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Senior Bowl 2020 day two notes

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Due to the complete lack of any coverage on the NFL Network, we’re being drip-fed clips via Twitter to be able to analyse practise. If you’re interested though, the NFL Network is today showing a replay of the 1994 contest between San Francisco and Kansas City when the practises are taking place. Unmissable.

Here are some more notes from day one to start. I’ll update this post when the day two action starts so keep refreshing.

Yesterday we highlighted how good Lloyd Cushenberry looked on the clips posted online, especially against top-10 talent Javon Kinlaw. However, Kinlaw actually had the better of Cushenberry on two reps shown on the NFL Network’s inadequate recap show.

On one rep Cushenberry gave up his chest as a huge target and was walked back into the quarterback. On the second he was driven backwards with some late disengagement to finish. The LSU center had some good reps but these balance things out a bit.

Auburn’s Marlon Davidson bossed John Simpson on back-to-back reps. He was just too quick. Simpson’s footwork is even more of an issue here than it was on tape. He appears limited. Davidson also forced Terence Steele to overset on back-to-back reps off the edge:

Davidson was impressive. He’s quite stocky though and lacks great length (32 7/8 inch arms). He’s a bit of a tweener with the appearance of a smaller, quicker defensive tackle. He compared himself to Cam Jordan during interviews this week but Jordan has 35-inch arms. That’s a big difference. His fit probably has to be three-technique and that’ll take some projecting. It’ll be interesting to see how he tests.

***Update*** — Davidson apparently rolled his ankle yesterday and will not work out for the rest of the week in Mobile. He’s wearing a walking boot at practise today.

Jason Stowbridge of North Carolina gained rave reviews for his performance on day one. His motor never stopped and he really went after it. Note the way he sprinted back into position after each rep. He was eager to make an impression.

He wins this rep below but the lack of hand use is troublesome. This is something I detected watching some of his film last night. He doesn’t really engage/disengage or win with his hands. He’s sub 33-inch arms which doesn’t help. Here he just absorbs contact, keeps the legs churning and wins with quickness. That looks good but at the next level he’ll get bench pressed and will need to counter. Leg drive and active feet on contact won’t be enough.

This is a really good rep though:

Here it’s all hand use. He throws off Justin Herron in embarrassing fashion for the lineman. Again, I’m not sure he’s going to be afforded this level of opponent at the next level but you can only beat what’s in front of you.

Ben Bredeson had some nice reps on day one but this is a sign of why +33-inch arms matter:

His lack of length means he has to reach and lean to engage contact. It’s too easy for the defensive lineman to jolt him with a strong punch and knock him off balance. From there he’s being ridden into the backfield.

A year ago Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin shone at the Senior Bowl, dominating defensive backs and getting open with exceptional breaks and quickness. Florida’s Van Jefferson had a good start yesterday:

Jefferson isn’t quite at Samuel and McLaurin’s level (it was stunning how good they looked last year). Yet he’s showing very fluid, quick movements and he makes the separation look effortless. This is what you need to see from receivers at this type of event. He has to beat these lower level defensive backs.

His movement is very subtle and deliberate. We’ll need to see how fast he runs because the Seahawks only draft 4.4 or faster. He looks like one to watch though.

K.J. Hill also showed well. He ran a 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ so short-area quickness and change of direction has never been an issue for him. Long speed? That’s the big question for Hill. I’m not sure he’s more than a 4.5 runner and he’s small with a limited catching radius.

Colt McKivitz unsurprisingly looks very comfortable at right tackle here. He’s 6-6 and 304lbs with 33 1/4 inch arms. He has limited upside but was solid throughout his time at West Virginia. He could be someone who develops into an unspectacular yet capable right tackle.

Day two notes

Jason Stowbridge was a standout on day one. Based on what limited footage we have access to today, he’s started strongly again on Wednesday:

He’s very quick, active and busy. I watched some of his tape last night and there was one game — can’t remember the opponent — where he flashed an inside move that gets you out of your chair. Superb quickness and burst and he was in the backfield instantly. That said, there aren’t a lot of moments like that. He was a classic half-a-tick late on a lot of plays.

I like the motor and attitude he’s playing with in Mobile. I’m eager to see him test. It’d also be helpful if he can measure +33-inches in arm length at the combine having just missed out here.

Nick Harris is not an easy guy to beat. For Stowbridge to flash like he does above is impressive. Here’s an example of Harris’ quickness to get across and wall-off Neville Gallimore:

A lot of people like Gallimore but I think he is what he is — a fairly modest interior defensive tackle prospect. Not particularly special — although he’s said to be a tremendous athlete so let’s see if he backs that up at the combine and if nothing else you can believe in the upside.

