This was a sloppy performance with a few positives. The first half was particularly disappointing. The passing game had no rhythm and the defense failed to generate much of a pass rush.
There’s no reason to overreact. The Seahawks have occasionally floundered in the first half at home only to smother an opponent in the second half (see: San Francisco 2014). We’ll never know what the starting offense could’ve done after some needed half-time adjustments.
Even so it was hard to watch the sacks. On one, there was a clear overload blitz on one side with linebacker Anthony Barr. Garry Gilliam was left covering two rushers and it was an easy sack. Russell Wilson is at the stage of his career where, even in pre-season, he needs to notice that and shift protection or make a quick throw.
As Pete Carroll testified after the game, a lot of the issues were down to the quarterback and not the O-line. It’s not like pass-rushers were abusing linemen like we saw against Denver in pre-season last year. This was a well coached and talented front seven out-scheming the quarterback and offense. In fairness to the O-line, they did an excellent job in run blocking.
Seattle’s defense rested several key players but it’s pretty clear the they rely on Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to create pressure. That’s not such a bad thing — not many teams have a starting duo as good as this. But while comparisons have been made to the 2013 roster this off-season — one of the big differences is the quality depth on the D-line. Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh still flashed a little — as they did last week.
Here are some other quick thoughts:
— Christine Michael’s cut-back running was again superb. He again showed great explosion and looked a threat every time he touched the ball. He also made a difficult grab in the passing game. This could be his time.
— Troymaine Pope was superb, albeit against second stringers. He showed the kind of burst we saw with Thomas Rawls a year ago. He fits this offense. Alex Collins, for all of his qualities, just doesn’t have that same burst. Is Pope pushing to snatch a roster spot away from Collins (or Zach Brooks) over the next couple of weeks?
— Kenny Lawler had a really nice game, getting open and converting some first downs. He appears to be winning a roster spot especially with Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith sidelined.
— Special teams coverage was interesting to watch. Marcus Burley had a couple of nice plays including a punch-out fumble that was overturned on review. Special teams value could win a guy like Burley a spot on the roster.
Bradley Sowell could be Seattle’s starting left tackle in 2016
It’s a fair question. A franchise that enjoyed twelve years of Walter Jones and replaced him with a #6 pick in Russell Okung could be starting an undrafted 27-year-old with 12 career starts in four years. All of his starts came in 2013 for the Cardinals, where he gained the following review:
“Levi Brown and Bradley Sowell combined to hold down left tackle for the Cardinals in 2013, but they acted as more of a turnstile than anything else.”
The alternative is Garry Gilliam manning the blindside (he received mixed reviews during training camp) and J’Marcus Webb starting at right tackle.
It’s hardly a glamorous proposition either.
That said, the Seahawks aren’t alone here. The entire NFL has an offensive tackle problem.
In the NFL Network’s top-100 players for 2016, only four tackles were listed:
#23 Joe Thomas (Cleveland)
#42 Tyron Smith (Dallas)
#45 Trent Williams (Washington)
#67 Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)
15 edge rushers were listed in comparison. This truly is the age of elite, athletic pass rushers vs overmatched offensive linemen.
Eric Fisher was drafted first overall in 2013 because of his fantastic athletic profile. Despite a bang average career to date, Kansas City recently gave him a four-year contract extension with $40m in guarantees.
Because guys like Fisher are like gold dust and worth persevering with.
Brock Huard recently offered some thoughts on ESPN 710 detailing Seattle’s desire to just get big bodies at tackle. If they can’t line up with a Tyron Smith style athlete, at least obstruct the path to the QB. Russell Wilson did a much improved job getting the ball out in the second half of the 2015 season so this is a combination that could work at least for one year.
Damage limitation. Most of the league is taking this approach. You have to work around the problem. Edge rushers in this era are much quicker, faster and more athletic than the edge blockers. The best athletes in High School are choosing to play defense and colleges are accommodating their wishes to land the top recruits.
Who can blame these young kids when they see how much Olivier Vernon is getting on the open market?
1 St Louis/Los Angeles
3 New York Jets
6 New York Giants
7 New Orleans
Of that group, one team benched their left tackle during the season (Baltimore), the Giants started a rookie, Pittsburgh started Alejandro Villanueva and the Jets had a player (D’Brickashaw Ferguson) who was touted as a cap casualty before he retired.
Only Washington fielded an elite tackle in Trent Williams.
The four offensive tackles starting in Super Bowl 50 were Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield.
They’re all kind of like Bradley Sowell.
Indeed the Panthers had a mean, productive, nasty O-line last year built through the interior. While there are question marks about Seattle’s tackle situation — the trio of Glowinski, Britt and Ifedi are drawing rave reviews at guard and center.
This is crucial for Seattle’s run-game (the heart and soul) but also vital for Russell Wilson. Teams want to contain Russell Wilson by having their edge rushers sit. If the pocket collapses, Wilson will try to scramble and it’s an easy sack for the DE just anticipating the move. If they can protect inside to force teams to attack the edge — it not only keeps the pocket clean but it gives Wilson a better chance to improvise because the edge rushers are committed.
If they can stop the pocket collapsing inside and give Russell Wilson enough time to make a good, quick decision — this line can succeed in pass protection. Even without elite tackles.
This was most Seahawky pre-season game you’re ever going to see.
A slow start, falling behind, dead and buried. Then winners, 17-16.
Trevone Boykin’s Hail Mary connection to Tanner McEvoy provided an unlikely victory. The celebrations told you everything you need to know about this team.
Earl Thomas lived every tackle during the fourth quarter of what looked to be a 16-6 pre-season game. Pete Carroll celebrated a late third down stop by Steve Longa like this was the 2014 NFC Championship game all over again.
When Troymaine Pope converted the two-point conversion after McEvoy’s dramatic TD, the entire roster rushed the field.
It’d be foolish to say none of this actually matters. It does. It reinforces one of Carroll’s more famous mantra’s.
‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’
The Seahawks were able to turn a tepid, lifeless pre-season game into an exciting thriller. And while this victory won’t count directly towards any possible Super Bowl run — Carroll will use this to further emphasise his memorable saying.
