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Stats review & further reflections on the Niners win

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Jadeveon Clowney dominated in San Francisco

Jadeveon Clowney shines

The Seahawks know who they need to build their D-line around. Regardless of the performance in the game, the pass rush needs major surgery in the off-season.

The use of Shaquem Griffin instead of Ziggy Ansah was a frank admission that the Ansah signing hasn’t worked. They need speed off the edge and Griffin at least provides that. The number one off-season priority will surely be to re-sign Clowney and pair him with a dynamic speed rusher. I’ll have more on that in a moment.

Clowney has always had game-wrecking potential and he showed it in this game. It helped that for the first time this season he was well supported. The rest of the D-line raised their game. The defense doesn’t need to be the LOB. It just needs to make some plays and not be a liability.

The big question is whether this was a flash in the pan or the early signs of a turn. The Seahawks have been sliced and diced by too many opponents to feel truly confident that this unit is ready to take a leap forward. It’s a start though.

We’ve seen what Clowney can do when he’s given some support. The Seahawks can’t afford to lose him in the off-season unless the price tag just becomes unbearable. Which, unfortunately, is possible if he keeps up this form in the second half of the season. If he continues to play this way he’d still be worth the investment. He only turns 27 in February. There aren’t many players like this on the planet. He was the #1 overall pick for a reason. They can’t lose him. They need to build with him.

What the stats say

Despite his great game on Monday, Clowney is only 35th in the league for pressures with 18. However, that is the same number as DeMarcus Lawrence and one more than Chris Jones.

He’s PFF’s third ranked defensive end (89.6), behind only T.J. Watt (91.0) and Nick Bosa (89.7).

Dante Fowler is 12th with 25 and Everson Griffen is sixth with a massive 31. T.J. Watt and Aaron Donald lead the league with 34. Joey Bosa is third with 32.

Clowney is 24th in the league with nine hurries. Dante Fowler is now fourth with 15 — behind only Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald and Cameron Jordan. Everson Griffen is sixth with 13 and Von Miller tenth with 11.

In terms of TFL’s, the numbers are surprising. It feels like Clowney has had more impact than his five so far which only ranks #71 in the league. Strangely that’s the same number as Von Miller and Khalil Mack. Frank Clark has six TFL’s (so essentially one more sack and one more TFL than Clowney). DeMarcus Lawrence has six TFL’s too and 4.5 sacks.

Aaron Donald leads the league with 13. Joey and Nick Bosa are second and third with 12 apiece. Dante Fowler is sixth with 10. Yannick Ngakoue has seven and ranks 24th.

If the Seahawks want to add a true impact rusher with speed to play across from Clowney, Dante Fowler stands out as a possibility. He signed a one-year deal in LA for $12m. His market was lukewarm a year ago, forcing him to sign a prove-it type deal. In terms of sacks, pressures and TFL’s he is performing at the level the Seahawks need. He doesn’t turn 26 until next August. He ran a 1.59 10-yard split at his combine (anything in the 1.5’s is considered ideal). We’ll need to see what his market is but that’s the guy I’d put a circle around.

Whatever happens, adding a speed element to the pass rusher is much needed.

Bradley McDougald is underrated

The stats at safety are very interesting and really highlight why they benched Marquise Blair and why they are so high on Bradley McDougald.

Marquise Blair was conceding a 126.6 passer rating when he was targeted — the 17th highest in the league. McDougald, in comparison, has the seventh lowest passer rating when targeted (38.6). That’s better than Richard Sherman (43.2) and Tre’Davious White (44.4).

McDougald also gives up 4.2 yards per target. That’s 13th best in the league and on a similar level to Harrison Smith (4.1). Earl Thomas gives up 4.8 yards per target.

Blair is conceding 7.5 yards per target.

A lot of people questioned Seattle’s decision to bench Blair for the Niners game, especially given PFF in their special PFF way graded him as Seattle’s best defender against Tampa Bay. This is an indication as to why the Seahawks made the move.

The fact that PFF graded him highly suggests he didn’t play badly in terms of the basics. Yet PFF don’t have intimate knowledge of Seattle’s scheme. It’s possible he’s not quite nailing the scheme and thus he’s conceding yards at a rate the Seahawks are uncomfortable with.

This is actually quite encouraging. It presents a scenario where Blair’s play has been decent and he just needs time and experience in the system. By trading for Quandre Diggs, they buy themselves some time. Diggs had an excellent start against San Francisco with two big hits and an interception. If he can quietly lock down a section of the field like the stats suggest McDougald is, the Seahawks will be in good shape.

Other stats of note

Tre Flowers’ passer rating against is 76.7. That’s actually better than Shaquille Griffin’s (80.0).

Mychal Kendricks no longer leads the league in missed tackles (that’s Denzel Ward). He’s now only seventh with 24.6% missed tackles. Yannick Ngakoue is a place above him with 25.8% missed tackles.

Re-sign Germain Ifedi?

Germain Ifedi received a 71.9 pass-blocking grade from PFF. People will hammer him for the surreal fumble for a touchdown. He actually caught Wilson’s fumble and found himself in an unusual position. In terms of blocking, he’s having a good year. He’s nowhere near the liability some fans and pundits suggest. As long as his price tag isn’t extortionate, the Seahawks should seek to avoid creating a problem at right tackle and try to retain him.

Is Jamar Taylor really a problem?

Nickel corner is an unforgiving position. You’re often isolated against a sudden, talented receiver trying to cover a lot of space. There aren’t many truly excellent nickel corner’s for a reason.

In terms of the stats, nothing really stands out with Jamar Taylor. He gives up 10.5 yards a completion which is about the same as Bradley McDougald (9.8) and it’s lower than Flowers (10.6) and Griffin (11.0). Akeem King is giving up 18.7 yards per completion.

Taylor’s 6.6 yards conceded per target is marginally worse than Griffin’s (6.0) and Flowers’ (6.3).

His completion percentage is 62.5%. Flowers is giving up 59.6% and Griffin 55.1%. The completion percentage vs Bobby Wagner is 87.1%.

Clearly Taylor gave up some catches against the Niners and will likely be a one-and-done player in Seattle. Yet he’s maybe not quite the liability some think. He’s not playing great but he’s not awful either. And let’s give him credit for the tipped pass he had late on to force a punt last night.

Should they go after Vernon Hargreaves?

Tampa Bay cut Vernon Hargreaves today. If you want to sign him be aware he’s given up the third most yards in coverage this season (578) behind only Isaiah Oliver (634) and Kyle Fuller (631).

Let’s compare Hargreaves with Jamar Taylor:

Yards conceded

Taylor: 210
Hargreaves: 578

Yards per completion

Taylor: 10.5
Hargreaves: 12.8

Yards per target

Taylor: 6.6
Hargreaves: 8.9

Passer rating

Taylor: 81.5
Hargreaves: 110.9

Completion percentage

Taylor: 62.5%
Hargreaves: 69.2%

Maybe Hargreaves would benefit from a fresh start? However, he is not performing better than Taylor in any category.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks win epic game in San Francisco

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Jason Myers kicked the winning field goal after five quarters of agony

This was an incredible game. A complete mess, but incredible.

To the neutral it was probably the game of the season. To Seahawks and 49ers fans it was exhausting.

Both teams made a horrendous number of mistakes. The ref’s were appalling — for both teams. And yet somehow the game was overflowing with moments of brilliance and high drama (again, by both teams).

