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Curtis Allen’s week twelve watch points (vs Washington)

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

With the season quickly unraveling we are now transitioning from talking about slim playoff hopes to just scrapping to avoid a first losing season since 2011.

Unfortunately, the team is going to Washington to play a tough matchup with the Football Team. At 4-6 they are currently only one game better than the 3-7 Seahawks but this game is a classic example of the old truth that ‘it is not who you play but when you play them.’

The Football Team are riding a two-game winning streak and have looked impressive in wins against Tampa Bay and Carolina. Moreover, the way they are winning spells trouble for the Seahawks. Some of their recent areas of success on offense align with recent demonstrated weak spots for the Seahawks’ defense:

Sound familiar? The Seahawks are coming off a game where they couldn’t get the defense off the field, nor keep the offense on it and it disrupted their entire strategy.

So, this upcoming game will either further expose their lack of effective coaching and player development or help stem the tide of their recent awful play.

Might as well steer into the skid. How can they do this and return to their standard of play?

Convert third downs on offense

Broken record time: The Seahawks are 30th in the NFL in third downs on offense, converting only 32.41% so far this season. To keep the game on schedule, the offense needs to do their job. Do well on first and second downs and make third downs manageable. Avoid low-percentage plays on third down.

This week’s game is the absolute litmus test as to whether they will execute or not on third downs this season. How so?

Washington is the worst team in the NFL defending on third downs. A brief statistical snapshot to highlight how truly bad they have been:

-They are giving up a first down conversion on 52.99% of third downs
-That is 13% worse than the next-lowest team in the league
-They are conceding a 127.5 quarterback rating on third downs, with only five sacks in 99 pass attempts, with 8.5 passing yards per attempt – their highest number allowed for any down

An offense converting 32.41% vs a defense conceding 52.99%. Something’s got to give.

Washington allowed only 22% of third downs to be converted last week in their win against Carolina. So there is improvement to speak of. Still, they need to prove this was not a one-week anomaly.

What are their issues with third down defense? And how can the Seahawks take advantage?

Their pass rush is still very good. They are tracking with similar numbers to 2020 (although Chase Young is out for the season with an injury). So that is not the problem.

Everyone else on defense is though. Their defense behind the line has been awful in defending the pass. Have a look at this chart of their seven most targeted defenders and their performance so far this season:

Those numbers are terrible. The twenty-one passing touchdowns allowed for those seven players? Twenty-nine whole NFL teams have not allowed as many passing touchdowns as these seven guys combined. Collins and Jackson are tied for the second-most passing touchdowns conceded in the NFL.

Collins’ six touchdowns conceded are already a career-worst for him in only ten games. He is also headed towards collecting career-highs in targets, missed tackles and quarterback rating conceded. Thankfully the Football Team cannot bench him, as he is $17million against the cap this year. So they are forced to play him and hope he breaks out of his slump.

Here is just one play that is illustrative of their woes in the passing game:

First off, Collins on McCaffrey is a mismatch, particularly on a seam route where the speed advantage is obvious. It gets worse — as Collins allows McCaffrey to freely run his route without any physicality. He seems to not be pursuing McCaffrey with urgency – likely because he figures has support in Holcumb. Yet Holcumb takes too shallow a route and McCaffrey flies right past him and Newton throws a beautiful ball for an easy touchdown.

This is one example but watching this defense play, you see things like this pop up on nearly every series. They are uncoordinated in zone coverage and unable to make plays in man coverage. Teams have run slants, wheel routes and crossing routes at will on them. Tight ends have shredded them when targeted.

Those routes are prime opportunities for gains on all three downs. The Seahawks must take advantage of these chances. Gerald Everett seems to be gaining steam as a piece of the offense. Tyler Lockett has been criminally underused on third downs. And Will Dissly could use a good game after dropping a critical pass last week.

It is not all a cakewalk on offense though. They will have to contend with a budding superstar on the defensive line who can wreck the entire game.

Contain Jonathan Allen

Allen is having a fantastic season so far and is well on his way to establishing a completely new level of play for himself. Remarkably, he is quite near to establishing career-highs for all pass rushing stats after only ten games.

His season is eerily similar to the season one of the NFL’s best players is having:

The game film confirms the similarity. He is a monster.

Here are some clips of Allen going toe to toe with Ali Marpet in Week Ten that are something to marvel at:

Fans of top-notch interior defensive line play will thoroughly enjoy some more of the ferocity Allen has displayed this season:

My personal favorite is at 2:08. Watch him literally grab Billy Price and just manhandle him out of his way and then accelerate to Daniel Jones and spin him to the ground like he is a ragdoll. Impressive.

A quote from head coach Ron Rivera on his play this season:

“He’s physical at the point of attack, more so than anything else,” Rivera said. “You get a lot of guys that stutter and float looking for an opportunity. Jonathan just goes forward and it’s the quickest route to the quarterback. When he’s doing that, he’s having success.”

He is a handful and Damien Lewis and Ethan Pocic will need to be at their best in order to keep him from constantly collapsing the pocket from the interior and redirecting running backs into his teammates’ waiting arms.

One slight positive to hold onto is the Seahawks offensive line had their best game of the season last year in a Week Fifteen win in Washington. Russell Wilson was not sacked. the offensive line surrendered only eight pressures and the team ran for 181 yards on the ground in an impressive performance despite missing starter Brandon Shell. It would be a huge boost to the offense if they could duplicate that performance.

Let’s be honest though. Allen is going to have his plays.

How much impact those plays make may have less to do with the offensive line than you think…

Russell Wilson must return to form

As you can see from the first two points, Russell Wilson will need to find the open man while making sure his countdown clock is functioning properly. The circumstances of this game are crying out for Wilson to manage it effectively.

There will be plenty of opportunities to make passes against a struggling secondary. Wilson still has his complete arsenal of targets and Dee Eskridge should be returning to full health and form enough to have a handful of snaps where he can contribute some electricity to the mix.

Wilson has typically struggled with tough interior rushers though. The Seahawks would be well advised to give him a moving pocket and utilize some of the pre-snap motion to get him just the extra couple steps of room he needs to react to interior pressure.

Another area of note that could benefit the Seahawks’ offense is passing penalties. Last year I wrote about Washington’s effectiveness in avoiding those penalties:

Everyone knows WFT has a brilliant front four. But it’s worth noting the backfield is complementing the pass rush in a very smart way by only committing 4 pass interference calls and 1 defensive holding call in 13 games. So not only do they have a great pass rush, the supporting cast is extremely disciplined, and they’re not going to help you make your way down the field.

Washington did commit a big pass interference penalty on a Seahawk touchdown drive in that game that moved them into the red zone, so that is one area their discipline failed them.

How are they doing in keeping passing penalties in check in 2021? Far worse.

Last year they were only flagged 13 times for defensive holding or pass interference. They already have eleven flags this year with seven games left to play. Master penalty-drawer Tyler Lockett should be able to get a couple flags in this game for some yardage.

Another area where they need Russell to maximize his very specific gift — he needs to run when he finds openings. It is an undervalued aspect of his game and one that has largely been minimized in recent seasons. It is not a coincidence that this offense’s effectiveness has declined accordingly.

If Russell counts to three after the snap, nobody is open, and there is a lane, he should take the opportunity to gain some yards.

Watch him do it last year against Washington for a whopping 38-yard gain:

It doesn’t matter if he is not as fast as he used to be. It really doesn’t. He is adding that ‘one more stresser’ element to the offense and it wears defenses down. There are not many things more frustrating than the pass rush doing their job, the defensive backs sticking with their receivers, everything breaking down offensively and then the quarterback defying all those challenges and scampering for a first down.

It can even open up further pockets for the passing game.

Watch Cam Newton utilize his running tendencies on a beautiful touchdown throw:

He takes off, draws the linebacker and safety to him to open up a lane and pulls up and flips the ball to the D.J. Moore for an easy score.

Russell needs a couple of these kinds of plays where he makes things happen with his legs, his creativity and his arm to really get in gear. Frankly, the earlier in the game the better.

The running game may have a struggle with this tough interior line and an offensive line that has been marginal at best this season. Ground and pound to establish play-action might take too much time to get going. Calling two short runs and then looking to Russell to bail them out on third and long and we’re right back to answering questions about third downs and cheering Michael Dickson’s punting performance.

Let Russ be Russ. A return to his classic form is just what the doctor ordered. This staff needs to do everything in their power to make this happen.