This is who they are. This is their identity. They finish.
And after all the drama of last summer with holdouts, finger pointing and Super Bowl hangovers — this group were a picture of togetherness when they collectively stormed the field to celebrate this win.
So who impressed?
Arguably the star turn came from Cassius Marsh. He shone playing as an edge rusher on a day when Seattle’s pressure was middling overall. He had a nice rush in the second quarter to impact the quarterback for a splash play. In the second half he showed well on a RB pursuit from the backside.
Marsh smashed Kevin Hogan after disengaging from a blocking TE with 10:03 left in the game. On the very next play, Hogan forced a pass that was picked off. Even on that play Marsh was in the QB’s line of vision rushing the interior.
Late in the third quarter he worked a nice move across from Frank Clark (both pressured the QB). Marsh is quietly a brilliant, twitchy athlete. His short shuttle (4.25) and three cone (7.08) were superb for his size at the 2014 combine and he ran a nice split. He’s always had the athletic quality to be an impact player in the NFL.
Tyvis Powell will get a lot of attention after a solid special teams display and the pick in the second half. It was a major shock that he went undrafted. His ability to contribute on special teams is the key but he was used all over the field too — lining up at corner at one point. He has a good chance to make the final roster.
Another rookie DB — DeAndre Elliott — had a sound tackling performance and is worth persevering with (probably on the practise squad this year).
Boykin looked really sharp playing with a quicker tempo at the end of each half. That’s what he’s used to at TCU. That said, he looks like a natural thrower and made some nice catchable passes downfield. He needs to avoid throwing off the back foot when pressed. As a developmental backup QB — Boykin has a lot of potential.
McEvoy might struggle to make the final roster — but the two big catches he made on the key final drive were impressive. Especially considering he’s learning yet another new role.
The starting offensive line was impressive — and the second group faired pretty well too. Justin Britt looks really comfortable at center which is great news. On one standout play he pulled from center and levelled a rusher from the left side. Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam played well at tackle against a good group of DE’s/OLB’s. This was refreshing to see and that line-up arguably warrants another viewing next week whether J’Marcus Webb is healthy or not.
Christine Michael has played well in pre-season before and not taken steps forward when it matters — but he looked superb here. He’s such a sudden, explosive running back. His vision will probably never get to a level where he can deliver on his massive potential — but on this evidence he needs to be getting some touches as the #2.
On the negative side — the starting defense struggled to make an impact in two series. That’s not a major concern in week one of the pre-season against an opponent that has troubled Seattle in the past.
Eric Pinkins had a big opportunity to impress at linebacker but sadly looked like a DB playing out of position — and not in a Deone Bucannon kind of way. On one good example he was a bit aggressive setting the edge and lost contain, meaning the gap discipline on the right side was totally out of whack and led to a big run. With Marsh playing predominantly the edge, this looks like Mike Morgan’s job to lose.
Jahri Evans will need time to get into shape but he didn’t look anywhere near his best today. With Mark Glowinski and Germain Ifedi looking so comfortable — he’s basically competing to be a competent backup.
During one-on-one pass-blocking drills, rookie guard Germain Ifedi and defensive end Michael Bennett — both Texas A&M alums — got into what defensive end Cliff Avril deemed a “little scuffle” after Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick, stood up the 2016 Pro Bowler and both players declined to disengage on the whistle. Ifedi eventually steered Bennett into a group of offensive linemen watching the drill, which prompted Bennett’s defensive line teammates to come to his defense.
After things calmed down, the pair matched up again, which led to more jawing, primarily from Bennett.
It’s encouraging to hear the rookie performing well against Seattle’s best defensive lineman — but not altogether surprising.
The technical issues Ifedi’s critics loved to highlight were focused around playing tackle in space. He’s since moved inside to right guard where some of those weaknesses are diluted. The Seahawks now have a massive, hulking interior lineman with an ideal physical profile to handle top interior rushers.
Kelechi Osemele excelled at guard for Baltimore and Ifedi compares favourably to the nouveau riche Oakland Raider. That’s not to say Ifedi is positively destined for the same level of success — but if you run through every guard in the NFL you’ll struggle to find many that look like Ifedi and Osemele.
Brandon Browner’s job to lose
He might be 32 years old and coming off a difficult season in New Orleans — but Brandon Browner might not be facing the tricky camp battle many seem to believe.
Too often in 2015 the Seahawks struggled against tight ends. Browner’s switch to safety might be an attempt to combat that. He has the athleticism to play outside in his career and the size to match-up against bigger receivers. Could he be used as an extra DB? Almost like a deathbacker? Possibly. It could be an important role against an opponent featuring a dynamic TE.
Browner also has special teams value:
He adds to the physicality this team craves — especially in the post-Marshawn Lynch era. The Seahawks had a fearsome defense in 2012 and 2013. Browner helps them get back to that after a bit of a lull in 2015.
He can play corner if needed, he understands the technique Seattle uses and he knows the defense.
It’s possible he won’t take to a new role as a hybrid DB or won’t be effective aged 32. Yet I suspect he has a job to lose rather than needing to win it from somebody else.
The defense might need to help the offense early in the season
Seattle’s toughest challenge might be to find an offensive rhythm early in the year. That’s kind of been the case in each of Russell Wilson’s pro-seasons so far.
Last year it was a real issue with the offensive line struggling. It took half the season to find a level of consistency up front. When that was achieved, Wilson put up career high numbers and set records.
With even more changes to the O-line and the likelihood of at least a couple of first time starters (Ifedi, Mark Glowinski) there could be further growing pains. With the number of TE’s in camp and a lack of full backs, they also might be moving to a slightly modified blocking scheme.
The running game is also a bit of an unknown. Lynch has retired and Thomas Rawls is still recovering from a serious ankle injury. The Seahawks will field an effective running game — but will it take a few weeks to hit top form?
The good news is the consistency at receiver and the deep talent pool at TE. There’s a lot of chemistry between Wilson and his targets and the return of Jimmy Graham will be a benefit despite his somewhat hit-and-miss first season in Seattle.
