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Seahawks’ draft needs: Running game and D-line

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Seattle’s run defense has regressed in 2016

1. Running game

The Seahawks are 27th in the league with 978 rushing yards. They’re averaging 3.7 YPA and 87.8 YPG.

Last season Seattle had the third most productive running attack (2268 yards), averaging 4.5 YPA and 141.8 YPG.

This is a huge, unexpected regression.

Clearly Russell Wilson’s immobility has had an impact here. He’s never had less than 489 yards in a season and last year, during his best ever passing campaign, he still managed 553 yards. He currently has 159 at an average of 3.4 YPC. He’ll do well to top 300 yards for the year.

Losing Wilson’s threat to run discombobulated the offense and that cannot be underestimated. It’s still concerning they weren’t able to run productively with Wilson hampered. You shouldn’t be relying on that one aspect to prop up your preferred offensive identity. It suggests they’re highly susceptible without Wilson at 100% mobility. They can ill-afford to endure such damaging results every time a quarterback as active as Wilson picks up an injury.

The Seahawks’ general rushing attack hasn’t been this bad since it ranked last in the league in 2010. Their inability to run in 2010 provoked the Marshawn Lynch trade and Seattle spent their first two picks in the 2011 draft on run-blocking offensive linemen.

They could be similarly aggressive in the upcoming off-season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they look to rectify this situation with additions to the offensive line and/or running back.

Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are clearly very talented but so far neither has shown they can stay healthy. Do the Seahawks lack a bell-cow physical runner to compliment the two more athletic/explosive backs?

Do they also need to keep adding pieces to the offensive line? We’ve talked about Utah’s Garett Bolles and how he might be an ideal acquisition for either the left or right tackle position. There won’t be a ton of options in what looks to be a poor draft for offensive linemen.

It seems inevitable that they’ll be active in improving the run game unless there’s a major upturn in performance over the next few weeks.

2. Interior pass rush

In 2013 and 2014 the Seahawks were able to rely on at least one player to provide pressure and production at defensive tackle. In 2015 and 2016, that production has practically disappeared.

2013: Clinton McDonald — 6.5 sacks
2014: Jordan Hill — 6.5 sacks
2015: Jordan Hill — 0 sacks
2016: McDaniel/Rubin/Reed/Jefferson combined: 1.5 sacks

In fairness the EDGE pass rush has never been so productive during the Carroll era. Cliff Avril has 10 sacks (one short of equalling a career high), Frank Clark is already at 7.5 sacks and Michael Bennett, despite missing a few games, also has three sacks.

Yet it was quite telling that Carroll referenced trying to find an interior rush when they concluded the signing of John Jenkins — despite his physical appearance screaming ‘nose tackle’.

The Seahawks don’t necessarily need an Aaron Donald. A 10-sack interior presence in the mould of Donald or Ndamukong Suh isn’t a realistic target without a top-15 pick. They just need someone who can fill that 6.5 sack hole vacated by McDonald and Hill in 2013-14.

Quinton Jefferson might’ve developed into that man before he landed on injured reserve. Jordan Hill was cut after another injury during the summer. The question is now — do they take a chance on Jefferson in 2017 or do they go out and seek another body to try and fill this need?

It could be a pure defensive tackle like Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi. He has underrated talent as a pass rusher, a nice thick, powerful, explosive 6-1/312lbs frame and could be the answer. They might also fill the need with another inside/out rusher — someone capable of playing end in base and kicking inside when needed.

The upcoming draft looks set to be well stocked on the D-line and could provide a solution.

3. Run defense

One of the lesser talked about regressions in Seattle is the run defense. Last year the Seahawks didn’t give up a single 100-yard rusher during the regular season. They also led the league in total run defense.

Look at the difference over the years:

Total run defense (ranking in brackets)

2014: 1304 yards (#3)
2015: 1304 yards (#1)
2016: 1102 yards in 11 games (#14)

Yards per game (ranking in brackets)

2014: 81.5 (#3)
2015: 81.5 (#1)
2016: 100.2 (#14)

You could put it down to the loss of Brandon Mebane although the 2014 Seahawks coped without Mebane after he landed on injured reserved before week 11.

For whatever reason this defense has only done an average job overall against the run. And it’s not like the numbers are influenced by freaky Russell Wilson-esque QB gains. Here’s the list of QB’s they’ve faced this year and their running totals vs Seattle:

Ryan Tannehill: 17 yards
Case Keenum: 5 yards
Blaine Gabbert: 22 yards
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 5 yards
Matt Ryan: 2 yards
Carson Palmer: 8 yards
Drew Brees: 1 yard
Tyrod Taylor: 43 yards
Tom Brady: 7 yards
Carson Wentz: 2 yards
Jameis Winston: 12 yards

Adding to the intrigue is the way Seattle hasn’t given up many ‘explosive’ plays in the run game. They actually rank #3 in the NFL for limiting runs of +10 yards:

1. Baltimore — 17
2. New York Giants — 21
3. Seattle — 22
4. Green Bay — 22
5. Carolina — 25

However, their ‘stuff percentage’ (defined as the percentage of rushes stopped behind the LOS) is only #18 in the NFL at 8.9%. The Dallas Cowboys are stuffing 16.5% of runs on defense, Los Angeles are managing 15% and Green Bay 14.8%.

This seems to be a D-line issue and not a second level problem.

Based on my amateur eye test, I wouldn’t suggest Athyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Tony McDaniel have played poorly. Yet perhaps needs two and three in this piece mesh together. Do they need a penetrating interior disruptor who not only impacts the passing game but also collapses the pocket and gets into the backfield to impact the running game too?

How often do you see Rubin, Reed or McDaniel pull off a dynamic swim/rip and force the RB to stall and adjust? How often are Seattle’s D-line tackling the runner at the LOS and not in the backfield?

How much is it down to a desire to focus on gap control, sound discipline and prevention of the big play versus being able to go out and actually make the big play as a Seahawks defensive tackle?

According to Sporting Charts, Seattle’s interior defensive linemen have contributed three TFL’s in total. For arguments sake, here’s the top performing DT’s in the league for TFL’s:

Aaron Donald — 15
Geno Atkins — 9
Kawann Short — 8
Timmy Jernigan — 8
Calais Campbell — 8
Kyle Williams — 8
Malik Jackson — 7

Aaron Donald, admittedly a truly elite player in the league, has 12 more TFL’s than Seattle’s collection of DT’s combined. Kyle Williams in Buffalo has personally accumulated five more than Seattle’s group.

It might not be a coincidence that Timmy Jernigan has eight TFL’s and Baltimore currently leads the NFL in run defense.

For the Seahawks to get back to being one of the best run defenses in the NFL — they probably need an impact player working the interior. Someone capable of getting 8-10 TFL’s in the way Jernigan has for the Ravens this year.

Two of the players named above — Calais Campbell and Kawann Short — are free agents at the end of the season. Are they too expensive for Seattle? Do they even reach the open market? Possibly not.

This is one of the reasons why a player like Derrick Nnadi might be intriguing. He has 9.5 TFL’s this year to go with his 5.5 sacks. He looks better, at least in my opinion, than Timmy Jernigan looked at FSU.

Again, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a pure DT. Demarcus Walker is an inside/out type of rusher and he has 16.5 TFL’s this season. Takk McKinley has 18 TFL’s. Solomon Thomas has 13. All three have the size and range to potentially play DE/DT.