Speaking of quarterbacks giving their offense a jolt…

Stop Taylor Heinicke in critical downs

Since Taylor Heinicke has taken over for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick you can draw a straight line between the offense’s performance on third and fourth downs and winning or losing.

In four Washington wins with Heinicke at the helm, the offense is converting at an incredible 52% of third and fourth downs. In their five losses, 36%.

So Heinicke’s performance in their last two games, wins by Washington? Hold onto your hat:

Those are absolutely brilliant numbers. The envy of every offense that has been sputtering in critical situations lately, including our own Seattle Seahawks.

Heinicke and Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner (son of Norv) have discovered a groove together that has worked very, very well. Washington is certainly not the most talented offensive unit but they deploy their players in a coordinated way that gives them easy yards. They effectively balance speed, explosion (J.D. McKissic) and toughness in the running game (Antonio Gibson) with a wide receiver that balances those qualities and is coming into his own in a big way (Terry McLaurin).

They are not dependent on just their top players, though. Turner has Heinicke distributing the ball extremely well, giving players opportunities to get open and make plays with a degree of unpredictability that challenges defenses.

Watch this beautifully coordinated play to get DeAndre Carter a touchdown:

Turner has drawn up a play that “sacrifices” a man (Tight End John Bates) to get Carter open with a double move. It works effectively as Carter is wide open and Heinicke has a relatively simple throw to make off of his primary read.

If you have seventeen minutes and you are so inclined, have a look at this video of the Football Team’s final drive to seal the win against Tampa. It’s a beauty:

The drive takes over 10 minutes, covers 80 yards, burns Tampa’s two last timeouts and the two-minute warning. All Tom Brady can do is throw a few balls on the sideline to stay loose and look at his tablet. I dare say it is a masterpiece; the Seahawks would do well to integrate some of the concepts shown in this drive.

The Seahawks should be very familiar with some of the schemes that Washington deploys. They face it against teams like the Rams and Niners regularly.

Everyone on the defense will be tested. Attention to their assignments and gap responsibilities will be critical. One direct way to defend these schemes: disruption. Do not allow the blockers the edge; nor receivers a free release. Far too often you witness them having room to run their formations exactly as drawn up.

Look at 2:44. The receivers block the defensive backs easily and McLaurin has enough time to loop back round them and get behind the pulling offensive linemen for a nice gain.

At 3:28, you see the left side of the offensive line set the edge with authority and give Carter time to run behind them on a misdirection play. The very next play, the same edge is set handily and Gibson has a nice run. And the next play as well.

They fake a toss sweep to the same side and everyone bites — while Heinicke rolls to his right and has a wide open Bates to throw to.

At 9:08 Adam Humphries gets a pretty soft reception from Mike Edwards and easily gets into position to get a first down catch.

The defense must be ready to disrupt these routes and concepts. On the defensive line, Carlos Dunlap needs to demonstrate his physicality in setting the edge. Bryan Mone, Poona Ford and Al Woods must step up their play inside so as to not let Gibson power through.

The defensive backs must be ready to attack, not just react, to these schemes. Speed, closing ability and toughness will be critical.

If they can keep this defense from consistently giving Heinicke open looks, they can win on key downs. To keep the offense moving forward, he will do what most quarterbacks tend to do in those situations — press and take chances. Eight of Heinicke’s nine interceptions have occurred in losses.

The Seahawks will need to take advantage when the opportunity arises.

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Appearance on Jake & Stacey today (710 ESPN)

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

If you missed it earlier… we cover the big topics…

Three players I’m adding to my ‘possible R1 watch-list’

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Abraham Lucas — get him on your radar

I’ve been down on the 2022 draft class and for good reason. There are a small pool of quality players who deserve to go in the top-10. Then, there’s a lot of unknowns. I think the combine this year will be more important than ever. There’s going to be about 60 players who are all graded very similarly. A great workout will be a difference maker.

Yet when I watch the players below, it gets the juices flowing again…

Bernhard Raimann (T, Central Michigan)

There are few things more exciting that seeing a highly athletic, aggressive left tackle capable of playing with agility and light feet, yet willing to mix it up in the power game.

Raimann shows very athletic footwork. It allows him to recover and counter when things don’t go entirely to plan. He handles the speed rush with a good kick-slide and he’s capable of being a ‘dancing bear’ to seal off the edge.

He’s able to bench-press on contact by getting his hands inside to stone speed-to-power rushes. His powerful hands connect and lock-on vs the bull rush and he can plant the anchor against bigger rushers. Raimann’s a finisher, too. He’s not hanging on before eventually the defensive end releases and breaks to the quarterback. A lot of tackles do that. They’re trying to delay to buy a quarterback time. Raimann’s mindset seems to be he’ll block until the end of the quarter if necessary.

The other really attractive aspect is his willingness to get to the second level in the running game. He explodes from the snap, radars in on a linebacker and executes.

Raimann’s ideally sized at 6-7 and 305lbs with room to add more weight if required. Reportedly he’s capable of a 4.60 shuttle, a 33-inch vertical and a 9-8 broad jump. He’s been timed at 1.56 in the 10-yard split and he can press 450lbs. Numbers like that get you into the high first round mix. He’s a former Austrian exchange student who has been working with NFL O-line coach Paul Alexander to develop his skills for the next level.

Along with Northern Iowa’s brilliant Trevor Penning, the two best offensive tackles in this class could be smaller school prospects. Evan Neal is usually projected as the top tackle, thanks to his status at Alabama (starting as a true freshman) and the fact he led Bruce Feldman’s freak list this year. I have some reservations about Neal. I’m not sure whether his best position is actually guard and whether he has some agility limitations to stick at left tackle. It didn’t take long for Las Vegas to shift Alex Leatherwood to guard, after all — and he tested very well.

In terms of attitude, aggressive nature, skill and athleticism — I think Penning and Raimann might be the best tackles on the board. At a time when Seattle’s two tackles are both free agents in the off-season — and with the increasing prospect of major changes across the board — the emergence of these two players is extremely encouraging.

If you are of the mind to desire major change in the off-season and want to see the O-line revamped with high picks — these two names, along with Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross (who I think will kick inside to guard in the NFL) and Alabama’s Neal might be the names to focus on. There’s one other name to mention that I’ll come on to later…

Trey McBride (TE, Colorado State)

The tight end position is arguably more dependant on specific traits than most others. The top players all test extremely well in terms of agility (three-cone, short shuttle) and I’m always hesitant to go ‘all-in’ on a tight end until we see these results.

Yet watching McBride on tape — I couldn’t help but envisage a role as a poor-man’s Travis Kelce.

Again, let’s make the qualifier that athleticism matters. Kelce ran a 7.09 three cone and a 4.42 short shuttle. The Kelce family genes are utterly remarkable. McBride is going to have to test at a certain level to justify any comparison like that.

Yet he’s similarly sized, is a good mover at the second level and he is used as basically a #1 target in much the way Kelce is. You’ll see him in the slot, at H-Back, as an orthodox in-line TE. He attacks the seam with long-striding acceleration but can also run corner routes adequately and he challenges defenders with a competitive spirit when the ball’s in the air. He’s a sure-handed and reliable catcher even in traffic.

His YAC ability is seriously impressive — as he drives through contact and finishes runs.

What usually separates players like this going early or in the mid-rounds is athleticism and blocking. We’ll see how he tests but there’s no doubt about his willingness to block. He’s not the biggest at 6-4 and 260lbs but he gives everything at the LOS. His footwork enables a strong base, he keeps his feet moving to drive on contact and there are flashes of violence where he buries opponents into the turf, playing until the whistle.

He sometimes exposes his chest affording for a loss of leverage in the hand-battle — but he’s a tight end. He’s not going to win every 1v1.

McBride has every opportunity to become a QB’s best friend in the passing game and a coaches dream because he can stay on the field for any play-call.

If he has a good combine, the sky’s the limit for him. Based on what I’ve seen, he’s a fringe first rounder. Test well and he confirms an early grade. If he’s an average athlete in terms of agility, he’ll stick until the middle-rounds. He has the talent though to be a big X-factor at the next level.

Abraham Lucas (T, Washington State)

When I first watched Lucas, I was stunned why he gets so little attention on a national level. Purely from the eye-test alone — he’s 6-7 and 320lbs and just screams ‘NFL offensive tackle’. He has an ideal long frame with great athleticism.