If the offense needs time to reach its potential it’ll be key for the defense to play at a high level immediately. In 2013 (Super Bowl season) Seattle gave up just seven points at Carolina in week one. San Francisco (during the peak Harbaugh years) scored just three points against the Seahawks in week two.
Considering they get to face Ryan Tannehill and a brand new offensive scheme at home in week one and rookie Jared Goff in week two — there’s every chance the defense can start on the front foot, possibly relieving some of the pressure on an offense that needs some time.
John Schneider has signed a contract extension until 2021
News of an extension for John Schneider will be gratefully received by Seahawks fans. A new deal for Pete Carroll feels like a formality too — and all is well with the world.
It’s easy to forget what it’s like to follow a slumping, miserable franchise. The Seahawks have been pretty good or excellent for 13 years. They’ve been to three Super Bowls, winning one, and had nine winning seasons in that time frame.
Since 2010, when Carroll and Schneider arrived in Seattle, they’ve had 60 regular season wins. Only perennial winners New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Denver have more. Only Pittsburgh have competed in a division as challenging as the NFC West.
It’s hard to be as good as the Seahawks have been for this period of time. Carroll and Schneider have now produced a genuine golden era of Seahawks football — perhaps the greatest any of us will experience. They’ve accumulated a collection of players that pair extreme talent with character and charisma. They’ve created a team that is fun to watch, that enjoys a brilliant connection with the community and they’re led by a coach who is enthusiasm personified.
It just doesn’t get better than this.
Sure, that Super Bowl XLIX defeat was agony. It’d be nice if they could add more titles and be known as a dynasty.
Whatever happens, this is a period of Seahawks football to be enjoyed and celebrated right now. Not just when it’s over. Not just when we’re all gray, bald and/or fat — boring future generations with stories about Richard Sherman’s effervescence.
‘And then he tips the ball to Malcolm Smith and they win. Yes. We know what happened’
It’d be very easy to miss the moment and not enjoy the now. This team is capable of multiple titles and its place in history. It sometimes feels like there’s a desperation to witness that. For this team to get its due. After all, this isn’t a franchise with the glorious past of a San Francisco, Dallas or Pittsburgh.
Carroll is Seattle’s Bill Walsh. Russell Wilson its Troy Aikman.
If they don’t deliver multiple Championship’s there will be a tinge of disappointment. That shouldn’t ever replace the absolute joy this group has provided.
There are so many NFL fans already looking at the 2017 draft. So many following teams that exist within a world of constant mediocrity.
So many that operate within an eternal discord.
In Seattle fans can dream every year with legitimate hope. They have a shot. A chance at winning it all.
If it doesn’t happen, there’ll be next year. If it never happens again, we’ll always have the image of a grinning Wilson and Carroll hoisting the Lombardi in New York.
One day it’ll all be gone. Richard Sherman will be arguing with Stephen A. Smith in an ESPN studio. Russell Wilson will be campaigning for president. Pete Carroll will become the oldest man to fly to the Moon.
And the next generation might be more 2009 than 2013.
Breathe it in. Live for the now. Enjoy this golden age. It won’t be here forever.
So we’re at the end of another draft season. I want to thank everyone who is part of this increasingly active community for making this such a great blog. It’s incredible that as traffic has grown — the comments section has remained a mature place to discuss football matters (even when disagreements occur).
In case you’re interested, between January and the end of the draft we had 18,076,727 hits. We had 606,134 hits during the first round of the draft alone.
This is usually where I take a break. It’s been virtually an article a day since September and it’s time to focus on the day job and family. We’ll get things going again in the summer and begin to preview the new college and NFL season.
In the meantime here’s a list of 50 names to chew on for 2017.
The top ten
These are the players we can say with some degree of certainty will be generating most of the draft headlines this year.
Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Just an incredible football player. He could very easily be the #1 overall pick next year. There are no flaws. An absolute beast.
Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M)
Really dynamic edge rusher with speed, bend and technique. Looks like a sure fire top-five pick.
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
Some possible character issues that’ll need to be looked into — but there’s no denying his talent. Fast, powerful and dynamic. Only a notch below Fournette.
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Modern day linebacker who jumped off the screen while watching Jonathan Bullard and Keanu Neal. A candidate to go very early.
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Superior to some of the previous Alabama left tackles to enter the league. Ideal size and has a chance to be the top 2017 tackle.
DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
A genuine playmaker with room to continue improving. Elusive and improvises well. Can he take the next step and secure himself as the top QB prospect?
Tim Williams (DE, Alabama)
He could’ve been a top-20 pick this year. Terrific edge rusher with fantastic athleticism. Major talent.
Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Really productive and physical — has the size to play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3. A nice compliment to Williams for ‘Bama.
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Would’ve been an early pick this year but decided to return to LSU. Great character, great athlete, good kick returner. Top-15 potential.
Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
Better than Vernon Hargreaves who went in the top-12. Has the size (6-1, 191lbs) and length teams crave. Could be another top-15 talent.
Five personal favourites
Players who stood out during the 2014 and 2015 season that are eligible for the 2017 draft.
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Great size (6-3, 207lbs) with room to add weight. Owned Vernon Hargreaves in the Citrus Bowl. Returned an opening kick off 96-yard for a TD against Northwestern. Underrated.
Harold Brantley (DT, Missouri)
A car crash kept him out for the 2015 season but he’ll be healthy and ready to return this year. Fantastic three-technique interior rusher.
Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
A stud athlete, Sutton glides around the field. He’s a playmaker, a kick returner and he could’ve gone in round one this year. So fluid.
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
A modern day weapon. Ten years ago he wouldn’t go early — in 2017? This is the type of player teams are looking for. Shifty rather than fast.
Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
It was a bit surprising he didn’t declare this year. Will likely move to guard in the NFL but he could be another Evan Mathis.
Looking to take the next step
The following group are fairly established college players who can really help their stock with a good 2016 season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
A few recent USC receivers haven’t lived up to expectations in the NFL. JuJu is bigger and more physical. He’s lost his quarterback though (Cody Kessler).
