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The encore (aka harsh realities and home truths part II)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

I had a few more thoughts I wanted to get into today, as a follow up to yesterday’s piece looking at harsh realities and home truths.

Do the Seahawks have a NFC West problem?

In their last four divisional games, the Seahawks are 0-4. Since the 2015 season, they’re 16-14-1.

Maybe this is merely an indication of how competitive the division is? Yet the Rams went 6-0 in the NFC West in 2018 and the 49ers were 5-1 a year ago (and were a botched kick away from 6-0).

The Seahawks are 1-4 in their last five games against the Rams (and would’ve been 0-5 but for a missed field goal). In those five games LA scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points.

Here’s the total offensive yardage conceded in each game by Seattle:

2017 (H) — 352
2018 (A) — 468
2018 (H) — 456
2019 (H) — 477
2019 (A) — 455

They’re now 1-2 against Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. They competed well against the 49ers in Santa Clara last year but put up little resistance on defense in the final game of the regular season. They also toiled against Kyle Shanahan when he was in Atlanta and dropped a game quarterbacked by Nick Mullens in 2018.

So far they’ve seemed incapable of working out a way to deal with the McVay and Shanahan offenses and the early signs are they’re going to have the same problem with Kyler Murray.

Here’s an inconvenient truth — McVay and Shanahan have elevated teams led by weaker quarterbacks (Goff, Garoppolo) to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have a legendary quarterback and haven’t gotten close in recent years.

Heck — they’ve only won the division once in five years.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say this could be the biggest game of the season on Sunday. Lose and drop to 0-2 in the NFC West with two games still to come against the Rams and the Seahawks will already be in a critical state.

My concern going into this season was that it could be a repeat of what we saw a year ago despite the massive investment in terms of money and picks. Let’s not forget — they were 5-2 last year, finished 11-5 and had a predictable early playoff exit.

Coaching matters

Yesterday I mentioned the untidy nature of Seattle’s play and how it deserves more consideration than a glib ‘suck it up’ from Pete Carroll.

Throughout the Carroll era, the Seahawks have played fast and loose. They have a knack of keeping inferior opponents alive in games. When’s the last time they handled a winning team like the Rams did to the Bears last night? Or like the 49ers did to the Rams the previous week?

The Seahawks seem to play in chaos all the time. To be fair, they have won more games than they have lost (although arguably that’s a review of the quarterback more than anything else).

Meanwhile the thing that guides the likes of the Rams and 49ers is their ability to stay on track. The execution of a well-oiled offensive machine. They don’t want to make games chaotic. They want to dictate the flow of a game with their own style, which is often on-point.

Look at the coaching pairings in the last few Super Bowls. Shanahan and Andy Reid. McVay and Bill Belichick. Doug Pederson and Frank Reich against Belichick. Shanahan (the real positive for Atlanta) and Belichick.

None of this group play in chaos. They all have a very clear vision of what they are and they execute more often than not.

As noted yesterday, Seattle’s untidy nature often leads to getting blown away in the first half of important playoff games. They aren’t a four quarter football team and they no longer have the complete roster to excel despite that.

It’s a problem. Their inability to play conventional football is an issue. They are too streaky. There are too many moments like Benson Mayowa’s bonehead penalty against Arizona. There are too many fast starts and slow finishes or vice versa.

Carroll needs to embrace the need to clean things up.

There’s also a limitation which is problematic

The only response given to questions about the defense at the moment is to suggest they’ll ‘keep going’ or that they need to ‘help out’ the players a bit more.

The reality seems to be that they’ve tried everything already.

They started the year among the highest blitzers in the league and got torched — giving up more explosive plays than any other team in the NFL.

Since then they’ve resorted to being more conservative and they just cannot create any pressure — exposing the second and third level.

The Seahawks don’t have the players they need to run their scheme. It’s incredible that they allowed this to happen. They need to be able to create pressure with four. It’s as simple as that.

Using two first round picks on Jamal Adams was a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. They now have a hugely expensive safety, who might absorb a $20m contract in the future, who is going to presumably come back in and be asked to be the designated pass rusher again.

They’re just so limited in what they can do.

It was also scarily stark how the offense had run out of ideas at the end of the Arizona game. Watching it back — they simply had no answer for Arizona’s switch-up where they showed heavy blitzing and man coverage but masked where the pressure, and how much, was actually coming.

Seattle had a half to work out a solution and failed. By overtime the offense could barely function. Wilson looked lost. Nobody really knew what to do and that’s why you started seeing things like a pitch to Carlos Hyde or a play, highlighted by Chris Collinsworth, where nobody ran a route and Wilson just threw it out of bounds.

The whole offense was discombobulated and couldn’t function. Wilson’s ridiculous interceptions didn’t help. Yet it was amazing how they didn’t have any answers to the questions posed by Arizona after racking up 375 yards in the first half.

And why on earth where they not able at any point in the game to isolate a favourable matchup for D.K. Metcalf? Why did it take until the dying stages of overtime to throw him a screen pass? Do something, anything, to get the ball in his hands. It’s not acceptable to go through a whole game with him sidelined or uninvolved.

The missed tackles are back

Seattle started the year second only to New England for fewest missed tackles. Now they’re up to 50 for the season which is the 13th highest. They are climbing the table and if they have another game like they did against Arizona — where I think they had 13 missed tackles — they’ll soon be back near the top (just as they were in 2019).

Parsing Carroll on Darrell Taylor

For the second time in a week Taylor’s name was mentioned in terms of coming back and then immediately it was noted that he’s not even changing direction when he’s running.

I suspect there’s a hidden meaning behind all of this.

Here’s my hunch. The Seahawks realised that free agency didn’t exactly ‘fix’ anything in terms of the pass rush and therefore they set out to identify a player in the draft.

It wasn’t a deep edge rush class but they decided that Taylor was their man. They thought about taking him with the top pick but decided to bide their time and then move up in round two. They got the player they wanted and I think the hope was that he could contribute quickly to make up for the lack of action in free agency.

The problem is he’d been injured for months. He’d missed the Senior Bowl and combine. There were no proper medical checks this year due to coronavirus.

The Seahawks rolled the dice and took an expensive chance.

When Carroll refers to him now, I suspect it’s not with any belief that he’ll contribute this year. I think he’s revealing what their plan was. And really, he’s at such a loose end to find an answer to the glaring defensive problem — he’s now in a roundabout way talking about the hope that failed to be.

Of course they should never have put themselves in a position to be relying on an injured rookie for pass rush. Yet that’s where they ended up and unsurprisingly it hasn’t worked. It was a poor, desperate plan that has backfired.

So now all Carroll can do is long for what could’ve been and talk about ‘making a turn’ or ‘getting better’ or healthier. The problem is Jamal Adams or Snacks Harrison are not fixing your pass rush. They aren’t enabling you to rush with four.

Why are the Seahawks so bad on third down?

They have an elite quarterback, a variety of dynamic weapons, huge depth at tight end.

Yet they are currently ranked 31st in the NFL for third down conversion (33.90%). The only team with a worse rate is the winless New York Jets.

That’s incredible and warrants challenging.

Further thoughts on the trade deadline

I stand by what I said yesterday. I don’t think an ageing pass rusher alone is going to fix this defense.

That said — that doesn’t mean the Seahawks shouldn’t try.

If you don’t add anyone before the deadline, you’re rolling with what you’ve got which isn’t good enough.

Making a trade for Everson Griffen or Carlos Dunlap or Ryan Kerrigan might not solve all the problems. It’s better than doing nothing though.

I want to see a return of the pro-active Seahawks who are doing whatever they can to fix a problem. I hope I’m not alone in saying I’m tired of waiting for this team to put itself in position to properly compete for a Super Bowl again. I don’t want to waste Wilson’s prime years. In 10 years time I don’t want to look back on this period wondering what could’ve been if only they’d had the nouse to not create a defense that is a total and utter liability.

If that means being more aggressive than they’d be prefer to be, I wouldn’t criticise them for that. Maybe they have to be prepared to try and recoup stock in the off-season by trading some of their own players?

I don’t expect any trades, however. I suspect after the Jamal Adams deal they will be reluctant to part with further picks for rental situations. Any prospective move will have to be very, very cheap in terms of compensation. So unless anyone’s dangling a proven pass rusher for a sixth or seventh round pick — I’m not sure there’ll be any action.

I just hope that if this season ends up being a repeat of the last few years, that someone at some point between now and February will ask what on earth happened to their stated goal of fixing the pass rush and how they ended up with this shambles?