Watching him control and handle Kayvon Thibodeaux was enough to have me sold but the more I watched the more I liked. I don’t think I’ve seen a right tackle since Tyron Smith look so comfortable operating in space, blocking 1v1 in pass-pro.

His footwork to handle stunts is incredible and he reads them well. He doesn’t get too deep in his drop but he’s athletic enough to be able to stick with top speed rushers and contain. So many players are terrified at facing a player like Thibodeaux that they cede so much ground off the snap and invite pressure. They’re playing defense. Lucas is an offensive-minded tackle who backs his own physical profile to win on the front-foot.

This should be no surprise. At SPARQ he ran a 4.30 short shuttle. Let that sink in. A 4.30 short shuttle. He also added a 5.03 forty yard dash.

It’s no wonder his agility and light-feet are so evident on tape.

Not only that, he manages to avoid over-extending with his arms and just controls his blocks. He complements his big frame and length with agility to create an impossible situation for pass rushers — who can’t get into his frame to attack because he holds them off but they also can’t attack the edge with speed because he’s too quick.

His kick-slide is patient and he chooses the right time to engage and attack. Lucas handles any inside counters well.

As a run blocker I’ve seen more than enough to believe he can be a success there too. There are examples where he locks on to a defensive end and drives them downfield. He’s not quite as aggressive as other tackles in the run game but I can live with it given his outstanding athleticism and pass-pro qualities.

If he has the kind of combine he’s capable of, Lucas could fly up boards. He looks like a player with firm first round potential.

And one name to watch for 2023…

Will Anderson (DE, Alabama)

Wow. Just wow.

Before I even talk about his game, I want to talk about his attitude. I think he is a player you can build a locker room around. His effort, energy and passion are clear.

I don’t know if he wears #31 because he’s a fan of Kam Chancellor. Yet he plays with the same intensity and approach. He’s an alpha, an absolute dog on the field. He is someone with the ability to set the tone.

It’s a bonus that he’s also incredibly talented.

His get-off is superb. He flies out of the traps and challenges tackles with his first-step quickness. Anderson is incredibly difficult to block 1v1 and will likely ask questions of opponents week-to-week in how they approach defending him.

He’s only listed at 6-4 and 245lbs but it’s amazing how capable he is of disengaging with great hands. You’d expect him to be smothered at his size if he tried to mix things up in a physical battle. Yet he can connect and disengage, then explode to the quarterback. These are vital qualities for the next level where the path to the QB is going to be challenging week-to-week.

I think he can line up off the edge but if you want to drop him into space as a SAM or 3-4 OLB, he does an excellent job to string out run plays. You will not find it easy running to his side if he plays off the LOS.

Anderson has a relentless motor and if his first move stalls — he’ll keep fighting to work to the passer. He sifts through traffic, keeps the legs churning and plays with superb balance. He can combine speed and power to vary his rushes and counter when required. His bull-rush is, again, superb for his size.

In one game this year he split a double team from the right tackle and guard to force a pressure — at 245lbs. Against Miami he connected with the right tackle and threw him off to make a play on the running back. He presses against blockers to keep his frame clean to read running plays.

His build is ideal with long limbs, a powerful lower-half and a lean pass-rusher’s frame.

He has an incredible 13.5 sacks and 26.5 (!!!) TFL’s for the 2021 season.

I don’t feel like it’s an overreaction to say this is exactly the type of player Seattle needs. I get the sense that Anderson is destined for an incredible pro-career where he not only develops into a pass-rushing sack-master but also helps set a culture for a team and quickly establishes a role as a big-time leader.

Roll on 2023 to see where he ends up…

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Assessing the futures of Wilson, Carroll & Schneider

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

There likely won’t be any of this next year

It’s starting to feel like the writing’s on the wall.

Change is inevitable. We’re just waiting to see the extent of the change.

Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Russell Wilson will not work together after this year.

It’s simply a case of who, if anyone, returns.

Ownership needs to make that decision now, so the next plan of action can commence as soon as the season concludes.

Whatever they decide — clarity is required from the moment the final pass is thrown of this wretched season.

Yet with this being the only serious topic in Seattle sports right now, we still have to debate, project and opine.

So here’s what I think, approaching December…

Russell Wilson will seek a trade

I don’t believe Wilson wants out of Seattle. I think he cares passionately about the city and the team. For someone so focused on legacy, he knows the importance of being a one-team man.

Yet I think he realises that in order to max out his career, he needs to be playing for a particular coach with a specific supporting cast.

The ideal home is with Sean Payton in New Orleans.

The Saints have had a year of ‘giving it a go’ with a collection of bad quarterbacks and the depth and talent of their roster is being squandered.

They are primed to make a run at a top veteran quarterback.

Forget the slightly strange contract extension for Taysom Hill announced today. If he was the answer at quarterback, they wouldn’t be starting Trevor Siemian.

Even if Carroll and Schneider depart (and I think both will need to go for there to be any chance of Wilson sticking around) — the Seahawks would still need to convince the quarterback that Seattle is the place to be with their subsequent appointments.

That’s going to be especially difficult to do. I can’t think of a Head Coach who would realistically convince Wilson. It would need to be a proven, prolific offensive mind with a track record. It’d almost have to be going out and trading for a Sean Payton.

That’s implausible, of course. It’s the kind of bold, ambitious move you could imagine Paul Allen pulling off. This ownership group, however, are a total unknown. And the Seahawks feel like a less trendy franchise for a prospective big beast of football coaching.

Thus, I think whatever happens, Wilson will seek to arrange an amicable split with the team. He will want a clean cut, a non-messy divorce, that allows him to part on good terms.

His non-trade clause also means he’ll get a big say in where he ends up. If New Orleans keep losing and their first round pick in 2022 continues to rise, they become a more realistic option. The Seahawks might be left hoping Wilson’s more open to a team like the Giants or Eagles, given they have multiple first round picks to spend.

Some people would celebrate a deal like this and suggest a huge rebuild is required, with Wilson the sacrificial lamb to gain cap space and draft picks.

We know how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback. We can see other teams — desperate teams — struggling because they are left picking through the scraps of what is available.

You can have a really good team and struggle badly because of your quarterback. For every ‘Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ example — there are far more teams who struggle with mediocre quarterback play undermining a strong roster.

You could include the 2011 Seahawks as a striking example.

They’ve had no such worries since 2012, which coincides with you-know-who being drafted 75th overall.

Pete Carroll will walk

I’ve felt for a while this’ll be Carroll’s final season. The out-of-the-blue LA Times article on his USC days, just as they were looking for a new coach, felt telling. Jay Glazer reported in 2017 that Carroll considered retiring before a big re-set — and they’re facing another one now. His body language has been very different this year. He’s seemed erratic, cluttered and the shambolic press conference last night was another example of a man who seems to have lost his mojo.

Carroll’s Seahawks are passive, soft, boring and have no identity.

As the Head Coach, he takes the main responsibility for that.

His explanations for the issues don’t cut the mustard. He implied on 710 ESPN today that a little bit of fine tuning and execution would have Seattle in position to succeed. The reality is, the Seahawks were just hammered in their own stadium by an Arizona team missing Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and JJ Watt.

Suggesting the Seahawks ‘only needed a couple more third down conversions’ sounds logical. When you are demolished by a team missing key starters and fielding Colt McCoy at quarterback, the issues go far deeper than Carroll is implying.

Furthermore — the problems we saw against Arizona have been there all season. It’s a coaches duty to right the wrongs and yet Carroll seems totally incapable of producing the answers to the problems.

Currently, the Seahawks would own the #5 overall pick if they hadn’t traded it to the New York Jets. And yet the Head Coach has no solutions.

His team has nothing to hang their hat on. No redeeming quality. They are hard to watch.

It’s time for a change.

Carroll will be well aware of what sticking around means for him. He’ll be the coach who saw off Wilson. He would then need to begin a major rebuild, with three years left on his contract and no realistic ability to take this on for another 8-10 years under a new QB.

It took them three drafts to find Wilson. It’s improbable to imagine Carroll wanting to spend the next three looking for a replacement, then launching a new era of Seahawks power football in his mid-70’s.

Especially with such a dire looking quarterback landscape in college football.

Whether Carroll retires or takes on one of the many college football job available, we’ll see. But I think we all acknowledge he’s coming to the end and I don’t think he’s going to persevere. I think he knows what’s going on.

He’s paying the price for his own hubris and lack of direction in terms of roster construction. He needed to be willing to take a back seat and become the overseer rather than the puppet-master.