If you want a list of the top performing players for TFL in college football, here you go. Note the national leader — Temple’s Haason Reddick — possibly an ideal candidate for the Seahawks to play SAM/LEO if he’s available in the round three range.

Other needs?

I’ve seen people suggesting receiver, SAM linebacker and cornerback recently. I think receiver would be an ideal ‘luxury’ pick if this was either a particularly good draft for WR’s (it isn’t) or the Seahawks didn’t have more striking needs elsewhere.

Fixing the run offense, run defense and finding an interior pass rush are critical needs for future success and for the core identity of the team. These have to take precedence over getting an upgrade over contracted players like Jermaine Kearse or Paul Richardson.

Basically you can live with Kearse and Richardson complimenting Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett. I’m not sure you can live with the current running game or D-line performance.

The SAM position is basically a two-down role. The Seahawks keep K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner on the field in any scenario and prefer to use an extra defensive back or pass rusher on key downs. Unless the player you’re drafting is a Bruce Irvin-style athlete capable of playing SAM and LEO, this is unlikely to be an area the Seahawks attack. It’s why Haason Reddick might be so appealing in the middle rounds.

Cornerback is also a slightly overrated option. The Seahawks have club control over DeShawn Shead in 2017 and they just re-signed Jeremy Lane to a decent contract. Corner hasn’t been a problem area short of a couple of iffy games for Lane and they prefer to develop players who fit a specific body type. It would be a bit of a surprise if the CB position wasn’t given, at best, the round 5-7 treatment in 2017.

If there is one other position they might focus on it could be safety. Not for any particular reason other than this is looking like a superb class for safety’s and they might wish to tap into the goodness. As noted this week, Shalom Luani’s backstory and fight to make a career out of football screams Seahawks. He could be their guy.

New 2017 NFL mock draft: 27th October

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

1. Browns 0-7 — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
2. 49ers 1-6 — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
3. Bears 1-6 — Jabril Peppers (S, Michigan)
4. Panthers 1-5 — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. Jets 2-5 — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
6. Jaguars 2-4 — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
7. Saints 2-4 — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
8. Ravens 3-4 — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
9. Colts 3-4 — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
10. Titans 3-4 — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
11. Dolphins 3-4 — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
12. Titans via Rams 3-4 — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
13. Bengals 3-4 — Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
14. Chargers 3-4 — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
15. Cardinals 3-3-1 — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
16. Buccaneers 3-3 — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
17. Bills 4-3 — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
18. Lions 4-3 — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
19. Redskins 4-3 — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
20. Falcons 4-3 — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
21. Steelers 4-3 — DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
22. Texans 4-3 — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
23. Giants 4-3 — Azeem Victor (LB, Washington)
24. Browns via Eagles 4-2 — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
25. Chiefs 4-2 — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
26. Packers 4-2 — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
27. Broncos 5-2 — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
28. Raiders 5-2 — John Ross (WR, Washington)
29. Seahawks 4-1-1 — Dion Dawkins (T, Temple)
30. Cowboys 5-1 — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
31. Eagles via Vikings 5-1 — Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
32. Patriots 6-1 — Budda Baker (S, Washington)

Notes

— Mitch Trubisky is the best draft eligible quarterback in terms of 2016 performance so far. He is poised, accurate and has shown a clear ability to progress through reads and make good decisions. His arm strength is good and can get better (he has the frame to add muscle) and he’s mobile enough to extend plays. Aside from one game in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew he is avoiding turnovers and he’s led his team to several impressive late wins. He could go a lot higher than this.

— Deshone Kizer needs time on the field, in college. He has a chance to be a future #1 overall pick but he isn’t there yet. Returning to play for Notre Dame next year could be the best thing for his career.

— Running backs are not a trendy #1 overall pick and yes, you can find productive runners in the later rounds or UDFA. Every team is going to get a certain level of production at the position. A 1000-yard rusher only needs 62.5 YPG to get to that mark. The difference between a guy who gets stats and someone like Fournette is — an opponent has to gameplan for Fournette ever week. He’s drawing attention at the LOS on every snap, creating opportunities elsewhere. And even with all of this attention — he’s still going to hurt you (physically and in the stat column). He is the Bo Jackson of his generation. He is Julio Jones at running back. He is truly a generational talent and will provide an offensive identity for the team that drafts him. He’s a superstar, let’s not overthink this. He is that good.

— The Seahawks pick came down to three players:

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
I wrote about Chubb last week and how he matches Seattle’s recent draft history. He is a Christine Michael-level athlete with the toughness and physicality Seattle has lacked at the position at times this year. Quite frankly — he is on a different level athletically to even Fournette and Dalvin Cook. For more on Chubb, click here. The big test will be whether he has retained that high level of explosive athleticism after suffering a serious knee injury a year ago. If he gets anywhere close he could be an early round target for Seattle, either in round one or after a move down into round two.

Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
I suspect the Seahawks would love to add one more inside/out pass rusher. A player comfortable playing DE in base and kicking inside on third/passing downs. Walker is ideally sized for this role at around 280lbs and he showed vs Louisville his ability to set the edge and contain even Lamar Jackson. His ability to hand fight, get off blocks, win with technique (rip/swim) and explode to the QB is impressive and he has nine sacks in 2016 so far. That said — his motor runs hot and cold and that isn’t a habit the Seahawks have entertained under Carroll and Schneider. When he’s ‘on it’ he’s a really intriguing prospect.

Dion Dawkins (T, Temple)
I wanted to check out Dawkins after a recommendation by regular contributors Volume 12 and Kenny Sloth. I had that opportunity in the last 24 hours watching three games. I came away really impressed. He does an excellent job keeping defenders in front of him — he’ll use his length to contain and his footwork is good enough to get into position and plant. On a couple of occasions vs Notre Dame the DE would fake an outside rush and dip inside — but Dawkins recovered well and didn’t give up the inside pressure. He’s tough in the run game and seems to have a power element to his play. He doesn’t do much progressing to the second level but he’s a very consistent, good left tackle and in this mediocre year for OT’s — that could get him into round one. His combine testing will be important (they’re not taking a middling athlete especially at tackle). The league let an athletic monster drop to #31 this year (Ifedi) so it’s not out of the question he could last with a good performance. The Seahawks have scouted Temple this year too:

Seahawks seven round mock using Tony Pauline’s grades

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Jihad Ward is 6-5, 295lbs and would add some competition inside

I used Tony Pauline’s rankings to try and piece together a range for each prospect. The idea was to try to enhance the pass rush, the physical toughness/size in the trenches and deliver an edge.

This projection follows a free agency period where the Seahawks let Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin walk. I’ll leave it open for you to decide what happens with the rest. I want to focus on the prospects not necessarily the fate of the free agents in this discussion.

Round 1 — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
He’d bring an instant edge to the O-line that has been missing since Breno Giacomini left for New York. He punishes linebackers at the second level and he’s chippy. He’ll have a word in your ear after driving you downfield six yards. There are so many passive college offensive linemen — not Coleman. He has the attitude the Seahawks are looking to re-establish in 2016. They could open up a competition to see who starts at left tackle between Garry Gilliam and Coleman. He has the length and size they like and they haven’t been put off by age in the past (he’s 24, the same age as Bruce Irvin when Seattle took him with the #15 pick).