Everson Griffen has been traded to the Lions

For a mere conditional sixth round pick.

As noted above — I just don’t think the Seahawks are going to do anything before the deadline.

But at least they’re getting value for the $10-11m spent on Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister (190 yards and two touchdowns). Not to mention the $10m they spent on Bruce Irvin (injured) and Benson Mayowa (ranked #99 out of 111 pass rushers per PFF) is also going to good use. Plus the $9.35m Jarran Reed (#80 out of 119 defensive tackle) is costing this year. B.J. Finney is delivering a top notch service for the $8m committed to him over the next two years. And at least that $4.2m they spent so they could tag Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson wasn’t needed in March.

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Home truths and harsh realities for the 5-1 Seahawks

Monday, October 26th, 2020

It’s time Pete Carroll was asked some difficult questions about the pass rush

John Schneider should be challenged too but unlike other GM’s he never talks during the regular season apart from a weekly confab with team employee Steve Raible before each game.

Both said at the start of the off-season that fixing the pass rush was a priority and it’s time for someone to step up to the plate and push Carroll on how they went about it.

The Seahawks have nine sacks meaning they’re on pace for 24 for the season — four fewer than a year ago.

Kyler Murray was pressured on just one of 48 dropbacks yesterday for an astonishing 2.1% pressure rate.

This isn’t a question that needs to be saved until the season is over.

Even if Carroll dances around the topic — sometimes you’ve simply got to be seen to be asking the question. The fans deserve an explanation.

It was painfully predictable that the work on the defensive line wasn’t good enough this year. If Carroll and Schneider are going to have so much power due to ownership being in a holding pattern, they need to be held accountable in other ways.

So how has spending $50m in free agency, three first round picks, a second round pick and three third round picks meant their self-confessed priority has actually got worse?

And what do they intend to do about it? Do they need to be aggressive again before the deadline?

The questions must be asked.

Enough already with the sloppy play

Carroll often tells fans to ‘suck it up’ after the latest narrow victory. He says he enjoys the near constant nail-biters and believes it builds confidence and mental strength for key games later in the year.

Where’s the evidence for that though?

Here’s another way of looking at it. The Seahawks too often play sloppy, mistake-riddled football that undermines the talent they possess and keeps inferior teams alive in games.

Rather than build any kind of ‘experience’ for key matchups down the line, the sloppy play simply re-emerges in fatal fashion in the post-season:

Carolina in 2015 — 31-0 down at half time

Atlanta in 2016 — 26-13 down after three quarters

Dallas in 2018 — unable to get the job done

Green Bay in 2019 — 21-3 down at half-time

When they get to the big moments, they often get punished. It should be seen as unacceptable how often they put themselves in a massive hole in key playoff games and the connection should be made to their preceding regular season performances.

That’s not to say teams can’t be streaky. Look at the Chiefs in the playoffs last year. Yet the Seahawks seem to barely ever comfortably win games against weaker opponents. Why is that? Rather than it be referred to as a cute aspect of the Carroll era — isn’t it right to think the Seahawks should tidy things up?

Especially when the margin for error these days is so much smaller?

Take the Benson Mayowa penalty yesterday. Why didn’t the coaches or even the team leaders on the field make it abundantly clear that nobody should be rushing on that late field goal — let alone trying to jump over the protection?

This wasn’t just a careless error — it speaks to the preparedness of a team. It’s a review of how well your players understand situational moments.

Mayowa went all out for that kick like it was the deciding moment. In reality, Arizona kicking the field goal was a minor issue. Making sure the defense was protecting a seven-point lead and not a three-point lead in the final minute was the key.

All it needed was one person to give the order. ‘Don’t rush’. ‘Don’t give away a stupid penalty’. ‘Let them have these three points’.

It sums up the messy nature of Seattle’s play.

Of course they show plenty of grit, character and cajones. Nobody can question the spirit of any of Carroll’s teams.

Yet is it too much to ask for them not to shoot themselves in the foot so often? To play an occasional clean game of football? To actually protect or enhance a handsome lead rather than throw it away?

I struggle to see the valuable lesson from failing to win football games conventionally. Too often the Seahawks are a team that can’t play consistent, four-quarters football and it’s time that was addressed and fixed.

Maybe rather than the fans it’s the coach who needs to suck things up and establish a cleaner brand of football?

The Seahawks are stuck in philosophical awkwardness

Let Russ Cook? I don’t think this is the shift that many believe. I think it’s a case of needs must.

Seattle knows they need scoreboard pressure to bail out a terrible defense. They know the only shot is to elevate Wilson to a MVP level and give him the chance to win games.

Yet at the heart of the Carroll project is a desire for balanced, connected football. A closed circle.

You see it bursting through in games like yesterday. At the end he relied on four runs by backup running back Carlos Hyde to try and win rather than put the ball in the hands of the star quarterback and risk stopping the clock.

Ultimately he was content to try and let the defense close things out.

The old style. The old philosophy.

But the new Seahawks cannot execute it.

Make no mistake Carroll wants to play Carroll ball. He just can’t. Not with this team.

But when exactly are they going to be able to play it any time in the future?

They have no high picks in 2021 or 2022. Like everyone they’ll have little money to spend. They’ve invested in the players they’ve invested in and might add a bloated Jamal Adams contract to the bloated Bobby Wagner one.

The question I have is — after some mixed form from Wilson in the last three games — is everyone entirely comfortable here? Or is this a marriage of pure convenience?

It’s not wrong to expect or want more

The Seahawks possess one of the all-time great quarterbacks. As we’ve seen with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers — this doesn’t always guarantee endless titles and success.

However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to win the Super Bowl every year.

Seattle came into this season needing to show improvement and progression. For the investment in terms of money and picks — they had to look like one of the true big beasts in the NFL.

Instead, the defense is worse than it’s ever been and they’ve never been more reliant on the quarterback.

Is it any coincidence that Russell Wilson has already thrown more interceptions this year than in the whole of 2019? He’s on pace to throw the most of his career by far. Perhaps that comes with the territory of throwing more, which Wilson clearly is. Yet the errors against Arizona and Minnesota were so strikingly bizarre, it’s hard not to wonder if this utter dependence is weighing on his shoulders.

You could easily argue it’s unfair to criticise the team. After all, they’re 5-1 and just suffered their first loss of the season. Yet it’s the manner of what we’ve seen so far. The toiling against bad New England and Dallas teams. The overall arse-kicking from 1-5 Minnesota. Now a blown and botched game against Arizona.

None of this exudes confidence in a team being able to take the next step.

They’ve only won the NFC West once in the last five years. In that timeframe, two division rivals have reached the Super Bowl and the other made the NFC Championship game.

That’s not good enough. They need to go further. This needed to be the year where they jumped forward and got back into serious Super Bowl contention.

Can anyone seriously say, based on what they’ve seen so far, that you’d back this team to win 2-3 playoff games to reach the Super Bowl?

And now they’re already 0-1 in the NFC West with Arizona at 2-0 and with the same five overall wins.

Are they destined to tread the same path? Getting to the post-season but more or less making up the numbers? That’s what I thought before the start of the season and unfortunately I still feel that way today.

I don’t think there’s anything they can do to fix the defense

Carlos Dunlap? Ryan Kerrigan?

Sure, why not. But let’s get real. Ageing defensive linemen who are being phased out are not coming to the rescue.

As Chris Collinsworth noted during the broadcast yesterday — the Seahawks badly lack a premier edge rusher. They have nobody who can create 1v1 pressure off the edge.

Bringing in an older player to try and elevate this team isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s also be realistic about returning players and recent additions. Snacks Harrison has been in a holding pattern for three weeks because he isn’t in shape. How realistic is it that he suddenly comes flying in to make an impact?

And while Jamal Adams’ return will be welcome — that’s not going to solve the biggest problem in terms of the lack of sacks and pressures. The Seahawks tried to use him as a designated rusher, blitzing more than anyone else in the league before his injury. The end result? They gave up more explosive plays than any other team in the league.

The Seahawks made their bed with this defense in March. Their 2020 free agency session can be filed alongside what looked to be an unfathomable approach to the 2019 draft, the way they’ve handled trying to replace Frank Clark and the desperate move, in my opinion, they made to get Jamal Adams when it became clear they’d not added anyone of significance to the defense, had all but lost Clowney and then paid a kings ransom right before the season started to acquire the one big name who was available.