Below he’s handled quite easily by Hakeem Adenji. They just end up in a sumo-contest. Gallimore doesn’t use his hands at all. There’s no initial contact, no attempt to stay clean or disengage. He just tries to plough through Adnji and it doesn’t work. He needs to be better than this:

This final clip looks like a terrific rep for Gallimore but it’s mostly on Ben Bredeson. There’s no attempt at all to get his hands of Gallimore and challenge him. It’s basically a free pass into the backfield. Get in there, get your hands on him, put up some resistance. Bredeson is way too tentative here. He’s passive. Let’s see a punch. Gallimore doesn’t need a big old invitation to swipe and swim like this:

A lot of people are going to be telling you what Joshua Uche can be and a lot of it will be wrong, unfortunately. He’s an impressive, driven character. He has good length (+33 inch arms) and he looks athletic and versatile. He’s a talented prospect.

Even so, he’s still a SAM linebacker. He’s 6-1 and 241lbs. The rep below is nice to see but at best he’s a situational rusher and not an impact pass rusher at the next level. He acted as a very aggressive SAM at Michigan and that’s how they use their linebacker’s. Devin Bush was used very aggressively too but more as a blitzer.

Uche could do with showing quickness in the forty at the combine and good agility testing to really give teams confidence of his ability to stick at linebacker. First and foremost that will be his NFL role. The rest is a bonus.

It’s a nice rep for Uche below but Charlie Heck’s footwork is atrocious. You can’t play left tackle like that in the NFL. This is the thing to remember here. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw who you come up against. Heck looks overmatched at left tackle and Uche won both of these 1v1’s. Look at the second video — the sheer threat of another outside rush leaves the inside-counter wide open. You can’t fear an outside rush and you have to play inside-out.

Tony Pauline highlighted Adam Trautman, a tight end from Dayton, as someone who stood out on day one. Pauline suggested he could work his way into round two. Much of that will depend on how he tests. However, the agility testing for TE’s is vital (three cone, short shuttle). This footwork and change of direction below is encouraging. He’s 6-5 and 251lbs but only has 32.5 inch arms. He might not be to Seattle’s taste but we’ll see:

Below isn’t a good rep for Colt McKivitz against Kenny Willekes. McKivitz is a low-ceiling type so he has to be consistent and at least appear tough to beat. Willekes is a limited athlete with 31 1/4 inch arms. He wins mostly through effort. It’s a clean, clear win for Willekes here though:

Watching the scrimmages for the North team, Antonio Gandy-Golden created great separation on one route but then dropped the easy catch downfield. There were a few drops in the early receiver drills too.

UCLA’s Joshua Kelly looks very interesting at running back. Great size at 5-10 and 214lbs so in Seattle’s range. His burst is impressive and he picks up speed quickly. Apparently he’s good with his hands too so keep an eye on him as a potential C.J. Prosise replacement.

Baylor’s Denzel Mims had a really nice contested catch by the right sideline on a lofted pass by (I think) Jordan Love. He adjusted to the ball superbly and tracked it all the way. Nice high-point and catching technique.

Nick Harris has had some rough reps in 1v1’s but in the scrimmage when needing to anchor the line from center he’s looked very comfortable. He gets low, masters leverage and puts up a wall.

Here’s the OL vs DL drills from yesterday with a breakdown of each video:

North team

The first rep shows Kenny Willekes easily beating Josh Jones. This is the same Josh Jones some have been touting in round one. Not sure why. Horrible footwork. He’s stood in cement. Lunges at Willekes and gives up the inside. Awful.

Ben Bredeson is very passive on the second rep. He waits for contact, perhaps through fear of losing balance while reaching with shorter arms. It’s a decent recovery but not ideal technique at the start.

Nick Harris cedes too much ground on the third rep. He needs to plant the anchor. Neville Gallimore shows some really nice quickness on the fourth rep. He swipes away the hands of the blocker to stay clean and bursts into the backfield. A nice win.

Matt Peart’s hand placement needs a lot of work. On the fourth rep you can see he places his hands to the outside. That’s a holding call waiting to happen and it means he can’t control his block. This isn’t an easy technical flaw to fix.

The Jason Strowbridge show begins at 1:10. It’s a TKO against Justin Herron. Wow. Swipe the hands to stay clean, throw the tackle on his back. Herron will be having nightmares about that for weeks.