I can’t remember a game like it. The early dominance from San Francisco before the Seahawks scored 21 points on turnovers. A Jimmy Garoppolo pick and one that was called back by a flag. A fumble by Garoppolo returned for a touchdown. A fumble by Russell Wilson (shared by Germain Ifedi) returned for a touchdown. Two late dropped interceptions by K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. One brilliantly caught interception by Dre Greenlaw to seemingly deny the Seahawks a win. A missed kick by Chase McLaughlin to keep them alive.

And a week after having possibly the worst game of his career against Tampa Bay, Jason Myers kicked the winning field goal.

It had practically everything. It was unpredictable, it was maddening, it was exciting and it tired you out.

Players on both teams left the field with injuries. The Seahawks are fortunate to have a bye week next. They’ll feel this one tomorrow.

It was physical, majestic, ridiculous and rubbish all in one go.

Both teams contributed. Both teams deserve credit. Both teams looked like contenders.

The Niners have looked that way for several weeks. For the first time, the Seahawks looked the part tonight. It’s all thanks to an improved defensive performance.

Wilson wasn’t at his best. The entire offense struggled against San Francisco’s punishing unit.

Yet a defense that hadn’t done anything all year suddenly burst into life, thanks to a career-best performance from Jadeveon Clowney.

All those years of promise at South Carolina and the gradual development at Houston came to a crescendo here. This was a player making a statement — for future earnings and for status.

Suddenly, when well supported by the rest of the unit, Clowney was an unstoppable force. He was no longer a one-man band. The Seahawks have found the player they need to build their D-line around for the long haul.

Garoppolo looked rattled. They limited the Niners to 87 rushing yards at 3.2 YPC. They had five sacks (and it could’ve been six had the awful refs not flagged Quinton Jefferson on one of several weak calls).

Clowney wasn’t alone. Shaquille Griffin had a remarkable third down PBU in overtime. The rest of the D-line stepped up to the plate and Quandre Diggs announced his arrival with two big hits and an interception.

Combine this type of defensive performance with Seattle’s quarterback and general offensive play and things are looking up.

There were some negatives to discuss in more detail at a later date. Ziggy Ansah was essentially benched for Shaquem Griffin — an acknowledgement that it isn’t working for Ansah and that they need more speed off the edge. D.K. Metcalf — as good as he is — can’t high-point a football and that needs to change with his size and talent. They also lost three more fumbles, taking their season total to 11 in 10 games.

Some context is also required in the sheer number of injuries San Francisco has. The Seahawks are working without Will Dissly and Justin Britt and lost Tyler Lockett in the game. The Niners were also without George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, Azeez Al-Shaair, D.J. Jones and Ronald Blair left the game, Ahkello Witherspoon didn’t play and Weston Richburg missed some time.

Nevertheless, this was one the Seahawks had to have. And they got it. In the most elongated, ridiculously dramatic fashion they’re 5-0 on the road. And rather than stew on one that got away for two weeks, Seahawks fans can instead dare to dream.

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Seahawks vs 49ers MNF preview

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Seattle on defense

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a problem for Seattle. Atlanta tore strips off the LOB, including in the 2016 playoff game. Even when the Niners lost 43-16 in Seattle last season, Nick Mullen had a 414 yard game.

Even if George Kittle doesn’t play as expected, Shanahan has a formula to dissect and manipulate Seattle’s unit. Considering how poorly they’ve played this year it’ll likely be an exercise in damage limitation.

The key question is whether they can steal a turnover or two on defense to create enough of a swing to support the offense? And failing that, can they find a way to concede three instead of seven? It’s been difficult to watch practically every team march up-and-down the field on Seattle’s defense. It’s a bit optimistic to think the unbeaten Niners are going to be any different.

We know they’re not going to harass Jimmy Garoppolo. They’ll probably give up some gains in the running game. Limiting San Francisco to field goals whenever possible and pinching a turnover or two is vital. Either that or it’s going to be on the offense to pull off another miracle.

Seattle on offense

A lot of people on Twitter will want ‘Russ to cook’ tonight but that’s not necessarily a recipe for success in this game. San Francisco’s defensive line is the best in the league and has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. They can consistently rush with four, create relentless pressure and drop players in coverage.

The Seahawks will have to find a way to slow-down the rush. They will need to box-clever and try to force San Francisco to be a bit more aggressive. The best way to do this is to run the ball effectively.

Arizona had a big day running against San Francisco last week and they’ve now lost Kwon Alexander to IR. The Niners’ biggest strength on defense is their pass rush. The best way to take that threat away is to limit the opportunities they have to impact the game.

They’ll still need Wilson magic of course. They will in every game this season. They need to try and find a balance similar to the Rams win. There they ran for 167 yards and Wilson finished 17/23 passing for 268 yards and four touchdowns. He might need to throw more times in this game if it ends up being a shoot-out or if the Seahawks get behind. That’s probably the blueprint though.

Five years ago the Seahawks vs Niners games emulated the slug-fest Alabama vs LSU games. Two days after the college version played out a 46-41 encounter, we might be set to witness the NFL version this evening.

Special teams

A year ago the Seahawks lost a game they should’ve won in Santa Clara. They gave up cheap points on a kick return and Sebastian Janikowski missed an extra point. The game ended up going to overtime.

The Seahawks actually started very well with a scoring drive. The instant nature of San Francisco’s kick return score blew any momentum Seattle had.

It’s stating the obvious to say Jason Myers needs to be better. This hasn’t been an easy stadium to kick in. Robbie Gould has struggled this year. Hopefully Myers will be able to bounce back from last week’s horror show. This is a crucial game for him and he knows it. The Seahawks need a lot to go their way including a special teams edge.

Final thought

The Seahawks were battered by New Orleans and Baltimore — the two ‘proper’ teams they’ve faced this year. Let’s hope those were simply two bad days at the office and not the reality of what this team is.

I fear this is San Francisco’s answer to Seattle’s game against New Orleans in 2013. That was a Monday Night Football game. The Seahawks, at 10-1, were out to prove they were the real deal. They destroyed the Saints before finishing the season 2-2.

The Niners likely won’t finish 16-0 and will lose at some point. Whether it happens tonight in primetime with the spotlight on them, I’m not so sure.

Feel free to use this as an open thread for MNF.

Here’s one final plug for my interview with Dave Wyman, talking about the big moments in Seahawks history and looking ahead to the game. If you want something to get you in the mood for tonight — check it out:

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CFB week 11: LSU & Joe Burrow prove they’re #1

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

Joe Burrow led LSU to a victory in Alabama

Today confirmed two things — LSU are the best team in the country and Joe Burrow is the best player.

It’s unquestionable. It can’t be challenged. It’s been trending that way for a few weeks and all today did was confirm it.

Burrow is the best draft eligible quarterback for 2020. If you need a QB and you’re picking first overall, you take him.

That’s not an overreaction to one game either. For weeks now we’ve been projecting Burrow as the superior player. Today was merely confirmation and validation.

Clearly Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t 100% healthy in this game. He also played pretty well at times. Burrow was clearly the superior player, however.

Without him at quarterback this LSU team isn’t anything special. With him they’ve gone to Texas and won, they’ve gone to Florida and won and they defeated Auburn at home. All were top-10 teams at the time. Now they’ve gone into Alabama and ended their long unbeaten home record.

It’s all about Burrow.