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
‘Rolls’ Royce isn’t Fournette or Freeman but don’t sleep on his potential. Well sized with good athleticism if not elite speed.
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
A different type of back to the ones listed above. Perine is big and physical but has enough speed to make plays.
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
He exploded in the National Championship game after an underwhelming start to his college career. His size/speed combo could secure a first round grade next year.
Eddie Jackson (S, Alabama)
Very agile safety prospect with some decent size (6-0, 194lbs). Scored two touchdowns in 2015 and had three big interception returns.
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Horrible injury ended his 2015 season and it looked as bad as Jaylon Smith’s. If he returns to 100% — he has a chance to go early. Extremely competitive.
Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
Considered a possible school saviour when he was drafted, Kaaya hasn’t really matched the hype. 2016 is his chance to boost a weak looking QB class.
Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma)
Classic three-technique. Sets up his blocks and wins with a great swim move and quickness. Had six sacks last year.
Ethan Pocic (C, LSU)
Received a second round grade from the committee but chose not to declare this year. Absolutely massive (6-7, 309lbs). Very solid.
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Already has 20 sacks in just two seasons with the Vols. Built like a pro already. Big thick frame — a bit like Shaq Lawson.
Adoree Jackson (CB/WR, USC)
Incredible athlete. Crown him 2017’s top combine performer today. Needs to nail down one specific position. Might be better on offense.
Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
Finally healthy. Laremy Tunsil said at the combine Lawson was his toughest college opponent. Tough to block but needs to put together a strong (full) season.
Jabrill Peppers (CB, Michigan)
Former big time recruit. Ideal length and athleticism for the position. A modern day prototype at corner.
Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
Very productive in Iowa’s 2015 run but maybe a little overrated in terms of the pro’s. Is he big enough to go early?
Guys to keep an eye on
This is a list of prospects who are moving into starting roles for the first time or could be ready for a breakout season.
Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Had a big impact in 2015 forcing five fumbles and collecting two interceptions. He’ll take on an even greater role with Keanu Neal now in the NFL.
Denzil Ware (DE, Kentucky)
Lacks elite size (6-2, 255lbs) but just started to put things together at the back end of last season.
David Sharpe (LT, Florida)
Good size and length for the position. Moving into his third season as a starter. Passes the eye test.
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Former top five star recruit who doesn’t get much attention due to the team he plays for. A new coaching staff at Virginia could help change that.
Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Expect Hand to fill the hole created by ‘Bama’s D-line exodus. He could play a similar role to D.J. Pettway and he’s a far superior athlete.
Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
Not short on confidence but needs to be more productive. Has the talent and size. Disruptive.
Bo Scarbrough (RB, Alabama)
Massive running back. Could replace Derrick Henry. Dubbed the next big thing at Alabama but we’ll see how his role develops this year.
Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Receives lofty praise but could do with a consistent season where he makes a number of plays and stands out.
Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M)
Exploded to start 2015 with a four-sack game to start the season vs Arizona State. Looked the part there but needs to be an every-week performer. Has length and size.
Devonte Fields (DE, Louisville)
Always seemed to be near the action when watching Sheldon Rankins tape. Long, fluid athlete. Can he perform with Rankins in the NFL?
Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Took over from Nick Chubb and might end up remaining in the starting role to start 2016. Michel, like Chubb, was a big time recruit.
Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Wiry, thin receiver but capable of big plays. Suffers because of the mess at QB. Can he add some weight?
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Tabor will get the praise but don’t sleep on Wilson — another talented Florida CB off the production line.
Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
Wasn’t quite as enamoured by McMillan as some others — but he’ll have to be a playmaker for the Buckeye’s this year with all the talent they’ve lost to the NFL.
Charles Harris (DE, Missouri)
Raw as anything you’ll see but recorded major TFL stats in 2015 and could be the next top-tier EDGE from Mizzou.
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Had three picks in 2015 and his responsibility will expand this year. Could develop into another Nick Saban early round DB.
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
He posted 6.5 sacks last year and like everyone at Michigan will only continue to improve with Jim Harbaugh.
Skai Moore (LB, South Carolina)
Tackle machine and developed into a playmaker for the Gamecocks. Smaller linebacker in the Darron Lee mould.
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Rangy tackler with decent size and length. Former four-star recruit who drew attention from several top schools.
Davon Godchaux (DT, LSU)
Has looked really good at times. Stood out in the win against Auburn last year. Certainly capable of drawing NFL attention.
Roderick Johnson (T, Florida State)
Big, long and well proportioned left tackle prospect. Doesn’t play with his hair on fire though. Too passive.
Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Who really expected Reed to last until pick #49? We had him at #16 in our final mock draft to the Detroit Lions.
The Seahawks love to be unconventional and so it proved again this year. While the rest of the NFL sought three-down prospects who can play in a world dominated by nickel defense and high-octane passing offenses — the Seahawks took a fierce run-defender and a blocking tight end (Nick Vannett) before the end of day two.
Having dragged the entire league into a new modern era — the Seahawks seem to be re-establishing the core foundation of what really made them successful. For all the new-age thinking and the many ways they’ve revolutionised the NFL — the Seahawks’ style of play is classical all the way.
Run the ball. Stop the run. Force turnovers. Protect the ball.
If you like tough football dripping with blood and sweat in the trenches — you’ll love Jarran Reed. I watched four games in the last 24 hours and didn’t see a single play where he lost leverage or was shoved into the backfield.
I’ve watched a lot of defensive linemen since starting the blog in 2008. Only Ndamukong Suh had quite this level of toughness up front.
Now let’s get one thing straight here — Reed is not Suh. For such an immovable object at the LOS he’s not the most effective bull rusher. He does have better athleticism than you’d think — and he played some DE as well as lining up inside. He can get into the backfield and chase down a quarterback.
He just isn’t Suh.
And that doesn’t matter.
