available next April.

It is still possible though. There’s plenty of time left for fortunes to change and form to be established. There are good quarterbacks (and players at other positions) who will be part of the 2023 draft.

But again — it should be noted that the narrative of this being a mind-blowing class perhaps needs to be toned down.

Here are my quarterback notes from the weekend…

More of the same from Will Levis

Kentucky’s quarterback has a legit chance to be the first quarterback taken. Yet his first three games have been a mixed bag.

Youngstown State were never going to provide the sternest test and so it proved. Levis showed off his amazing physical traits, command of the play-action heavy Shanahan-style offense and ability to make impressive throws from a strong base.

He also had another game where his O-line tried to get him injured (his right tackle is absolutely horrendous) and he threw two more interceptions.

His first pass of the game was a great play-action play. He launched it down the middle for a 27-yard gain. Classic Levis — play-fake, set and throw. It will excite the pro-teams how comfortable he is operating in this system.

Levis’ first two third down plays resulted in sacks. The second was arguably a coverage sack but the reality is it was another four-sack, multiple-hit day. He faces weekly adversity in the pocket that the likes of C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young never encounter.

He showed off his easy arm strength again and can launch a rocket on an in-route 15-30 yards downfield with a little flick of the wrist/arm. He arrows passes into tighter windows and defenders often can’t recover when the receiver separates because Levis is adept at setting, being decisive and getting the ball to the target quickly.

His throwing base and balance is often textbook and when it isn’t — it’s obvious as we’ll discuss in a moment. The positives in terms of technique, his size/frame, his throwing motion, his experience in this offense, his arm strength and the fact he is elevating Kentucky will make him highly attractive to teams and he has arguably the best shot of the 2023 quarterback class to come in and start quickly.

The negative is obvious. He had 13 interceptions last season and it was important to get that number down this year. So far, he has four in three games. Really he only has three because one of those picks was a sack/fumble that looped into the air as he cocked his arm back to throw. Even so — it’s too many.

I will say — I’m not overly concerned by it. There are good and bad interceptions. None of Levis’ are as bad as Anthony Richardson’s (more on him later). Bryce Young has also thrown similar picks to Levis.

I’ll repeat this from my article last week:

— In Patrick Mahomes’ final year at Texas Tech he had a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost seven games in total. He had 25 interceptions in his last two seasons in college.

— In Andrew Luck’s final year at Stanford he ended with a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost two games in his final year despite playing on a loaded Stanford team. He had eight games with 256 passing yards or fewer.

— Josh Allen had 21 interceptions in his final two years in college. He had a completion percentage of just 56.3%. He had three games in 2017 with sub-100 passing yards and he started his final season with six picks in his first seven games.

— Russell Wilson had 25 interceptions in his final two years at NC State. He never had a completion percentage above 60% at NC State. He had 11 games at Wisconsin where he threw 255 yards or fewer — including six sub-200 yard games. He also lost three games in his final season at Wisconsin.

If Levis was being reckless, indecisive, misreading coverages and costing his team games — it would be a worry. I think the reality has been very different.

On his first pick it was a good play by the defender. He tried to look someone off in the red zone, then snap his head back round to the left and throw. It’s a risky play-call because you have to hold the right side for longer than you’d want and then throw almost blind to the slant from the left. The defender stuck in coverage well, the receiver didn’t run through his route and it led to a pick.

Rich Scangarello, who doesn’t mince his words or protect Will Levis during interviews, blamed the receiver for this pick in his post-game interview.

He was critical of Levis for the second pick and rightly so. He doesn’t step into the throw, he’s leaning back and it sails on him. The pass flies over the head of the intended target and it’s an easy interception. That’s bad execution from the QB, poor technique.

Here’s the thing though. Can you teach a quarterback with generally good technique most of the time to make sure he steps into a throw like this to avoid making a similar mistake in the future? Of course. If Levis’ technique was generally bad and he needed his mechanics re-working — that’s a problem. If he doesn’t read a defender and throws it straight to him, that’s a problem.

These picks don’t bother me in terms of draft stock. I want to see Levis throw fewer interceptions, 100%. To me it feels completely fixable though and everything else is really good.