There were no flaws in his game. He was a surgeon in terms of accuracy. His poise and awareness in the pocket is exceptional. He’s not a major athlete or running quarterback — yet his ability to dodge pressure, keep his eyes downfield and deliver a well-thrown ball is top-level. When he needs to make a gain with his legs he can do it and he had several crucial runs in the game. He’s also highly competitive and elevated his team to a huge 46-41 win.

His back-shoulder throw on his first touchdown was absolutely perfect. His throw to Thaddeus Moss working against Trevon Diggs — with almost no margin for error by the right pylon — was a thing of beauty.

He throws with touch and accuracy at every level and when he needs to get on his skates and extend plays he can do that too.

The only thing missing is a huge arm. Even then, he’s very much in the ‘good not great’ category. It isn’t a weakness. Isn’t a problem. Ever since week one he’s looked like an emerging talent. The Texas game gave us a flash of quality we didn’t see in 2018. Now, he’s shown he’s the real deal.

After today he’ll be at the top of most mock drafts and he’ll certainly be at the front of the line for the Heisman. Without Burrow none of this would be possible for LSU. They have good players but not on the same scale as Alabama. Their quarterback has taken them to a new level this season.

Every time Alabama scored, he had an answer. Every touchdown drive asked a question of Burrow. How are you going to respond? Can you deal with the pressure?

Each question was answered emphatically. His expression never changed throughout four bruising quarters. He was calm and collected and deadly in the pocket.

What about Tagovailoa?

He didn’t have a bad game. He had some significant errors that we’ll come on to. He also benefited from some huge gifts that padded out his stats.

He’s a quality prospect and one that warrants top-10 consideration in the draft. He will have an opportunity to have a good NFL career if he lands in the right setting with a team willing to play to his strengths.

That said, he was vaulted way above reality during the summer and the whole ‘Tank for Tua’ movement was premature at best. Miami Dolphins fans, without any hope in 2019, latched on to him as a potential saviour. He was the reason to keep going during a hopeless 2019 season.

The reality is he’s not a saviour. A few years ago everyone overanalysed Deshaun Watson because he stayed for his final year in Clemson. The reverse seems to be happening with Tua. For too long people overlooked the issues because he was winning and the stats were great.

Today we saw a regular issue rearing it’s ugly head.

LSU scored right before half-time, leaving a few seconds on the clock. Alabama really should’ve cut their losses and took a knee. Instead they came out throwing. Tagovailoa has a serious issue looking off safeties and too often he gets baited into turnovers. It happened against Georgia and Mississippi State and it happened again here. He locked on to his target right down the middle of the field, didn’t sense the safety lurking in the long grass and threw an easy interception.

Compare that to Burrow. He’s running through his progressions. You see him reading the defense, manipulating the safety. He didn’t come close to throwing a pick today. Tua has had three interceptions that are all identical this year. At the next level when things get quicker and he isn’t presented with an outstanding array of weapons and a strong O-line — is he going to be able to go through his reads and avoid turnovers?

He also has a tendency to throw high and behind. His injured ankle perhaps hampered his mechanics today but this isn’t the first time he’s looked a bit streaky. He’s quite robotic in his delivery.

After that avoidable pick, Burrow needed one play to turn it into a 33-13 game at the half. He ended with 31/39 passing for 393 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 64 yards on 13 carries. His only turnover was a forced fumble on a blitz by Xavier McKinney. There was little he could do about it.

Tagovailoa finished 21/40 passing for 418 yards and four touchdowns plus the pick. He also had a bizarre fumble on a red zone run on Alabama’s first drive. Untouched and in open space he simply dropped the ball.

Tua’s numbers were boosted by some poor defensive decisions by the LSU coaches. Tagovailoa’s first touchdown was a gift. The sideline distracted talented cornerback Derek Stingley by trying to change the play at the last minute. As Stingley took his instruction with his head turned to the coaches, the ball was snapped. It allowed DeVonta Smith to sprint by Stingley for an easy 64 yard, wide-open touchdown.

Then in the fourth quarter with LSU possessing a two-score lead and Alabama needing a miracle, for some reason they opted to go man-for-man in coverage and not play prevent defense. Smith ran a go-route and beat Stingley for speed by the left sideline. Tagovailoa threw a hopeful heave downfield and Smith made a fantastic play for an 85 yard score. It was a ridiculous play-call by LSU and it could’ve cost them. That’s essentially two touchdowns and 149 yards gifted to Alabama on those two plays alone.

This was billed as a key game in the National Championship, Heisman and #1 pick race. The winners were LSU and Burrow in every facet.

Overall the game lived up to expectations with the long list of future NFL players taking their turn to shine.

DeVonta Smith ended with seven catches for 213 yards thanks to the two touchdown gifts. He did also have a vital fourth down conversion on a slant. He’s probably the most underrated player on Alabama’s team and as we’ve been saying for a while — he deserves a lot more attention.

Smith and Jerry Jeudy also had some drops today. Smith had a botched reception on a short throw in an attempt to set up a screen. Jeudy had two drops that eliminated potential touchdowns. One was a terrific deep throw by Tagovailoa, the other a shorter range throw in the red zone. Jeudy made up for the second one with a scoring catch on the next play. He finished with five catches for 71 yards and the score.

Henry Ruggs was mostly kept in check but he started the game with a terrific 26-yard reception. Ruggs has speed to burn but he’s also excellent at catching the ball away from his body. He plucked the ball out of the air to secure a difficult catch for a first down. He ended with three catches for 68 yards.

Alabama safety Xavier McKinney had a good day. He had a major impact as a blitzer attacking the LOS and collected two sacks and 2.5 TFL’s. He forced the Burrow fumble. He blocked an extra point. He also failed to tackle Clyde Edwards-Helaire on his way to a touchdown — with CEH delivering a brutal spin-move to get free. Open-field tackling has long been an issue for McKinney and while it was nice to see him work effectively as a blitzer — he’s not going to be doing that most downs in the NFL.

Speaking of Edwards-Helaire — he and Najee Harris both put on a show. Originally it was Harris running around and over defenders, cutting into gaps and scoring a fantastic receiving touchdown on a wheel route. Then CEH took over with his best Darren Sproles meets Maurice Jones-Drew impression. He’s a bundle of power and speed. He iced the game with a beast-mode run, carrying 5-6 defenders for a first down. Both players significantly boosted their stock today. Harris finished with 146 yards on 19 carries, three catches for 44 yards and two total touchdowns. CEH had 103 yards on 20 carries, nine receptions for 77 yards and four total touchdowns. He delivered an excellent post-game interview too — well spoken and playing with a chip on his shoulder.

The 2020 draft is going to be full of quality at the running back position.

Kristian Fulton had a better day than fellow corner Trevon Diggs. Fulton did a terrific job breaking up a throw to Ruggs. He stayed with his man and reached his arm out to separate ball from receiver. It was an excellent read, he showed patience not to make contact too early. It was a textbook piece of coverage and he avoided errors elsewhere.

It felt like Diggs was having a bad game early on but really it was just Burrow’s brilliance. Later on though he was guilty of a few botched tackles on CEH and he gave up a key first down and a touchdown by focusing on trying to rip the ball out rather than making the tackle.

With 4:50 left in the first half, pass rusher Terrell Lewis showed a great get-off on and delivered a superb punch to the right tackle to create a B-gap opening to force Burrow out of the pocket. From there, Raekwon Davis sprinted from the right hash to the sideline to force him out of bounds for a loss of yardage. Unfortunately there weren’t many other splash plays from the duo although Lewis caught the McKinney forced fumble. He was credited with only half a TFL but three QB hurries.

