Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

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…

Shop for Conference Champs and Super Bowl XLVIII Match Up Merchandise at

#1 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The way the Browns are being run these days, would a big move like this shock you?
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.


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.”

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.

Instant reaction: Seahawks add Wagner & Wilson

Friday, April 27th, 2012

After shocking the NFL by drafting Bruce Irvin with the #15 pick yesterday, Seattle added Bobby Wagner (LB, Utah State) and Russell Wilson (QB, Wisconsin) in rounds two and three on Friday.

The Seahawks moved down four spots in the second round to draft Wagner at #47, after a deal with the New York Jets (who took receiver Stephen Hill). There were a few mixed expressions in Seattle’s war room after Philadelphia took Mychal Kendricks at #46. Was the California linebacker the preferred option? Both are fast, rangy lineman who like to tackle. Carroll would’ve known all about Kendricks – who was awarded the PAC-12 defensive player of the year for 2011.

Bobby Wagner – LB – #47 overall

Regardless, it’s Wagner who makes the trip North. He missed the combine with pneumonia but ran in the 4.4’s at his pro-day. He’s 6-0 and 233lbs and is probably going to play some MIKE and WILL. The Seahawks added Irvin to boost their pass rush, and now have a linebacker compliment to KJ Wright, Leroy Hill, Malcolm Smith and Barrett Ruud. The lukewarm response to David Hawthorne’s free agent status suggested Seattle would always attack the linebacker market and that proved to be the case here. Wagner plays with a good motor – like Hawthorne – but will be able to move much more freely. He’s undersized for your traditional MIKE which could cause issues and he hasn’t a big history of pass rushing. Even so, teams are looking for big, athletic linebackers and the Seahawks clearly see that in Wagner.

He’s flashed an ability to disengage when blocked, something you don’t see from a lot of linebackers his size. At times he was touted as a first round pick for teams like the New England Patriots. Despite a lot of negativity from some pundits, this is a player who was being talked about in the top-50 for some time. He had four sacks and two interceptions last season. He’s likely to start as a rookie.

What are they saying?

Mike Mayock: “This is Pete Carroll’s kind of linebacker. He’s been a fast riser. He tested extremely well, and he’s a big linebacker. This guy is also a four-team special teams player, so you get that production from him, too. He can be explosive for them.”

Charlie Casserly: “Size and Speed is good. Strong guy. Has some instinct issues in talking to scouts.”

Mel Kiper: “I had him in 3rd. Seattle baffles me, I don’t get it.”

Chris Steuber: “Bobby Wagner is my 54th rated player. Doesn’t have definitive LB position, but has a solid skill set. Another interesting pick by the Seahawks.”

Russell Wilson – QB – #75 overall

Seattle’s appreciation for Russell Wilson wasn’t a secret. We’d touched on it a few times on the blog, and certainly there was a feeling the Seahawks would take a quarterback in the rounds 3-6 region. Brock Osweiler was the only signal caller to leave the board in round two, and Seattle capitalised by snatching Wilson in round three. When I sat down to scout players in 2009, the first guy I watched was Russell Wilson. I’ve kind of tracked his progress ever since, at NC State and Wisconsin. A year ago I spoke to several people about the Wolfpack’s decision to effectively ‘move on’ in preference of Mike Glennon, and Wilson’s subsequent decision to snub teams like defending National Champs Auburn in favor of Wisconsin.

I always liked the guy as a pure entertainment player. He spreads the ball around, he has a nice arm. He makes plays. Even so, I’m a little surprised he’s ended up being a third round pick. As much as he has been one of the best quarterbacks to watch in college football over the last few years, there just aren’t a ton of 5-11 quarterbacks out there. And while a lot of people are willing to ignore that, the fact still remains. Personally I think there have been issues with trajectory and some ‘aimed’ passes into areas that have impacted accuracy. He benefited a lot at Wisconsin with a powerful, dominating run game which allowed play-action and bootlegs to thrive, getting him out of the pocket. Is he going to go on and become another exception to the height rule? Or will it limit his ability to start?