With 6:50 left in the first half he broke away from pressure, set off running and picked up 24-yards. He can do that because he’s an elite athlete. His two passing touchdowns were made to look simple and easy — a whip-route and a fade both in the red zone.

He threw a post with great velocity over the middle and there were multiple examples of him going through progressions and reaching a third target. Few college QB’s do that.

I think a ton of teams needing a quarterback next year are going to look at Levis and feel he has the physical tools, the athleticism, the knowledge of pro-concepts, the technique and the personality to lead their team. And these aspects will outweigh the things he needs to improve. As such, he will be a very high pick.

But there’s no doubt he can play better than he has so far and I can’t say with conviction that he can be ‘special’. I do think, however, that he’s very capable of coming into the league and playing at a reasonable level somewhat quickly.

A final note on this game. The referee misspoke on a penalty and accidentally said, “Piss interference, defense”. It made me chuckle.

Bryce Young had a mixed game

Having led Alabama to a comeback win against Texas with one wonderful quarter of football offsetting three awful quarters, Young had a similar fluctuating performance in a blowout win against UL Monroe.

He threw a terrible interception in the first half. He had all the time in the world in the pocket but decided to scramble anyway. He tried to create something and just lobbed it downfield recklessly. He didn’t come close to giving his receiver a chance to make a play — it just went directly to the defender. It was a hopeless throw-and-hope play.

You can’t make that mistake under no pressure.

Strangely, it benefitted Alabama. Two plays later Will Anderson caught a tipped pass and returned it for a pick-six. Then, on the corresponding series, Alabama blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. The pick sparked a 14-0 run.

Young showed off his creative ability as a runner on a scrambling TD, twisting away from two defenders to reach the end zone. He also had another sort-off turnover when he threw incomplete on fourth down. It was a rushed play as they tried to get the snap off before the end of the first quarter. Nobody was ready, Young threw it in a hurry and the receiver was nowhere near it. Careless.

There’s a lot of RPO stuff in Alabama’s scheme which I’m not a huge fan of. It’s going to be a lot harder for Young to read defenders in the NFL than it is at Alabama against these overmatched opponents.

He had a tremendous deep pass down the right side of the field — throwing to his tight end in a favourable matchup. Young showed ideal ball placement and a good arm. On the next play he directed traffic to throw to an uncovering receiver in the end zone.

He had a second interception on an inaccurate pass thrown high and slightly behind. It was tipped and picked off. His third score was a dump-off into the flat and the running back ran for 40 YAC.

There’s no doubt he’s a very naturally talented player. He’s creative and can be very exciting to watch. However — it also has to be noted that he has not started as well as he ended last year. He benefits greatly from superior pass-pro and playing on a loaded team. And there isn’t anyone like him in the league. He is very slight and undersized.

What is his upside? How good can he be? These are very difficult questions to answer.

While it’s very tempting to point to the likes of Kyler Murray as evidence for smaller players succeeding — Young lacks the ‘wow’ factor that Murray had or the unique physical tools. I think Young is better than Tua Tagovailoa was at Alabama — but I’m not sure he has the upside of Murray or Russell Wilson either.

Jaren Hall continues to impress

BYU laid an egg against Oregon (which was disappointing seeing as I took them +4) but despite the lopsided game, Hall actually played quite well.

When I watched his 2021 tape I thought it was underwhelming. I’ve watched all three of his games this season and I like what I’ve seen. He has a good arm (looks better than a year ago), he’s creative, mobile, throws with touch but can put a bit of mustard on things when needed and he lofts passes into good areas similar to Russell Wilson at Wisconsin.

He’s an older player — a year older than even Will Levis. He’ll be a 25-year-old rookie. I don’t think he’s necessarily a first round prospect but this is the problem with quarterback assessment. We only ever tend to talk about players in first round or undraftable terms.

Hall could be a day two type who can stick. He’s intriguing to me. There’s something there.

Tyler Van Dyke is being let down

Not to make excuses for him. He can and should be playing better.

However — I detest the Mario Cristobal offense.