Safety Grant Delpit had a relatively quiet game but played through a bad ankle.

K’Lavon Chaisson did a nice job working in space. On one instance he read a wide receiver screen to bring DeVonta Smith down and force a punt. Chaisson ran a 4.69 at SPARQ. He only had two sacks coming into the game and 4.5 TFL’s but he had 3.5 TFL’s in this game alone. He might provide some value in the middle or later rounds.

Elsewhere…

— Minnesota beat Penn State 31-26 in an exciting BIG-10 game, with two receivers shining. Tyler Johnson has been in my top-50 throughout and he showed why today. He finished with seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. On the score, he ran a route down the right sideline in 1v1 coverage. Johnson tracked the ball superbly and despite having one arm pulled back by the defender, he made an improbable completion by pinning the ball to his helmet with his free arm. He then tip-toed the sideline and somehow stayed in bounds for a 38 yard touchdown. It was an incredible play. The other reception he had that stood out came with 8:32 left in the game. He ran a slant from the slot on 2nd and 8 and the ball was thrown behind. He simply adjusted on the move to make a difficult grab look easy for a completion and a first down.

Rashad Bateman, somehow, still outshone Johnson. The sophomore (who’s also a team captain) was simply unstoppable. He also had seven catches but for 203 yards and a touchdown. Every target he received in the game led to a first down or a touchdown. He was sudden, elusive, he got open with easy and he made difficult catches look easy. He’s definitely a player to monitor.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr had two interceptions to take his season tally to seven. We all know his dad’s career in Minnesota (and he had a very brief spell in Seattle). He has a big decision to make about potentially turning pro. He’s a redshirt sophomore. He likely won’t have a season like this again and who knows where P.J. Fleck will be coaching next year? It might be best to bite the bullet. Could he be a solid slot corner at the next level?

For Penn State, Yetur Gross-Matos had one of his all-too frequent disappearing acts. K.J. Hamler was Penn State’s only consistent receiving threat. He consistently got open, finished with seven catches for 119 yards and had a nice kick-return called back. However, he was bullied in the red zone. Jalen Reagor and Henry Ruggs play above their size in the red zone and do an excellent job boxing out defenders or leaping to high-point the ball. Hamler doesn’t do this and it’s why he’s below both players on my board.

— I’ve been sceptical about Jacob Eason all year and that’s being validated recently. He’s getting worse, not better. He makes strange decisions, is starting to turn the ball over and he isn’t elevating Washington. He’s not played much college football at all and he certainly doesn’t look ready for the NFL. He has the physical tools but he’s nowhere near ready in terms of decision making, pocket awareness and anticipation. He threw another pick-six against Oregon State on a two-interception night. If Eason is regressing, tight end Hunter Bryant is looking better and better. He was a top SPARQ performer and he looks like the real deal as a move-TE with the potential to do some blocking too. He had a beastly 50 yard completion that should’ve been a score but was called back on a hold. He finished with five catches for 90 yards. He looks like a top-45 prospect.

— Another week, another hammering dished out by Ohio State. They destroyed Maryland 73-14 despite losing Chase Young to a likely four-game suspension. J.K. Dobbins had 12 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns before getting a breather. He also had a catch for eight yards. Binjimen Victor had three catches for 36 yards and a score. K.J. Hill managed four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Victor and Hill could provide some later round value and both are very athletic. Dobbins should be a top-45 pick.

— Jalen Reagor was surprisingly quiet as TCU lost to Baylor 29-23 in overtime. He was limited to one catch for eight yards and two runs for four yards.

— Colorado and Laviska Shenault have had a tough year. Today they had a better day, defeating Stanford 16-13 with Shenault managing eight catches for 91 yards. He also had a run for five yards. Shenault left the game in the first half to head to the locker room. He does get banged up.

— Jonathan Taylor ran for 250 yards on 31 carries as Wisconsin defeated Iowa 24-22. He also had a catch for eight yards. Tight end Jake Ferguson managed two catches for 19 yards. A.J. Epenesa recorded a sack in the game.

— Michael Pittman Jr. had another big day for USC with 146 yards on 13 receptions. Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk had five catches for 51 yards and a score. Eno Benjamin was bottled up for 52 yards on 20 carries but also added 48 yards on seven catches. USC won the game 31-26.

— Clemson took apart NC State 55-10. Tee Higgins had four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Travis Etienne recorded 112 yards on 14 carries, three catches for 31 yards and had three total touchdowns.

— Ceedee Lamb had one of his trademark incredible YAC touchdowns as Oklahoma squeezed by Iowa State 42-41. Lamb increasingly looks like Cordarelle Patterson with actual receiving skills and he finished with 167 yards on eight catches and two scores.

— Julian Okwara suffered a fractured ankle as Notre Dame beat Duke 38-7. His season is clearly over but it remains to be seen how this will impact his draft stock. Will he be ready to work out before the draft?

— South Carolina beat Georgia a few weeks ago. This weekend they lost 20-15 at home to Appalachian State. Javon Kinlaw shared a sack and a TFL.

— Utah State quarterback Jordan Love has had such a poor year he might return to college next season (transfer to Oklahoma?). He had a bounce back game this weekend though in a 37-35 win at Fresno State. Love threw for 388 yards and had two touchdowns. He also had 30 rushing yards on six carries.

— You’ve got to love the Georgia O-line. Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson could both go in top fifteen or twenty. D’Andre Swift had 83 rushing yards on 12 carries as they beat Missouri 27-0. Lawrence Cager had 93 yards on six carries.

If you missed my interview with Dave Wyman yesterday you can check it out here…

An interview with Dave Wyman

Friday, November 8th, 2019

At the London game last year, one of my favorite moments was meeting former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman.

This week I had an opportunity to interview Dave following the release of his new book, titled ‘If These Walls Could Talk‘. There are some excellent stories and it’s great for Seahawks fans who want to relieve all the eventful moments in team history — many of which Dave has been part of as a player or member of the media.

You can order a copy by clicking here.

Check out the full interview below:

How the Seahawks can improve their pass rush in 2020

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Dante Fowler will be a free agent again in 2020

There’s very little the Seahawks can do in 2019 to improve their failing pass rush. Their hopes this season rest squarely with the MVP candidate at quarterback. They have become, like a lot of other teams, entirely dependant on their QB.

Very few win a Championship this way. Look at New England last season. They beat the Rams thanks to a defensive masterclass from the most successful coach in NFL history. The Broncos in 2015 won a title solely thanks to their defense. Seattle combined Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch with the LOB.

Usually you need a good defense to go far in the playoffs. It’s certain that Seattle’s off-season priority will be to fix this unit. In many ways the struggles this year might benefit the Seahawks in 2020. They know major work is required. They’ll be under no illusions. And they will almost certainly act aggressively to repair the defense and the pass rush.

But what can they do?

As we’ve noted quite a few times already, this isn’t going to be a strong draft class for defensive linemen. There’s some early round depth at cornerback but in terms of the other positions on defense, it’s slim pickings.

The clear strength of this class in the top-50 will be wide receiver and it might be that the Seahawks tap into that (see yesterday’s report on the brilliance of Jalen Reagor) with their first pick, placing the responsibility of defensive improvement on free agency.

It’s also possible they could use their first round pick in a trade. They’ve done it twice before to land Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham. For the right player who can provide proven quality to the pass rush, it’s possible they’d strike a deal. The options aren’t obvious. They might need to see who gets tagged and take it from there. They’d need a similar situation to Frank Clark a year ago — a team unwilling to pay up but also willing to strike a deal for a fair price.