The reality probably is this is the unit you’re going to be watching for the next 10 games. I don’t think anyone is coming in before the deadline.

Let’s end on a positive

A loss can linger but it can also motivate. Look at the Green Bay Packers this week. Humiliated by Tampa Bay but then comfortable winners against Houston.

The Seahawks don’t get a gift like the flailing Texans. They have to play suddenly red-hot San Francisco.

However — if the Arizona game re-focuses minds and delivers a much improved performance, people will quickly move on and there will be momentum behind the season again.

The problem is — lose next week and you’re 0-2 in the division before you’ve even played the team you struggle with the most in the NFC West. The Niners game is a huge one and dare I say, a must-win.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks finally blow a winnable game

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

We can’t say it hasn’t been coming.

The Seahawks made hard work of games against bad New England and Dallas teams. Against a 1-5 Minnesota they probably should’ve lost.

The problem is the defense isn’t good enough to play complementary football. And that means Russell Wilson has to be exceptional.

Tonight, he was awful after half time.

He was spooked by the Arizona defense. He looked exhausted. It was a total and utter meltdown.

He threw three horrible interceptions (and it’s now four in two games) and the Seahawks thoroughly deserved to lose this game.

It wasn’t the only issue of course. The defense blew a 10-point lead with about four minutes left in the game. The tackling was dreadful and once again there was zero pass rush. Benson Mayowa’s bonehead special teams error gifted Arizona a touchdown. The way they offense just curled up into a ball at the end of the game, especially in overtime, while Arizona exploited Seattle’s tired unit was incredible.

The ref’s also played their part too.

Yet they simply made far too many mistakes in a mess of a performance. They lost a game they had no business losing.

The story of the season was always going to be can Wilson cover up for the defense. Any kind of stutter or stall and it’s goodnight Vienna.

We said all off-season — the Seahawks will win games with Wilson. But this defense will not make up for off-days. They will be exploited. They aren’t good enough. They bye week made absolutely no difference.

The Seahawks are now 0-1 in the NFC West — while the Cardinals are 2-0 and hold a tiebreaker over Seattle.

They play San Francisco next week, who just hammered the Patriots.

As good as 5-0 was — that’s not the goal. Winning the NFC West is. Going deeper into the playoffs is and not just flopping out in the first two rounds.

Not having the same season. That’s the target. Not 5-0.

I remain unconvinced that this Seahawks team is capable of doing it. We can clearly see the defense has regressed even from a terrible 2019 and isn’t good enough. There’s too much pressure on Wilson and the offense and look how they slumped and staggered in the second half.

If Wilson cannot play to a consistently brilliant level this is what can happen.

They have become one of those teams that is completely and solely dependant on the quarterback.

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Sunday Seahawks draft notes & trade deadline rumours

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Bengals might be sellers, albeit unreasonable sellers

Jason La Canfora is reporting that Cincinnati are more inclined to trade veterans this year, 12 months on from a bizarre approach to their roster rebuild.

Owner Mike Brown is notoriously stubborn and runs his franchise like a local pub. Trying to trade with him can be a nightmare.

Will anything change?

“I think they are more open to it, yeah,” one general manager said. “I’m just not sure how realistic they’re going to be about the value of these players. We’ll see. I know they’re getting calls and there a bunch of players who want out of there ASAP.”

Therein lies the problem. It’s OK being willing to trade. If he’s going to ask for a second round pick for Carlos Dunlap and A.J. Green, the end result will be the same.

“Who knows, man?” another executive said. “Every time we talk to them it feels like a waste of time because they can’t pull the trigger.”

Dunlap in particular is trying to orchestrate a trade. The Bengals should grant him his wish, move on and try to reshape their roster over the next two years. He’d be a good option for the Seahawks for a late round flier — someone with a history of getting sacks and can play early downs in a four-man front.

I’m just not convinced Cincinnati will be reasonable with their asking price.

However, Ian Rapoport says he could be inactive today ahead of a potential move — so this is one to monitor.

The Texans are gearing up for a busy deadline

La Canfora also notes the Texans are gauging the market for Whitney Mercilus and a number of other players, including receivers Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks.

Houston needs two things — more draft picks and cap space. They’re currently without a first or second round pick in 2021 and they’re already $16m over the cap for next season.

However good Deshaun Watson is, that’s not an appealing situation for any prospective GM or Head Coaching candidate.

Having blown the cheap years when Watson was on his rookie deal, they’ll now have to operate with one of the most expensive players in the NFL on their books (not to mention Laremy Tunsil’s record-setting contract too).

While the likelihood of a blockbuster trade is minimal, there seems to be sufficient interest in enough players to facilitate a transaction or two by the deadline.

They’re not going to get a mega-offer in the top two rounds but they can pad out their depth for day three and save salary by making smart moves now.

Mercilus is the most interesting one for Seattle. He’s 30, quick off the edge and could do a job. Yet the market for a somewhat expensive, ageing pass rusher has to be something like a sixth rounder. It’s a salary dump.

I’m not sure the Texans will be willing to make that move. After all — their cap problems for 2021 are not as severe as the Falcons, Eagles or Saints. They also don’t have any reason to ‘tank’ the season. If anything, continuing to lose from a 1-5 position will be infuriating. Imagine if they end up gifting Miami a top-five pick that they use on Penei Sewell for a fraction of the cost of Tunsil? Ouch.

They almost have to find a way to win games to save face.

Minnesota Vikings open to further trades

Reportedly it’s possible Adam Thielen could be dealt. I’m tempted to say if the Seahawks were willing to risk their reputation on failing to sign Antonio Brown, they should be keeping an eye on the receiver market in general.

Thielen is 30 but Brown is 32. He’s a pillar of consistency — one of the savviest receivers in the game. He already has seven touchdowns this season and he has 22 in the last two a bit years.

Do I think he’ll be moved? No. If anything, he’s someone the Vikings should be desperate to keep hold of. It’d probably take a deal even greater than the Yannick Ngakoue trade to make it happen.

It’s also been confirmed that both the Seahawks and Tampa Bay were only willing to offer the veteran minimum to Brown — so they weren’t breaking the bank there.

Forget the cost though. Seattle was willing to take a major, substantial risk on Brown the person — both in terms of potential disruption and reputational damage.

If they really want to add another dynamic weapon to both support and appease the one player dragging this franchise along — they should be seeing what it’d take to get Thielen, Odell Beckham Jr, Will Fuller or any other talented, dynamic receiver.

Forget about Quinnen Williams and Ryan Kerrigan

According to Ian Rapoport:

Though more than a few teams have called inquiring about DT Quinnen Williams, source said it will take much more than the rumored second-round pick for Gang Green to part with him. GM Joe Douglas will consider anything, but for a player as highly regarded as Williams, it’s more of a question of, “How many second rounders?”

I can’t imagine anyone stumping up multiple second rounders.

Rapoport also says Ryan Kerrigan is unlikely to be dealt:

“Though other executives appear curious if Ryan Kerrigan is available, that doesn’t seem likely. Instead, it’s former second-rounder Ryan Anderson who has drawn calls and appears to be available for an edge-needy team.”

Anderson has short arms, ran a 4.78 forty and a 7.73 three-cone so he’s unlikely to be on Seattle’s radar.

Ohio State center stands out

With the Big-10 starting, a lot of focus was understandably on quarterback Justin Fields. However, it was the player snapping him the ball that drew my attention against Nebraska.

Josh Myers is 6-5 and 312lbs and a former four-star recruit. He has an ideal combo of physical power to move players off the line of scrimmage and the athleticism and agility to reach to the second level and handle blocks on the move.

At SPARQ he ran an impressive 5.11 forty and an even more impressive 4.49 short shuttle. Those are terrific numbers for an interior lineman at his size. He had the highest SPARQ score (109.35) among all offensive linemen in 2017.

For me there’s absolute no doubt he has the potential to be a first round selection. He’s everything that teams look for in a high O-line pick — physical, athletic, consistent and with high upside.

Keep him on your radar for the rest of the year. He’s only a junior so might not declare for 2021 but he has the potential to go early in the draft.

Seth Williams deserves more attention

He was on our watch-list for the season but Williams kind of gets lost in the wash. There’s not a lot that’s right at Auburn but their top receiver continues to make an impression.

Williams basically won them the game against Ole Miss with eight catches for 150 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. He was unstoppable on slants, creating early separation and always offering an easy-out to Bo Nix. He showed great hands and he extends his arms to high-point and catch the ball.