In Seattle he’s going to be a run defender. I suspect he’ll continue to play some DE mixed in with most of his snaps at DT. He’s an absolute beast vs the run. He locks out brilliantly, controlling one or sometimes two blockers while somehow managing to locate the ball and make the tackle. He had more tackles than any other Alabama defensive lineman in 2014 and 2015 and it’s easy to see why.
Even as he controls the LOS he disengages like a savvy veteran. It’s a thing of beauty. You hardly ever see him linger on a block for more than a split second. When he needs to get clean and go chase the football — he’ll do it. When he finds the ball carrier he can pursue and finish and he’s a powerful form-tackler.
You never see him knocked off balance or on the turf. When he sets position and plants his legs — you’re not going to move him. He took on several double teams vs LSU and Clemson in particular and just maintained the original LOS. There’s no push. On one snap vs Tennessee he held up two blockers allowing linebacker Reggie Ragland a clean route to hammer the running back for a jarring hit.
Watching him next to A’Shawn Robinson is ideal. Robinson is passive and doesn’t play with the same level of sheer intensity. Reed is the tone-setter, the natural leader. His motor never stopped while Robinson was too often happy to stay blocked.
It helped that Reed was used in a heavy rotation and played about 60-70% of the snaps. The Seahawks would be wise to use him in the same way — and they can afford to with their new-found depth up front.
Watch the video below and fast forward to 2:09:10. This is the fourth quarter of the Senior Bowl — a showpiece finale to the more important week of workouts and drills.
Jarran Reed had just played in the National Championship game a couple of weeks earlier and didn’t even need to show up in Mobile (Ryan Kelly the center chose not to attend and compete). In the game he’d already made a big splash — chasing down Carson Wentz on one eye-catching play in the first quarter. Yet even with the game won and with just over five minutes to play — this is the kind of impact he was having:
Snap 1 — 2nd and 15
Reed disengages, chases down Jeff Driskel and tackles him from behind for a short gain. He dances in celebration.
Snap 2 — 3rd and 12
Short throw to Tyler Ervin. Jarran Reed disengages, retreats and again makes the tackle from behind to prevent the first down.
Snap 3 — 4th an 1
Tyler Ervin runs to try and make the first down. Reed escapes his block and helps stop the RB for a loss. Turnover on downs.
The Seahawks value gap discipline and he’s adept here. He does his job first and foremost and then looks for the ball. He’s not a one-gap penetrator but again — the Seahawks don’t need him to be. They’ll get their pass rush from Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Clark and hopefully Jefferson and Hill.
If he can control the LOS and absorb blocks like he did at the college level (that remains to be seen) it’ll create a lot of 1v1 opportunities for the DE working his side of the field plus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Reed barely has any flaws. He’s just not a prolific pass rusher. The modern NFL has deemed that isn’t valuable enough to go early. The Seahawks saw an opportunity and grabbed it. More power to them.
If they wanted to become the bully again in 2016 — this was the guy to draft. Nobody embodies that identity more than Jarran Reed.
Rees Odhiambo (T, Boise State)
I could only find one video for Odhiambo (vs Virginia) so it’s difficult to judge him (the usual minimum is three games). Even so, here’s what I noted…
In terms of agility you can see why the Seahawks’ sport science guys supposedly really value his upside. At 6-4 and 314lbs he moves really well. He has one of the best kick-slides you’ll see in this class and he had no issues at all setting his stance, re-setting, keeping the defender in front and mirroring.
There’s a lot to like about his fit in the ZBS. He’s an athlete for sure.
His upper body power was obvious and looks like another key characteristic the Seahawks valued. He delivered several jolts and he can hand-fight. As a run blocker he stoned a couple of defenders with a really nice piece of hand-use, gaining leverage and finishing.
Combining strength and mobility appears to be a major emphasis at the moment. It’s almost like a return to the ZBS roots albeit with size thrown into the mix (Joey Hunt, a classic ZBS center, is the exception).
On the slightly negative side though there wasn’t a clear edge to Odhimabo’s play and you’d love to see him knocking some helmet’s like we saw from Shon Coleman at Auburn. At tackle he’s a bit of a lunger and he sometimes overextends. Moving him inside will limit some of his weaknesses and bring out his power/agility.
To that extent he’s an exciting project for Tom Cable. He’s big, strong and mobile. Everything you hear about him suggests he’s a quick learner, he’s intelligent and a good worker. There’s no real pressure for him to start immediately (Mark Glowsinki appears to be pencilled in at left guard) and in a years time he could be really pushing to be the long term answer at that position.
Even though he’s better suited inside — like Ifedi he also has some swing-tackle benefits.
The key is health. He’s missed at least four games in each of the last three seasons. Injuries have been an issue for the Seahawks O-line in the past due to the physical nature of the scheme and their running style.
If he can avoid injuries he has a shot. John Schneider suggested this week he could’ve been a top-45 prospect without the health problems. At the very least it’ll be good to see legitimate competition across the O-line this summer — something the Seahawks badly lacked a year ago.
If you missed any of our other reviews so far, here’s the list:
C.J. Prosise is someone we often discussed during the season and in the early part of the post-season. His role has been pretty much established as the third down back. He has excellent burst to the second level, is capable of taking a run to the house but he also has plenty of experience running routes as a former receiver. Expect him to wind up being the running back in the two minute drill.
Tyvis Powell has genuine Deone Bucannon potential. Brandin Bryant’s tape is fantastic and matches up with a tremendous pre-draft workout. He might be their most exciting UDFA signing if they can tap into his potential.
Cornerback DeAndre Elliott is someone we identified post-combine as a real candidate for Seattle — he ticks all the boxes in terms of playing style, size, length and range. George Fant could be the next Garry Gilliam while Christian French and Steve Longa will battle with the existing linebackers in one of the more intriguing camp battles.
Tanner McEvoy is 6-5, 231lbs and an amazing athlete. He could be their next Jameson Konz-style project because he doesn’t really have a set position. Montese Overton and David Perkins have a shot to make the team and who would rule out Trevone Boykin landing as a future backup for Russell Wilson?