It’s very likely Kansas City and Jacksonville will work to extend or tag Chris Jones and Yannick Ngakoue but they are the two most apparent options if the Seahawks were to make a Clark-style trade. Whether they’d be interested in either for such a high cost (picks and salary) is a question mark.

Some high profile players could be dealt for cost-saving purposes. Von Miller’s cap hit in 2020 is $25.6m. Considering he turns 31 in March and is having a relatively unproductive season by his standards, it’s possible the Broncos will think about moving on.

Presumably teams would have interest in Miller provided the Broncos were prepared to be realistic in trade talks. The problem is if you’re trading a first round pick you want at least four years of production for the investment. Can you guarantee that from a 31-year-old?

Miller does still have 21 pressures this season, good enough for #17 in the league. His 11 QB hurries are tied for seventh. The Broncos might try to extend his contract to lower his 2020 cap hit.

Another player who could be in a similar situation is Calais Campbell. His cap hit in Jacksonville is $17.5m in 2020. It’s the final year of his deal and by moving on the Jags can save $15m. At the moment Jacksonville only has $4m in cap space for 2020 and need money to keep Ngakoue. They have to make some savings and Campbell, aged 33, could be an option.

It also seems pretty obvious that the Jags love him and everything he brings on and off the field. They might be able to extend his deal to lessen the hit. The Seahawks have been crying out for a Campbell type player for years to anchor the D-line. If there was a way to get him — either via trade or signing him after he’s cut — it could be an appealing move.

Campbell has 23 pressures this season (ranked #14 in the league), 5.5 sacks and nine QB knockdowns (#3 in the league). This is great production for a defensive tackle and the Seahawks need someone to handle the interior.

There are three other names to consider.

Everson Griffen was linked to the Seahawks by John Clayton on a couple of occasions this year. He’s 32 in December but is having a bounce-back season for the Vikings. Griffen has 24 pressures — the eighth most in the league and level with Aaron Donald. He also has 5.5 sacks and nine hurries.

Dante Fowler is playing on a one-year contract with the Rams and quietly is having an excellent season. He has 25 pressures (sixth most in the NFL), 6.5 sacks and 15 QB hurries (third most behind only Khalil Mack and Cameron Jordan). Fowler doesn’t even turn 26 until next August so he’s at a really good age. While Calais Campbell and Everson Griffen would be short-term solutions, Fowler is potentially someone who could have a longer-term impact.

The Rams have $26m in cap space for 2020 but a large portion of that will go towards a Jalen Ramsey extension.

Arik Armstead is another possible option. He’s had an injury-impacted career so far but is having a strong 2019 season. He has 12 pressures and 5.5 sacks. He turns 26 later this month. San Francisco only has $17.6m in cap space for 2020 so they might not be able to keep him.

With $72m in available cap space next year, the Seahawks will have an opportunity to be aggressive. Their collection of draft picks (including three in the first two rounds) should give them an opportunity to fill other holes on the roster, creating the freedom to go after the free agents needed to improve the pass rush.

It’s also important that the Seahawks retain the players who are actually performing on the line currently.

Quinton Jefferson has 12 pressures — the same number as Armstead. Jefferson is unlikely to break the bank and could be retained for a modest sum to compliment the rotation.

Jadeveon Clowney has been a one-man band for the Seahawks with 18 pressures and 10 QB hurries. According to this ESPN article, Clowney ranks joint fifth in the league for pass-rush win rate at 27%. He’s level with Dante Fowler, while Calais Campbell is ranked fourth among defensive tackles (19%).

It’s perhaps wishful thinking to imagine a scenario where the Seahawks land Fowler and Campbell while retaining Clowney. It’d certainly be costly. It’s the kind of aggressive power-play this team is ready for though. The offense is playing superbly. The defense is being propped up and bailed out.

There’s a big question mark about Jarran Reed. In three games he hasn’t bolstered the pass rush since returning from suspension. He still has plenty of time to earn a large extension and help the team but he’s had a slow start. At the moment, he seems likely to test the market and take it from there. It’s hard to predict what kind of offers he’d get.

In 2020 they can become a serious contender with a bold off-season. The draft isn’t going to provide obvious solutions to the pass-rush dilemma. Free agency could. The Seahawks have been aggressive before — whether it was in 2011 when they paid out for Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery or 2013 when they traded for Harvin before adding Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Expect 2020 to be similarly pro-active.

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Jalen Reagor is really good

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

The 2020 draft will be defined by the quarterbacks and receivers. Multiple wide outs will be taken in round one.

I’m starting to wonder whether Jalen Reagor is the best of the lot.

College football is littered with receivers who dominate overmatched cornerbacks. Spread systems also extend the field to make stat-building a lot easier. So many players get overhyped on production and perceived ability that won’t translate.

The thing to look for is easy separation. A lot of college receivers box-out defenders or the quarterback takes a five-step drop in the gun to open up everything underneath. If a player is creating separation with quickness and savvy routes you’re onto a winner. The 2014 class is a great example of this. Odell Beckham Jr and Mike Evans made it look so easy with the way they separated from defenders. It’s easy to say now but you could just tell they were destined to be top pro’s. Receiver can be one of the easier positions to analyse if you’re looking for the right traits.

A lot of the top receivers in this class create that easy separation. Henry Ruggs reportedly runs in the 4.2’s and flashes for Alabama. So do team mates Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith. K.J. Hamler can separate with his quickness. Ceedee Lamb is slightly different and plays a lot like Cordarrelle Patterson with receiving skills. It’s harder to judge Laviska Shenault because he’s used as a bit of a receiver and a bit of a runner and isn’t having a good final year at Colorado.

Reagor has extreme speed and quickness and you see him getting open on shorter routes with ease but he can also take the top off a defense by running deep on go-routes and posts. He’s sturdy with a good looking frame at about 5-11 and 195lbs and isn’t pushed around when he has to compete.

The thing that impressed me most is the way he has an impact in the red zone. There are several examples of him winning jump-balls and high-pointing the football with great arm extension. Despite not being the biggest, you can throw it up to him in a 1v1 battle.

His catching technique is clean, he can win on the shorter routes and he’s not just a downfield threat. As I watched the games I just kept wondering why you wouldn’t put him in the top-20. Where are the weaknesses?

At SPARQ he ran a 4.41. After a few years in college and with specific sprint training before the combine he could easily get that into the early 4.3’s. He also jumped a 38.5 inch vertical at SPARQ. He’s going to test superbly at the combine — possibly even better than Ruggs.

They might be the two to keep an eye on. Ruggs does a terrific job extending his arms to catch away from his frame and he too is an incredibly rounded wide-out and not just a sprinter. Both players are major home-run threats but they can also be incorporated into a system as potential #1 targets. DeVonta Smith also has a lot of suddenness and is extremely underrated by the media.

To cap it all off, Reagor’s interviews are great. He’s focused, interesting, passionate and determined. You can imagine teams really going for him when they get a chance to sit down and talk.

I think there’s a good chance the Seahawks will target adding a receiver with their first pick. Although their biggest need is clearly pass rush, the options are weak in the 2020 class. They might have to turn to free agency for answers there. The receiving options, however, appear to be excellent.

I’d love to be able to project Reagor to the Seahawks. I sense, however, that by the time we get into March and April he’ll have improved his stock so much he’ll be out of range. He’s underrated. He’s a fantastic talent. He’s a top-20 player for me.