He needed to do what Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have been willing to do. Hand the offense over to an experienced, skilled play-caller and let them dictate everything on that side of the ball. I would argue he should’ve done the same with the defensive coordinator. Be the leader. Set the culture. Motivate people. Allow others to look at the nuts and bolts of scheming.

Instead he doubled down, persisted with his family members, close friends and Carl ‘Tater’ Smith on his staff. All in the name of total control. It was a huge mistake.

Likewise the roster re-set has been a disaster. Carroll has done everything to undermine his own philosophy — building a team incapable of playing the way he wants to play.

The running game is horrendous and they can’t beat anyone up in the trenches. Squandering millions on average players, wasting picks on crazy trades and ill-fitting rookies. Carroll has taken his vision and committed Harakiri.

He has become a man with a terribly executed plan, no answers on how to fix the problems and he’s increasingly sounding desperate when speaking to the media.

It’s a sad end, one nobody would’ve wanted for this legendary coach.

I suspect he’d be doing himself a big favour by making it clear this is the final year — so we can celebrate all the great things he achieved in Seattle and say goodbye properly, rather than spending the next few weeks resenting him, while wondering if we might be subjected to another year of this.

John Schneider is the big question mark

What happens at GM is the key to everything. I don’t think Schneider and Wilson (and Mark Rodgers) can co-exist together. I think Schneider, given the opportunity, would’ve traded Wilson this year.

Does ownership want to take responsibility for replacing the Head Coach and the GM? Or do they want to hand that off to the General Manager and allow Schneider to become king-maker?

After all, they handed him a big extension just a matter of months ago. That, if nothing else, felt like a statement of intent and backing.

Even so, I wonder if Schneider even wants to carry on. Does he want to oversee a huge rebuild? Or would he rather take a break and come back re-energised with a new team in a year or two?

If he does continue, it’s plausible that ownership will ask him to shape the future of the team. And even if serious questions need to be asked about Seattle’s recent drafting and the Jamal Adams trade — it would at least be somewhat interesting to see what Schneider’s vision is after all these years of supporting Carroll and trying to deliver what he wants.

Whether he deserves the opportunity after the last few off-seasons is the key question. Bad drafts, suspect free agent decisions, squandered resources and too often a roster covered in band-aids.

I can imagine Schneider finding some traits within this quarterback class to admire. There isn’t a Wilson for him to fall for but he typically likes big-armed quarterbacks so he may appreciate some of the players, such as Carson Strong (knee permitting). I can see Schneider being a big fan of Kenny Pickett too.

He would need to make big decisions on key players. Is it time to move on from the likes of Bobby Wagner? Do they need to consider the possibility of trading D.K. Metcalf rather than paying him? Do they need to write-off the Jamal Adams contract and just move on?

Only recently Jason La Canfora connected Schneider to Aaron Rodgers. If Carroll goes, does it open the door for a Rodgers trade to replace Wilson, while adding a coach who can handle the strong-minded QB?

How do they become tougher and more physical rather than the soft, noisy front-runners they’ve become?

What will it take to become a team built in the trenches, that can once again beat-up opponents and be the bully?

Big questions and a big job. One I’m not completely convinced Schneider deserves or will have the appetite for. Yet of the three key individuals in Seattle right now, he might be the most likely to stay. If for no other reason than it gives ownership someone to lean on to deliver a replacement Head Coach.

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Instant reaction live stream (post Cardinals)

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

No instant reaction tonight

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

Hi all — the BBC has re-acquired radio rights to the NFL and tonight I am co-hosting for Cowboys vs Chiefs. I will have half an eye on the Seahawks but will need to watch the game in full to pass comment sufficiently. I will do that when I get home.

Feel free to use this as an open thread.

Some thoughts on Nevada QB Carson Strong

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Carson Strong has had a very consistent three-year career at Nevada

Earlier this week I compiled notes on all of the ‘big name’ quarterbacks eligible for the 2022 draft. It was an exercise to highlight the dearth of alternatives as a means of push back to the growing number of fans entertaining the idea of trading Russell Wilson.

In many cases these fans are attracted to the idea of a cheap quarterback on a rookie contract. Often, however, they haven’t spent any time looking at who or what is available in college football.

If you trade Wilson for three first round picks — those picks have to become good players to justify the move. The pressure is increased by the fact Seattle doesn’t even possess its own 2022 first rounder (which could be a top-10 selection).

Using one of the Wilson picks on a quarterback who isn’t good enough would be the ultimate ‘insult to injury’ scenario. Especially when the aim of drafting a quarterback is to acquire someone of Wilson’s talent, avoiding the treadmill that so many teams end up on — constantly looking for someone remotely qualified to lead a team.

I went back over the last 48 hours to further study Nevada’s Carson Strong. People I have a lot of time for, such as Tony Pauline and Lance Zierlein, rate him highly. I’ve been sceptical.

Of all the 2022 QB’s he was the one I wanted to extend my study on.

I’ve now watched seven games, instead of three, to fill out my thoughts on Strong.

I was right about some things, wrong on some others.

Let’s start with the pro’s.

Strong is a superb anticipation thrower to the sideline. His speed-outs are nearly always thrown with timing and velocity.

Throws from the left hash to the right sideline are like extended handoffs. It’s that automatic.

On any short-range route to the outside, he’ll often throw before the receiver turns to the ball. There’s no wasted time or movement with his technique. If the play-call requires a quick-out, he will snap, turn and throw on the money. His arm strength and ball placement are excellent and it’s a way to get easy yards.

This shouldn’t be underestimated. These throws are not as easy as they look. Wilson himself hasn’t been great at these over his career and a lot of younger quarterbacks take too long to get the ball out, they hesitate to tip-off defensive backs or they don’t have the arm power to just let it rip to the sideline.

This will be a useful tool at the next level to try and contain pressure and push back the blitz. That’s significant for Strong, as we’ll come onto later.

Watching him closely — and seeing one game with all-22 looks — has shown his ability to go through progressions and fit passes into tight windows at an elite college level.

I was stunned, frankly, in some instances to see what he was able to do. There were a couple of games where he went to his first, second, then third read and just uncorked a pass right in the heart of three defenders to a receiver. Yet the strange thing is — despite the impossibly small window — the receiver was the only person capable of completing the catch.

If this makes sense — it was pretty much the safest collection of insanely risky, accurate, driven passes I’ve seen from a college quarterback.

I underestimated his arm strength and these first two positives highlighted that. Furthermore, he isn’t just a reckless ‘big arm for hire’. He is accurate enough to be very intriguing on some of these pinpoint throws.

Technique is important. Being able to square your shoulders to the target, having the right footwork. Your feet and shoulders need to work together and you need that quick, direct release. One of the reasons players like Justin Fields have so many turnovers is purely down to his technical issues. He’s often the best athlete on the field but until he puts the technical aspects together, the sack/fumbles and interceptions will continue.

Strong’s shoulder is often aligned to the target. Once he makes his decision to throw there’s no wasted movement. He has a superb, compact delivery. His whip-like release generates velocity. The ball pops out of his hand and he has a very smooth throwing motion.

He actually does a three step drop well. So many young QB’s in shotgun take 5-7 steps and waste time and get too deep. Strong gets on with the play, knows where he wants to go and his technical qualities (footwork and release) are the best in this class.

Further to this, he can side-step in the pocket to buy a bit of time. It’s subtle but vital. There are instances on tape where he just shuffles to the left or right to buy that extra second — then bang. He makes a completion.

Strong plants his feet and drives on his throws. He doesn’t lift his leg in the air and throw off one foot javelin-style like Malik Willis.

When you give him time in the pocket he makes the prettiest 30-50 yard throws in college football. He had one against Wyoming which was a frozen rope into the tiniest window in good coverage for a 40 yard gain along the left sideline. He shifted to the left of the pocket, set his feet and uncorked. Beautiful throw.

When teams eventually come to evaluate his potential, I think they’ll go to that play a lot as an example of what he’s capable of.

I also like Strong’s interviews and think teams will enjoy meeting with him and will believe in his personality and leadership traits.

Now, let’s get into the con’s.

His mobility and athleticism is a serious issue.

There is zero improv potential and no ability whatsoever to escape pressure to extend plays. He is the definition of a classic, statue-like pocket passer.

Nevada is giving up 2.8 sacks per game in 2021. They’ve given up 28 in 10 games. They’re ranked 100th in college football, level with lowly Arizona and UConn.