On the next rep Davon Hamilton has a win against Matt Hennessy. Easy swim move catches Hennessy flat-footed. Not a good look for the center. Comfortable for Hamilton. Jonah Jackson does a better job on the subsequent rep.

Then it’s Colt McKivitz’s turn vs Trevon Hill. It’s a nice kick-slide by McKivitz to gain position then he keeps his shoulder as square as possible to prevent the inside-counter. Nice inside-out technique. He turns Hill inside and locks it down. Big win for McKivitz.

Alton Robinson then bull-rushes Josh Jones into next week. Again, people — including PFF — have been talking up Jones a lot as a first round talent. What is this based on?

Bredeson’s second go through is a fairly simple task to shadow his defender which he’s good at and he handles this well. Nick Harris again cedes too much ground but he retains some level of control. Then it’s Strowbridge again — winning from the interior. He tried to do this a lot in college and he’ll need better hand-use. He just barges his way through with quickness but that won’t be possible at the next level. He wins this rep but it’s not a great highlight. You’ve got to use your hands to stay clean. Leaning on the shoulder and using hussle to win through won’t work in the NFL.

Joshua Uche is then kept in check by Matt Peart. Again Peart’s technique is suspect but Uche has little answer here. The final two reps are wins for the O-line including Willekes being stoned fairly easily.

South team

This is harder to analyse because of the camera position behind the defensive players. We can’t see the depth or the range in which players are forced backwards.

Lloyd Cushenberry appears to concede a lot of ground on the first rep. He stays in front but generally this would constitute a collapsed pocked and a D-liner doing his job. A pass rusher doesn’t need a clean win to be victorious. He just needs to impact the QB and force him off the spot. This is a win for Benito Jones.

Marlon Davidson easily beats John Simpson on the next rep. Simpson’s footwork is awful and he barely moves. Davidson is on him in a flash and just beats him with a swim. Far too easy. Poor from Simpson, impressive from Davidson.

Terrell Lewis is handled by Ben Bartch on the next rep. He can’t win to the outside so tries the inside-counter but it’s easily handled by Bartch. In a game Lewis would’ve just rushed into a crowd. Then Terence Steele easily defeats D.J. Wonnum.

Logan Stenberg’s first rep is typically competitive. He initiates contact, shows off great balance upon engagement and finishes. He’s too strong, too powerful. He can improve his leverage but he’s 6-6. Stenberg is a bang-the-table prospect along with Anthony McFarland.

The next rep is nicely competitive between Cushenberry and Josiah Coatney. Cushenberry is driven backwards violently upon contact but he recovers, regains leverage and balance and ends up earning a tie.

Then it’s Davidson vs Simpson rep #2. It’s another win for Davidson who is too quick. Last week I highlighted Simpson’s poor footwork and it’s really showing up in Mobile. They ran the rep again and Davidson walked him back into the QB’s lap. Three reps, three wins for Davidson.

Bartch does a good job against Jabari Zuniga. Bartch collected some SEC scalps with Lewis and Zuniga. Alex Taylor easily beats Trevis Gipson (who doesn’t look like he has any sand in his pants).

Then it’s Kinlaw’s first win against Cushenberry. He walks him back into the quarterback with a one-armed bull rush. The only thing missing was a late disengage. This is why Kinlaw is so exciting. He’s not just quick and twitchy — he has great length, power and he controls blockers. The second rep between the two happens at 3:05. Kinlaw initiates contact then disengages with a simple spin move to break free. Another win.

At 4:21 Terrell Lewis troubles Terence Steele with his quickness without ever truly getting free. Steele handles the inside-counter but then almost gives up a second counter to the outside and could’ve been called for holding at the end. They replay the snap and neither player has any juice.

Stenberg’s second rep is against Robert Webster again. Once more, he takes on the challenge with extreme comfort and ease. He just looks the part. Plug him in at left guard and be really happy about it. He looks like Alex Boone.

Cushenberry’s best rep is at 4:54 and then John Simpson has a far better rep against Marlon Davidson, who showed no energy or burst this time. I wonder if he’d already turned his ankle at this point?

Back to today…

For some reason, Logan Stenberg has only faced off against Robert Windsor in 1v1’s. Stenberg has won every battle so far:

Likewise it’s always Kinlaw vs Cushenberry. Prior to this snap Kinlaw tripped and was seen limping. He still took the next rep and beat Cushenberry with a swim move.

Here’s a good rep for Terrell Lewis. He controls the tackle with one arm, puts him on skates and keeps his free hand available to swipe the football loose.

