No time to sleep? Pete Carroll might as well adopt Russell Wilson’s motto from now on. Almost immediately after Gus Bradley was named the new Head Coach at Jacksonville, Dan Quinn was confirmed as the replacement defensive coordinator.
The timing suggests to me that Bradley was focused on taking a Head Coaching role. Some reports have claimed it was only Chip Kelly’s sudden change of mind that usurped Bradley from the Eagles job. Twenty-four hours later, he took the Jaguars gig. Quinn’s return to Seattle had probably been planned for a few days, with Carroll likely knowing Bradley would be taking one of the jobs he was interviewing for.
It’s a seamless transition — Quinn is familiar with the Seahawks set-up having previously worked under Pete Carroll as defensive line coach in 2010. He was originally appointed by Jim Mora the year before.
This will remain Carroll’s defense. His scheme. His vision. There was no big-name coming in to make sweeping changes like we’re seeing in Dallas or St. Louis. This was about getting on with the job with minimal fuss. Quinn will have his own concepts, his own ideas. But he’s mainly coming here to implement Carroll’s master-plan. Much in the same way Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable are working on his plan for the offense. Carroll is king in Seattle.
This almost certainly means a continuation of the 4-3 under defense, which is often mistaken for a hybrid. We discussed it in some detail earlier in the season. Quinn had a positive impact on Red Bryant’s switch to defensive end in 2010 and I don’t see any reason to think the Seahawks will move away from that experiment. They might be more creative though — using balanced four man fronts on certain downs. It’s worth noting that Florida mixed between three and four man fronts to try and create pressure, without blitzing a great deal.
It stands to reason that at least two new pass rushers will be added to the roster. There won’t be any big changes to the defense, but we could see some fresh ideas installed to the defensive line. What more would you expect from a man who coaches wearing a ‘SWARM’ T-shirt?
Inevitably you’re going to start seeing Florida prospects linked with the Seahawks now. Every mock draft will have defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd penned next to Seattle. Quinn will no doubt pass on valuable information about several of his former players, but I don’t think his appointment as defensive coordinator has much impact as to whether we see any Florida Gators players drafted by this team.
Speaking of Floyd, I keep flipping my opinion of him. Firstly I was intrigued by his potential and back-story. Then, after watching more tape, I came to the conclusion his best position would be the five technique in a 3-4. In preparation for this weeks mock I felt obliged to go back and watch two of his games again. And low and behold, I’m still trying to work him out.
I still maintain he’s best suited to the 3-4. Yet there are little flashes that just make you wonder if he can play inside in the 4-3. He’s got a superb motor, he’s a big-time athlete for 298lbs and when he plays low he’s a real force against the run. Can he be coached up and develop into a productive interior pass rusher given time? Perhaps.
He needs to improve his hand use because it’s pretty poor at the moment and he lacks that explosive burst that we see from players like Sheldon Richardson and Sylvester Williams. That might be the real stumbling block here. A classic three-technique — more than anything — flies out of the traps. That initial step forward is crucial. Exploding into a gap or initiating contact into a swim or dip is how you make your money at that position. Floyd has too many wasted steps without advancing or engaging. You can have the attitude, the size and the athleticism for the position, but there’s an X-factor to the role that’s maybe lacking here. It’s undoubtedly the main reason there are so few great three-techniques in the NFL.
A Florida player who’s maybe more likely to be on Seattle’s radar is linebacker Jelani Jenkins. At the top of this piece you’ll find audio from John Schneider’s appearance on ESPN 710 yesterday. He told Mike Salk and Brock Huard that he was impressed by the group of junior linebackers available in 2013. Well, there’s only four — Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter, Jelani Jenkins and Tom Wort.
Not only is Jenkins an elite athlete (and former #1 overall recruit), he’s also very intelligent — recording a 4.0 grade-point average in high school due to higher weighted advanced placement courses. No, he is not related to Jenoris Jenkins. He ran a 11.14 100 metres in high school and also threw the discus. After yesterday’s touting of Margus Hunt as a possible draft pick, what chance the Seahawks draft two discus throwers in April?
Here’s Jenkins’ blurb via Scout.com during recruitment: “An absolute assassin from his linebacker position, Jenkins is always in attack mode. Because of his athletic ability and anticipation, he is equally comfortable reading a play to make a tackle as he is forcing the action on a blitz. He’s a sideline to sideline linebacker that is never out of a play because of his athletic gifts and his desire. As he gets bigger in college, he’ll be just plain scary.”
Of course, it never quite worked out that way. He’s added 30lbs in college but still struggles taking on blocks and his tackling can be poor. We’re talking about a big time athlete here, but will the speed compensate for the lack of physical skills at the next level? Maybe for a team like Seattle. When he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty, he’s an elite linebacker. He’s about as good a sideline-to-sideline player you’ll ever find. If he can find a crease he’ll explode into the backfield, but he moves around the second level with ease and he’s decisive in coverage. Ask him to play great run defense or up at the line and he’s going to struggle.