Everything is painfully conservative. Cristobal makes Pete Carroll look like a maverick renegade in terms of balls-to-the-wall high-octane new-age football.

Case in point — they were trailing 17-3 late in the game. They’re in the red zone. They ran on 3rd and goal from about eight yards out and didn’t score. Then kicked a field goal.

I’m not a Miami Hurricanes fan — but I was shouting at the screen at this point.

Over and over again they kept throwing passes behind the line of scrimmage and hoping for YAC. As we saw in Oregon with Cristobal — it’s a whole bunch of runs, screens, slants, extended hand-offs and it’s boring.

When they needed points, they kept kicking. Despite the fact their kicker was having a rough day.

TVD burst onto the scene last season throwing all over the field, regularly topping 300 yards and looking brilliant. Now he struggles to get to 200 yards, doesn’t look remotely comfortable and his draft stock is taking a hammering.

Even so, he still has to do better.

He almost threw an interception on his first drive failing to read the safety properly and throwing to the left front corner of the end zone. His base was poor, he took a big stride forwards to step into the throw which impacted his velocity and he was lucky the safety didn’t pick it off.

He nearly threw another pick to the right sideline. He didn’t step into his throw properly, double clutched just as he did vs Southern Miss last week. He tossed an ugly looking throw and again was fortunate not to turn it over.

There were other times where he missed the target and his radar felt off throughout. He did also suffer from some bad drops (including a particularly egregious flub by the running back on 3rd and 9 on the second drive).

His top receiver and roommate was also injured and out of this game.

It wasn’t all bad and Miami mixed in some good running with the occasional flourish in the passing game. He chucked a nice wheel route to the tight end despite facing heavy pressure.

Yet Cristobal played the entire game like they were leading by three points, not trailing throughout.

I would hate to have him coaching my team. It’s boring. The entire game plan is frustrating and dull. The offense doesn’t attack opponents and is safe. TVD is not thriving in this system, just like Justin Herbert didn’t.

An easy day for C.J. Stroud

A game against Toledo was never going to trouble Stroud but it was an opportunity to show off his physical qualities again.

He flashed wonderful footwork to throw a brilliant post to set up the first touchdown — a red zone shot which is really well caught by Marvin Harrison Jr. He looked brilliant on play-action — dropping, setting and throwing with accuracy, velocity and base.

Stroud had a ‘wow’ touchdown on the move. He scrambled and extended the play then threw from the right side to the one area of the end zone where his receiver could make the catch. It was terrific improv, skill and creativity.

He throws out-routes with impressive ease.

He also had a somewhat dangerous, fortunate downfield shot to Harrison Jr which was almost picked-off but ended up being a big positive play.

His third and fourth scores were an easy red zone touchdown to Harrison Jr who was wide open, then he threw an equally easy red zone pass to Julian Fleming. It was 42-14 at half-time. The fifth touchdown, again, was a very easy wide open throw in the red zone.

It was very easy but also, I suppose, another strong showcase of what he’s capable of. Ohio State don’t have a really difficult game until Michigan in late November. They have some Big-10 games that shouldn’t be difficult (but you never know) against Wisconsin, at Michigan State and at Penn State.

Stroud has a great opportunity to dominate the Heisman conversation and have an undefeated regular season. There’s no doubting the immense physical talent he has. There are special throws in his arsenal. We just need to see him consistently do it against tougher opponents — while improving his processing and intermediate accuracy in those contests.

And that’s the key thing. It’s all well and good doing it against Arkansas State and Toledo. He was ‘off’ against Notre Dame. How will he perform in his more challenging Big-10 contests and, eventually, the playoffs? Consistency and exciting plays in those games will define how high he goes.

Some thoughts on Michael Pennix Jr

Although this is a Seahawks Draft Blog — I’ve never really had Husky or Coug fans pushing for their own.

Until this year.

I’m asked a lot — on Twitter, via email, on YouTube — about Cam Ward (who I haven’t watched) and Pennix Jr.

Firstly, I thought Pennix Jr played very well against Michigan State. Washington haven’t been a fun or interesting team in a long time. They look fun again.