This is a much better rep from John Simpson. Better feet, hand placement and a physical edge to finish:

It’s important to remember that gradual improvement as the week develops is a positive thing. If players struggle at first, take on coaching and then finish the week strong — sometimes that’s better than a comfortable few days where you don’t really learn much about a prospect. Let’s see if Simpson can finish the week strong.

Jabari Zuniga was quiet yesterday so it was nice to this below. Nice burst, keeps his frame clean and a finish to the QB. Terrence Steele is caught on his heels:

Jonathan Greenard had a win on the previous snap but it’s really poor from Calvin Throckmorton. He was a late call-up having participated in the Senior Bowl and he gives up the inside-move way too easily here. Again, play inside-out:

Here’s a quick reminder that Pete Carroll is out recruiting this week at the Pro Bowl…

Finally, Tony Pauline says speculation in Mobile is that the Seahawks, Cardinals and Packers are expected to pursue Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper in free agency. It’s been clear since Will Dissly’s injury that Seattle will have to add a capable tight end at some point this off-season — either via the market or the draft.

They spent big money on Zach Miller in 2011 and traded for Jimmy Graham in 2015. The position is incredibly valuable to the offense and sadly with Dissly picking up two serious injuries in as many seasons, they have to look at what else is out there.

So why would Hooper be a fit? He ticks all their boxes. He blocks well and has been a reliable receiver. He’s 6-4 and 255lbs with 33 3/4 inch arms. Importantly, he also runs a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. Agility testing is a big deal for tight end’s.

It won’t be a surprise at all if the Seahawks use some of their spare cap space to target Hooper.

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Senior Bowl practises (day one)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I’ve been writing this blog for 11 years. I can’t remember whether I’ve posted notes on every practise week at the Senior Bowl during that time. However, I can’t recall the last time I didn’t.

Sadly, this year almost bucked the trend. The NFL Network decided not to provide live coverage from Mobile. Instead, this is what we got…

— A five minute live interview with Thomas Dimitroff
— Two reps of OL vs DL drills
— A few WR vs DB reps
— Finish

They then cut to a full replay of the AFC Championship game. We can only guess what the audience is for a game replay that would interest only Kansas City Chiefs fans. Yet despite having a full presenting team live in Mobile — not to mention their top two news reporters — barely any live coverage was provided.

The NFL draft has never been bigger or more popular. The Senior Bowl has never been as high profile as it is today. I just don’t understand why, when presented with a free window to provide live, interesting football coverage that they’ve previously covered for years, the NFL Network made the decision not to provide coverage in 2020. Instead all we get is a one hour round-up show at 8pm EST. Let’s hope it has plenty of action from the drills and isn’t just a collection of interviews and analysis.

I don’t know what I’ll be able to provide this year. I’m relying on Twitter. Matt Valdovinos from PFN is very kindly posting some videos of the OL vs DL drills. We can analyse those and try to rescue something from this years Senior Bowl.

It does make me more determined than ever to get out there next year and watch the drills live.

Anyway, this is what we’ve got in 2020…

In my favourite prospects list posted last week, Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg was included. I think he’s fantastic. Physical isn’t a strong enough word to describe him. Stenberg punishes defensive linemen. Hammers them. I suspect off the back of a strong Senior Bowl he could start to really rise up boards and mock drafts.

Look at this rep against Robert Windsor of Penn State:

This is actually a fairly tame rep from Stenberg. In an actual game he would’ve finished the block, buried Windsor into the turf and claimed a soul. You can still see the combination of control and power he plays with. He’s not reckless — he just locks on, drives off a strong base and controls the block.

Now here he is against Ole Miss’ Josiah Coatney — a player with a good get-off and described as a potential third round pick:

He’s moving laterally to the right here but you see the same thing again. He engages Coatney, controls the block, never loses balance and finishes. There’s no escape for Coatney. A rep like this is important for Stenberg. People have questioned his mobility (even though there’s plenty of evidence on tape of a willingness to reach up to the second level or pull effectively). The footwork and control on the move and the execution of the block is all solid here.

We’ll see how the week develops but I think Stenberg is a very solid second round type with room to further move up boards. If he was available in round three he’d be a steal for someone. We’re talking about an Alex Boone type here with even more upside. The Seahawks like big, physical run-blockers. Stenberg looks like the ideal fit.

Perhaps the most impressive performer today based on the limited footage we have is LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry. He measured extremely well with 34 5/8 inch arms, a wingspan of 83 1/8 inches and massive 10 1/2 inch hands. He’s 6-3 and 312lbs. Every box is ticked physically.