On one slant he darted upfield and hurdled a defender for YAC. On another occasion Nix basically threw a Hail Mary with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Williams boxed-out his man and caught it in double coverage on the goal line. He showed incredible concentration, positioning and finish.

He made an incredible play to win the game with 1:16 left. Trailing by a point he caught a difficult sideline throw. It was aimed at the back shoulder but the defender had reasonable position and Williams had to contort his body and stretch out to catch it. He then avoided a slipping defender and sprinted from half-way for a 58-yard touchdown (before adding the two-point conversion).

Testing will be important for Williams but he just has a natural ability and he looks the part of a NFL receiver.

Other standout players

It feels like we’ve been talking about Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson for years. He could finally be delivering on his massive potential. Against Illinois he rebounded from a costly fumble to record seven catches, 72 yards and three touchdowns. He has ideal size, 4.6 speed, he jumped a 35-inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a fantastic 4.15 short shuttle. He has the profile, now he just needs the production. He could easily be a day two pick if he builds on this start.

It was only against Texas State but BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was superb again with four more touchdowns and 287 yards. He continues to be one of the most impressive players in college football and his stock should be rising quickly.

Michigan’s Kwity Paye has outstanding physical potential and he flashed that with two sacks against Minnesota. On one sack he lined up inside despite not being a natural fit there, then swam by the left guard and exploded into the backfield. He had a hand in another by using pure power to drive the left tackle into the backfield, disengage and then compete to the QB. He was on our watch-list for the year and he has a great shot to get into the first round discussion.

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The Seahawks should be challenged on Antonio Brown

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

If you missed the earlier article on trade deadline targets, you can check it out here.

There’s some breaking news I wanted to reflect on though:

The Seahawks arguably crossed an ethical line when they decided they wanted to sign Antonio Brown.

Many fans didn’t want it to happen. Russell Wilson, for the first time in his Seahawks career, faced an awkward line of questioning during yesterday’s press conference.

Usually Wilson’s press briefings are fairly bland. A positive review of the next opponents, some praise for team mates, a few cliche’s and then a ‘Go Hawks’ to finish.

Instead he had to explain his support for arguably the NFL’s most controversial current individual.

He clumsily resorted to ‘nobody’s perfect’ as a defense for his public backing of a player cut by the Patriots after it emerged the NFL was investigating Brown for multiple accusations of sexual assault and rape.

Earlier in the week Carroll admitted Seattle’s interest:

“We’re there, we’re in it and we know what’s happening.”

Nobody was playing anything down.

The way everyone was talking — a deal felt inevitable.

They invited criticism — although let’s be fair, many fans also supported the possibility of signing Brown based on his football talent. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest they staked some of their reputation on this. Both Carroll and Wilson portray very positive public images. Attaching themselves to Brown at a time when the offense is rocking was a risky move — whether you supported his signing or not.

To go through that and then have Tampa Bay swoop him and snatch him away?

Adam Schefter reported less than an hour before it was announced that the Buccs had agreed terms with Brown, that the Seahawks were still ‘in talks’ to try and sign him:

This is the worst possible scenario. The Seahawks took on all of the negatives of being seen to be actively pursuing Brown — and then didn’t even seal the deal for their troubles.

Anyone who criticised the Seahawks for showing interest in Brown shouldn’t suddenly forget all about it now. They have to hold Carroll and Wilson to account in the same way they would’ve done had they signed him. Per Schefter’s report — they didn’t back out. They retained interest right until the end. They’re simply losing him to Tampa Bay.

For those that did want him — the Seahawks failed to land their target.

And what about Wilson? What does he think about all of this? The man who called for superstars? The man who reportedly offered an ultimatum about ‘letting him cook’? The man who worked out with AB? The man who went to bat for him this week?

Will he understand the Seahawks letting him join a NFC rival? Or will this create an issue now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady have got the man he wanted?

If you’re going to cross the ethical line to try and sign Brown — you better get it done and you better have a convincing explanation for those unhappy about it. If you’re not going to get it done — stay well away.

Compare the two teams most heavily involved in this. Seattle spent a week answering questions about Brown, had the fans split discussing this topic, had the media all over it — and for what exactly? Tampa Bay avoided all of that and simply signed him.

The Seahawks have snatched all the negatives from this story and been left with none of the positives. Nobody should be willing to just look beyond that because they ‘dodged a bullet’ they were more than willing to take. Some accountability is required.

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Assessing Seahawks trade candidates ahead of the deadline

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Quinnen Williams is reportedly available for the right price

Names are being thrown around. Some are more likely than not.

The reality is the Seahawks are in a difficult spot to make a trade. They don’t have a first or third round pick next year and they only have $3.7m in available cap space.

That’s not to say they can’t be creative and they’re carrying players on the roster who are arguably dispensable.

The Rams have extended an army of players. The Ravens are now over the cap after trading for Yannick Ngakoue. You can make things happen if you have the want and desire.

So let’s look at some of the names linked and gauge the likelihood of a deal being struck.

Carlos Dunlap (DE, Cincinnati)
Like many veteran players in Cincinnati, Dunlap is unhappy with his role. He’s seen a major reduction in snaps recently. Charley Casserly suggested this week he’d be a good target for the Seahawks. He’s used to playing in a four-man front and last year he had nine sacks on a bad team. His contract isn’t overly expensive and the Seahawks could retain him next season (the final year of his contract) if he performed well. He has the size and length Seattle likes.

How likely is it?
Owner Mike Brown is the problem. He treats the Bengals like a family business and is the decision maker in Cincinnati. A year ago it made perfect sense to trade some of their ageing veterans to launch a rebuild. Brown resisted — making ridiculous demands (eg wanting a second rounder for often-injured Tyler Eifert weeks before he departed in free agency). According to a NFC Executive — once again the asking price for certain players is ‘unreasonable’. If he’s asking for high picks, there’s simply nothing you can do. This is how Mike Brown operates.

It’d make perfect sense for the Bengals to move Dunlap and for the Seahawks to acquire him. Yet all the projections of a day three pick don’t account for the owner. Unfortunately, in his world, Dunlap probably has a first or second round value. I’m not convinced anyone will change his mind either.

Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Washington)
Quietly, Kerrigan has been one of the most prolific sack-artists in the NFL over the last decade. He has 93 career sacks — only six fewer than J.J. Watt. While he’s never achieved a level of dominance comparable to Watt, Kerrigan has been a picture of consistency. He has three sacks this year playing in a reduced role as a complimentary piece to Chase Young and Montez Sweat (although Young has missed some time). Kerrigan has the size and length Seattle likes, even if he’s lost some of the dynamic quickness he used to show during the 13-sack season years.

How likely is it?
Washington, like the rest of the NFC East, are in an odd spot. They are 1-5 and yet they’re in the thick of the divisional race. So are they trying to win the division or rebuild? They have two young first round picks at defensive end and two more first round defensive tackles. It seems unlikely that Kerrigan will be re-signed in the off-season as a free agent, so they should probably see what they can get now and rely on Young and Sweat the rest of the way. He wanted to break the franchise record for sacks and he achieved that in week one. It’d make sense for the team and player to orchestrate a deal — although in fairness he’s never sought a move despite Washington’s troubles so he might be settled. His contract would cost about $6-7m to acquire, so Seattle would have to create cap space.

In many ways, it’d be good for all parties. There are three key questions though. How realistic are Washington prepared to be in a trade for a 32-year-old on an expiring contract? How much do the Seahawks see a 32-year-old pass rusher being able to provide the quickness off the edge they currently badly lack? And how willing are they to create $3-4m in cap space to make it happen? After all — this is likely a 2020 rental. I’m just not sure the cost will fit for Seattle.

Whitney Mercilus (DE, Houston)
Reports last week suggested the Texans were considering a fire-sale. They don’t have a first or second round pick in 2021. They need to provide an attractive proposition to potential GM and Head Coach candidates beyond just Deshaun Watson. Some have touted J.J. Watt as a trade candidate but let’s get real. He is the Texans. He’s an institution in Houston. The more likely trade candidates are Brandin Cooks, Bradley Roby, Kenny Stills, Zach Cunningham, Will Fuller and Whitney Mercilus.