Pauline has given Coleman a round two grade, meaning he was available to pair with the #26 pick here.

Round 2 — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
If the Seahawks want to upgrade their pass rush, this could be an option. They generally haven’t drafted bigger, power ends early in the draft. It’s hard to imagine them going after a Shaq Lawson type to play the edge. It’d be equally surprising to see them draft a defensive tackle who doesn’t have unique physical or athletic traits. They have placed a premium on speed and athleticism in their front seven early. Frank Clark was a monster athlete. Spence wouldn’t replace Bruce Irvin at the SAM — but he would replace his role as the extra pass rusher on key downs. He could also be trained to be a long term successor to Cliff Avril, who turns 30 in April.

Pauline has given Spence a third round grade, meaning he was available for the Seahawks at the end of round two.

R3 — Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
I’m not totally convinced the Seahawks will look to draft a center early. The red shirting of Kristjan Sokoli suggests they are willing to give that project time. Their decision to start Drew Nowak also indicates they’re keen to have a truly athletic center at the heart of the O-line. They could add a veteran ‘place holder’ for 2-3 years to solidify this position. Glasgow could be moved to left guard. He plays with a real determination and edge. He isn’t going to back down at the next level. He stands his ground, plants his feet and stones interior rushers. He’s capable of driving people off the line and put on a clinic at the Shrine game practises. If the Seahawks want to add tough guys to their O-line, Graham is a good candidate. He could add 10lbs and be close to the ideal size for their left guard preference (they seem to like ‘huge’ at LG). Adding Coleman and Glasgow to the O-line, with a veteran too preferably, would instantly upgrade the toughness of that unit.

Pauline has given Graham a fifth round grade but admitted he improved his stock (possibly by two rounds) at the Shrine game. We’ll say he’s available for Seattle’s first pick in round three.

Round 3 — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
The Seahawks haven’t taken a cornerback prospect this early. Walter Thurmond is their highest corner pick in round four. That said, it might time to replenish the depth of this group and make an investment of sorts. If Jeremy Lane departs it’ll increase the pressure on Seattle to find another gem in this draft. Jackson, who pulled out of the Senior Bowl at the last minute, is 6-1 and 197lbs with long arms. He had five picks in 2015 (two returned for touchdowns). He’s not a speed demon but he’s a fluid mover — Seattle seems to be comfortable with their CB’s running in the 4.5’s. With a nice batch of corners available earlier, it might be possible for Jackson to slip into range for Seattle’s comp pick here.

Pauline has given Jackson a fourth round grade, meaning he was available for this mock.

ALTERNATIVE ROUND 3 PICK — Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
If the Seahawks decide to do what it takes to keep Jeremy Lane — they might be satisfied with their depth at corner with DeShawn Shead and Tharold Simon returning along with a crop of young players. In that case, this could be a sweet spot at running back. For me the Seahawks need a third down back to compliment Thomas Rawls and compete for #2 snaps with Christine Michael. Perkins has the pass-catching talent to be a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. His blocking needs work but that’s the same for most college RB’s. He also has a fantastic cut-and-run ability with superb balance. He doesn’t go down on first contact either despite a lack of great size. Perkins is also a well-spoken student of the game. He’d look great in Seattle.

Pauline has given Perkins a third round grade

Round 4 — Rashard Higgins (WR, Colorado State)
If Jermaine Kearse joins a new team in free agency, the chances are the Seahawks will draft a receiver at some point. They’ve drafted three receivers in the fourth round since 2010 — Kris Durham, Chris Harper and Kevin Norwood. Although none of those three picks worked out, it’s unlikely to dissuade them going WR in this round again. Higgins has nice college production (something they value) and has shown the ability to separate and play with suddenness (another thing they like). He might not last until the late fourth but there will be plenty of other options.

Pauline has given Higgins a fifth round grade, making him available for this pick.

R5 — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
In this little scenario we’re playing here, the Seahawks maybe lost Okung, Irvin, Kearse and Lane. Which would make some free cash available to make some choice additions in the free agent market. That doesn’t mean a splurge. More likely some savvy veteran experience to bolster the trenches, be it at center, left guard or the defensive line. They’ve consistently found pieces on the interior D-line to their credit — whether it’s Clinton McDonald, Athyba Rubin, Kevin Williams, Tony McDaniel and others. They know what to look for and should be able to enhance their rotation without breaking the bank. This pick might just add to the competition even if the player doesn’t make the team in year one. Ward is 6-5 and 295lbs and built to add some presence. He had 11 tackles (9 solo) against Rose Bowl finalist Iowa. He isn’t McDaniel in terms of persona but he’s similar in size and could turn into a comparable piece of the rotation. The oldest child in a single-parent household, Ward became a father figure for his siblings.

Pauline has graded Ward in the fifth or sixth round.

R6 — Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
There were two options here. Cooper — who I like a lot and don’t think will be available in round six — and Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech — who might be one of the more overrated players in the draft. Pauline grades him as a seventh rounder and while that might be extreme — I’d certainly lean more towards that than the current first round projection (to the Seahawks no less) by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. Clark’s tape against LSU was frankly embarrassing and showed a player with almost no future at left tackle in the NFL. He has the footwork, length and agility but almost no punch or counter, his set is inconsistent and he looks like a major project. Cooper is much more polished and accomplished. He held the fort at left tackle for Ole Miss during Laremy Tunsil’s suspension. He’s a born leader who speaks like a pro. I’d want him on my team and if I can get him this late in the draft — even better.

I suspect he will end up going in the middle rounds — yet for now Pauline has him graded in round six so I took him.

R7 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
This follows on from the thought yesterday that the Seahawks might not prioritise filling the SAM spot in the draft if Bruce Irvin departs. Opening up a competition involving a draft pick, maybe an UDFA and the likes of Eric Pinkins, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Mike Morgan might be the way to go. It allows them to focus on upgrading the trenches and other areas. Feeney has had multiple shoulder surgeries and that could be enough to put him into the UDFA pool. That might be the preferred route for the Seahawks and they’ve successfully recruited former Huskies in free agency in the past. It’s unlikely he’d start in 2016 at the WILL but he could see some playing time while contributing on special teams.

Pauline is currently projecting Feeney as a sixth or seventh round pick.

R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
I want to see what this guy can do at the combine. I’m trying to work out how and why he ended up at Appalachian State having seemingly drawn a fair amount of interest from the SEC at High School. He’s a really disruptive pass rusher who can work inside or out. For me his best role might be to gain another 10lbs and act as an orthodox three-technique (not the Athyba Rubin type). His performance against Clemson in 2015 showed he can do it against the best in college football. If you’re looking for a sleeper pick who can maybe act as an interior disruptor — Blair III could be your guy.

Pauline is projecting he will go undrafted.

Senior Bowl weigh in notes

— Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) and Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State) both have really nice length. Both players are pushing 6-4 in height with 34 inch arms. Butler is 325lbs (!!!) and Washington 295lbs. It’s a bit surprising to see Butler is carrying that much weight.

— At 6-4, 299lbs and sub 33-inch arms, Joe Dahl (T, Washington State) is definitely moving inside to guard or center.

— I’ve never been a fan of Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame) but he measured in at 6-0 and 286lbs which is incredibly small and light.

— Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) has 36 and 1/4 inch arms at nearly 6-6 and 312lbs. He has a fantastic tackle body. It’s just a shame his tape is so disappointing (see notes above)

— Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State) is best suited to center. That was confirmed today when he measured only 31 and 3/8 inch arms. He’s a T-Rex. He took some snaps in practise today at center.

— According to Tony Pauline, some teams are put off by Graham Glasgow’s height. He’s 6-6 and 306lbs with 33 and 1/8 inch arms. The Seahawks aren’t concerned by height at center. Max Unger is 6-5, Drew Nowak 6-3 and Kristjan Sokoli 6-5. Glasgow could play guard for Seattle too (see above).

— Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky) has to look electric and fast because he isn’t long. He’s under 6-3 and 254lbs with only 31 inch arms.

— Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma) is a shade under 6-3, 276lbs and has +34 inch arms. There’s a lot to like about his ability to rush inside and out.

— Deiondre Hall (CB, Northern Iowa) has nearly 35 inch arms (!!!) at a shade under 6-2 and 192lbs. Intriguing.

Senior Bowl preview & some Seahawks thoughts

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Senior Bowl preview

Here’s what I’m going to be looking for from certain players on both squads:

North team

Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
He’s so good in space so let’s see some of that during drills and in the game. He was underused by the Buckeyes — will he get a chance to shine here?

Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
He’s generating a lot of buzz and rightly so — but this is his chance to cement his placing in the top-15 with Paxton Lynch and possibly Jared Goff. Can he look like he belongs playing next to a better standard of college talent?

Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
There’s no doubting Miles’ passion for the game, his speed and pursuit. Further tape study showed too many missed tackles and a few bad angles. Can he iron out the wrinkles here? And will he get some looks at linebacker?

Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
This guy is very intriguing. V12 made a comparison to Jamie Collins and it’s pretty fair. He can rush the edge or be more of an orthodox SAM. His forty time, 10-yard split and overall combine performance will determine how likely he is to be a Seahawk. Could they turn him into a pure edge rusher?

Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
Quite simply — what shape is he in? He looks big on tape.

Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
Firstly — is he 100% recovered from the foot injury? Secondly — where is he used? Does he stay at tackle? Will he be tried at guard and/or center?

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
He’s not his brother but neither is he the total opposite of Zack. There are things to like about his game — the question is will he ever be 100% after a serious knee injury that clearly impacted his explosion. Can he impress enough to live up to Tony Pauline’s first or second round projection?

Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
He’s tall and long and looks like a tackle — but will he be comfortable in the 1v1 drills in pass-pro? He needs to avoid the inside counter and use his length.

Aaron Burbidge (WR, Michigan State)
Can he perform as well in the game as Tyler Lockett did a year ago? He moved the chains for MSU in 2015. Can he have a nice, consistent week?

Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame)
I was never overly impressed with Day in college but the Senior Bowl is ideal for linemen on both sides of the ball to improve their stock. Can he swim/rip naturally and show some flair?

Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
He has the potential to go off in Mobile. He’s a terrific interior rusher when he’s on it. The problem is — he’s very streaky. Of all the DT’s here he might be the one who leaves with the biggest boost IF he performs consistently.

Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
Perhaps the most interesting guy to monitor. Is he as good as some will have you believe? We’ll find out.

South team

Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
He’s a terrific athlete and a really fluid runner who would be a natural fit at the WILL. He has limited starting experience — can he prove he’s ready here in Mobile?

Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
He has everything going for him — production, the bloodlines, the right attitude. Can he show some suddenness and explosion out of his breaks?

Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
There were flashes in his college career where you could be forgiven for wondering if he was a first round talent. It didn’t happen enough. How will he look next to Dak Prescott?

Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State)
Speaking of which — if the Seahawks are looking for a cheap, mobile backup for Russell Wilson — should we keep an eye on Prescott’s performance this week?

Jeremy Cash (S, Duke)
How good is he? I’ve never quite been able to settle on Jeremy Cash. This will be a nice test for him.

Jalen Mills (CB, LSU)
Another player I’ve never quite settled on. How long is he? where do they use him?

Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
How big is he for a start? He always looked undersized but played big. He’s an intense, sparky athlete who makes constant plays. He should thrive in Mobile with a chance to impress.

Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
Do they instantly kick him inside to guard (his natural NFL position) or even center? Or does he get looks at tackle first? He could leave the week with a top-20 grade if he performs.

Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
The next Mizzou left tackle who is likely to move inside. Justin Britt has flopped but Mitch Morse had a very good rookie season. McGovern likely plays guard or center.

Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech)
His tape against LSU from 2015 is so bad you want to slam down your computer screen. Yet the Senior Bowl is made for long, nimble left tackles to make money. Can he use his natural bend and athleticism — plus his length — to prove he deserves a chance to be someone’s left tackle?

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Following reports of a productive Shrine week, can Glasgow follow it up here and continue his ascent up the board?

Evan Boehm (C, Missouri)
Teams are going to love meeting with Boehm and his gritty attitude and desire to finish blocks will stick out. He is top-heavy though and pretty squatty, which will put some teams off.

Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
He has a genuine talent to rush the passer lining up inside or out. This could be a big week for Tapper who doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
The forgotten man. Nobody can deny Oakman’s insane physical appearance — but he plays like a pussy cat. That needs to change. Right now.

Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
The most interesting thing with Spence will be to see if reports emerge on how teams feel about his character and background.

Other notes

— In trying to work out what they do at linebacker next year, I did have this thought. What if they just open it up to a competition? They’re unlikely to find another Bruce Irvin so will they bring in some athletes and let them go at it with Kevin Pierre-Louis, Eric Pinkins and Mike Morgan? Rather than going big to replace Irvin, do they give an opportunity to a Travis Feeney (maybe as an UDFA), a Deion Jones from LSU or a safety convert with speed? I’m not convinced this has to be a position where they go big early in the draft, especially if they want to get tougher in the trenches. It might take a back seat.

— We had a nice reminder this week from community member Steve that John Schneider referenced the Seahawks not exactly being ‘the bullies’ of the NFL this year. That’s probably true. They weren’t far off — but a lack of depth on the D-line and maybe a lack of Breno on the O-line is noticeable. So how do they regain that edge with rookies? I still think Shon Coleman is the toughest, edgiest tackle I’ve seen this year (punishes at the second level, talks trash, finishes blocks). This is a really hard-nosed group of centers with several tough guys. And yet what they really need is a left guard with size who can move people off the ball and hold their own 1v1. It’s a bit harder to find those types in college. Is there a veteran who can do it?

— Likewise on the D-line, it’s easy to point to the 2013 group and try to mimic that. It’s worth noting the number of seasoned vets on the team that are no longer in Seattle. Denver’s D-line is fearsome but again — it’s a veteran group. It’s going to be really tough with the team tight against the cap — but it kind of feels like they need to work that old magic by finding value in the free agent market.

Russell Wilson agrees 4-year, $87.6m extension

Friday, July 31st, 2015

It took a while to get there, but all’s well that ends well.

While Kam Chancellor stays away (at great expense) and Bobby Wagner ponders his future in Seattle, this is the deal the Seahawks had to get done. And nothing can put a dampener on the significance of this move.

Only a month ago, Mike Florio Tweeted the following:

A future without Wilson simply wasn’t fathomable. There are so few good quarterbacks in the NFL. In May Tom Cable suggested college spread offenses were making it very difficult for quarterbacks to transition to the pro’s.