Going back to the positives, he has a better than expected arm, perfect character and a will to succeed. The Seahawks suddenly have a very crowded group of quarterbacks, with one of Tarvaris Jackson or Josh Portis likely to be the odd man out. Unfortunately, among the quartet (which also includes Wilson and Matt Flynn) there’s not one true player who stands out. Yet. One other question needs to be asked – what do you expect from a third round quarterback? If he’s a competent back-up for years, is that enough? Does Wilson need to start down the line? What needs to happen for this decision to be deemed a success?

It’s interesting that Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s first pick at the position in three years is Russell Wilson. They were suitably ‘pumped and jacked’ in the war room after making the pick – with visible celebration and excitement. Is Wilson the quarterback of the future? How soon could he realistically start in the league? Will he challenge as a rookie?

What are they saying?

Mike Mayock: “”I can’t tell you how much I like this kid. Not only can he be a competent backup and change-of-pace quarterback, but I think someday he can be a starting-quality player.”

Dan Shonka: “Seattle grabs one of our favorite players in Russell Wilson… maybe they do know QBs?”

Chris Steuber: “Love Russell Wilson. He’s not in my Top 100, but I have him rated 107 overall. He’s my 3rd favorite QB in the draft. Great kid.”

Chris Mortensen: “Evaluators loved his football smarts, how he played under pressure, accuracy and athleticism. The height issue was brought up every time. A few evaluators believed he will become the new exception to the height rule. Big hands, long arms and has a 6th sense that execs kept mentioning can’t be measured.”

Russ Lande: “I love Russell Wilson’s intangibles and arm strength, but taking a backup QB in the 3rd round makes no sense at all to me.”

Seahawks taking risks to get better?

Seattle hasn’t done anything quietly in this draft. They’ve been bold and taken what outsiders would describe as almost reckless gambles. There won’t be any ‘A’ draft grades, but I kind of feel Carroll and Schneider would rather it be that way. Maybe they enjoy being different, or proving people wrong?

There’s a lot of boom or bust to this class so far. A pass rushing specialist from West Virginia who wasn’t an every down guy and has some off-field history. He’ll be 25 in November. A linebacker from Utah State with some athletic tools, but not a lot of splash plays at a level below the top schools. And a 5-11 quarterback. If this ends up being a solid trio in a few years, quite a few people will have to eat their words. I’d consider myself in that group, because so far I’m a bit underwhelmed. It’s quite early for a quarterback with a height question mark who might not be a starter. Irvin was explosive at times in college, but will be judged on production in the NFL and will need to have an impact for such a high pick. And time isn’t on his side as a 25-year-old rookie, he can’t afford three years to bed in.

Wagner was taken before other linebackers such as Zach Brown and Lavonte David, and will be compared to those prospects going forward – even if teams universally preferred Wagner.

Now, the Baltimore Ravens and Ozzy Newsome are the picture of draft excellence in my view. They always let the draft come to them – and it’s helped acquire (among others) Ed Reed, Michael Oher, Jimmy Smith and today Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele. The one time they were aggressive? To go and get a quarterback. It’s the pure ‘BPA’ approach. The Seahawks appear to be identifying needs and attacking them. They always wanted a LT and FS in 2010, and were fortunate enough to strike gold. They went heavy on the offensive line last year and the defensive front seven this year. Will this prove a successful formula? Only time will tell. But there’s nothing dull about the Seahawks.

Day three picks

The Seahawks made two trades on Thursday and Friday to accumulate further picks. Here’s a list of Seattle’s remaining choice:

Round four: #11 & #19

Round five: #19

Round six: #2 & #11

Round seven: #18 & #25

Tomorrow starts with the fourth round at 9:00 PST. We’ll start an open thread 30 minutes before the re-start.