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What the numbers say about Seattle’s defense

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Jadeveon Clowney has been a one-man band on the D-line

Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay highlighted the great imbalance with this team. The offense is firing on all cylinders and the defense and special teams are sputtering.

I’ve spent some time studying the numbers to see what they tell us.

The cliffs notes version of this piece is thus — the defense overall is performing on par with the worst teams in the league. However, a lot of the data points the finger directly at the defensive line. There are positives in terms of turnovers, quarterback rating and passes defended. Bradley McDougald is excelling in coverage and Jadeveon Clowney is leading a one-man pass rush.

So when you consider those positives and place them alongside the significant negatives such as conceding 6.2 yards per play and giving up the fifth most points in the league so far — it’s quite easy to connect the dots to the D-line.

That’s not a major revelation admittedly. We can all see the issues. Ziggy Ansah, sadly, looks like the defensive version of Eddie Lacy. They’re not creating any interior pressure and they’re almost entirely dependent on Clowney. With the trade deadline passing there’s practically nothing they can do about the situation until the off-season.

Two things seem inevitable at this stage. Firstly, the poor play of the D-line could easily cost the Seahawks a chance to be a serious contender at a time when Russell Wilson is playing the best season of his career. Secondly, it’s incredibly likely that they will prioritize fixing the D-line in the off-season. Don’t be surprised if they act aggressively to address this issue because it’s the biggest thing holding this team back (although not the only thing).

The Seahawks defense in 2019

The first alarming stat is they’re conceding 6.2 yards per play. That’s the fourth most YPP in the league.

Here’s the bottom ten:

Cincinnati — 6.6
Miami — 6.3
Oakland — 6.3
Seattle — 6.2
Arizona — 6.1
Detroit — 6.1
Green Bay — 6.1
New York Giants — 6.0
Baltimore — 6.0
Atlanta — 6.0

It says everything about Seattle’s defense this year that they actually improved their standing yesterday by only conceding 5.8 yards per play against the Bucs.

Stats like this can be read a number of ways, of course. Green Bay and Baltimore are also on the list and they too are winning football games. I suspect, unfortunately, that they’ll simply endure the same issues as Seattle down the line (although Baltimore were impressive against the Patriots last night).

It’s also interesting that while New England (4.3) and San Francisco (4.5) easily lead the league in YPP allowed on defense, the Jets are doing surprisingly well (5.2) as are the struggling Chicago Bears (4.9) and Denver Broncos (5.0).

However, that can arguably be answered away. The Jets aren’t struggling because of Gregg Williams’ defense. The entire franchise is a mess. Williams, to be fair, is somewhat holding up his end of the deal as one of the more successful (albeit controversial) defensive coordinators in the league. It’s the same for Denver and Vic Fangio and the Bears with their supreme defensive talent spearheaded by Khalil Mack.

You would hope the Seahawks would thrive due to the expertise of their defensive minded Head Coach who has equally enjoyed a lot of success in the NFL. It isn’t happening this year. It’s pretty remarkable that the defense is giving up a full 6.2 yards on average every time the ball is snapped. It’s unsustainable. And without their offense propping up the unit, they’d likely be in the same boat as some of the teams listed above.

They’ve also given up the fifth most points (230) and only trail the Dolphins (256), the Buccaneers (252), the Cardinals (251) and the Falcons (250). The two teams below the Seahawks are the Redskins (219) and the Giants (218). The combined record of the other teams is 10-39-1. I’m not sure anything promotes the performance of Seattle’s offense better than the fact they’re somehow 7-2 despite conceding so many points.

The Seahawks have 15 sacks. One of those was a tap on Lamar Jackson when he was already on the turf. One was the Jameis Winston ’empty-hand throw’ yesterday that for some reason went down as a Mychal Kendricks sack. There are only six teams with fewer sacks so far — Baltimore (14), Detroit (14), the Jets (13), Miami (12), Cincinnati (9) and Atlanta (7). With the exception of Baltimore (who lost their best pass rushers in the off-season and, unlike the Seahawks, didn’t spend their first round pick on a pass rusher or sign Ziggy Ansah or trade for Jadeveon Clowney), the rest are a collection of teams destined to pick in the top-10 next year.

Sacks aren’t everything of course. Pressures can be more indicative of performance. The Seahawks have 58 pressures this season, the sixth fewest in the league. Only Oakland (40), Miami (42), Cincinnati (47), Atlanta (51) and Indianapolis (54) have fewer. It gets worse though. In terms of pressure percentage per drop-back, the Seahawks are at 15.5%. That’s the second worst record in the league behind only Oakland (12.9%). In comparison, San Franciso’s pressure percentage is 31.8% and leads the league.

Considering we see Baltimore and Green Bay showing up on the same under-performing lists as Seattle, it’s worth noting that both teams are league average for pressure percentage. The Ravens are at 21% and the Packers at 21.5%. If Seattle was simply league average at creating pressure, it’d cure a lot of ills. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

Seattle has 28 QB hurries which again is in the bottom third of the league. Their percentage of hurries per drop-back is 7.5% — the seventh worst record in the league.

You might ask — why don’t they blitz more to try and create some pressure? They’ve actually blitzed 93 times — 12th most in the league. In comparison San Francisco have only blitzed 41 times, the second fewest. That’s the benefit of being able to rush with four consistently. The Seahawks aren’t sitting on their hands though. They have clearly tried to blitz. They’re not the Detroit Lions — who’ve blitzed fewer times than any other team (38) and yet have only 14 sacks and are creating no pressure.

Let’s look at individual numbers. Jadeveon Clowney has 17 pressures — the 27th most in the league. Quinton Jefferson has 12 and ranks at #50. There isn’t a single other Seahawks defensive lineman in the top-100. Rasheem Green is at #101 with seven pressures. Ziggy Ansah is at #134 with six — the same number as Carolina safety Eric Reid.

Clowney ranks at #16 for hurries with nine. Jefferson and Green have five and rank around the #50 mark. After that? The next highest is Ansah’s two hurries — good enough for #141 in the league and level with Danny Shelton.

The Seahawks are a one-man band as a pass-rushing unit. You almost feel sorry for Clowney. He’s statistically among the league leaders in pressures and hurries and has almost nothing to show for it because he’s so poorly supported.

Here’s something that might surprise you. The Seahawks have missed 54 tackles. That’s actually only middle of the road. It might not feel like it but Seattle is merely average at missing tackles when the eye test would suggest they’d be a lot worse. Mychal Kendricks has missed 15 tackles — the most in the NFL. That’s a quarter of his overall tackle attempts and the eighth highest missed tackle percentage. No other Seahawk ranks in the top-100 for missed tackle percentage. Clowney and Al Woods have missed 13% of their tackles and rank in the 130’s. Tre Flowers is fourth with 12.2% of missed tackles and McDougald has missed 11.4%.

The Seahawks have the third best turnover differential (+7) behind only New England (+17) and Pittsburgh (+11). Russell Wilson only throwing one interception has contributed a lot here. The Seahawks do rank joint 10th for interceptions though (7) and they’ve recovered nine fumbles (the second best number in the league). This is actually a positive because thanks largely to Chris Carson they’ve fumbled eight times — the third most in the NFL. It actually paints a picture that the Seahawks aren’t that bad at turning the ball over on defense. Presumably if the pass rush was better and they had more sacks and pressures, they might have even more takeaways.

Neither are the Seahawks statistically bad at defending passes. They have 39 PDEF’s so far — the ninth best record. Combine that with the turnovers and it’s quite revealing.