(EDIT — he was sacked seven times on Friday night against Air Force, making it 35 sacks in 11 games)

He was also sacked 20 times in nine games in 2020.

This is an incredibly high amount given how well he often gets the ball out quickly — indicating that if you can freeze him in the pocket he will have issues.

As soon as he faces pressure it’s almost always a sack. Any time he’s moved out of the pocket the best case scenario is a throwaway. He cannot throw on the run.

I’m concerned about his ability to even execute boot-legs well. His footwork on the move is plodding and he warrants an F grade for mobility.

Strong’s longest run of the 2021 season is for five yards. Five yards. In the modern NFL you need some modicum of being able to scramble, extend plays and be creative. You don’t have to be Kyler Murray but even Joe Burrow has an ability to extend or break off a few yards for a first down.

Even Matt Ryan looks like a more capable athlete than Strong.

My fear is that as the game quickens up at the next level, will he be able to process quickly in order to operate solely from the pocket?

I think he will need to work with an offensive coordinator who is adept at scheming up targets and he just needs to execute as told. Kyle Shanahan, Josh McDaniels. Those types of schemes. He needs to live in a world where he’s told what his keys are and he just needs to read and throw quickly. He needs to play in a scheme that values pass-catching running backs who can be used as a safety valve. He will need to work a strong screen-game to take the heat out of some of the blitzing.

This is where I want to come back to the speed-outs. If he’s working in a creative system that can put together a lot of quick tempo-passes to keep a defense sitting in coverage, that’s great. You don’t want him clutching the ball. Even his deep shots may need to be decisive, calculated and well schemed with max-protect.

I fear if you try to insert him into any kind of long-developing passing game or allow opponents to play up at the line, you’ll be encouraging trouble. I think teams will blitz the crap out of him and you’re not going to be able to run your way out of this unless you have a dominating O-line from side-to-side.

He’ll need to be paired with a good offensive schemer. As mentioned, I think Shanahan and McDaniels are the types of play-caller that could mask his lack of athleticism.

I can well imagine teams just coming for him with the blitz at the next level and if he doesn’t learn to exploit it quickly, he’ll be a sitting duck. At Nevada — as soon as anyone breaks into the backfield, it’s goodnight Vienna.

Again — his ability to extend plays and get out of the pocket on the move is non-existent.

So while we can (and should) admire his technical ability and arm strength, the thing that will keep him back on many boards is the type of offense you’re going to have to run with him. It’ll need to be one designed for a totally static pocket-passer — at a time when everyone’s looking for mobile quarterbacks who deal with pressure and can get the ball out from all sorts of angles on the move.

Often he had a clean pocket on his best throws for Nevada. There’s little evidence of what he would be like under immense pressure other than the sacks he takes in college. Given his willingness to trust his arm, I would be fearful of what he would try early in his career if he was blitzed a lot. He might develop quickly and get to his hots but so often with young quarterbacks they panic.

Elsewhere, Strong tends to reject open throws to go through his reads — then opts to trust his arm to make a harder throw.

I’ve seen him turn down his first two targets despite both being what you would describe as ‘wide open’ at the NFL level — only to then force things on his third read. To be fair, he completes a lot of those passes. I did get the sense though that he can be put off too easily when the defense is giving you reasonable offers and he only goes for the pass when he knows he’s running out of time.

I’d like to see him be more decisive on his first read. If it’s there, take it. Don’t wait for something to be wide, wide open. I enjoy watching those down-the-seam lasers threaded into the tiniest window but I’d also quite like to see him take what’s there too.

His QBR of 63.6 is only 56th best in CFB this year and he’s thrown seven picks — the most in his three year starting career.

One I thing I noticed is Nevada benefits a lot from unusually poor busted coverages. So while his stats are good — he benefits from things he won’t enjoy as much in the NFL.

The final thing to mention is Strong suffered a serious knee injury in High School and he still wears a chunky brace. I think this is why he generated little in the way of recruiting buzz and was a non-rated prospect. It’s something teams will need to look at during medical checks.

I came away wondering whether Strong was the best quarterback eligible for the 2022 draft after all. Kenny Pickett has far fewer ‘wow’ throws, lacks Strong’s arm strength and hasn’t had the three-year consistency in terms of production. Yet Pickett is much more athletic and capable of being creative.

There are things to like about both players but also big issues that will have teams debating a lot about their pro-potential.

The quarterbacks destined for greatness often standout clearly in college. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know how much I/we loved Kyler Murray — long before anyone considered him a pro-prospect. He just had special qualities. It was very easy to highlight example plays that translated and you couldn’t pick holes in his game.

That type of projection is easy to make. With the likes of Pickett and Strong, it’s far more challenging. I think there’s a lot more ‘Drew Lock’ than ‘Kyler Murray’. Lock had a live arm and good mobility and you could make a case for his pro-prospects. Many did — with plenty of mocks placing him in the first fame (as we’re seeing with Pickett and Strong now).

There were also issues with Lock that we’ve seen repeated in Denver. And I sense when the evaluations come in for these two quarterbacks — teams will be suitably mixed that the majority will think day two rather than day one.

It only takes one team to change that and fall in love with a player. But right now I feel comfortable saying Pickett and Strong are the two to watch in this class yet both probably don’t warrant a grade higher than day two.

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Curtis Allen’s week eleven watch points (vs Cardinals)

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

The Seahawks’ season is on the brink. Talk of ‘the Seahawks could still make the playoffs’ is nearing the end of its legitimacy. At 3-6, facing a tough opponent, they must find a way to put together a win on Sunday.

The chips are down for sure. Questions about the way they are playing and what the future holds hang over this team like a fog. Changes may be inevitable one way or another.

That does not mean it is time to fold on this game. Arizona is looking mighty good so far this season. But let’s not kid ourselves, when division teams play each other, you throw the records out the window and steel yourself for a dogfight.

The Seahawks have too much pride to just give a middling effort. Which is good, because this week’s game is going to take something special from this team to come away with a win.

Defend Kyler Murray

Murray has missed the last two weeks with a sprained ankle and Kliff Kingsbury indicated early this week that Murray has ‘a chance’ to play Sunday. The Seahawks would do well to prepare as if he is playing this week.

Murray has taken a big step forward this season and his impact is being felt by his team, the division and all over the league.

He is leading the NFL in completion percentage by a healthy margin, aided by his receivers, who have the second-fewest dropped passes in the NFL. (Note: the Seahawks have the fewest). Also helping is his accuracy has improved dramatically. Last year he had 88 bad throws that counted for 16.8% of his total passes. This year? He is on pace for only 56 bad throws for 12.3% — a very healthy drop and good for a spot in the Top-5 in the NFL for that category.

He is maturing as a passer and taking it out on defenses across the league.

Is he playing the same style he always has, just at a higher level? No. He has changed his play significantly. He has vastly reined in his rushing attempts in 2021. So far this year he only has 147 rushing yards in eight games. For comparison, he gained more rushing yards in only the first two games last season.

The Cardinals have given him so many weapons for the passing game, and supplemented that with good runners, Murray does not need to run the ball as much to provide the team with offense.

He is still deadly with his feet though. He just uses them differently. Primarily this season, it is to escape the pass rush and buy time for receivers to get open — and he is doing an absolutely incredible job at it.

This year when being blitzed, he has – I cannot believe I am typing this – a 142 QB rating, 27 first down throws, seven touchdowns, only one interception and has only been sacked seven times. For comparison, last season when blitzed, his QB rating was a mere 88, with only five touchdown throws the entire season.

He has mainly done it by turning a weakness into a strength. As recently as last season, his accuracy was poor when on the run. If he had time to reset his feet and throw, and if the receiver was reasonably open, sure, he was fine. But throwing on the run and into a tight window was a wild adventure and could be exploited.

No more. He has improved greatly in this area, to the point where he is now among the top quarterbacks in the league at throwing on the run.

Take a look at this highlight package from the Cardinals’ Week Six game against the Browns:

Cue the video to 0:33. Murray takes off and throws a bullet to Christian Kirk a bit across his body. Look at his mechanics on that throw. They are not great, but it works for him. No coach would show this play to his quarterback to demonstrate proper technique. But it is right on the money and it moves the chains.

Now look at 0:53. Murray glides to the left, does not set his feet but still hits Kirk again in the end zone with zip and accuracy for a brilliant touchdown throw.

At 6:18 he moves out of the pocket and finds Rondale Moore in space for a conversion on third and 9.