However — let’s not forget that Michigan State had the worst passing defense in college football last season. It looks no better in 2022. They were a fraud being ranked at #11. The good news is — Ken Walker clearly carried that team last year and now he’s in Seattle.

On top of that, Kalen DeBoer’s scheme is very quarterback friendly. He was appointed for his work at Fresno State where he made Jake Haener look good. The design and scheming is terrific, modern and a real positive for UW. They are in good hands.

But I think people are going to start talking up Pennix Jr as a major pro-prospect and we really need to be careful with that. He is a player who achieved very little in four years with Indiana. Last year he had four touchdowns and seven picks before getting hurt. He’s had three major injuries in his career. He’s playing in a system that does a lot of the heavy lifting and doesn’t demand too much from the quarterback in terms of progressions.

He’s in a scheme that is great for quarterbacks and he’s enjoyed playing the opponents he has so far. Right now — I’d suggest just enjoying the games and letting this thing roll.

It’s time to let Anthony Richardson be

Despite all of the impressive physical tools — Richardson isn’t ready for the NFL.

He needs to focus on development this year.

He is yet to throw a touchdown pass and has now delivered four interceptions. He played badly again in a nail-biting Florida win against South Florida. A quick reminder — USF were 28-0 down in the first quarter against BYU two weeks ago.

Richardson did everything he could to help the Bulls pull off an upset.

He threw a dreadful interception on 3rd and 7 with 12:16 remaining in the third quarter. He progressed to his second read and yet I have no idea what he saw to make him think, ‘I’m throwing this’. He chucked it over the middle and didn’t see the defender, who was just stood there waiting to pick it off. It was a horrible mistake and showed the great processing we saw in week one against Utah was a mirage.

The error blew open the game. Florida was in control and suddenly, they were on the ropes.

Then, in an attempted recovery, he helped Florida to first and goal at the five with 7:58 remaining. Richardson tried to throw a back shoulder fade to the left front corner of the end zone. The defender just read it, gained position and intercepted the pass. He needed to throw the pass higher with more loft.

Florida escaped with a 31-28 win because South Florida duly threw a pick of their own and blew a chance to pull off the upset.

Richardson finished 10/18 for 112 yards, a QBR of 11.6 and again he was a non-factor as a runner — going 7/24.

He simply isn’t ready to be talked about as a NFL prospect. He might just be a great athlete, to be honest. We have seen nothing in the last two weeks to think he should even be on the pro-radar. He has the tools, now he needs to become an actual quarterback.

He has a career TD/INT ratio of 7/10. He is off the radar until he plays far better than this. He looks like a player with a handful of starts. At this rate, he might be benched soon.

Closing thoughts

Based on what we’re seeing so far — I’m not convinced Tyler Van Dyke and Anthony Richardson will even declare. That could create a three horse race at the top of the first round involving Levis, Stroud and Young.

A lot of teams need a quarterback and appear to be readying themselves to draft one in 2023.

It’s still far too early to say definitively how easy it’ll be for the Seahawks to find an answer — whether that’s based on how the prospects perform or how many games Seattle wins.

However — based on what we saw in Santa Clara — they are going to need to find impact game-changers who dramatically increase the talent level on this team moving forwards.

The plan to do so — moving on from Wilson, getting a bunch of picks — is sound.

Actually being able to execute is a whole different ball game. Ask the 49ers how easy it is to find a quarterback, after they spent a kings ransom to acquire Trey Lance. Ask the Colts — who go from one tired quarterback option to the next year after year. Ask the Bears — who haven’t had a franchise quarterback in decades.

The assumption that solutions in the draft would be readily available was comforting and helped justify the direction. It might not be quite as simple as some perhaps considered.

As such, Seahawks fans deserve to see more than they did on the field on Sunday. As they try to see a future that involves competitive football again — the baffling trick-plays in the red zone, the poor tackling, the six quarters of scoreless, impotent offense where they struggle to cross half-way (let alone threaten the scoreboard), the inability to game-plan D.K. Metcalf into any kind of role, the missing-in-action running game — it all needs to be far better to warrant faith in this process.

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