What next?

The Seahawks are going to take a running back, possibly (probably?) with one of those two fourth round picks. Chris Polk (RB, Washington) and Robert Turbin (RB, Utah State) are two names to watch. Lamar Miller (RB, Miami) reportedly remains available due to concerns about an injured shoulder that may need surgery. How far will he drop? Some other names to consider: Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington), Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina), David Paulson (TE, Oregon), Orson Charles (TE, Georgia), George Iloka (S, Boise State), Keshawn Martin (WR, Michigan State), Nick Toon (WR, Wisconsin), Jeff Fuller (WR, Texas A&M), Juron Criner (WR, Arizona), Tommy Streeter (WR, Miami), Logan Harrell (DT, Fresno State), Trevor Gutyton (DE, California), Billy Winn (DT, Boise State), Frank Alexander (DE, Oklahoma), Ronnell Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma), Bobby Massie (OT, Ole Miss), Joe Adams (WR, Arkansas), Nicholas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor), Ron Brooks (CB, LSU), Nigel Bradham (OLB, Florida State), Marvin McNutt (WR, Iowa).

Game tape (Wagner & Wilson), Gruden QB’s Camp (Wilson) and Kiper vs Gruden (Wilson)

Live chat: NFL Draft Rounds 2 & 3

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Instant reaction: Seahawks draft Bruce Irvin

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The Seattle Seahawks keep you guessing.

There were a few whispers doing the rounds in the media pre-draft that a team would take Bruce Irvin in round one. I remember hearing that, pausing for a moment and contemplating. “I wonder? Nah.” In hindsight, I should’ve offered that rumor more than a momentary glance. The Seahawks traded down three spots from #12, collecting a fourth and sixth round pick from Philadelphia. The Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox. The Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin at #15.

First of all, let’s address the pick. We’ve been saying on this blog for some considerable time that the Seahawks would draft a pass rusher. It has always been the focus in round one. We – and the rest of the world – just didn’t locate who was Pete’s pass rusher. As it turns out, that guy played for West Virginia. Carroll referenced in the video above that he recruited Irvin: “I thought we had special information.” Carroll claims he has incredible speed and that for a time he was the best pass rusher in college football. All true.

A year ago almost to the day, I turned my attention to the 2012 draft. It was time to start looking at the next class after Seattle had just taken James Carpenter in round one. I discovered a player so striking, he stood out as a top-ten prospect immediately. He flew off the screen. He stood out.

His name was Bruce Irvin.

In May 2011, I wrote an article titled: ‘Bruce Irvin is ready to crash the 2012 NFL Draft

Here is an exert:

When I scan through the various early 2012 mock drafts and big boards, one name is unusually absent.

Tony Pauline doesn’t list him among 40 prospects to watch this year. He isn’t part of Walter Cherepinsky or Rob Rang’s 2012 mocks. He isn’t part of Chris Steuber’s big board. In fact the only place I’ve seen this guy register is in Chad Reuter’s early projection – as the 32nd overall pick.

Yet in my opinion, he’s right up there at the top end. Ultimate star potential, a defensive prospect who may be the best overall in college football. This is one player who will help define his team as they mount what I believe is a realistic shot at making a BCS Bowl, maybe even the big one. On his highlight’s tape, they borrow the name ‘Beast Mode’, but if Marshawn Lynch watches this guy play I’m sure he won’t complain.

The best pass rusher in college football is Bruce Irvin of the West Virginia Mountaineers. He was part of my top-50 prospects for 2012.

He’s lightning quick as you’d expect given the size but unlike Von Miller who relied completely on speed, Irvin is more than willing to engage a tackle, drive him into the quarterback or beat him with stunning hand placement. I’ve never see a guy with this size paddle away an offensive lineman before.