The sheer depth of numbers and quality from the 2016 draft and UDFA could create a 2013 level of depth for the Seahawks.
I’ll be posting a 2017 top-25 summer watch list tomorrow and then taking a break. If anything happens (a podcast or radio appearance, some breaking news) I’ll make sure it’s posted on the blog.
Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett debate in Dallas’ war room during the 2016 draft
Jerry Jones wishes he’d given the Seahawks an early third rounder.
In a fantastic piece by Peter King today, Dallas’ desperation to draft Paxton Lynch is revealed for the first time. They viewed him as the twelfth best player in the draft and were determined to make him Tony Romo’s heir.
The Seahawks traded the #26 pick to Denver in return for the #31 and #94 picks. Dallas were offering their second round selection (#34) and a fourth rounder (#101).
That wasn’t going to work.
In order to get Lynch they needed to deal their third rounder (#67). They chose not to.
“If I had to do it all over again? I’d give the three.”
— Jerry Jones
That’s how close the Seahawks were to securing an early third rounder. There’s every chance they would’ve been able to still select Germain Ifedi at #34.
We’ll never know who they would’ve taken at #67 but the following players were still available:
— Jonathan Bullard
— Bronson Kaufusi
— Kenyan Drake
— Shon Coleman
— Le’Raven Clark
— Braxton Miller
— Kyler Fackrell
King details the negotiations between Seattle and Dallas:
Between 9:25 and 9:45, Stephen Jones had three conversations with Seattle. Jones started with a simple swap offer: Seattle would send the 26th pick to Dallas, with Dallas returning a two and four. Next call: Stephen Jones, apparently sensing interest, tried to move it along, offering to add Dallas’ sixth-round pick if Seattle would give back its lower of two seventh-round picks.
Now 9:54. Schneider back on the phone. The call was quick. Stephen Jones got off the phone, turned to Jerry Jones at the board, and as one eyewitness recalled son said to father: “No way with Seattle. Too much. They want our two and three.”
Quiet in the room. “Thoughts?” Stephen Jones said to his father. “Any thoughts?”
They had a minute, maybe, to up the offer to Seattle, which was the only fish on the line. But no new offer was forthcoming. It was a minute later, maybe two, that Denver consummated the deal with Seattle for the ability to pick Lynch. The Denver deal was clearly better. Dallas was offering picks 34 and 101 for the 26th overall pick. Denver was offering picks 31 and 94—and by staying in the first round with its pick, Seattle got to control the player it picked for a fifth year, as opposed to four-year control for a second-round pick. Denver’s offer was superior. Dallas could have trumped Denver only one way—by offering its third, the 67th overall choice.
That was it. If Lynch turned into a star instead of wearing one, it would bug Jones for years to come.
According to King, Jones slept for just three hours on Thursday night and was wide awake by 6am. Seemingly, he was filled with regret:
“When I got up this morning,” Jones said Friday afternoon, “I second-guessed the hell out of myself for not giving the three. I have always paid a premium for a premium. So many times my bargains have let me down.”
It’d be fascinating to know what the Seahawks would’ve done had they acquired the #67 pick. It’s possible, of course, they would’ve drafted the same three players in round three anyway (Prosise, Vennett, Odhiambo). They noted at the end of day three, for example, that they didn’t expect Vennett to last as long as he did.
It also could’ve provided a scenario nobody could’ve even dreamed about before the draft began. Securing Germain Ifedi, Jarran Reed and potentially one of Jonathan Bullard, Bronson Kaufusi or Shon Coleman? That would’ve been really something.
Thoughts on Nick Vannett
I didn’t spend much time at all looking at Vannett pre-draft because I wrongly predicted the Seahawks wouldn’t select a tight end early. That was a major mistake on my behalf.
We often talk about how the Seahawks look for unique or rare traits. Funnily enough that’s kind of what Vannett provides. There are barely any blocking tight ends in college football. He is a rare gem, a collectors item. Someone who was asked to be, in the purest sense, a blocking TE.
I watched three games yesterday including Vannett vs Notre Dame where he really stood out. He blocks well on the move and squared up. He pulls inside and can deliver the key block to spring an inside run. On one snap against Notre Dame he drove Sheldon Day six yards off the LOS. He cut blocks well. I don’t recall a single poorly executed block.
This play in particular stood out. Look how he moves inside, locates and executes the key block that opens the hole for a big touchdown:
This isn’t an easy play for Vannett. He’s pulling to the right, hitting the hole and has to key in on the linebacker who is off-center. Make no mistake — he made this play happen. Ezekiel Elliott finishes — but it’s created by Vannett.
With Thomas Rawls’ burst and ability to break off big chunk gains, Vannett could provide tremendous value here.
Across the three games he proved to be an extremely willing and effective blocker. I think desire is a big thing here. At a time when the whole NFL is looking for the next Gronk or Jimmy Graham, Vannett’s college role could’ve seriously impacted his pro-prospects. In many ways it did — he lasted until the late third and never had a chance to show what he can do as a receiver. Yet he’s out there, doing the job asked of him. He earned this shot.
It’s impossible to judge him as a target for the Seahawks — but that’s unlikely to be his role. With Graham returning and Luke Willson a superior athlete — he might not be asked to do much route running at least initially. He will keep a defense honest though and allow them to be more creative with Graham — using him perhaps as more of a mismatch and receiver instead of an in-line blocker.
On the handful of routes he did run in the three games I saw, he lacked snap especially on the shorter stuff to the sideline or inside. On more than one occasion he seemed to be just going through the motions. He doesn’t exactly fire down the seam and create much of a challenge for the linebackers. He might be most useful in the red zone where his size, length and enormous wingspan can be effective.
Zach Miller’s Seahawks career was a bit underwhelming in terms of receptions considering what he achieved in Oakland. Vannett is likely to have a similar role. A key blocker vs the run and pass — the occasional target but much more effective in the red zone.
It’s not a flashy pick — but it’s typical of the way Seattle approached this draft. Tough, physical, re-establishing their identity in the post-Marshawn era. Vannett might not make any headlines as a rookie — but his impact could be vital.