Training a new college quarterback (presumably without an early pick) is not an attractive proposition. Neither is a situation where you deal Wilson, he flourishes elsewhere and the replacement struggles.

Seattle was never going to be the team that messed this up. Not in this way. Not with this front office.

Look at the situations in Miami or Cincinnati. Two franchises challenged to pay average quarterbacks handsomely on long term deals — without really knowing if either Ryan Tannehill or Andy Dalton will take the next step. Both teams decided the alternative — trying to find a replacement — was a bigger gamble than sticking with what they had.

Wilson is far more talented than both players. The Seahawks weren’t going to let go.

He’s also the best quarterback in Seahawks history. A uniquely gifted franchise passer. The type people will compare other players to for a generation. It was supposed to be Michael Vick or Robert Griffin III. Instead it’ll be Wilson’s name mentioned every time we find a young, mobile, productive passer. “Can he be the next Russell Wilson?” is a phrase you will hear in the future time and time again.

The stalled negotiations and soap-opera feel to the media coverage painted a negative picture. Perhaps that should’ve been anticipated? We all assumed (or at least I did) a deal would come quite quickly. Wilson had gone well beyond expectations as a third round pick. He wanted to be compensated like the best — and it’s what he deserved.

Seattle equally showed incredible judgement in drafting Wilson — and earned the luck that came with it. A third round franchise quarterback at a dirt-cheap price. They had every right to benefit from the final year of his rookie deal — and had to find a way to keep the rest of their group together.

The impasse lasted right until the final hours before training camp began. Now? A collective sigh of relief — from the fans, front office and probably the Wilson camp too.

The cumulative Seahawks roster benefits from their quarterback just as much as he does from a league-leading defense or Marshawn Lynch. He compliments Lynch perfectly. He takes advantage of a stingy defense.

Look at the Bills. Destined again in 2015 to present a ferocious defense and, more than likely, a frustrating offense. They have offensive talent. Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin to name just three examples. Yet with Matt Cassel throwing the passes, they’ll do well to make 8-8.

That would be the Seahawks without Wilson. Good and very close to great — but missing the final piece.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Wilson’s success so far is the way he’s done it without a top-tier receiver or tight end. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Golden Tate (and others) — all good at what they do but not the elite, rare talent that quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Peyton Manning currently benefit from. He has had Marshawn Lynch of course. But the amount we’ve talked about college receivers over the last two years shows the vacancy for a true #1. It’s why the Seahawks seemingly showed interest in Dorial Green-Beckham before he was drafted by the Titans. It’s why they’ve looked at a number of different receivers over the years — including Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson and eventually Percy Harvin.

Jimmy Graham will help here. Wilson has room for improvement going into year four. Having that dynamic target at tight end — a special talent — can aid that progress.

Even without Graham, Wilson has excelled whoever he’s been throwing to. From the days of Sidney Rice to the crucial 4th down score to Braylon Edwards against the Patriots in 2012. The link he formed with Chris Matthews in the latest Super Bowl or the connection he had to Zach Miller and then Luke Willson last season. He hasn’t needed a Dez Bryant, A.J. Green or Julio Jones to excite and produce.

You won’t see a better pass than this. Pressure right in his grill, unable to step into the throw. Wilson launches a perfect 47-yard bomb to Jermaine Kearse, hitting him in stride. And yes — he made the throw while remaining in the pocket.

Need further evidence of his quality? How about the overtime wins against Chicago, Denver and Green Bay? No fuss. In the most intense pressure, in the biggest games — Wilson calmly managed each occasion like a 2-minute drill in practise.

The Seahawks are right in the middle of a Championship window. It’s why they’ve been aggressive to land Graham (and previously to get Harvin). They know the time is now. Wilson is signed until 2019. Their core group of stars are mostly committed for the next three years at least. Barring unfortunate luck with injuries, they’ll compete for each of the next 3-5 years and possibly beyond.

Wilson will be right at the heart of that challenge.

Updated mock draft with trades: 12th February

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Jadeveon Clowney -- trade target for the Buccs?

I don’t want to pump out the same mock draft every week.

So here’s my first projection for the year that including trades.

There were six in-play trades during the 2013 draft. In this mock, I’ve also included six (detailed below).

I’ve also tried to mix up a few of the projections. I’ve dropped some personal favourites from the first round and moved some guys up. The draft is never predictable so even if some of these picks are a little ‘out there’, that’s kind of what I was going for.

Now the trades…

Cleveland trades the #4 & #35 picks to Houston for the #1 overall pick
Amid all the chaos in Cleveland, you just get the feeling they’re not finished making headlines. They’re in exactly the same position as 2012. Two first round picks, they own the #4 selection. That time they allowed another team (Washington) to take the initiative and get RGIII. Anyone else get the feeling they won’t let lightning strike twice?

This would be a good deal for Houston too. Despite a small move down, they still get a quarterback at #4 and can look forward to kicking off day two with the first and third picks in the second round.

Tampa Bay trades the #7 & #38 picks to St. Louis for the #2 overall pick
Back to back trades to start the draft? Yeah it might be unlikely. But Houston and St. Louis have aggressively signalled their desire to move down. The Buccs could use a brilliant pass rusher to kick start Lovie Smith’s defense and this just makes so much sense — for both teams. If the Rams are targeting a tackle in the top ten, they’ll still get a good one at #7.

Carolina trades the #28 pick and a 2015 first rounder to Minnesota for the #8 overall pick
The Panthers suddenly are contenders. They have a great defense. They have some nice pieces on offense. What they lack is a top-tier big receiver. They’re coming up against Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson and Jimmy Graham twice a year. Why not get their own version? Mike Evans is a scrambling quarterbacks best friend — and he could provide Cam Newton with a fantastic alternative to Steve Smith. It’s a big price, but it worked for Atlanta when they dealt for Jones.

In this scenario the Vikings have seen the top three quarterbacks go off the board quickly. They luck out here, grabbing another first round pick and targeting the next best quarterback later on.

Miami trades the #19 pick & a third rounder to St. Louis for the #13 overall pick
The Dolphins’ #1 need without a doubt is left tackle. They made a big move to get Dion Jordan last year, but a similar jump into the top ten will be expensive. Instead they’re likely to see how the draft develops. If a guy like Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan drops, they’ll be ready to make their move.

The Rams continue to accumulate picks in this mock. By the end of day one they’ve drafted Taylor Lewan and Brent Urban, while adding an extra second and third rounder.

The New York Jets trade the #18 & a late rounder to Chicago for the #14 overall pick
Rex Ryan needs to build an offense. Geno Smith didn’t have a great rookie season, but look what he had to throw to. Eric Ebron and Marqise Lee are both still on the board, and this deal isn’t expensive. The Bears were looking to move down in this projection, knowing their targets would be available in four picks time.

San Francisco trades the #30 pick and a fourth rounder to Philadelphia for the #22 overall pick
The 49ers have a whole host of picks again this year. In 2013 they moved from #31 to #18 to get Eric Reid. That deal cost them a third rounder. This is less of a jump, so they only surrender a fourth. If there’s a player San Francisco can’t imagine leaving the draft without, they have the ammunition to be aggressive.