Bradley McDougald ranks eighth in the league for receiving yards per time targeted at only 3.8 yards. Shaquille Griffin is ranked at #41 and is giving up 5.2 yards per target. Mychal Kendricks, for all the hand-wringing over his role, is the 58th best defender in the entire league in terms of yards per target (5.8). That’s better than Landon Collins, Byron Jones, Tre’Davious White and Jaire Alexander.

Jamar Taylor is also ranked higher than Alexander at #90 with 6.4 yards per target. Tre Flowers is at #107 with 6.8 yards per target and K.J. Wright at #110 with 6.9 yards per target.

Overall, that’s a pretty good picture and it’s probably why Pete Carroll is sticking with his current plan. None of these players are being hammered in terms of yards per target. They have a top-10 defender in McDougald in this category and a top-50 player in Griffin. These stats say they’re not being exploited in coverage. They’re just not creating anywhere near enough pressure.

Also, McDougald has the third best completion percentage statistic at 36.8%. That’s better than any other safety. In comparison, Earl Thomas’ completion percentage is 50% — good enough for 25th in the league. Thomas has been targeted 14 times compared to McDougald’s 19 targets.

Again, the problem appears to be pressure and the pass rush. They’re giving up 7.5 yards per pass play — which is the fifth worst record in the league. And yet the defense has only conceded 11 passing touchdowns vs seven interceptions.

Seattle has also only conceded four +40 yard passing plays. That’s as many as San Francisco and only nine teams have fewer. They’ve given up 32 +20 yard passing plays though which is the eleventh highest. Quarterbacks have an 89.6 passer rating against the Seahawks which is only the 19th highest. You see the picture emerging here. Give the second-level defenders a bit more help and we might be surprised how they end up performing.

If the aim was to fix the run defense in 2019, it isn’t working. That is indicative again that the D-line is Seattle’s biggest problem. They’re giving up 4.7 YPC — the sixth most in the league. Strangely that’s the same mark as the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers and will offer some comfort for Seattle’s running game next week. The Seahawks have also given up 12 rushing touchdowns — the second most in the league behind only Carolina (14).

I hope this has helped shed some light on where the real issues lie. If you were wondering why they signed Josh Gordon and have reportedly looked at the possibility of adding Antonio Brown, this is why. The offense is propping up the defense. There aren’t any realistic options out there to improve the pass rush, especially with the trade deadline passing. They’re stuck with this unit and they know it. They also know how fully reliant they are on Russell Wilson. Adding weapons for him is all they can do at this stage.

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Instant reaction: Russell Wilson saves the Seahawks

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

In 2018 the Seahawks regained their identity.

A year later, they’ve lost it again.

Pete Carroll’s spent a decade in Seattle talking about closing the circle. The objective is to connect your offence, defense and special teams. He believes running the football with authority works hand-in-hand with explosive offensive plays and a tough, physical defense.

Going into 2018 they had to repair a completely broken running game and they pulled it off.

At the end of the current season they’re going to have to completely repair the defense and special teams.

The Seahawks are 7-2 and it’s 100% down to their MVP candidate playing quarterback. Russell Wilson is a genius. At the exact moment his team has needed him to take yet another step forward — he’s pulled it off.

He’s been consistently brilliant since 2012. This year, somehow, he’s found another level. His five touchdown performance today dragged this team kicking and screaming to a seventh win. He now has 25 total touchdowns for the season.

The weird pick-six against Baltimore is the only blot on the copybook.

And where would this team be without their QB working alongside the equally excellent Tyler Lockett and emerging receiver D.K. Metcalf? It’s terrifying to consider when you look at the state of the defense.

The tackling is awful. They can’t rush the passer. They lack impact players in the secondary. The linebackers are playing well below expectations. They aren’t creating any pressure or forcing turnovers. They’re too often bullied at the line of scrimmage.

It’s a toothless unit.

Even with the advantage of the Century Link crowd — they just look bad. Today the defense gave up another 319 passing yards (it felt like 500). Jameis Winston had the freedom of Seattle to seek out Mike Evans and exploit his best weapon to the tune of 180 receiving yards.

Where was the pressure? The only true sack came on a Bobby Wagner blitz. The only turnover was a Winston special — somehow dropping the football as he set to throw.

Coming into the game they were ranked 30th in yards per play. They’ve legitimately performed as poorly as any unit in the league.

And sure — Tampa Bay’s offense is erratic but has the potential for great games. Just ask the Rams. Winston tore them apart not so long ago in a road win for the Buccaneers.

Yet we’re nine games into the season now. This isn’t a one off. The criticism isn’t based solely on today. Last week it was Matt Schaub.

They’re not showing any sign of improvement and it’d take a serious optimist to believe things are going to change now.

It’s frustrating too because it’s holding the team back. Just look at Wilson’s sheer brilliance today. Imagine if he was being supported by even a modest defense? A league average unit? Heck maybe even the 20th best defense?

The circle is incomplete. Thus they’re not building on the 2018 season — they’ve actually created new problems.

No wonder Wilson is reportedly pushing them to sign Antonio Brown. He knows he needs to pull off a miracle to make this team competitive.

Thankfully they have the cap and draft picks to perform major surgery in the off-season. It’s needed. This will be a significant repair job in the new year and unfortunately the issue could waste the best season of Wilson’s great career.

The defense isn’t the only problem of course. Special teams wants in on the act too.

Jason Myers is officially a problem. He missed two more field goals including one to win the game and he’s now 3/8 on +40 yard attempts. Last year he was 17/19 with the Jets. He also missed an extra point.

The Seahawks have been trying to find a replacement for Stephen Hauschka for years. He picked the worst possible time to have a down season and put them off extending his contract. They’re now onto their third kicker in as many years and based on what we’ve seen so far — they’ll be looking again in the off-season if not sooner.

Even if he’s guaranteed $5.5m on his four-year contract — you can’t carry a kicker who misses this number of kicks. We’re drifting into Blair Walsh territory now. Cutting him would cost you $3m but it might be necessary. At the very least he either improves or he’ll be off at the end of the season. They might have to draft someone cheap as they salary, such as Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship.

They thought they’d solved this problem but sadly they haven’t.

There was one final issue today — Chris Carson had two more fumbles. One fortunately rolled out of bounds — the other fell right into the hands of a defender. It’s still a problem and if he’s ever going to truly realise his potential he needs to get this right. He can negotiate a new contract in the off-season. This is going to start costing him money.

The Seahawks are somehow 7-2. The next game is against San Francisco. Against the top team in the NFC, it’d be nice if Russell Wilson could get a little more help.

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CFB week 10: Georgia O-line dominates against Florida

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Today’s Georgia vs Florida game was box-office for one significant reason — the battle between Florida’s returning pass rushers and Georgia’s terrific offensive tackle’s.

Andrew Thomas is a sure-fire top-10 pick and could easily land in the top five as the best left tackle eligible for the 2020 draft. Right tackle Isaiah Wilson isn’t far behind and could also go in the top-20. Both are expected to declare at the end of the season.

For the Gators, Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard were back in the line-up after injury layoffs. Both have flashed pass rushing ability, although Zuniga has missed most of the season after hurting an ankle against Kentucky.

So who won? If this was a boxing match, it would’ve been a second-round stoppage. Georgia’s two offensive tackle’s absolutely dominated and showed why they belong in the top half of round one.