How in the world do you defend that kind of athleticism and accuracy? Particularly when you have AJ Green, Zach Ertz, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, and DeAndre Hopkins running around in the secondary?

I am going to call back to a quote from last year’s first Watch Points post I did on the Cardinals when talking about Murray: Don’t get rattled by a dazzling play. You’ll get opportunities against him. Stay disciplined and do your job.

He is going to have some really nice plays. Some plays that will even make you shake your head. But you have to keep your head up, maintain your assignments and count on your teammates to do their job.

Is there a way to take the edge off of his play, perhaps at a few key times that can disrupt him and frustrate this brilliant player? There is.

The Seahawks need to employ a delayed blitz / spy role defender against Murray on Sunday.

How can that be an effective weapon against him? Go back to that video and cue those three plays and watch them again. Watch Murray. Is he scrambling because there is pressure right up in his face? No, he is not.

He has developed a habit this year that has yet to be properly exploited. He scrambles to get a better view of the field and buy some time – not simply because he is being chased by a rusher and is an amazing escape artist.

Someone like Jordyn Brooks, Jamal Adams, Ryan Neal or Bobby Wagner would be an ideal weapon to just stay put for half a heartbeat after the snap, see the play develop and where the lanes are open to Murray and then use all your speed to take off into that lane.

At worst, you block his view and clog a passing lane. Maybe even get your hands up and defense a pass. At best, you frustrate him by taking a way a comfortable habit he has developed and make him stay in the pocket more often — containing those incredible feet and making him susceptible to being sacked.

Look at 0:53 on the video again. Ronnie Harrison Jr (#33) is in No Man’s Land at the 14-yard line. He has dropped into a zone but the second Murray took off running to his area he could have attacked and closed quickly enough to effect the throw. But he did not, so all he can do is flail his arms up at Murray in a half-hearted attempt to bat a ball 3 feet above his reach.

One of the major reasons Murray is having so much success against blitzes is this habit he has developed is a great practical way to just get away from pressure that is coming right off the snap. It is a ‘programmed response’ to pass rushers.

What a spy does is it lets Murray make the first move, and commit to where he is going, rather than react to a blitzer coming full steam at him that he can just sidestep with his speed and agility.

Let’s look at a couple examples of this. Cue the video to 7:52. Troy Hill comes on a DB blitz. Murray takes his usual step to escape but senses the trouble and is trapped. He only has one way to move – forward, into the easiest sack Myles Garrett will record this year.

Cue it to 8:08. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah comes on a delayed blitz on a third down. Does he get the sack? No, but he occupies a lane, and Murray has no choice but to dump it off to avoid the pressure, and they fail to get the first down.

It may be argued that dedicating a man to Kyler Murray is a luxury the defense cannot afford. That is fair considering all the players they have that can catch passes. But stopping the passes at their source is the top priority. It will likely mean being aggressive and taking some chances, and that is not the Seahawks’ strong suit this season. But these are chances worth taking.

A few key stops in this area could short circuit this lightning fast processor and give the Seahawks a chance to wrest control of the game away from him.

Take your shots on this defense

Arizona has done a fine job with their defense this year and it is showing. They are fourth in the NFL in scoring defense, fourth in yards conceded, fourth in passing yards conceded and 19th in rushing yards conceded. All fine marks that contribute to their success.

That does not mean they are unbeatable. In fact, they have been frequently been susceptible to the explosive pass play.

Two weeks ago the Cardinals defense surrendered nine explosive pass plays to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Last week, the Panthers ran a very conservative short-passing offense for Phillip Walker to run, and yet he still managed to get two explosive pass plays, while the running game chipped in three explosive runs in the win.

The point being — there are opportunities there for the taking. Russell Wilson will have another week of healing and practice reps to get ready, and he has a demonstrated history of being able to burn this Arizona defense.

How about targeting rookie Marco Wilson at corner? He was taken just before Tre Brown in the fourth round this year and has played virtually every snap for the Cardinal defense so far this year. How is he doing?

Not good so far, to put it lightly. Of the top-50 most targeted defenders in the NFL, he has allowed the highest quarterback rating – a ghastly 126.1. He has five touchdown passes conceded (tied for 2nd worst in the NFL) and has four missed tackles.

As Hugh Millen likes to say — they got a pigeon on their side. Light him up.

This is a player the Seahawks should toy with. Have Metcalf run some simple slants on him to get into his head. Then a slant and go route.

He is 5’11”. How about throwing a ball up there and letting Metcalf go get it like he did in the Jacksonville game? That was as good-looking a play as any deep bomb.

We also know that Tyler Lockett has had success against this defense. Last year in two games he had 24 catches for 267 yards, four touchdowns and fifteen first downs.

The history of success against this team is well earned. They need to find that aggression again and not shy away from this challenge.

Of course, Russell Wilson will have to be upright in order to make those throws…

The Offensive Line Must Play Well

The offensive line has been dreadful the last few games. There have been challenges in all areas, from pass protection to run blocking. Even Duane Brown has given up more sacks this year than any of us are accustomed to seeing from his side.

They contributed to Russell Wilson’s rough day in Green Bay:

What is worse, the Packers achieved pressure with four or less rushers, leaving them free to flood coverage behind the line of scrimmage and take away the easy passes:

J.J. Watt may be out for the season but the Cardinals still have Markus Golden and Chandler Jones as major threats. Those two have as many sacks this year as the entire Seahawk defense combined.

They must be contained. Any talk of jump-starting this team begins with getting Russell Wilson going again. He just cannot function without time to throw.

Time for the boys up front to dig deep and put together a solid performance on Sunday.

They also need to find a way to get some holes for the running backs. The Cardinals have been effectively attacked with inside runs lately, just the kind that Alex Collins likes.

A productive running game will surely light the way to success. It will keep the red-hot Cardinals offense off the field and give Russell Wilson his opportunities to survey the field and make plays.

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No, the Seahawks shouldn’t trade Russell Wilson

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

It’s increasingly clear some Seahawks fans have been itching to get on the ‘trade Russell Wilson’ bandwagon.

They’ve been building up to it for a while — they just needed the green light to put their foot down and race forward.

It felt like a few were hoping Geno Smith would play well and ‘do the things Wilson won’t or can’t’ to validate their opinion — but Smith played poorly. They missed their chance.

Now Wilson’s had a bad game in Green Bay, on the day Aaron Rodgers also had a bad game, in his first outing since having a serious finger injury, with the likelihood that he isn’t remotely close to 100%.

They can’t resist. It’s all coming out.

They’re using any evidence they can find to build a case. The confirming of priors is underway.

Some of these fans are the same people who warned ‘be careful what you wish for’ if you want to move on from Pete Carroll because ‘it could send Seattle back to the dark days of the 80’s’.

Now they’re openly advocating trading the reason Seattle has made the playoffs year after year since the LOB was disbanded. They’re ignoring that Pete Carroll himself recently admitted he wouldn’t have been in Seattle as long as he has without Wilson.

They pitch moving on without feeling obliged to offer any reasonable plan at quarterback moving forward.

‘Just draft a QB’ isn’t an answer. It’d be like me saying we ‘just need a boat’ to cross the Atlantic and producing a bath tub and an oar.

The rest of the fan base should hold their feet to the fire on that topic. These fans seemingly haven’t studied the quarterbacks in college. I’ve even been sent suggestions like trading Wilson for picks and one of Jalen Hurts or Daniel Jones.

Presumably these same fans will be the first to complain when they’re watching the Hurts, Jones or Mitchell Trubisky ‘era’ next season — or watching one of the frankly awful 2022 draft eligible QB’s.

There’s often a refusal to acknowledge that having ‘picks’ might be great right up until the point you have to use them on actual players. It could also be the same people who spent first round picks on Rashaad Penny and LJ Collier and traded the house for Jamal Adams making those selections.

Guarantee Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingley Jr and the top left tackle in the class — plus present a viable starting quarterback replacement — and we can talk. This is impossible though. You’d need three top-five picks, including the #1 overall pick.

Simply collecting mid-first rounders over one or two drafts and hoping for the best at the most important position in sports? That’s not a coherent position.

You have to actually turn your picks into good players, which has proven challenging for Seattle, to justify any of this. That’s a huge gamble.

Neither is blowing things up and desiring a major rebuild logical. This is the exact scenario some of these same people warned about. Returning to the dark days. Nothing will bring that closer to reality than shedding the roster in the hope of a long rebuild. Ask the Dolphins or Lions how challenging that is.