The Eagles on the other hand need to do a lot of work on that defense, so any extra picks will be gratefully received.

Here’s the complete mock, including trades…

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CLE (#4) TRADES WITH HOU (#1)
#1 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The way the Browns are being run these days, would a big move like this shock you?
TB (#7) TRADES WITH STL (#2)
#2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) TRADE
The Buccs need an edge rusher and Lovie Smith doesn’t waste any time going up to get his man.
#3 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
I bet they would’ve loved a shot at Clowney, but they know they can get a quarterback for the long term here.
#4 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
They move down to #4 and still get the guy their coach probably wants.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
With the quarterbacks off the board, they take the best player remaining.
#6 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
This would be a gift for Atlanta. A genuine steal. There’s so much to like about Robinson.
#7 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
I just get a feeling that a lot of teams picking in the top ten will prefer Lewan’s run blocking over Jake Matthews overall skill set.
CAR (#28) TRADES WITH MIN (#8)
#8 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) TRADE
Carolina, sensing a window of opportunity, make a big splash jumping up 20 spots to target a game changing wide out.
#9 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Buffalo reunites E.J. Manuel with another former Seminole. He has immense upside.
#10 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
Could play end or even 4-3 linebacker in Detroit. Don’t they have enough weapons on offense?
#11 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
I’m still not overly convinced by Barr. Ray Horton’s arrival as defensive coordinator means they need a 3-4 OLB.
#12 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Forget the lack of size. He’s an absolute terror and should be taken very seriously as a prospective top-20 pick.
MIA (#19) TRADES WITH STL (#13)
#13 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
After a bit of a fall, Miami grasps the opportunity to move up and get the left tackle they need. St. Louis is happy to move down again.
NYJ (#18) TRADES WITH CHI (#14)
#14 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
NYJ leapfrogs Pittsburgh to get a safety net and playmaker for the offense.
#15 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
No Ebron? No worries. The Steelers take the next guy on their board and get a left tackle with major upside.
#16 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Whether they re-sign Eugene Monroe or not, this has to be an option.
#17 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Of course the Cowboys need a defensive lineman. But Jerry Jones does what he wants. And in this mock, he wants Marqise Lee.
#18 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
After moving down a few spots, the Bears add a safety to their defense.
#19 Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Adding to an already fearsome defensive line, Urban could be J.J. Watt-lite.
#20 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
A monster of a left tackle with a nasty edge. They’ll need a guy like this in the NFC West.
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay needs to keep adding toughness to that defense. It’s way too soft at the moment.
SF (#30) TRADES WITH PHI (#22)
#22 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
If he runs in the 4.3/4.4 range, teams are going to show a ton of interest. San Francisco has the ammunition to move up.
#23 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
Big, third down converting tight end. Would have an instant impact in this offense.
#24 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
It’s not a great class for cornerbacks, but Dennard looks like the best available.
#25 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
The best guard in the class, with amazing athletic potential.
#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon.
#27 Zack Martin (T/G, Notre Dame)
If he falls into the 20’s, he’s going to make someone very happy. Can play tackle or guard
#28 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
They made a big move down after the top three QB’s left the board. In today’s mock they target Carr with this pick.
#29 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Big interior presence who didn’t have a great 2013. The heir apparent to Vince Wilfork.
#30 Ha Ha Clinton Dix (S, Alabama)
The entire secondary needs to be upgraded. After trading back, this looks like a good match.
#31 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Broncos really need to add some quality and youth to that secondary.
#32 Ra-Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Has the size and raw athleticism this team goes for in a defensive tackle.

Oh…

And watch this…

(especially the part at 4:52)

53-man roster prediction: 25th August

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Has Benson Mayowa done enough?

The Seahawks have surely never had a roster like this before? Getting it down to 53 is going to be agony.

The hardest part seems to be weighing up necessary depth versus superior talent.  There’s unlikely to be any Michael Bennett’s out there (cut by Seattle in 2009) but there will be a number of teams ready to pounce in waivers.

Can John Schneider pull off a few last minute trades as teams try to jump the line? We’ll see. Out of the players I cut in my own prediction, I struggled to identify many that have genuine trade appeal. The extended playing time for Brady Quinn against Green Bay was probably more of a showcase opportunity for the player rather than any attempt to drive his trade value (it’s non existent, even with teams like Buffalo suddenly needing a veteran quarterback).

Here’s how I think it might go down…

Quarterbacks (2) – Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson
Running backs (5) – Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson, Spencer Ware
Wide receivers (6) – Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Stephen Williams, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Harper
Tight ends (3) – Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Sean McGrath
Offensive linemen (9) – Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie, James Carpenter, Lemuel Jeanpierre

Total number of offensive players: 25

Defensive linemen (6) – Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hill, Tony McDaniel, Jaye Howard
LEO/Pass rushers (4) – Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, O’Brien Schofield, Benson Mayowa
Linebackers (5) – Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell, Allen Bradford
Cornerbacks (6) – Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Antoine Winfield, Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane
Safety’s (4) – Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Chris Maragos, Jeron Johnson

Total number of defensive players: 25

Special teams (3) – Jon Ryan (P), Clint Gresham (LS), Steven Hauschka (K)

Total roster: 53

Players not included
Suspended: Bruce Irvin
Injured: Percy Harvin, Tharold Simon, Jesse Williams

Key cuts: Brady Quinn, Derrick Coleman, John Lotulelei, Will Blackmon, Winston Guy, Clinton McDonald, Mike Morgan, Phil Bates, Mike Person, Jared Smith, Ryan Seymour, Mike Brooks, Sealver Siliga, Kyle Knox, Ty Powell, Cooper Heflet

Offensive notes
I suspect the Seahawks will stash Spencer Ware and carry five running backs. Seattle carried two quarterbacks last year which means Brady Quinn will almost certainly be gone. Chris Harper gets the redshirt treatment at receiver. The Seahawks would have a tough decision to make if/when Percy Harvin returns. I have Sean McGrath beating Cooper Heflet to the third tight end spot. Nine offensive linemen seems about right with Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie showing in pre-season they can cover at guard or tackle. Mike Person is the odd man out. Lemuel Jeanpierre must be retained as the backup center.

Defensive notes
Not including Bruce Irvin for the first four games helps the Seahawks keep another body on the roster to start the season. Benson Mayowa makes it because I suspect the team has seen enough potential there to keep him on board. Clinton McDonald was a difficult cut and Mike Brooks has shown enough to get a chance elsewhere. I think the team will IR Jesse Williams to work on his knee problems. Sealver Siliga could make it as another ‘big’ tackle but time might be against him. Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell and Allen Bradford have all flashed more than John Lotulelei for me. Smith is a solid backup while Farwell and Bradford will take on key special teams roles. I wanted to keep Mike Morgan too. I really hope Kyle Knox and Ty Powell make it to the practise squad and get another camp next year. Will Blackmon was a difficult cut, another player you’d ideally keep.

Alternative options
The Seahawks could carry just four running backs and hope that Spencer Ware makes the practise squad. That would enable them to keep another lineman, such as Mike Person. I cannot see them giving up on Chris Harper this early. They could cut a linebacker to carry an extra defensive lineman, such as Siliga or McDonald. They could cut Mayowa to keep a player like Mike Morgan. Several people have suggested the possibility of keeping John Lotulelei over Heath Farwell for the cost saving. Farwell’s cap hit for the next two seasons is $1.6m.