His combine performance, however, was a major turn off. He ran a 4.59 and managed only 28.5 inches in the vertical jump. He just looked sluggish and went from a possible second or third round target to off our radar completely.
It’s nice to see the Seahawks didn’t feel the same way — because Collins has the potential to be a fantastic value pick. There wasn’t a single Arkansas game I watched where he didn’t have an impact. He first stood out against Texas A&M in 2014 and I wish, with hindsight, I hadn’t been so swayed by his combine.
The competition at running back in camp is going to be intense. Don’t be shocked if Alex Collins emerges as the legit #2 option behind Thomas Rawls. Christine Michael is going to have a fight on his hands.
Drafting for the Cleveland Browns
The Browns are going through yet another big rebuild. Another new front office setup, another new Head Coach. Another shot at trying to make the franchise relevant.
The latest plan involved trading down from #2 to #8 and then down to #15. They acquired a cluster of picks in the middle rounds and in 2017. They stuck to an analytical approach that seemed to include drafting anyone who put up big stat numbers (Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib).
Unfortunately they didn’t really come out with anything that looked like a coherent plan. Building a team is surely more than simply acquiring production? What is their identity?
I went through the draft and considered what I think would’ve been a better plan for the Browns.
First and foremost — they’re in the AFC North. They need physicality on defense. That needs to be the identity, secured with a productive running game. I looked at the players available with each of their picks and took an alternative view:
#15 KEANU NEAL
#32 MYLES JACK
#65 JONATHAN BULLARD
#76 SHON COLEMAN
#93 JOSHUA PERRY
#122 WILLIE HENRY
#138 CHRISTIAN WESTERMAN
#154 ALEX COLLINS
#172 KENNY LAWLER
#173 TYVIS POWELL
The only pick that remains the same is Shon Coleman at #76.
Maybe the Browns will be proven right over time? They needed a wide out and Corey Coleman is a playmaker. Hue Jackson is a good enough QB coach to make Cody Kessler an interesting project.
Yet they had a chance to begin building a defense with toughness, athleticism, physicality and grit. Neal at safety, Jack paired with Perry at linebacker with Bullard and Henry anchoring at DE.
Reinforce the O-line with Coleman and Westerman.
This is a rebuild after all — not an attempt to win the Super Bowl in 2016. Put down the foundations for defense and look to next year on offense.
If you missed our review of Joey Hunt (C, TCU) check it out here. Later today Kenny and I will be recording our final podcast of the draft season.
So this felt like the ideal place to start when reviewing Seattle’s draft class.
The Seahawks run a zone blocking scheme and yet the personnel they use is a real mixed bag. Mike Shanahan’s pure use of the scheme focused on agility and often smaller linemen. The Seahawks have started guys like James Carpenter, Justin Britt, Robert Gallery and now Germain Ifedi. All were in the 6-5, 320lbs range more suited to a man blocking scheme.
I haven’t spent any time studying what the Seahawks called in the run game last season and they may already do this — but I wonder with this pick whether they plan to run a ton of outside stretch. It relies on the left tackle and centre working to the second level, while the guards are asked to pin their defenders inside. Both Garry Gilliam and Hunt are athletic enough to do this — and it might be why they’re looking for size at guard and right tackle as a compliment.
This type of running play is also hugely beneficial for a runner like Thomas Rawls. He attacks the LOS so well, reads the hole and explodes. He’s extremely precise and sudden. They might be designing their O-line around Rawls — and possibly C.J. Prosise too (or at least that type of runner/skill set).
The combination of size/agility across the line also possibly counters some of the issues the traditional ZBS has faced against the growing disparity between O-line and D-line in the NFL. You’ve got some bigger maulers in there but still complimented with athleticism/agility at certain positions too. It could also allow the Seahawks to install some man-scheme counters and game plan for specific opponents.
So what about Joey Hunt specifically? I watched two games today (vs Kansas State & Minnesota).
He loves to get to the second level and doesn’t waste any time in doing so. He’s also a master at executing precise double teams — an underrated aspect of the ZBS.
The scheme in its most basic form asks a lineman to determine whether he is covered or uncovered on a given snap. If he’s uncovered, the player is often required to work a double team. Time and time again on tape you see Hunt effectively blocking inside on a double team. It seems like he’s reading the plays correctly, understanding his duty on a snap-by-snap basis and doing what he needs to do. If that’s the case, it arguably makes him relatively prepared to succeed in Seattle’s scheme.
Only this week Pete Carroll mentioned how disappointed he was watching college O-line tape pre-draft. Carroll, Schneider and Tom Cable have talked about how badly prepared offensive linemen are entering the league. If Hunt provides any kind of an edge here in terms of his readiness — that has to be a plus.
On the first snap of the game vs Kansas State Hunt perfectly executes a double team, opening up a huge running lane for a long touchdown. On several occasions in this match-up he opened up running lanes right up the gut.
There are two other big positives on tape. He sets well in protection with an upright posture and he’s very good at the legal cut block (which remains a key feature of the ZBS).
Size could be an issue. There are times when he’s walked back into the pocket. He seems to struggle against long defensive linemen who get into his frame and move him off balance. There were a couple of times where he struggled to plant and hold position and was nearly on the turf. He was handled pretty easily on both occasions and didn’t really have a counter. He’s only 6-2 and 300lbs with 30 1/4 inch arms. He’s pretty adept at squaring up and winning with leverage — but there are times where he’s controlled by bigger, longer and more explosive defensive linemen.
There were times where Hunt showed really good technique with his hands. On a couple of attempted spin moves he just worked the DL and stayed in position. He moves well on his feet and wasn’t beaten once vs Kansas State or Minnesota by a swim/rip.
His main challenger for the job is Patrick Lewis who himself is only 6-1 and 311lbs with 32 1/2 inch arms. It’s kind of peculiar that the Seahawks have looked at so many contrasting body types at centre. Hunt and Lewis are small and lack length and yet Max Unger was around 6-5 and 305lbs. All three lack truly explosive athleticism. Then there’s Kristjan Sokoli — the best athlete to enter the NFL in a generation with size (6-4, 295lbs) and length (34 inch arms).