This rep is against Ole Miss’ Benito Jones:

Notice how low Cushenberry gets. He’s tall and long but he has the superior get-off, leveraging Jones with pad-level and winning the rep as soon as the whistle was blown. It’s not common to see a player with Cushenberry’s size get this low and win so easily with leverage. Jones struggles to disengage too and there’s a nice finish to this block.

We’re going to get onto the positives for Javon Kinlaw in a moment because he had an incredible few reps and continues to look like a top-10 lock. However, when he faced Cushenberry, this happened:

You can hear the coaches hollering in the background. Again Cushenberry fires out of his stance and gains leverage on contact. He places his hands right under the pads and immediately he has control of the block. Kinlaw initially tries to fight through it but loses control when he can’t disengage. As he turns to try and wrestle off the block, he’s turned, he loses balance and it’s a 15-yard completion downfield. This is the only video posted when Kinlaw didn’t dominate and Cushenberry shut him down.

There might not be a more beneficial rep at practise this week. A clip like this demands a longer review of Cushenberry’s tape. That’s a NFL stud in waiting he just owned. With such great size too, that’s a very exciting start to the week.

Here’s what Kinlaw did to everyone else:

Fantastic shoulder dip, exceptional flexibility, balance and quickness.

Here he is showing up Clemson’s John Simpson:

Look at the slap on initial contact to keep his frame clean and then an easy swim into the backfield. Simpson lunges at Kinlaw and ends up reaching which doesn’t help. His footwork needs major work and that showed on Clemson film. Yet this is Kinlaw showing the kind of freakish athleticism and talent that’ll get you off the board very early in round one. Every team is looking for this.

Can he win with power?

Remember when Logan Stenberg earlier was able to retain balance, lock-on and finish in control? Granted he was facing Javon Kinlaw but look at the difference here. Kinlaw just drives him backwards and he’s hanging on. If that was a stretch or a sweep or a toss — good luck.

Jonathan Greenard was fun to watch at Florida and he’s well sized. Yet there are big concerns about his athletic ceiling. That showed up today. Here he is struggling against Ben Bartch of St. John’s:

On this rep he couldn’t get off Terence Steel of Texas Tech:

Here’s a rep between Matt Hennessy and Neville Gallimore:

Gallimore’s effort wins the rep. He has Hennessy on skates very early and he can’t recover to gain hand-placement and leverage. Gallimore controls him with his right arm and is able to keep his eyes on the QB to adjust to his movement. Although he doesn’t disengage the pocket is collapsed.

Here’s 90 seconds of North drills 1v1:

Nick Harris has a good battle in the first rep. The defensive lineman wearing #91 does a decent job countering inside initially and wins the rep. However, Harris does recover to some extent, walling off the path to the QB and shoving his opponent to the turf. You can hear a coach yelling, ‘get off the ground’ at the defender.

Ben Bredeson wins the second rep, absorbing the contact from Alton Robinson and combating the one-armed jolt to try and disengage. Bredeson locks on and finishes. It’s a shame he doesn’t have +33 inch arms.

Josh Jones loses the third rep to Bradlee Anae. This is a problem for Jones. His initial contact is good and it looks like he’s going to win easily. Then Anae counters and shifts inside. You’ve got to play inside out and make a defender beat you on the longest path to the QB. Jones lets Anae inside here and there’s no resistance. The line coach immediately moved over to speak to him after this rep.

The final rep at the end is a rematch between Matt Hennessy and Neville Gallimore. This time it’s a solid win for Hennessy.

Here’s Tony Pauline’s thoughts on the South practise:

And Tony’s take on the North practise:

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Senior Bowl 2020 Day One (including measurements)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

If you missed yesterday’s Senior Bowl preview, check it out here.

I will update this post throughout the day so keep checking back and refreshing.

It’s been revealed that Brandon Aiyuk and Leki Fotu will not work out in Mobile due to failed physicals. Derek Brown, Joe Burrow and Travon Diggs all received invitations but declined to attend. Raekwon Davis was listed on the roster but has pulled out apparently due to an ankle injury. Trey Adams is not taking part and there’s unconfirmed talk that Price Tega Wanogho also won’t practise. They are some significant names. What a shame.

Today’s measurement’s are important. It helps us identify potential Seahawks. For example, by now we know all about Seattle’s preference for long cornerbacks with +32 inch arms. They also, however, have quite strict preferences for running backs (5-10, 225lbs range) and linemen (+33 inch arms).

For a full list of measurements click here. I’m going to note some of the highlights below.