Changes during the season
When Bruce Irvin returns it’ll provide an interesting angle. If they like Benson Mayowa enough to stash him whether he has an impact or not, it could spell danger for one of the linebackers. Alternatively, Mayowa could be presented the challenge of proving his worth over the first four games prior to Irvin’s return. I’m not convinced we’ll see Percy Harvin this year, but if he does return much will depend on Stephen Williams’ ability to have an impact. Ditto Jermaine Kearse. If Chris Harper does get a redshirt year, he has to show gradual improvement during the week even if he’s not getting much time on the field. And if Williams and Kearse are playing well, Harper might be sacrificed anyway.

Further additions?
If there’s going to be any further John Moffitt-style trades, tight end and defensive tackle appear to be the likely targets. The Seahawks could also look at the cuts around the league to make additions here, just as they did with Evan Moore a year ago.

Bruce Irvin tape review vs Pittsburgh

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The first thing people want to know about Bruce Irvin is how many snaps he’ll take in Seattle. Pete Carroll claims he can play 600-700 snaps initially in the Raheem Brock role, but others have argued that Brock featured in around 550 snaps. Either way, Irvin can still have an impact at 500 snaps.

Before San Francisco’s week-16 meeting with Seattle in 2011, Aldon Smith had featured in 446 snaps. That was 377 less snaps than defensive rookie of the year Von Miller and 267 less than JJ Watt. Smith still managed to accumulate 13 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 30 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. In comparison, Miller had 11.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, 28 pressures and three forced fumbles, despite playing nearly twice as many snaps. Watt had 4.5 sacks, eight hits, 24 pressures and two fumble recoveries. Stats aren’t everything, but it goes to show how Irvin won’t necessarily be required to play even 2/3’s of the team’s snaps to have an impact.

And that’s just as a rookie. If the plan is for Irvin to eventually replace Chris Clemons as the full time LEO, he’ll one day play the majority of the defensive snaps. A lot of people have criticised the nature of the pick, questioning how often Irvin will feature and what impact he’ll have. The Seahawks want their version of Aldon Smith, even if their version isn’t quite so orthodox. As John Schneider told Adam Schein today, “We thought there was a good chance the Jets were going to take him at 16. If we walked out without him, it would’ve hurt. If you like a guy, get him. 12, 15, 28.”
(more…)

And that was the 2012 draft…

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books. Seattle came away with ten new players, including five additions who play in the defensive front seven. Only three of the picks were spent on offensive prospects – a new quarterback, running back and a defensive tackle who will convert to guard.

It’s an intriguing draft class, but also one that raises a number of questions. The one I’m wrestling with the most is the choice of Russell Wilson in the third round. When a quarterback is drafted in round one, you fully expect that player to start quickly if not right away. In round two, you’d recognise it in a similar way – just with a little less hype. Quarterbacks drafted in rounds 4-7 come with barely any expectation. Round three is the middle ground, the dividing line between expected starter and late round flier.

Pete Carroll has spoken so glowingly about Wilson, it’s raising expectations. At one point yesterday he went on the record stating, “More than anybody else that was alive in the draft, this guy gives you a chance to have a great player.” What exactly does that mean? That Wilson gives Seattle a better chance to have a great player than Andrew Luck? Even if this is a typically Carroll-esque piece of raw enthusiasm, it doesn’t half raise expectations within a fan-base that has been starved of a freshly drafted quarterback to root for.

Language like that makes you believe Wilson could be, realistically, considered the quarterback of the future for this team. Then you wonder, what if he’s the quarterback for now? You look a little closer and notice the way he quickly transitioned to Wisconsin after leaving NC State. The Seahawks passed on other potential immediate starters in round three at different positions. They wanted Wilson, badly.

There’s been no attempt to mask excitement about this guy. Carroll: “It’s going to be really exciting to see what he can bring. All he’s ever done is be great. This is such an incredible athlete that has had extraordinary, historic success. He has done things that people had never thought of before. The fact that he was also such an extraordinary kid, he can handle all of the pressure that he’s going to be under, and all the scrutiny that he already has.”

Wilson was the keynote addition on offense in this draft class. The decision to switch JR Sweezy to guard is merely a hopeful punt. Robert Turbin was an expected target for the Seahawks as a speedy, muscular back who will take some of the strain away from Marshawn Lynch. Wilson was the star attraction here.

Some of the prospects Seattle passed on in the process of spending that third round pick? Mohamed Sanu, a talented receiver from Rutgers. Michael Egnew, a thoroughly modern-day athletic tight end from Missouri. Lamar Miller, a potential X-factor running back who slipped due to health concerns before Miami traded up to grab him at the top of round four. Brandon Brooks, a highly rated offensive guard with huge size from Miami Ohio. All four could’ve had some kind of impact in 2012.

Yet despite investing in Matt Flynn and somewhat backing Tarvaris Jackson to compete to try and remain the starter, Seattle added another quarterback to the equation. It’s as if Carroll and co. have decided improved QB play is the key to moving the offense forward. A review, perhaps, of the frustrating play from Jackson at times last year. So rather than try to add that skill player or the big offensive lineman, the Seahawks open up the quarterback position and try to find an improvement.

This is the highest draft pick Seattle has spent on a quarterback for 19 years. If this isn’t with the intention of at least allowing Wilson to compete to start as a rookie, I’d be almost surprised. People expect Flynn to get the nod, but his contract isn’t so huge that he’s locked into the role. Jackson could find himself on the outside looking in if he doesn’t win out, given his deal is expendable. Josh Portis remains part of the roster but is he rated highly enough to stick around if the team only runs with three quarterbacks?

The Seahawks want a quarterback who can facilitate a running game, which is exactly what Wilson did at Wisconsin. They want someone who won’t turn the ball over but can still make plays, and in four years as a starter in college Wilson threw 109 touchdowns compared to just 30 interceptions. Carroll has talked about young quarterbacks being ready to start earlier these days and appears willing to consider rolling with a rookie.

At the same time, Seattle may feel like Matt Flynn deserves to have the edge in a tight competition this off-season. He’s started in the NFL, albeit only twice, and if the Seahawks only planned to use him as a back-up they may well have avoided some difficult questions a few weeks ago by choosing not to sign the former Packer. I come back to the grey area that is round three. If Wilson had been a second round pick, people would be asking ‘will he start’? If he’d been a fourth round pick, nobody would be expecting an early impact. The third round sits directly between those two extremes.

Interesting times ahead.

Turbin pick will be seen as crucial

We talked a lot on this blog about Seattle’s desire to add a running back early in the draft. A lot of people presumed the Seahawks were set having signed Marshawn Lynch to a new deal, while adding a couple of other guys to go alongside Leon Washington. However, this is a team being built around the run on offense. Lynch is the centrepiece, the MVP, the heart and soul of the unit. He also runs with a physical style that will provoke injury and he’s going to miss time in the future. It’s inevitable. When he didn’t feature against Cleveland in 2011, it had a major impact. The Seahawks want to avoid that in the future.

Rather than look for a change of pace back or someone different to Lynch, the ideal was to find someone who could logically become a starter in their own right. Doug Martin and David Wilson left the board at the back end of round one, making it unlikely the team would find their answer in the second round. Lamar Miller and Chris Polk – two players who many thought could go in that region – both fell due to injury. Ronnie Hillman and Bernard Pierce both disappeared in round three and options were starting to run out. Enter the Turbinator.