Zuniga had a big TFL right at the start of the game, knifing between Wilson and the Georgia right guard to hammer D’Andre Swift for a big loss. That was the only significant play by either defensive end.

Florida had 29 sacks going into this game. They had zero today.

They threw everything at Georgia too. They tried a variety of stunts and attempted a lot of different rushing angles. Nothing worked. Thomas and Wilson were simply too good.

On one 2nd and 8 conversion, Jake Fromm had nearly five seconds to stand in the pocket and complete a comeback throw for a first down. He regularly had 3-4 seconds to stand in the pocket and pick apart the Florida secondary.

Thomas looked like a complete left tackle. Nothing fazes him. He’s perfectly balanced and even when he has to react quickly, his drop and set is textbook. His feet move so quickly and effortlessly to create a sound base and enable him to gain position, lock-on and finish. It’s hard to find flaws with the way he’s played this year.

Thomas is a hulking, massive right tackle but his movement and athleticism are underrated. He’s incredibly powerful and when he drops the anchor and has that safe base he just locks out with his arm length and controls defenders. He’s had games this year (eg the second half against Notre Dame) where he’s really flashed as a run blocker. In this game he excelled as a pass protector — showing his own quick feet and balance. Like Thomas, he was never flustered. Nothing challenged him. Any straight-up blocking was handled with ease and he wasn’t put-off and confused by the endless stunts.

Both players deserve to be graded in the top-20.

It was difficult for Zuniga and Greenard, especially returning from injury. On this evidence, however, it was pretty clear to see who were the high draft picks and potential impact players at the next level.

Overall Florida did a reasonable job defending the run and limited D’Andre Swift to 86 yards on 25 carries. Swift did have a huge touchdown run on a toss-play called back thanks to a holding call that could’ve been ignored.

Swift was his usual self even despite the mediocre YPC. He’s shifty, patient and accelerates quickly. His most impressive play, however, was a stunt pick-up working with Isaiah Thomas. It flashed an understanding and desire for pass-pro which pro-teams will appreciate.

Fromm had a good stat-line (20/30 passing, 279 yards, two touchdowns) but the real stars were the two offensive tackles. He had an age to sit in the pocket and make throws. Overall he was efficient on third down and that was a big factor in the win. He also misses too many easy throws you’d expect a next-level quarterback to make.

On 1st and 10 with just over a minute left in the first half, Swift gained a first down with a big run. Florida snapped the ball quickly because they had a linebacker matched-up against a receiver, with a route designed to the outside. Inevitably the receiver created an acre of separation and Fromm missed on the throw. He needs to make that every time. On the same drive on 3rd and 6, Fromm extended the play by moving out of the pocket. He had a chance to throw to the back of the end zone to an open receiver and overthrew him. Another miss that, for the next level, he needs to make.

Even on a 52 yard touchdown to Lawrence Cager — he had all the time in the world to throw, Cager was wide open on a busted coverage and Fromm hesitated. It’s almost like it was too easy — he was thinking in his head, ‘what am I not seeing, why is he so open?’. In the NFL you’ve got to make that throw quickly.

When he hasn’t got this amount of time in the pocket and when everything is faster — has he got the accuracy, arm strength and improvisation to handle off-script plays, drive into tight windows and manage situations? Even with a good stat line today he didn’t look like more than a third-round quarterback. Although to his credit he made a really good throw to ice the game on 3rd and 7 late on — staying calm facing a blitz to throw flat-footed with accuracy to the right sideline. That was his best play and it was an important one.

Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson also impressed in the game. He had a pass interference penalty down the sideline but in fairness his ability to stick on a stop-and-go was noticeable. His quickness and recovery speed is exceptional. He could be a great nickel corner.

Georgia won the game 24-17.

Elsewhere…

— Washington threw away an opportunity to beat Utah, losing 33-28. Jacob Eason has the arm strength and when things work ‘on-script’ he looks the part. The problem is when he has to react and adjust. He struggles to improvise and his decision making and accuracy suffers when things aren’t on track. He had a pick-six, another interception and a fumble in this game — all very costly in a five-point loss. The pick-six was similar to Russell Wilson’s against Baltimore. The other interception was a bad throw into coverage. Good arm strength isn’t enough for the next level. I’m not even sure why that’s a discussion at this stage after only one year at Washington and barely any time as the starter in Georgia. He needs reps, games, development. He’s not remotely ready for the NFL.

— Hunter Bryant had a big game, again making explosive plays and flashing major pro-potential. For me he’s the top tight end eligible for 2020 and it’s not close. He can block but he’s also a dynamic receiver at the second level. He did have a drop in the game but he finished with 105 yards on six receptions and two touchdowns. He also had a run for four yards.

— TCU were beaten 34-27 by Oklahoma State but receiver Jalen Reagor had another big performance with 128 yards on seven receptions. At one stage Reagor left the game and headed to the locker room due to a big injury picked-up on a 37 yard reception. He shortly returned however and seemed fine.

— Michigan coasted by Maryland 38-7 but running back Anthony McFarland continues to be a player to monitor. He is a big-play threat whose best football will come at the next level. In a losing effort he had 14 carries for 60 yards and a reception for nine yards. McFarland is quick and dynamic but he also has some explosive qualities.

— Unsurprisingly Clemson hammered Wofford 59-14. Travis Etienne had 212 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns. Tee Higgins had five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Isaiah Simmons had an interception and return for 17 yards. Simmons also shared half a TFL and had a QB hurry.

— Notre Dame scraped by Virginia Tech 21-20 to avoid a third loss of the season. Julian Okwara had a TFL and a QB hurry. Khalid Kareem had a sack, a TFL and a QB hurry.

— Justin Herbert briefly left the Oregon vs USC game with an injury but returned to complete 21/26 for 225 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. It was only Herbert’s second pick of the season. The receiver was mainly to blame, sitting down on the route unexpectedly. Herbert has some iffy moments and he’s often limited by the scheme. He also has the physical tools pro-teams will like and, unlike Jacob Eason, he can play off-script. Oregon won 56-24 and will kick themselves they didn’t finish the Auburn game in week one.

— Colorado’s latest implosion continued with a 31-14 loss to UCLA. Steven Montez had a touchdown and a pick plus 195 yards and it was another quiet week for Laviska Shenault. There’s only one way for him to rebuild his stock and that’s with a great combine. He came into the year viewed as a possible top-15 pick but he’s been pretty much a non-factor. Against UCLA he had one run for 15 yards and three catches for 16 yards. Teams will have to weigh up his lack of 2019 production along with the niggling injuries he’s had versus the obvious talent he possesses. Another question mark will be his fit at the next level. He’s not likely to be a bit of a runner and a bit of a receiver like he is in college. Can he be a #1 receiver? The fact that you even have to ask that is a bit of a flag.

— How do you judge Jordan Love’s stock? It’s been a disappointing season for Utah State and their quarterback. In a 42-14 loss at home to BYU he threw three interceptions. His 2019 stat-line is now nine touchdowns against 12 picks. He’s had three games with three interceptions. Even with a poor supporting cast, you expect better. He’s not elevating his team. He’s turning the ball over. And while he’s flashed an abundance of talent — is he a first round prospect with these numbers? You might point to Josh Allen who similarly had a bad final year at Wyoming. It’s also worth remembering how Allen played at the Senior Bowl and the fact that physically he was the ideal quarterback. He had size, speed, enormous hands, supreme arm strength. The whole package. That’s why he went in the top-10. Has Love got the physical qualities to overlook the 2019 numbers? That’s a big question mark.

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