How likely is it?
This is a complicated one. Mercilus only signed a new $53.5m contract last December. His dead cap-hit is enormous and would need to be spread out, causing headaches for some time. It’s the sign of a badly run franchise that you let one individual make so many significant personnel moves, then fire him. However, they are also $16m over the cap for 2021 as things stand. They need to shift some bodies. Imagine trying to coax your GM and Head Coach combo to Houston with the offer of no high picks and no money to spend. Difficult decisions are needed and players will need to be sacrificed after a 1-5 start and with the team almost certainly out of playoff contention. Mercilus is 30 and has the speed and length Seattle likes. His production, however, has dropped off in recent years. He’s not had more than 7.5 sacks in a season since 2015 (he has three sacks this year). It’s questionable how appealing he is if the price isn’t low.

He’s at a reasonable age. He only recently turned 30 so he might have a couple of decent years in the tank. He would be expensive in terms of base salary until 2023 but you could cut him at any point with no penalty. The stumbling block, again, could be price. How reasonable are the Texans willing to be? For Seattle, they will want the flexibility to move on at the end of the season if it doesn’t work. So that would mean giving up a later round pick in order to set the ball rolling for Houston to sort out their cap. Is that appealing to the Texans? Is it worth moving him for? For Seattle, a late round pick works. I’m not sure that’ll cut it for Houston.

Kyler Fackrell (DE, New York Giants)
The Giants, like Washington, are in a strange spot. They are 1-6 yet very much contenders for the NFC East. They should’ve beaten the Eagles on Thursday to take control of the division at 2-4. Dave Gettleman — and to a lesser extent Joe Judge — need to have this franchise heading in the right direction by the end of the year. For that reason, they seem less likely to throw in the towel and siphon off assets. Even so, Fackrell has the length and size to play LEO and was a former blog favourite. He had a fantastic game against Seattle in 2018 during a 10.5 sack season. He has three sacks this year and isn’t expensive.

How likely is it?
Not very. New York’s defense, at times, has been a positive for them (see: the game against the LA Rams). If you’re trying to establish culture and a new mentality, getting rid of players who are actually producing for you isn’t wise. Unlike the Jets, Jaguars and others — the Giants don’t feel like a team that are suddenly having their heads turned by the prospect of being in position to draft Trevor Lawrence. That said, their offensive line is a shambles and if they were able to flip one player to make an O-line improvement, they might consider it. I’m just not sure how much they truly value someone like B.J. Finney.

This could be a low-key brilliant move. Fackrell isn’t going to come in and start wrecking games for you but he has a knack of rushing the edge, getting into the backfield and making things happen. He’s only 28 and there’s no commimtent beyond 2020. However — it just doesn’t make all that much sense for the Giants to trade him unless they get a great offer.

Takk McKinley (DE, Atlanta)
Albert Breer reported recently that prior to the firing of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons were considering dealing McKinley. He also said the situation is now unclear — with ownership seemingly willing to let caretaker Raheem Morris have a proper shot to win the job. Even so, McKinley is a free agent in the off-season and it would make some sense to get something now for a player who hasn’t delivered on his first round potential.

How likely is it?
With the report on a willingness to trade him and based on his physical profile — it feels like the most likely option listed here. It’s hard to imagine the Falcons asking for much in return. He turns 25 in November, so he’s at a great age. He has the 35-inch arms Seattle likes, LEO size and he ran a solid 1.60 10-yard split. A trade would be ideal for McKinley. He gets a fresh start and an opportunity to make an impression before becoming a free agent. For Seattle he could provide something they badly need — genuine speed off the edge.

Provided the Falcons were willing to deal him and not hold on — it’s probably the most likely scenario. It all depends on Atlanta’s motivation. Trading McKinley doesn’t save any money for next year. If they’re only getting a late round pick — is it worth hampering Morris if they want to see if he’s up to the job? If they’re happy to just move on, then it’s worth a roll of the dice.

Quinnen Williams (DT, New York Jets)
In recent days there’s been a lot of speculation to suggest Williams is available. It very much looks like the Jets are trying to drum up a market. They’re in full-blown tank mode at this stage, with major changes imminent. Acquiring stock for next year is the key. The current GM, Joe Douglas, didn’t draft Williams. If he can get a second rounder to go with the haul he got from Seattle for Jamal Adams, he’ll probably take it.

How likely is it?
It really depends how the Seahawks viewed Williams going into the draft. During the 2018 season, he was arguably the best player in college football. He suddenly exploded onto the scene as a one-year wonder — blowing up interior lines and making plays galore. He had eight sacks and 19.5 TFL’s. He then ran a 4.83 forty at 303lbs at the combine. Williams appeared destined to be the next big thing but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. The Seahawks said one of the main reasons they traded for Jamal Adams was their inability to pick high enough to select players of that quality. If they think Williams is a stud suffering due to New York’s ineptitude, they might think at 22-years-old he’s better than anyone they’ll be able to draft in round two next year. Plus — the Jets will take on the bulk of his salary meaning he’ll be a bargain for two more years after this season.

I’m not convinced the Seahawks will want to go into the 2021 draft with no picks in the first three rounds — especially now that the college football season is underway (the 2021 draft no longer looks like a busted flush). However — you’d be getting a #3 overall pick at a great age, on a phenomenally cheap salary and at a position of serious need (D-line). So how did they grade him? Did they think, as some did, that he was the best player in the 2019 draft? I don’t think it’s likely the Jets will get an offer to make a trade worth their while.

Anyone on the Philadelphia Eagles
Philly’s problems with the cap in 2021 are well known. They face a $71m black hole for next year. The only clear solution is to try and use some of their remaining $21.5m for 2020 to absorb dead money this year and get certain big contracts off the books for next season. Fletcher Cox, Brandan Graham and Derek Barnett could be potential targets.

How likely is it?
Bizarrely, they just restructured Cox’s contract and by placing Zach Ertz on short-term IR, they eliminated any shot of him being dealt per the rules. They seem, if anything, to be trying to add before the deadline. Even so — they surely have an eye on their enormous cap problem that is only a few weeks away from being a biting reality. I’m not sure a 2-4-1 team should be ‘all-in’ on an improbable playoff run simply because they have the good fortune to be in the NFC East.

One trade did happen today
The Arizona Cardinals traded a sixth round pick to the Giants for Markus Golden. Having played last night — and with him needing to go through Covid-testing — he won’t play on Sunday. However, it’s a smart move by the Cardinals. He knows the team well having spent four seasons there. They needed a replacement for Chandler Jones. He’s also the third pass rusher, after Yannick Ngakoue and Jordan Willis, to be traded this week. Players are being moved and a market is being established. So far the Seahawks, who desperately need help off the edge, are yet to make a move.

I can’t imagine how the Eagles plan to get out of cap-hell for 2021 without doing some deals before the deadline. They could, theoretically, start cutting players at the end of the season. However — why not try and get something back in return now? It comes down to whether they want to delude themselves into thinking they’re a serious contender, rather than a franchise that needs to embrace how badly they need a refresh.

Final verdict
The issue with many of these options are age and cost. It’d be ideal to have a younger player, still on a rookie deal, with something to prove.

For example, look at the Rams’ trade for Dante Fowler a few years ago. A former top-five pick at a good age with some talent who can come in and try to earn big money in free agency.

The only comparable situation listed here is Takk McKinley in Atlanta. However — unlike Fowler he isn’t a former top-five pick.

More than anything the Seahawks need speed off the edge. A younger player is more likely to provide that but beggars can’t be choosers. If an opportunity for a 30-something pass rusher emerges, it still needs to be considered. The Seahawks are stacked with potential five-techniques but only have Alton Robinson and Benson Mayowa who can play anything akin to a LEO. That’s a big problem.

Yannick Ngakoue on a discount deal for the remainder of the season would’ve been perfect. He’d come to Seattle with an enormous chip on his shoulder, knowing he had a few weeks to set himself up for free agency. He has the quickness they need to attack the edge. He has the production (five sacks in six games) they currently miss. Unfortunately not having a third rounder in 2021 would’ve made it extremely difficult to compete with Baltimore.

Unfortunately the decision to try Stephen Sullivan at pass rusher and bring back Mychal Kendricks (who rushed well from the SAM last year) is perhaps indicative of the difficulty Seattle faces ahead of the deadline.

Nevertheless — the uncertain economic situation in the NFL could still make this a trade deadline like we’ve never seen before. There have been surprises in the past. Nobody predicted Quandre Diggs would be traded, for example.

Could it happen again?

Meanwhile Antonio Brown is set to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. Reportedly both they and the Seahawks are ‘highly motivated’ to get a deal done.

Given the controversial nature of Seattle’s interest — surely the only thing worse than actively pursuing him would be going through all of this just to miss out?