At around 5-10 and 220lbs he has the necessary size to deal with a workload. He ran a 4.50 at the combine and looked pretty ripped for a player running that kind of time. It’s that combination of size and power that will interest Seattle – he can run inside and pound or find the edge. He’s shown some ability in space and in the passing game and has suffered due to the low-profile nature of the Utah State team he played for. He’s not good in pass protection, that has to be mentioned, but it’s something he can work on.

Seattle ensured they have a younger version of the Beast in the stable, and it could be a crucial draft pick. The Seahawks need to be able to run the football, but also keep Lynch from injury-risk with too many carries. This was a smart pick and part of the plan in this draft all along.

Focus on defense

A year removed from spending two early picks on the offensive line and making some key offensive free agent signings (Sidney Rice, Zach Miller), this year the Seahawks went big on defense. Bruce Irvin will be expected to have an impact as the #15 pick in the draft. When you draft a specialist pass rusher in the top half of the draft, ahead of every other pass rusher in the class, he needs to be productive almost immediately. While the Seahawks have earned a reputation for intelligent picks late in the draft, they need to make sure they keep hitting in round one. Seattle’s can’t expect to keep finding fast starters with late round picks (such is the nature of the league) so to improve they’ll need an impact from the early rounds.

It’s not a big surprise that defense was the focus this year. The Seahawks needed a pass rusher, whether you agree with the Irvin pick or not. That was the #1 priority – always was. There’s a reason why we paired the Seahawks with a pass rusher in every single one of our mock drafts from January to April. Clearly we didn’t focus in on the right players (although nobody pegged Bruce Irvin) but a pass rusher was key nonetheless. Linebacker was also an obvious need and it was no surprise to see that position addressed in round two.

The rest of the picks come with a degree of the unknown. Korey Toomer may prove to be special teams fodder, alongside Winston Guy. Expect Guy to get the chance to fill the Atari Bigby vacancy. Jeremy Lane received rave reviews for a performance against LSU last season and could be another one of Seattle’s late round sleepers. I like 7th round pick Greg Scruggs as a physical specimen and watched footage of his pro-day where he looked the part and moved well. Jaye Howard is an underrated pass rusher from the interior who will knife through one-on-one blocks and could end up being the one guy who really has an impact from the R4-7 group.

People are already asking why the offensive line and wide receiver positions weren’t addressed. The Seahawks made some moves last year at receiver and people shouldn’t write of an improved season for all with improved health and better quarterback play. If Sidney Rice and Zach Miller play at anything like their peak in 2012, you’re talking about two potential stars. Doug Baldwin continues to develop, while Golden Tate is facing a make-or-break season. Mike Williams deserves a chance to re-emerge after a disappointing 2011.

As for the offensive line, don’t underestimate Seattle’s depth and appreciation for what they have already. The line didn’t miss a beat last year when James Carpenter and John Moffitt suffered injury and were then joined by Russell Okung. The players who stepped in were not big names or high profile draft picks, but they all thrived. Whether it’s Lemuel Jeanpierre, Paul McQuistan or Breno Giacomini – those guys deserve the chance to compete to start. Seattle has also added Deuce Lutui and Frank Omiyale, so will feel good about their chances of filling the hole left by Robert Gallery. A lot of people like to think you need five first round picks to make a good offensive line, but that simply isn’t the case.

Overall it’s a draft class that will do well to provide Seattle with as many key starters as 2010 and 2011. The Bruce Irvin pick shocked the NFL and will be similarly lauded or hammered depending on the performance of ‘Brucemode’ this year. He’s an explosive pass rusher off the edge and the Seahawks haven’t taken this move lightly. A lot of teams react to the draft, but nobody can fault Seattle for being pro-active. They know what they want, they identify roles and they attack. Irvin isn’t the type of guy you draft on a whim because he’s BPA, you draft him with a vision. Other teams like the Jets drafted Quinton Coples because he was there, and now they have to work him into the system. Irvin was probably in Seattle’s thoughts in January.

They’ll know exactly what they want from their latest first round pick and if he can provide an impact in the Raheem Brock-role, then he could end up being one of the most popular players on this team in a generation (his press conference shows why). An improved pass rush and better quarterback play were Seattle’s two defining needs coming into this draft. Irvin and Russell Wilson may well be the answer.

UDFA signings

Rishaw Johnson (OG, Cal. PA), Carson Wiggs (K, Purdue), Jon Opperud (OT, Montana), DeShawn Shead (S, Portland State), Monte Taylor (DE, Cincinnati), Phil Bates (WR/QB, Ohio), Sean McGrath (TE, Henderson State), Jermaine Kearse (WR, Washington), London Durham (CB, McNeese State), Lavasier Tuinei (WR, Oregon), Chris Hart (QB, Weber), Addison Lawrence (OT, Mississippi State)

Game tape on Kearse below:

2012 NFL Draft Day 3 – open thread

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Use this thread to discuss Seattle’s picks as they come in. The Seahawks start the day with nine day-three selections:

Round four selections: Robert Turbin (RB, Utah State), Jaye Howard (DT, Florida)

Round five selections: Korey Toomer (LB, Idaho)

Round six: Jeremy Lane (CB, Northwestern State), Winston Guy (Kentucky, S)

Mayock on Lane, “There’s been a buzz about the kid for the last few weeks, I’m happy for him.”

Round seven: J.R. Sweezy (DT, NC State), Greg Scruggs (DE, Louisville)

We’ll have a reaction post to day three, including game tape, on the blog later today. We’ll also be hosting a Live Chat ‘wrap-up’ tomorrow so stay tuned for that. And when all the picks are in, we’ll start to study them. How do they fit? What are the positives and negatives? I’ll also be publishing a top-30 watch-list for the 2012 college football season.

You can see the Day 2 press conference with John Schneider and Pete Carroll by clicking here. They discuss Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson.

In this video Russell Wilson talks about how he idolizes Drew Brees.

Michael David Smith relays a quote from Pete Carroll, who is already pumped and jacked about Russell Wilson: “More than anybody else that was alive in the draft, this guy gives you a chance to have a great play.”

Will Russell Wilson start in 2012? It’s one of the questions we’ll ask later this week. This is the earliest Seattle has drafted a quarterback since 1993. Matt Flynn’s contract is stacked heavily towards his first season, but it’s not so monumental that he’s untouchable. Carroll has already talked about competition between Tarvaris Jackson and Flynn, now it’ll include Russell Wilson. It may not be the team’s ambition to thrust him into a ‘quarterback of the future’ role, but this is a team that previously hadn’t drafted a quarterback under this regime. Carroll and John Schneider have raised expectations by speaking so glowingly of the guy, so will he get a chance early? More on this after the draft.

And who left the board that seemingly had Seattle so disappointed? Schneider said yesterday: “This is a hard two round because your always going to have guys disappear on you, like argh, ones you spent so much with them, so much time evaluating the, but really we focused on that linebacker group, and the speed at that position, adding Bobby was a great deal, adding Russel he’s just phenomenal.”

The war room looked a little deflated after Mychal Kendricks left the board one pick before Bobby Wagner was selected. And Schneider admits, they were focused on the linebacker group.