There isn’t a great deal preventing Hunt from competing early for a starting spot. He’ll battle with Lewis, Sokoli and possibly Will Pericak. That’s a wide open race and let’s not forget — Lewis a year ago didn’t win the job vs Drew Nowak.
It wouldn’t be a total shocker if the Seahawks started a sixth round rookie on their O-line in 2016 — along with possibly two other rookies if Germain Ifedi and Rees Odhiambo hit the ground running.
If you want to push teams around in the running game — this is the kind of frame you want on your O-line.
I mocked Reed at #16 to Detroit in my first round mock draft. Did anyone expect him to last until #49?
Both Reed and Andrew Billings seemingly fell due to their perceived inability to play three downs. That’s semi-understandable given how little teams play in base these days.
That said — there’s still a ton of value in being able to take away an opponents run game and make them one-dimensional. Especially when you have Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and an opportunistic secondary.
You can’t move Reed off the LOS — even with a double team. He’ll anchor at DE and DT in Seattle. And he’s one of the toughest players in the draft — possibly the toughest. He fits the personality of this defense like a glove. A perfect match.
The Seahawks followed by drafting three running backs (C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks), a blocking tight end (Nick Vannett) another big guard (Rees Odhiambo) two other linemen (center Joey Hunt and DT Quinton Jefferson) and a receiver (Kenny Lawler).
Here’s some notes on Seattle’s picks:
Nick Vannett (TE, Ohio State)
Admittedly I didn’t expect the Seahawks to draft a tight end early. They remain upbeat on Jimmy Graham and have had some production from Luke Willson. I’m not sure anyone should expect Vannett to put up major numbers either — he’s in Seattle to play a role and not be a prolific target.
That said — it’s still a fun pick to be enjoyed. John Schneider and Pete Carroll both highlighted Vannett’s blocking potential. Again, it’s about re-setting that ‘hit you in the mouth’ physicality in the post-Marshawn era. Vannett enables them to essentially put another lineman on the field and yet keep a team honest in the passing game. It also puts less pressure on Graham to be a blocker.
What does the class say about TEF?
The formula we used was designed to try and identify who the Seahawks might take on the O-line in this class (not, as some have suggested, to try and identify a good or bad player).
Germain Ifedi reinforced the formula — but Rees Odhiambo was a major outlier based on what they’ve done since 2012. We don’t have the numbers for Joey Hunt (only a bench press of 34).
I think what we learnt from this class is that the Seahawks are not totally 100% focused only on a specific explosive profile. They are, wisely, open to other skill sets even if they’ve almost universally looked for an explosive ideal over the last four years.
Odhiambo has been praised for his toughness, grit and ability to handle adversity. In a draft where the Seahawks wanted to get bigger and tougher — the pick makes a ton of sense. Can he stay healthy? That’s the concern. Yet the success or failure of this class doesn’t rest with Odhiambo.
The Seahawks have been accused by some fans of being too driven towards analytics and athleticism — and yet Odhiambo, Hunt, Collins, Lawler and Reed all fit a different profile. This draft looks like a concerted attempt to get bigger and tougher in certain positions. Job done.
They passed on Connor McGovern, Joe Dahl and Joe Haeg which was a bit surprising. Yet all three fell much lower than we expected. The league appeared to give a collective thumbs down to the trio.
How many running backs?
There are two things to consider here. Firstly, Pete Carroll loves competition especially at running back. He always had multiple 5-star recruits battling for touches at USC.
Secondly, the Seahawks need to plan accordingly for the post-Marshawn era. They have Thomas Rawls — but they can’t just pile Lynch’s workload onto his shoulders. Now they have depth, physicality, a range of skill sets and a chance to survive if Rawls gets injured again some day.
C.J. Prosise has some suddenness to his game but he’s also a solid pass catcher and looks like a third down back who can take on a decent number of snaps.
Alex Collins was one of our favourite players in college football last year — and we only soured on him after a bitterly disappointing combine performance. He plays with genuine physicality, speed and skill. He looked like a really good back on tape.
Zac Brooks didn’t have much of a role at Clemson but the Seahawks clearly liked something about him and had him visit the VMAC. He too can try and win some special teams snaps and a few carries in pre-season.
This will also hopefully push Christine Michael — arguably the most talented of Seattle’s many backs. Will he rise to the challenge?
And the rest?
Kenny Lawler, while not an amazing athlete, is a touchdown machine with big hands. He scored a touchdown every 5.3 receptions in college. He’s a Seahawks type of receiver. High points the ball, makes difficult catches, hangs on. It’ll be fascinating to see if he can have an impact in camp.
I’m unfamiliar with Joey Hunt but look forward to getting into some TCU tape. He certainly has some fans out there:
Joey Hunt led nation with 99.5 pass blocking efficiency allowing zero sacks and only three hurries
According to Davis, they gave Trevone Boykin a $15,000 signing bonus which signifies he was a top priority UDFA for Seattle.
Brandin Bryant is an athletic phenomena with unreal tape:
It’s not surprising to see Christian French signed or DeAndre Elliott. Ohio State’s Tyvis Powell is a really interesting pickup — he was expected to be drafted in the middle rounds.
George Fant could be another Garry Gilliam for this team. He ticks all the boxes in terms of athleticism, size, explosion and length. He was a basketball player turned tight end in college. Expect him to be tried at tackle or guard in Seattle.
And several readers contacted me about S/LB hybrid Tanner McEvoy at Wisconsin. The Seahawks grabbed him too.
In a draft rich in LOS talent — the Seahawks were able to match their biggest needs with the strengths of the class. They come out of this draft with impact players, greater talent and competition on the O-line, a new collection of running backs and perhaps a re-established attitude.
There were a few shocks, a few surprises. But overall this should be a class to get Seahawks fans dreaming of September.
Kenny and I will record a review podcast on Monday and on the blog we’ll begin to look at some of the prospects drafted by the Seahawks throughout the week.
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