My initial impressions are as follows:

— Javon Kinlaw has been a top-12 lock throughout the process. Don’t be surprised if he rises further after this week. He reportedly delivered a fantastic media session last night and now he’s measured in at 6-5 and 315lbs with near 35-inch arms and a wingspan of 84 inches. That’s incredible. He’s exactly the type of player the Seahawks need but he’ll be long gone.

— Jabari Zuniga, Darrell Taylor and Terrell Lewis all measured in the range for potential DE’s in Seattle. Hopefully they are healthy and have a good week. Bradlee Anae and Kenny Willekes likely don’t have the necessary quickness or athletic profile but neither measured in Seattle’s range today anyway.

— Logan Stenberg and John Simpson both measured sufficiently in Seattle’s ballpark. Phew. Ben Bredeson is a bit short in terms of arm length. UConn’s Matt Peart measured superbly and will be someone to watch during practise. Nick Harris is small as expected — although they used Joey Hunt for a large part of this season at center.

— Harrison Bryant has short arms and a small wingspan. He isn’t likely to be on the radar. It’s also confirmed today that Josh Uche and Zach Baun are SAM prospects and not LEO’s.

— Justin Herbert has prototype size — height, weight, hands.

— We’ve been saying for a long time that Brandon Aiyuk is going to be a high pick. Having 33 1/8 inch arms, a wingspan of 81 inches and 10 inch hands will simply elevate his stock even more.

Measurements

Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 253
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 6/8
Hands: 10

Marlon Davidson (DE, Auburn)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 297
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 80 4/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir Rhyne)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 217
Arm length: 32 6/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 10 1/8

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 315
Arm length: 34 5/8
Wingspan: 84
Hands: 10 1/8

Josiah Coatney (DT, Ole Miss)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 309
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 76 6/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Darrell Taylor (DE, Tennessee)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 259
Arm length: 33
Wingspan: 80 6/8
Hands: 10

Jonathan Greenard (DE, Florida)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 262
Arm length: 33 1/2
Wingspan: 81 1/8
Hands: 9

Terrell Lewis (DE, Alabama)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 258
Arm length: 34 1/8
Wingspan: 83 1/2
Hands: 10

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 317
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 5/8
Hands: 9 6/8

John Simpson (G, Clemson)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 330
Arm length: 33 6/8
Wingspan:
Hands: 1182 6/8

Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 312
Arm length: 34 5/8
Wingspan: 83 1/8
Hands: 10 1/2

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 307
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Tyre Phillips (T, South Carolina)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 342
Arm length: 34 2/8
Wingspan: 84 5/8
Hands: 10 5/8

Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 240
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 76 3/8
Hands: 9 3/8

Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 218
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 77 1/2
Hands: 9 1/2

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 227
Arm length: 33 3/8
Wingspan: 78 7/8
Hands: 10

Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State)
Height: 5-9
Weight: 195
Arm length: 30 6/8
Wingspan: 75
Hands: 8 3/8

Lamical Perine (RB, Florida)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 211
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 73 1/8
Hands: 9 6/8

Jared Pinkney (TE, Vanderbilt)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 254
Arm length: 32 6/8
Wingspan: 79 1/2
Hands: 10 5/8

Harrison Bryant (TE, Florida Atlantic)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 242
Arm length: 31 3/8
Wingspan: 74
Hands: 9 2/8

Jauan Jennings (WR, Tennessee)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 76 1/2
Hands: 9

Van Jefferson (WR, Florida)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 217
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 77 1/8
Hands: 9 1/8

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 195
Arm length: 31 3/8
Wingspan: 75
Hands: 9 2/8

Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 304
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 78 2/8
Hands: 10

Leki Fotu (DT, Utah)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 337
Arm length: 33 7/8
Wingspan: 79 2/8
Hands: 10 2/8

Josh Uche (LB, Michigan)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 241
Arm length: 33 2/8
Wingspan: 79 7/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 257
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 1/2

Kenny Willekes (DE, Michigan State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 252
Arm length: 31 2/8
Wingspan: 78 2/8
Hands: 9 3/4

Nick Harris (C, Washington)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 293
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 77 3/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Matt Hennessy (C, Temple)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 302
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 79 5/8
Hands: 10 1/8

Zach Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 240
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Matt Peart (T, Connecticut)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 310
Arm length: 35 1/8
Wingspan: 86 1/8
Hands: 9 3/4

Josh Jones (T, Houston)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 311
Arm length: 33 5/8
Wingspan: 80 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 304
Arm length: 33 2/8
Wingspan: 81 3/8
Hands: 10 1/4