He’s the best kept secret in college football. Last season he recorded 14 sacks and yet received virtually no hype. West Virginia pulled off a masterstroke appointing Dana Holgorsen as their offensive coordinator and future head coach. He was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State’s free-scoring offense which consistently churned out talent at running back and wide receiver. The Mountaineers will have a productive offense next season and with Irvin leading the way on defense they’re an outside pick to go unbeaten next year. That’ll help to put this guy firmly on the map.

Make no mistake this is the most devastating, dominating and exciting player you’ll watch during the 2011 college season. I’d recommend reading this piece from Geoff Coyle on Irvin’s background and route to WVU. More importantly, take a look at the schedule and make sure you grab the opportunity to watch him in action.

Irvin himself read that article, and retweeted it. He expected to be a round one pick, probably because so many people were complimenting his game. He referenced it in interviews, he talked about having a fantastic final season at WVU and being a round one pick. Without doubt the best pass rusher in college football in 2010 was not Da’Quan Bowers or Von Miller, it was Bruce Irvin.

So what happened?

Irvin had a big impact as a specialist rusher in 2010, acting on third downs and recording 14 sacks after transferring as a JUCO prospect. In 2011, the Mountaineers attempted to turn him into an every down type player. He was used in three-man fronts, right on the line and not in space. He faced regular double teams, he was hit out of plays and struggled to have an impact. In his first five games last season, he had just one sack. When he reverted back to a ‘specialist’ role, he notched 7.5 sacks in five games. Go figure.

At the combine he exploded, running the fastest time by any pass rusher with a flat 4.50 forty yard dash at 6-3 and 245lbs. He had a 1.58 10-yard split. You can see his workout by clicking here.

The Seahawks have gone after their schematic version of Aldon Smith. Except their version of Aldon Smith looks more like Clay Matthews. Don’t expect Irvin to play every down. For those wondering if Irvin is going to translate to linebacker, it probably won’t happen. He’ll play obvious passing downs, either at the LEO or replacing Raheem Brock’s nickel role. Yet he may well be just as productive. One day he could replace Chris Clemons at the LEO.

He’s a pure, speed, edge rusher with a bit of fight to his game and occasionally surprising strength. But overall, he’s going to have one responsibility – get to the QB. He’s not that young at 24, so they’ll expect an impact. In fact, he turns 25 on November 1st.

The pick at #15 summed up an extraordinary first round which flew by at just over three hours and contained many surprises. There were a number of trades, especially late in the first round. At one point Tampa Bay moved up several spots back into the first to grab Doug Martin and they merely flipped fourth rounders with Denver for the pleasure. That was a king steal for such a talented running back. Prospects like AJ Jenkins went in the first round unexpectedly. Brandon Weeden – a 29-year-old rookie to be – went 22nd overall. Irvin was the first edge rusher off the board at #15, ahead of Quinton Coples. Nobody could call events as they unfolded.

Is this a sign of the times? Or the sign of a bad draft class? Will the numerous trades and unexpected picks continue next year, or is it simply the latest trend? How will teams approach the second round? The Seahawks still have needs at running back and linebacker, but will they keep building the pass rush? Or will they look for a touchdown maker?

The Seahawks got their pass rusher, but it wasn’t the guy many expected. I hope the article I linked to above, written almost a year ago today, shows the kind of potential Irvin has. Don’t be down on this pick. I’ll leave you with some links, game tape and a quote to stew on from Seattle’s latest first round pick: “I love eating quarterbacks.”

NOTE – We’re back tomorrow for another live chat from 15:30 PST


Les Carpenter: West Virginia prospect Bruce Irvin ditches burglary, drug game for shot at NFL

Frank Rose: Bruce Irvin Turning Heads at the 2012 NFL Combine

James Choy: Irvin sees a bright future ahead

Sports Illustrated: Seattle takes West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin

NFL Network: Bruce Irvin draft profile

Live Chat: NFL Draft 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The 2012 draft is here. Instant analysis as round one unfolds.