Go further and speak to Broncos fans about life without a franchise quarterback. Are you ready to run through the cycle of QB’s they’ve gone through over the years? Do you want to join the collection of teams endlessly searching for a signal caller of the caliber Seattle already possesses?

Teddy Bridgewater one year. An expensive trade for Sam Darnold the next. Needing to consider giving up everything for Deshaun Watson.

The Panthers model is attractive, is it?

It’s never acknowledged this is one of the worst looking draft classes in years in terms of the first round, either.

I’ve seen people claim Wilson is ‘done’.

Presumably these people also felt Patrick Mahomes was ‘done’ as he threw 10 picks in half a season and grimaced his way through ugly game after ugly game before returning to some degree of form against Las Vegas?

Drew Brees threw 48 interceptions between 2012-14. Turnover machine.

Aaron Rodgers missed half a season in 2017 and had a 16/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. When he returned in 2018, he threw only 25 touchdowns and Green Bay won just six games. Finished? He was the MVP two seasons later.

People are writing Wilson off during a season where he’s missed time due to injury for literally the first time in his pro or college career, he has a 104.5 quarterback rating and a 66.7% completion percentage. Prior to the Green Bay game he’d thrown ten touchdowns in five games and just one pick.

How dreadful.

Nobody thinks Wilson is flawless. Even his staunch defenders would acknowledge he hasn’t played his best football since the second half of last season, or that third down conversions haven’t been good enough.

Perhaps some of his biggest critics should be more willing to acknowledge how poor the O-line has been (his guards are graded at 54.2 and 63.6)? Or accept that despite passing on a series of talented running backs (tweet #1, tweet #2), the Seahawks retained too much faith in Chris Carson (and his embarrassing use of Joel Seedman as a personal trainer) and have now been left relying on Alex Collins for a running game.

A running game, by the way, that the Seahawks seemingly don’t trust anywhere near enough and that leaves Carroll admitting almost every week that he wished they’d ‘run more’.

There’s also a lot of fingers going in ears regarding some of the long lasting issues with the Carroll-led Seahawks, such as the way resource has been wasted, how the same issues keep reappearing year after the year, how the Seahawks have become increasingly desperate and seem to start every season with glaring needs, that the roster rebuild since 2018 has contradicted the preferred philosophy of the decision maker in Seattle or how difficult it is to draft a QB early successfully.

Some of these issues were addressed here.

They also appear to be willing to ignore the similarities between Seattle now and the final years of the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay and are unwilling to acknowledge there’s precedent for a fairly straight forward path to return to contention by following the Packers’ lead.

For the sake of a Head Coach and VP of football operations who has overseen a terrible reset since 2018, you really don’t want to at least see what Wilson can do with an offensive-minded Head Coach before throwing everything away?


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Ownership, the Seahawks, big decisions and the 2022 QB class

Monday, November 15th, 2021

Kenny Pickett is probably the #1 quarterback eligible for the 2022 draft

The British columnist Rod Liddle once coined the phrase ‘we’ve reached peak w**k’.

While reflecting on the Seahawks’ current situation, the term felt somewhat appropriate.

This really is the nadir when it comes to the Pete Carroll Seahawks.

They’ve played nine games, meaning there are eight more to be endured in this truly horrible season.

You’ve also got to wait at least eight weeks to find out what on earth will happen with this franchise moving forward.

I suspect many will want to fast forward to January and get on with it.

With so much football to play, the message will remain very much a rallying call. A ‘we’re not giving up’ type of address.

The more frank, deeper, reflective comments won’t come for a while.

It also means fans have an enormous amount of time to stew on the future.

Is this Carroll’s final year? What’s going to happen with Russell Wilson? Is it time for John Schneider to move on?

These questions could easily create anxiety for a fan base suddenly staring at a crossroads. The direction to be taken will be determined by a mostly unknown and anonymous ownership group who’ve barely uttered a sentence in public since the passing of Paul Allen.

In the meantime, Allen’s other great sporting venture — the Portland Trailblazers — appear to be stuck in an eerily similar malaise with an equally uncertain future for their star player.

Is it a coincidence? Probably not. The Seahawks benefitted from a world class owner and reached three Super Bowls through his leadership. By all accounts the new ownership structure appears to be a holding pattern. I can’t recall the last time such an arrangement bred success.

Whatever happens though, the best decisions are not made in haste. And this is why ‘peak w**k’ may not yet have been reached. The term could re-emerge in the New Year.

The decision to fire Jim Mora and appoint Carroll felt calculated and planned. It wasn’t something that just happened.

I suspect Allen made a decision on Mora weeks before anyone found out officially. Carroll was likely sounded out long before he walked into the auditorium, jokingly pretended to put on the strategically placed Seahawks helmet and breathed life and hope into every fan watching his opening press conference.

A decision on the next coach should take time. If necessary, a top candidate should be sounded out through the back-channels. An attractive, mind-blowing offer needs to be made — just as it was to Carroll and Mike Holmgren previously.

The Seahawks benefitted from ambitious thinking under Allen’s leadership. That, if nothing else, should firmly be retained.

If Carroll is considering retirement — as I suspect he most certainly is — then I hope he’s given ownership the heads up. They need to know what he’s thinking.

We’ll never know what their thought process is, of course, if they’re equally thinking a change is needed.

If a new GM is required, this is also something that needs to be managed very carefully. The modern NFL requires a close working relationship between coach and GM otherwise they just end up at odds with each other constantly.

If Schneider is to remain, he probably needs to pick Carroll’s replacement. Whether he deserves that much power is a major question mark given the way he’s handled the draft and recruitment since the re-set.

It should also be noted that any prospective coach and GM is going to know what he’s walking into. Will top candidates want to tackle another Wilson trade saga? Will they want to trade him and rebuild? Will that be attractive to a GM or a reason to run away, arms flailing in the wind?

Listening to the right people for decisions like this is always important. If they are set to make changes, I’d hope they consult with Todd Leiweke — even if it’s just to get his recommendation on alternative advisors. I’d also arrange a meeting with former Baltimore GM (and current Executive VP) Ozzie Newsome to pick his brains.

If the decision is made to stick by a coach who earlier today stated his desire to beat the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers at Lambeau Field by a score of ‘about 9-3’ (only to lose 17-0) and a GM who set about Seattle’s re-set by drafting Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier before trading the house for Jamal Adams — they also need to be fully aware of what that means.

It means life without Russell Wilson.

I can already see some people have decided they’re OK with that. Forget that Aaron Rodgers similarly had a pretty ‘meh’ performance yesterday — the toil in the Tundra was enough for some to take the shackles off and say, with confidence, that they want to move on.

Unlike many of those fans who increasingly seem to fill my Twitter timeline — I have studied the 2022 quarterback class in depth.

It’s worse than I originally thought — and I thought it was pretty bad to begin with.

I’m going to provide some notes on each ‘top’ quarterback prospect in a moment. Let me be clear though — I suspect trading Wilson will only lead to the signing of a stop-gap quarterback, in the mould of Tarvaris Jackson in 2011.

Names that spring to mind are Mitchell Trubisky and Teddy Bridgewater.

I think this is probably likely to be what would happen and it would be a catastrophe. Collecting a bunch of picks, moving on from Wilson and starting afresh might appeal to some. Let’s see how they feel when Trubisky is running the offense. Or when those draft picks turn into players who actually have to be good.

They could try and trade for a veteran. Dealing for Aaron Rodgers to play Carroll-ball just seems highly unlikely. Why would he or Deshaun Watson want to come and play in the system Wilson is so eager to detach himself from?

Watson has a no-trade clause like Wilson. I’m not sure about Rodgers. All three individuals, though, have a big say in their next destination.

If Wilson goes — he’ll likely be replaced by a competition between a draft pick and a veteran desperate for a job.

I’m now going to offer brief thoughts on the 2022 quarterback class in what I hope will be a stark ‘careful what you wish for’ warning. I’ll also say, there isn’t a name or names to pine for in 2023. This is a difficult stretch at the quarterback position in college football. I can’t think of a worse time to trade a legit starting quarterback.

Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh)
He’s the best of the group but it’s dabbing with faint praise. Pickett is a plus athlete with greater agility and explosive lower body power than most realise. His SPARQ testing was impressive. He’s well sized at 6-3 and 220lbs and in the midst of a breakout season, having opted to return for a fifth year due to the Covid rules in college football. He’s extremely busy in the pocket. Too often when he feels outside pressure he does well initially to step up. However, he just keeps going — too often stepping into the focus of a linebacker and creating unnecessary pressure. He needs to be able to step up and then settle down, allowing plays to develop and taking what’s on offer. He’s also hesitant to throw — refusing to throw basic completions and take what the defense gives. I’ve seen him reject plays that are on (simple plays) and you end up screaming ‘just get rid of it’. He’s the opposite of Mac Jones in that regard and it concerns me what he’ll be like at the next level with a faster game and tighter windows. This is especially concerning because he’s in year five at Pitt. The game has clearly slowed down for him enough to elevate his performance this year significantly. But if there’s a seven yard reception open on a check down and you’re stood in the pocket, just get rid. If your receiver finds a window on a crosser and it’s open as a primary target, don’t hold the football because it’s not wide open. I’ve not seen a lot of evidence of amazing anticipation throws and throwing receivers open (again, Jones was adept here and it’s why he’s having a strong rookie campaign.) His arm strength is fine and he’s completed some pretty throws this year. His production is impressive and he’s in the Heisman picture. He’s also taken Pittsburgh up a level with his performances. Yet there’s a distinct lack of ‘wow’ factor with Pickett and it’s difficult to recommend him as much more than a second round prospect.

Malik Willis (QB, Liberty)
More of an athlete than quarterback at this stage. Willis has major technical flaws in terms of his footwork and throwing motion that lead to massive issues with consistency. In a given game you’ll see him throw a laser in one instance with impressive velocity and direction, then on the next throw he’ll one-hop an easy completion or just flat out miss because his body, shoulders and legs aren’t working together. His release point switches between low and slingy and javelin-like. He takes too many sacks. His eyes drop when he sets off as a runner or scrambler and he’s too eager to come off throws and set off. He’s thrown nine interceptions this season, his second with Liberty after two years with Auburn. As a runner he is strong and has a nice combination of speed and power that enables him to make gains (755 rushing yards and ten touchdowns so far this year). However, he lacks the gliding suddenness of Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray to be dynamic as a game-changing running threat. He’s more of a scramble-then-go type and at 6-1 and 215lbs I worry about the hits he’ll take because he attracts contact. I’m not sold on him as a pro-prospect and think he’s very much a mid-rounder or day three pick who can come in and compete, rather than someone I’d necessarily want to try and insert as a future franchise star. Frankly, I saw a lot of Tarvaris Jackson here.

Desmond Ridder (QB, Cincinnati)
Of all the quarterbacks in this class, Ridder is the one who has delivered passes that had me sit up in my chair and think, ‘wow’. He had one downfield against Notre Dame that was inch perfect and one straight down the seam to the tight end with velocity and placement that made me think this guy could be legit. Yet the more you watch, the more you realise he falls very much into the ‘like not love’ category. There are some throws that are just off. He needs to learn to align his hips and shoulders to face the target more consistently. There are also times where you wonder what he’s processing, what he’s seen. I was surprised to see he only had six picks on the year. He’s mobile and can scramble but you wouldn’t say he has major ability to break off gains or dodge a pass rush. Still, it’s a plus that he can extend and improvise. He’s only ranked 33rd in college football for QBR. Yet as I said — he has delivered those moments of magic and he’s clearly elevating Cincinnati into legit playoff contention. The thing is — Kellen Mond had many, many more ‘wow’ moments than Ridder and he only ended up being a round three pick. I don’t think Ridder is as good as Mond and currently I would say round three is his absolute ceiling with a placing in rounds four or five perhaps more likely. There’s something there — whether you’re able to bring it out enough for him to be a starting NFL quarterback is the question.

Matt Corral (QB, Ole Miss)
There are certain offensive schemes you just can’t trust. Lane Kiffin’s is right up there. The extreme spread nature of it and the way he draws up plays is impressive purely in terms of how he challenges opponents at the college level. He manufactures points, production and winning teams and what he’s doing at Ole Miss deserves more credit than he’s getting, given the state of the team when he took over. However, it’s not much of a scheme for judging quarterback prospects. Everything is easy. Corral will be replaced next season and the production will likely remain. It reminds me of the Oklahoma State offense — which churned out QB’s year after year, none of which went on to amount to anything in the pro’s. Corral lacks defining qualities in terms of arm strength, size, the ability to throw with anticipation, to read progressions. He executes the offense as he’s instructed to and that’s great. But I can’t sit here and say this 6-0, 200lbs quarterback is destined to be anything at the next level. He simply isn’t throwing difficult passes, he’s not showing us anything we need to see to judge him as a pro prospect. He doesn’t stand out physically in any way to compensate for the fact he isn’t really being challenged mentally. There’s just nothing really to get excited about.

Carson Strong (QB, Nevada)
I keep seeing people post videos on twitter of Strong completing passes with accompanying text declaring he’s done something outstanding. And most of the time I just think, ‘heh?’. Strong looks decidedly average to me. People wax lyrical about his arm strength but it doesn’t seem particularly amazing. I think his accuracy is very inconsistent, shown up by the fact he’s only 55th in college football for QBR. He’s not elusive or able to extend plays and is no threat as a scrambler. He’s a pocket passer who looks very much like a mid-round type at best. Against California — hardly a testing opponent in 2021 — he was way off in the red zone and frequently forced dangerous passes into tight windows. When he senses pressure all he can do is toss it up because he’s a statue in the backfield. If you give him a clean pocket and time he’ll launch into nice windows and make plays. How often do you get that luxury in the NFL? Throwing on the move is laboured and challenging. I can’t even imagine him running play action and boot legs with ease. He suffered a serious knee injury in High School and still wears a chunky brace.

Spencer Rattler (QB, Oklahoma)
It’s increasingly likely he won’t declare after his benching at Oklahoma. Rattler appears destined to transfer and have another go in 2022. Why was he benched? Too many reckless, careless throws where he trusted his arm and made bonehead decisions. There isn’t a double or triple coverage look he hasn’t thrown at. Rattler has some of the qualities NFL teams admire these days. He’s a skilled thrower on the run and can launch the football from different throwing angles. He’s creative and has ample arm strength. Yet at the next level he’ll be a liability — a turnover machine — unless he can vastly improve his decision making and ability to read coverages to make proper decisions so that his talent can be harnessed correctly.

Sam Howell (QB, North Carolina)
Have you ever thought what it’d be like to watch Carson Palmer run 17 quarterback draws in a game? Then throw on a North Carolina game and watch Howell show you how it’s done. There is simply nothing remarkable about Howell’s game. He’s stocky and tries to do too much with his legs. His arm strength is fine but his accuracy just doesn’t cut the mustard. His downfield throws are hit and miss and without UNC’s brilliant running duo from a year ago, he’s been left a bit exposed as his completion percentage has dipped and his turnovers have increased. He has not elevated his team enough. He just looks average, really. A player who has been promoted beyond his capabilities simply because he started as a true freshman and gained a degree of early-career hype.

I’d actually be more prepared to build a case for Tanner McKee than the names above, despite Stanford’s awful season. McKee, like Davis Mills before him, has shown technical qualities within a struggling team. Also like Davis, I think with more playing experience he could become a useful player.

As noted recently, 30 quarterbacks were drafted between 2013-2020. Of that group, you can argue eight truly justified the picks used on them.

That’s a 26% success rate. Or in other words, history says you’ve got a 74% chance of making a bad investment at quarterback in the first two rounds.

I can’t say any of this group appear to be on a trajectory to join the list of success stories. This entire class reminds me of the 2013 group. Weak at the top and the first quarterback taken was Geno Smith #39 overall.

Sadly, I could see whichever quarterback is taken first among this group having a very similar career to Smith.

If given the choice between this bunch and calling Minnesota to see whether they’d be willing to do business for Kellen Mond — I’d probably pick Mond.

Alas — I fear I’ll be spending most of the next three months trying to write pro’s and con’s for the 2022 quarterback group — while contemplating a potential camp battle with Trubisky or someone else.

I sense this is heading one way with Wilson — regardless of the future of Carroll in Seattle. If the franchise wishes to build around him for the next 8-10 years, they’ll need to make that very clear and recruit him into the project. It’s starting to feel very much like Wilson will believe a fresh start is required and I imagine he will have his eyes fixed firmly in the direction of Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.

I just hope that the powers that be within Seahawks ownership are ready and have a plan to avoid this franchise turning into a shambles.

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