The Seahawks appear to want athletes at linebacker that can move. They’re not asking them to do a lot of pass rushing and the WILL isn’t really getting involved with the offensive line up front. You need to let Jenkins just roam around, use his instinct and react to plays. Because of his size, he’s probably going to go in the late second or early third round. Unless Carroll feels he already has this type of player in Malcolm Smith, he could be in play for Seattle’s second round pick. And out of all the Florida Gators prospects, he’s probably the one to keep an eye on.
Note — I’ve included Sharrif Floyd and Jelani Jenkins tape at the bottom of this article
Quinn’s greatest influence could be on an existing Seahawk. Jaye Howard had virtually no impact for the team this year, usually finding himself among the list of inactives. Surely Schneider and/or Carroll spoke to Quinn before making this pick last year? If so, you have to assume he gave a glowing review. After all, they drafted him in round four. Howard registered 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in his only year under Quinn’s guidance.
It’s possible that he could be a late bloomer at the pro-level. The only problem is, the Seahawks cannot afford to wait and see if he improves. They can’t rely on Jaye Howard. And whether it’s via free agency or the draft, a player or two will almost certainly be placed directly above the former Gator on the depth chart. Even so, he has a lot of potential and working with Quinn again could help.
As for Gus Bradley, I think it’s a great hire for Jacksonville. He’ll bring energy to that Jaguars franchise and almost certainly a much improved defense. It’s going to be a tough job – he’ll be inheriting the worst pass rush in the league, plus a franchise that still has a lot of question marks at the quarterback position. Look for the #2 overall pick to be spent on a pass rusher. Bradley will know, however, that he has to find the right solution at quarterback to ultimately be successful. He’ll need to decide whether Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert or someone else can lead that offense. For those hoping Matt Flynn will be traded this off-season, you better hope that Bradley was impressed during their year in Seattle together.
Schneider speaks out
There are a few other things I wanted to discuss after listening to John Schneider with Brock and Salk yesterday.
His admission of greater interest in the receiver class was reassuring. There is a cluster of talented players worthy of first and second round grades. The Seahawks are perfectly placed at #25 to consider investing in another target for Russell Wilson — and could even launch a run on the position.
Just list the names — DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Ertz, Tavon Austin, Markus Wheaton, Justin Hunter, Keenan Allen, Terrance Williams, Tyler Eifert, Gavin Escobar. There’s also quite a lot of range too, be it with size, speed, catching, YAC or kick returning. If we’re talking about round one, I maintain that Hopkins and Ertz are the two best fits. Both seem to fit the character of this team (hard working, professional, consistent). You can just imagine both players developing a great relationship with Russell Wilson — working overtime in the off-season to build a chemistry.
I wrote an article at the start of January arguing that Hopkins was a top-20 talent. You can check it out by clicking here. If you like receivers who catch nearly everything, score touchdowns and run great routes, Hopkins is your man. Ertz is the prototype of a modern tight end – big, athletic, can stretch the field and run a deep post despite his size. He was Stanford’s most productive receiver last year and would be a nice compliment to Zach Miller — allowing the Seahawks to run a lot more 2TE sets.
If the Seahawks go in a different direction (eg – defensive line) then any of the names listed above would be worthy second round additions. I’d be a little surprised if Carroll and Schneider ended day two of the draft without a new pass-catcher.
He also touted a group of ‘unique’ pass rushers. I don’t think there’s any mystery to what he’s referring to here. How many other draft classes contain the following defensive lineman:
- Dion Jordan — a converted 6-7 tight end with the speed to play linebacker or even safety
- Margus Hunt — a former 6-8 discus thrower from Estonia with dynamic pass-rushing qualities
- Ezekiel Ansah — a 6-4 defensive end from Ghana with two years of football experience who doesn’t even understand what AFC and NFC means
- Bjoern Werner — a German pass rusher from Berlin, discovered as a football prospect while acting as an exchange student in Connecticut
That’s just a sample of the ‘different’ types of player available this year. I suspect this is all the more intriguing for a guy like Schneider, who will enjoy getting to know these players and learning about their backgrounds. I wouldn’t bet against any being future Seahawks.
I noticed among some of the comments in yesterday’s mock draft update that several people feel we’ve overplayed Seattle’s penchant for the unusual — the avoidance of conventional wisdom. I wouldn’t try to argue that the Seahawks will only make quirky draft picks. I think we have to keep an open mind, though. We’ve projected a lot of different picks so far — Ertz, Hopkins, Sylvester Williams, Arthur Brown, Margus Hunt. Different players, positions and backgrounds. Some teams will just write-off a prospect like Hunt and not even include him on their big board. I suspect the Seahawks won’t do that, at least not because he’ll be 26 next summer and is new to the game.
Carroll and Schneider do it their way. Sometimes their way will be a little out there, other times it’ll be a lot more conventional. The Head Coach wants a pass rush though — and as the General Manager notes — this is a unique bunch of pass rushers.
Considering I’ve talked about them in this article, I’ve included tape below of Sharrif Floyd’s performance against Florida State from this season. There’s also Jelani Jenkins display against the Seminoles from 2011 (no 2012 tape available yet):