If you missed our podcast on the Antonio Brown news and the Arizona game, don’t forget to check it out…

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Thursday notes: Yannick Ngakoue traded (again) & an AB theory

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Firstly — if you missed our podcast yesterday on the breaking Antonio Brown news and a preview of the Arizona game, don’t forget to check it out…

Thoughts on Yannick Ngakoue’s second trade of 2020

According to Adam Schefter, the Baltimore Ravens are trading their 2021 third round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth to the Vikings for Ngakoue.

Basically, for the sake of six games, Minnesota dropped from a high second round pick to a late third — which is incredible and barely believable.

They end up paying around $6m and moving back approximately 50 picks for six games of Ngakoue.

And once again, the Ravens are the beneficiaries.

Remember in February when the Seahawks stated fixing the pass rush was the priority, only to fail to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney then replace him with Benson Mayowa? Then they traded a second and third round pick for Darrell Taylor — who wasn’t allowed to work out at the Senior Bowl or combine due to injury. It’s increasingly likely he won’t play in 2020 and who knows if or when he’ll be available?

The pass rush hasn’t been fixed and the defense is struggling badly.

Now compare this to Baltimore’s work this off-season:

— Acquired Calais Campbell for a fifth round pick
— Franchise tagged Matt Judon
— Signed Michael Brockers and when he failed a medical, pivoted to Derek Wolfe
— Drafted Justin Madubuike in round three
— Traded a third round pick for Yannick Ngakoue

The difference between the Seahawks and Ravens couldn’t be more stark.

Let’s consider an alternative universe. The Seahawks spend the $50m they used in free agency this year to keep Clowney (or properly replace him) and add Campbell. Instead of trading up for Darrell Taylor, they use their picks to add Ngakoue.

Would they have so many issues on defense? Would they look like the clear team to beat in the NFL?

It’s frustrating to think about what could’ve been.

Some suggested Jacksonville worked with Campbell to move him to the team of his choice and he personally selected the Ravens. Campbell revealed this wasn’t the case at all and that there were multiple interested parties.

I don’t think the Seahawks made a move for Calais because of Jarran Reed. I think they intended to pay Reed and didn’t want to invest $10-12m a year contracts in two defensive tackles. This, to me, was a philosophical call relating to the cap and ultimately a mistake. Campbell has four sacks in six games this year.

The Seahawks also badly need a dynamic edge rusher. Ngakoue has five sacks in six games this season.

A lack of a third rounder in 2021 makes it difficult to compete with Baltimore in this most recent trade. However, they still had a second rounder. They could’ve even offered players or more significant future picks.

If the Seahawks fail to add a pass rusher before the trade deadline, it would’ve been tolerable if the market at the position was quiet. It won’t be if other teams, like the Ravens, go out and get players like Ngakoue.

It wasn’t the only move. Yesterday the 49ers swapped a sixth for a seventh rounder with the Jets for Jordan Willis. His career has never got off the ground but his athletic potential has always been high. He ran a 1.57 10-yard split at his combine and a 4.53 forty. Seattle needs that kind of speed.

The 49ers are turning over rocks to find solutions. What are the Seahawks doing?

If teams like the Vikings have decided to put the ‘for sale’ sign up — the Seahawks have to be aggressive. Had they traded their second round pick for Ngakoue — there would’ve been no complaints here. As I mentioned on Monday — if there was ever a year to be aggressive, this is it.

Hoping for the best with the current pass rush isn’t going to cut it. They don’t have anyone on the roster who can consistently win 1v1 off the edge. They have the fifth worst sack percentage (3.6%) in the NFL.

If the Ravens realise their potential this year and the Seahawks are left wondering what could’ve been — the way both teams approached their pass rush will be a difficult pill to swallow.

The timing of the Antonio Brown report was extremely ‘convenient’

I mentioned this briefly in yesterday’s article but wanted to expand on the thought today. I’m convinced the Seahawks were extremely comfortable with Adam Schefter reporting the news on Antonio Brown and may have even had a hand in supplying the information.

This is a controversial prospective signing given Brown’s recent history. Gauging reaction would be an understandable move by the Seahawks.

You toss out the possibility via the NFL’s premier reporter and see what the fall out is. Schefter has the biggest reach and would be able to bring in the greatest reaction.

Everything about the report felt a little stage-managed. Schefter had a fancy ‘breaking news’ graphic to go with his tweet which I’m guessing he didn’t personally throw together in 15 minutes at home:

Then there’s the couched language:

“The Seattle Seahawks are now positioned to make a push to sign him, though they’re not alone, league sources tell ESPN. Other teams also are interested.”

Let’s parse this a little. The Seahawks are in a position to sign him but nothing is done. It’s both non-committal yet striking. If others are interested and nothing is done, why single out the Seahawks as an interested party? Why are they the focal point of the report, rather than the mere fact they are among the teams showing interest?

If my hunch is correct that this is an exercise in gauging reaction, the use of language is quite clever here. Down the line the Seahawks have an easy out if they decide not to sign him, with no discrediting of the reporter. They are the only team mentioned with the caveat that nothing is certain.

Using the media in this way is nothing new. Sports teams, governments, politicians, companies — it happens all the time. If you want to know what people think to an idea, get it into the media as a possibility and see what happens.

The heat is taken off somewhat if you know public opinion is on your side.

I’ve had a quick look at social media and the forums. There doesn’t seem to have been any kind of backlash. Some fans have been vocal in their disproval. Yet there hasn’t been a groundswell of negativity.

For that reason, I suspect the Seahawks might have received the feedback they require to feel comfortable making this signing. It would be curious for this information to be made so public and not come to fruition. If Pete Carroll wanted to play everything down he could’ve during his press conference. Instead, he embraced the report.

To me, this feels increasingly inevitable.

I do think there are some serious things to consider, including how you handle Brown. As noted yesterday — some responsibility needs to be placed with Russell Wilson. The quarterback wants him, has petitioned for him, so Wilson needs to make sure this works out.

It feels like he will get that opportunity and barring any setbacks Brown will likely agree terms with the Seahawks next week, go through the Covid-19 protocols and be ready to play Buffalo in week nine.

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Thoughts on the Seahawks eyeing Antonio Brown

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

I was in the process of writing an article about Antonio Brown when the tweet above was posted. So here we go…

Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Le’Veon Bell and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The Kansas City Chiefs have taken every opportunity to surround Patrick Mahomes with weapons. High picks, massive salaries and bold moves.

As far as Any Reid and the Chiefs are concerned, their star cannot have enough weapons.

The Seahawks themselves have a decent arsenal for Russell Wilson but to their credit — they seem to share Kansas City’s mindset.

You can never do too much.

D.K. Metcalf has joined Tyler Lockett to create a really dynamic double-act at receiver. They’ve spent money and picks at the tight end position and are well stacked with Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan.

They used a first round pick on Rashaad Penny to join the ultra-dynamic and physical Chris Carson in the backfield. They spent money on Carlos Hyde and used picks on Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas.

They paid to retain David Moore, added Phillip Dorsett and Freddie Swain is showing early promise as a rookie.

Clearly, however, they feel they need more. They’ve been waiting on news on Josh Gordon for a long time. Strangely the NFL has allowed both David Irving and Randy Gregory to return but they are yet to clear Gordon. A decision is long overdue.

We’re nearly seven weeks into the season. How much longer can the Seahawks wait?

We all know the defense is a big problem in Seattle. However, there are not many obvious solutions. We can all sit here and discuss possible trades for anyone from Ryan Kerrigan to J.J. Watt to Whitney Mercilus or whoever else. If teams aren’t willing to do business, or are asking for too much in return, what can you do?

This doesn’t completely excuse the Seahawks of course. They should’ve done a better job fixing their defensive line in the off-season when they had money and picks to spend. They failed to sufficiently address their self-confessed priority and it’s their cross to bear.

Pumping your offense with even more weapons won’t necessarily solve your problems. However, if this a season where you need to be the aggressor and apply scoreboard pressure to win games — you can make a strong case for taking advantage of any opportunity to further bolster Russell Wilson’s playmaking options.

Antonio Brown has many issues and if you don’t want to see him anywhere near the Seahawks, I sympathise with that point of view. Certainly I wouldn’t want the team to be blasé about signing him. If this truly is on the cards, I’d like to assume significant work has gone into this prospective signing.

Private checks on his prior legal issues, information to counter serious accusations, a fact-finding mission to see if he is remorseful and/or a changed man.

Pete Carroll has never been afraid of a reclamation project. This would arguably be his most high-profile one to date. Maybe even his most controversial.

If the Seahawks have put in the hours — and as I noted earlier, I’m going to assume they have — they have to be really sure about this one.

Even then I think they need to handle this in a particular way.

Russell Wilson has seemingly gone to bat for Brown. They worked out together and Wilson was happy for that to be public knowledge. Various reports have said Seattle’s quarterback has pushed for the receiver to be signed.

They appear to be quite close:

If Wilson wants Brown — then here is what I think the Seahawks should do. They should put the responsibility of keeping him in check on Wilson. You want him? You want to campaign for him to be here? It’s up to you to make this work.

Any nonsense and he’s out the door immediately — and you’ll need to be the one to tell him so.

I would make that abundantly clear to both players. Does Brown want to let down the man who appears determined to salvage his career? Does Wilson truly believe this is going to work?

One thing is for sure — if Wilson’s agent is not so subtly going to tell Mike Florio that some form of ultimatum was made about the offensive approach this year, he can have very little comeback if the Seahawks make this move and it flops.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the Seahawks calling the bluff. You want superstars? You want this guy? You want us to listen to you, meet your needs and bring in the guys you want? Fine — but you need to make it work.

Strictly from a football perspective, you can make a compelling case for the signing. Brown, now aged 32, might not be the same player who was once considered the best receiver in football. However, as a third wheel to Metcalf and Lockett — the Seahawks would have an assortment of weapons few can match.

How does a team game plan to stop that trio? On top of the tight ends, the running game and the possibility of Chris Carson catching passes out of the backfield?

The Seahawks are already ranked #1 in the NFL on offense per DVOA. Yet it still feels like they have room to be even better.

Think of it this way. We talked a lot about receivers prior to the 2020 draft — Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, Chase Claypool and others. There was room for another top target on this offense. That still remains the case — whether it’s Josh Gordon or Antonio Brown.

If the Seahawks have exhausted all options on defense and simply don’t see a viable trade to make to improve their flailing pass rush — the only thing they can do is keep adding in other ways.

Like Gordon, I can’t imagine Brown is going to be an expensive project. He needs a shot on the right team with the right quarterback. As with Snacks Harrison — he probably needs this culture and this coach and this franchise as much as the team needs the player. So the cost might not even rule out a defensive trade down the line.

I also wonder if the Seahawks were happy for this report to appear today. Gauging reaction is important for a move that has consequences and the best way to gauge a reaction is to have Adam Schefter break a story.

For more on this, Robbie and I recorded a podcast:

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Why the Seahawks have to be active in the trade market

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

The trade deadline is nearing and it’s time for some action

If there was ever a time to be aggressive, surely this it?

The Seahawks are 5-0, Russell Wilson is playing the best football of his life and the only thing standing in their way is a troublesome defense.

In previous years they have been active. A year ago they traded for Jadeveon Clowney right before the season started and then added Quandre Diggs before the deadline. In 2017 they were extremely aggressive in trading for both Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown to plug holes.

Never in the 10 years of Pete Carroll’s reign have they gone quietly into the night. Never have they left a glaring weakness exposed and festering.

Earlier this year they traded a kings ransom for Jamal Adams but clearly it wasn’t enough. A safety, however good, cannot mask the lack of talent on the defensive line.

The Seahawks have the fifth worst sack percentage in the league (3.6%). Somehow they’ve managed to get even worse compared to last year (4.5%). They are ranked 26th in defensive DVOA after six weeks — compared to #1 on offense and #4 on special teams.

#1, #4 and #26 — it’s as clear as day what is preventing this franchise from looking like the NFL’s clear team to beat.

You could point to their lack of 2021 and 2022 draft picks and only $4m in cap space and argue they don’t have the resources to make a move.

Nonsense. Look at the Rams. Anyone with a pulse has been extended in recent weeks. They’ve kept doing deals to acquire talent. The Saints were trying all sorts to bring in Clowney before the season started despite their lack of funds. Both New Orleans and Baltimore were even looking at ways to trade picks for cap space.

Meanwhile the Seahawks are carrying fringe players with chunky cap hits.

If you want to make things happen, you can make things happen.

Furthermore, as we’ve been discussing for weeks, this is a unique year with never before seen circumstances. According to Over the Cap, twelve teams are already over the cap for 2021. Six of them need to raise over $20m just to be back in the black.

This surely has to present an opportunity?

And even if it doesn’t, sometimes you’ve just got to be the aggressor.

You also never know who’ll be available. Who saw the Lions trading Quandre Diggs a year ago?

Look at it this way. There are two options:

1. Sit tight with what you have and ‘hope for the best’ that the defense — which has really struggled so far — will improve

2. Make at least one trade to inject some talent into the unit in order to proactively initiate change and improvement

If they just hope for the best and it costs them in the NFC West race and/or the playoffs, this will just end up being another wasted opportunity. Another season of prime Russell Wilson to consign into an ever growing sequence of years of underachievement.

A baffling off-season where they somehow squandered $50m and then used three high draft picks on two players who have so far offered precious little is irreversible. It’ll be a lot more tolerable if they make an inspired move now.

If they’re active before the deadline and still fail — nobody can accuse them of complacency. It’s better to try and fail than not try at all. Hoping this defense suddenly becomes a non-liability is akin to expecting it to not be cold and rainy in Seattle at this time of year.

Sometimes you have to be creative. Sometimes you have to roll the dice. The Sheldon Richardson deal was regrettable yet the Duane Brown trade is one of the best in the Carroll/Schneider era.

I appreciate they might well be trying and so far the opportunities simply haven’t come to fruition. That argument will carry more weight if this ends up being a quiet year ahead of the deadline. If other teams make moves and the Seahawks fail to do so — it’ll be difficult to justify. While there’s time remaining, a call to arms seems fair. We can reflect on what did or didn’t happen at the end of the month.

Ultimately though the Seahawks can’t afford to let this chance slip by. They’re one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL despite the defensive performance which, if you’re prepared to be honest, almost cost them their record. They have a 1.5-game lead in the division. They’re about to face the toughest stretch of their schedule.

This might be their best chance to get back to the Super Bowl since the 2014 season. The start they’ve had, going 5-0, and the performance of the offense so far is the platform they need. The defense threatens to undermine everything.

It’s time to prioritise improvement over future picks, winning in 2020 rather than long-term planning and making the most of this golden opportunity.

Russell Wilson might say he wants to play until he’s 45 — but we don’t know how long this form he’s showing will realistically last. Five more years? More? Less?

There has to be a bit of trade magic out there. There has to be an opportunity with so many teams facing a bleak financial future with the cap lowering in 2021. There needs to be a way to take a step forward — to turn a struggling 26th ranked defense into a league-average unit?

The Seahawks always say they’re in every deal. They turn over every stone. It’s time to reinforce that commitment.

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Monday notes: Trades, Seahawks and around the NFL

Monday, October 19th, 2020

The latest trade deadline rumblings

Yesterday Jason La Canfora noted that the Houston Texans’ owners are being encouraged to have a fire-sale of sorts. It’s understandable. They’re 1-5, don’t have a first or second round pick next year and they’re set to be $15m over the 2021 cap as things stand.

Deshaun Watson is a quality selling point to a new coach and GM but not having any money or picks to improve an ageing and stale roster is not.

“General managers and personnel execs have pointed to pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, linebacker Zach Cunningham, corner Bradley Roby, tight end Darren Fells and receivers Brandin Cooks and/or Will Fuller as potential trade targets.”

Of the group, Whitney Mercilus is the one that stands out as a possible Seahawks target. He only signed a new contract in December last year but he’s 30-years-old and might be able to bring in some decent compensation. He has three sacks this season.

Mercilus might be in the awkward range of being too expensive for anyone to bite but too valuable for the Texans to let go on the cheap. They’d also have to spread out a significant dead cap hit in the future.

Nevertheless, he has the quickness Seattle badly needs off the edge and the proven track record of getting after the quarterback.

We’re approaching the crunch time for trade talks. The Seahawks are in a weaker position than usual because their draft stock is depleted following the Jamal Adams trade. Yet it feels like they have to do something to bolster their edge rush. Russell Wilson is playing the football of his life and they’ve started 5-0. If ever there was a time to be aggressive and chase a Championship, this is it.

Perspective on 5-0?

Here are Seattle’s opponents so far:

Atlanta — 1-5

New England — 2-3

Dallas — 2-3

Miami — 3-3

Minnesota — 1-5

You can only beat the teams you face — but aside from the Falcons victory, none of these wins were particularly convincing. I think there is something to be said about a ‘good’ win.

The Seahawks often have at least one. Last year it was the Niners on the road. They beat the Chiefs in 2018. The less said about 2017 the better but in 2016 they went to New England and knocked off the Patriots.

The first real opportunity the Seahawks have to get a ‘good’ win will be Bills and Rams. That’s when we’ll find out a lot about this team.

We know by now the defense needs work. Clearly 5-0 is also a good start, regardless of the opponents faced. Yet the key to the season always has been (and always will be) Seattle’s ability to take a step forward. That means winning the NFC West and having a meaningful playoff run for the first time since the 2014 season.

Who are the best teams in the league?

For me you’ve got two types of ‘good’ team. The Steelers, Buccaneers and Titans seem balanced. Tennessee’s defense hasn’t looked great at times but they still have some quality pieces and can cause opponents (see: Buffalo) a lot of trouble.

Then you’ve got the quarterback dominated teams — Kansas City with Mahomes, Seattle with Wilson and Green Bay with Rodgers.

It’s difficult to place the Ravens at the moment with Lamar Jackson’s form and the defensive play fluctuating. You could say the same for the Rams. Both teams look great at times and flawed the next.

Somehow on the outskirts you’ve got a team heavily weighted to the defense in Chicago. They are 5-1 but face a gauntlet of games after their bye week.

This is a weird year and a weird football season so far. I’m not sure whether strengths or weaknesses will define these teams when the playoffs begin.

I still think it’s a good year to be one of the few who can actually play defense. The Steelers might not be trendy these days — but they’ll be a tough out.

Why the Jets should keep Adam Gase (for now)

I’ve become fascinated by the Jets and the bizarre way they are operating. I’ve been watching their press conferences and listening to some podcasts.

The general consensus is the fans want Adam Gase out as soon as possible. But why?

There’s nothing for the Jets to gain by firing their coach now. They are a lost cause. A basket case team. They need a total top-to-bottom rebuild.

The best case scenario is to earn the #1 overall pick in order to select Trevor Lawrence in the next draft. That would be a major selling point to prospective coaches.

Take Joe Brady for example. Having taken LSU’s offense to new heights last year he’s now leading a top-10 offense in Carolina despite losing Christian McCaffrey to injury and having a somewhat cobbled-together roster.

At the moment the Jets are a disjointed mess. Launch a rebuild with the best quarterback to come out of college football in a decade and it might be a tempting proposal for one of the hottest young coaches in the sport.

Getting rid of Gase now simply gives the Jets a better opportunity to improve, win pointless games and work their way out of the top spot in the draft. The time to get rid of him is when #1 is secure, the season is officially over and you can launch a rebuild.

In the meantime they should be having a fire-sale.

There are very few pieces to build around long term. Mekhi Becton and the 2020 draft class deserve time. You could make a case to keep hold of Marcus Maye. Everyone else should be on the chopping block.

Accumulate even more picks to go with the haul you got from Seattle for Jamal Adams. The prospect of a reset, Trevor Lawrence and a ton of draft stock would be an attractive proposition for your next coach — who has to surely be a young, progressive, offensive mastermind to reassure Lawrence that he isn’t better off sticking at Clemson for another year.

They should also see what the market is like for Sam Darnold. There are plenty of teams who could use a long term solution at quarterback — Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and maybe even San Francisco. See if there’s a good pick to be had now and if not, revisit the situation in the off-season.

Starting him, however, only lowers his stock if the Jets continue to struggle. He’s already picked up one injury. Darnold is also capable of winning games — unlike soon-to-be 36-year-old Joe Flacco.

Either way, firing Gase has little benefit now. The time to do it is down the line, when that top pick is in the bag. Lawrence is everything the New York market needs. He’s talented, looks the part, is incredibly marketable and he’s a born winner.

The Jets need some of his magic and charisma.

You can always get after the Packers

Green Bay looked like a paper tiger throughout last year and I’m not sure much has changed in 2020.

They’re a very difficult team to beat when they get a lead. Aaron Rodgers is incredibly efficient and still has the ability to make the impossible seem possible. Their running game can be difficult to stop when playing with a scoreboard advantage. Green Bay’s pass rushers also come into play.

When you get after them though, they curl up into a little ball and beg you to stop.

Yesterday’s game against Tampa Bay was so reminiscent of their meetings against the 49ers last season. When things started to go wrong they couldn’t put the brakes on. The game snowballed and quickly got away from them. The Packers become flustered. You can strong-arm them when it gets like that.

They end up looking pretty soft.

The problem for the Seahawks in the playoffs last year is the running game had collapsed due to the injuries. The Packers gave it no respect in the first half, flooded coverage and made life difficult for Russell Wilson in the passing game. They got the lead and by the time Wilson had figured out a solution, the damage was more or less done. The lead was too big.

It could’ve been a very different game with Chris Carson on the field at his best.

The Packers will win about 12 or 13 games again this season and could be a potential opponent for the Seahawks in the post-season once more. The Seahawks, if they want it to end better this time, need to be the ones applying the scoreboard pressure.

The Buccaneers also showed how to blitz properly yesterday. It shouldn’t be a surprise, Todd Bowles is a blitzing master. Two linebackers attacking the same gap? Instant pressure? Sacks?

By the end of the game Aaron Rodgers had his arms aloft, looking to the sideline asking for any kind of answer to the onslaught.

The Seahawks could learn a thing or two from Tampa Bay. Blitzing doesn’t just have to be Jamal Adams as an extra rusher off the edge. Or in the case of the Minnesota game, Ryan Neal.

The Niners did something Seattle hasn’t been able to

The all-NFC West encounter was fascinating for a number of reasons. It was an example, once again, that San Francisco has one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. It was also a further example of a stalling Sean McVay offense — after a similarly difficult day against the lowly New York Giants recently.

Shanahan’s game-plan was a masterclass. Tricky runs that made the best use of misdirection. Good gains on the ground to take the pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo. Quick throws, highlighting George Kittle’s miraculous second-level ability. Well designed plays expertly executed to emphasise yards after the catch.

Have you ever seen Aaron Donald be such a non-factor before?

For a Niners team to look like hot trash one week against Miami and then handle the Rams like this was a tour de force of coaching.

Defensively they were opportunistic, flew sideline-to-sideline to stop all of the outside zone stuff and they made Jared Goff look completely ordinary despite never sacking him.

In Seattle’s last five games against the Rams they’ve given up 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points.

Here’s the total offensive yardage conceded in each game:

2017 (H) — 352
2018 (A) — 468
2018 (H) — 456
2019 (H) — 477
2019 (A) — 455

The Seahawks need to beat the Rams at least once in the regular season. They need to come up with a plan, just like the Niners did, to restrict and limit them.

I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to manage Aaron Donald in the way San Francisco did. Shanahan designs the quick pass so well. Garoppolo, to his credit, is very good at the quick drop, set and throw. It makes life easier when you have very quick receivers and Kittle as a safety valve. The Seahawks have always been a longer developing, shot-taking offense because that’s Russell Wilson’s style. With his height it’s unrealistic to expect anything else. The longer you ask a center or guard to contain Donald, the more likely he will get sacked.

They need to do something though to put in a better performance this time. The Rams can turn it on in a flash. Their mediocre days are extremely ‘meh’ as we saw yesterday but Seattle has a knack of making them look like world beaters.

That has to change this time. The two games against LA should be treated as an opportunity to make a statement that this year is different. I fear that will only happen with defensive improvements (personnel improvements).

Zach Wilson’s stock continues to rise

I’ve written about the BYU quarterback a couple of times (including on Saturday) and it was good to see those views validated by the great Tony Pauline today:

“If there’s a faster-rising prospect in the nation than Zach Wilson, I’m not aware of him. The BYU signal caller has been brilliant during the first half of the season and turned in another dominant performance during BYU’s victory over Houston.”

“Wilson checks all the boxes you want in a quarterback at the next level — smart, tough, athletic plus the arm strength necessary to make all the throws. Scouts who grade underclassmen stamped him as a fifth-round prospect before the season began, but Wilson has improved anywhere from three to four rounds over the first half of 2020.”

Keep an eye on Wilson. He deserves the extra attention he’s getting.

If you missed our bye-week podcast over the weekend check it out below…

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