Michael Pittman Jr (WR, USC)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 219
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 78 1/2
Hands: 9 1/8

KJ Hill (WR, Ohio State)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 192
Arm length: 29
Wingspan: 72
Hands: 9

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 223
Arm length: 33 3/8
Wingspan: 79 7/8
Hands: 10 5/8

Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 316
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 206
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Brycen Hopkins (TE, Purdue)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 241
Arm length: 32
Wingspan: 76 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR, Liberty)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 222
Arm Length: 32 2/8
Wingspan: 77 2/8
Hands: 9 5/8

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 201
Arm Length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 81
Hands: 10

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Senior Bowl 2020 preview

Monday, January 20th, 2020

The Senior Bowl begins this week, with practises starting on Tuesday. The event has really grown in reputation recently. Top prospects want to go and compete, show what they can do and make an impression.

Here’s this week’s schedule (all times are CT):

Tuesday practise
13:00 – 14:30 (SOUTH)
15:00 – 4:300 (NORTH)

Wednesday practise
12:30 – 14:30 (NORTH)
15:00 – 17:00 (SOUTH)

Thursday practise
12:30 – 14:30 (NORTH)
15:00 – 17:00 (SOUTH)

Saturday game-day
Kick off 13:00

The Seahawks pay a lot of attention to the week in Mobile. In 2015 Tyler Lockett was fantastic. That clearly had an impact on Seattle’s move to trade up for him. Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright all competed at the Senior Bowl.

Last year, L.J. Collier, Marquise Blair and Gary Jennings all attended. Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin stood out and it’s no surprise both players had strong rookie seasons. Tytus Howard and Kaleb McGary propelled themselves into round one contention and several other players really enhanced their stock.

This is a key week. Future Seahawks players will be in Mobile. This is the first big event of a crucial off-season.

So what can we expect?

The South roster is loaded although it’s a shame that South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence and Kristian Fulton are unable to attend.

The big thing for the Seahawks is clearly the trenches. I’d recommend watching the receivers because it’s such a strong class and it’s very likely they’ll draft a wide out at some point (probably in the first three rounds). However, their top priorities are elsewhere.

They might have to solve their key defensive needs in free agency because it’s not a great pass rush draft. It’s still worth watching the D-line groups to see who stands out. Equally, they might need to make savings elsewhere if they spend a lot of cap money on the defense. That could mean needing to reinforce the offensive line via the draft — of which there are multiple top prospects working out in Mobile.

I’ve re-posted our podcast with Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy at the top of the article. I also wanted to highlight a specific set of quotes.

The best bit of practise is definitely the 1v1 drills between the O-line and D-line. Here, Jim talks us through what scouts look for and offers an interesting insight into what drew the Seahawks initially to L.J. Collier:

When a guy has really heavy hands, whether it’s an O-lineman or a D-lineman, when he places his hands on someone, sometimes you can hear it. When you’re just watching tape you don’t get that stuff.

A lot of it is the mental make-up of a guy and the competitiveness and the mental toughness and you see a guy when he gets beat… and those O-line/D-line drills, they’re designed for the D-line to win. If you’re an O-lineman and you’re locking people up all week — that’s really hard to do. Guys are going to lose. They always take two reps back-to-back and you want to see body language and you want to see a guys face, check their facial expression and how they bounce back in that second rep and how do they battle?

Who’s getting after it? Who’s talking junk and who’s really competitive? I can use this example last year. L.J. Collier the Seahawks first round pick, that’s when Seattle really started to buy into L.J. was down here in Mobile — he was so competitive. Just getting after people. Not running his mouth, just being confident. That’s what Seattle looked for. They want alpha males. They want guys that get after people and have some dog in them and I remember last year L.J. was just getting after the offensive line group and Tom Cable stepped in and said something to him and he barked at Tom Cable and it was awesome. The Seattle guys were all looking at each other like, ‘this guy’s barking at Cable’.

Look out for the alpha’s on the field this week in Mobile.

Here’s a few notes on some of the key players attending the Senior Bowl…

North team

Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
A 6-3, 215lbs cornerback and former four-star recruit. He jumped a 36-inch vertical at SPARQ. Looks stiff in coverage so needs a good showing in Mobile to convince teams he has a future at corner at the next level.

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
A former All-American hurdler who won the Pac-12 110m title by clocking a 13.50. He’s a great athlete and might even run in the 4.3/4.4 range at the combine. I thought his performance’s mixed between passive and bad.

Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma)
Canadian lineman who dropped about 25lbs before the 2019 season. He can bench 500lbs and squat 800lbs. Reportedly he can run a 4.76 forty at 305lbs.

Leki Fotu (DT, Utah)
He was graded highly by PFF for his run defense (83.8) and he’s said to be a great athlete. However, teams are reportedly concerned by his willingness to flip the on/off switch.

Josh Uche (LB, Michigan)
Undersized SAM linebacker who had success as a pass rusher in 2019. Some people have gone OTT on Uche and it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a situational rusher at the next level. That said, this is a good platform for him to excel and he should have a good week.

Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah)
His tape wasn’t particularly exciting and there have to be some concerns about his upside. This is a week for pass-rusher’s to come in and make a name for themselves. Let’s see if he can show something.

Nick Harris (C, Washington)
He’s not the biggest lineman at 6-1 and 302lbs but it simply doesn’t matter. When you watch him play his tenacity, power and intensity jumps off the screen. He was the best performer on the Washington line. He scored a respectable 90.6 at SPARQ.

Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
PFF rated him as college football’s best pass-protecting guard. In 451 pass-protection snaps he allowed just seven hurries with no QB hits or sacks allowed. He’s a former four-star recruit who received interest from Alabama and Auburn before opting to go to Michigan.

Zack Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
Similar to Uche in that he gets a lot of love for his pass-rushing but at the next level he’ll likely be a SAM or 3-4 OLB and he’ll possibly only rush in certain situations.

Trey Adams (T, Washington)
He has first round talent and a first round frame. Injuries are the big issue here. The medical checks will likely determine his stock. A good Senior Bowl won’t hurt though.

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
He had a pretty horrible 2019 season and this is an opportunity to regain some momentum. Josh Allen propelled himself into the top-10 with a great week in Mobile. We’ll see if Love can do the same. He has first round potential.

Michael Pittman Jr (WR, USC)
He’s a bigger receiver and will be competing in the 2020 draft against quicker, more sudden wide-outs. He needs to show he can create easy separation and not need everything to be contested.

K.J. Hill (WR, Ohio State)
A 126.3 SPARQ athlete thanks mainly to his 3.93 short shuttle, Hill has the short-area quickness to be a real pain in coverage but he can also be inconsistent. He’ll need to show he has long-speed at the combine too.

South team

Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Had an injury-ravaged 2019 season. He’s 6-4, 265lbs but apparently has 7.5% body fat. He can bench 460lbs and is expected to manage 30 reps at 225lbs. Reportedly capable of a 7.03 three-cone. One to watch if he lasts in the draft.

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
One of the stars of the 2020 draft. Big, explosive, powerful, quick. He’s a disruptive force who can play inside/out and does his best work ploughing through interior linemen to collapse the pocket. A clear top-10 talent.

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
He hasn’t really taken a step forward in the last two years at Alabama but he’s still a 6-7, 305lbs monster who could really rise up the board with a big week in Mobile. He needs to play tough, win his reps and flash a mean streak.

Darrell Taylor (DE, Tennessee)
He’s had injuries and his tape was pretty mediocre. Yet there’s said to be athletic potential here so let’s see how he performs in the drills.

Jonathan Greenard (DE, Florida)
Had a terrific season at Florida, played through injuries and put up big numbers. However, reportedly he’s not expected to test well at all. Let’s see if he can flash a burst in the 1v1 drills.

Terrell Lewis (DE, Alabama)
Clearly talented but the injuries have taken a toll. He looks the part but health will always temper his stock. Let’s see if he can build momentum this off-season starting in Mobile. It’ll also be interesting to see his measurements.

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
He’s a pancake machine who dominates opponents with extreme physicality. He’s a punishing finisher and will hammer opponents to the turf, judo-toss them to the ground or plough them off the LOS. One to watch.

John Simpson (G, Clemson)
Very athletic and was even gifted an opportunity to score a rushing touchdown at Clemson. However, his feet are very busy and sometimes he tries to do too much. There’s a lot of athletic upside here though.

Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
A recent addition following LSU’s National Championship success. He’s steady away if fairly unspectacular. He’s competing against some really good center’s in this draft so needs a good week.

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
From Nigeria and a three-year starter. He’s 6-7 and 315lbs and can bench press 415lbs plus squat 560lbs. He reportedly can run a 4.95 forty and jump a 32-inch vertical. Underrated. One to watch.

Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
He’s really talented with a great arm, mobility and size. He’s just so inconsistent. He could make a nice developmental QB for someone if he has a strong week here and interviews well.

Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
One of the more high-profile players at the Senior Bowl but whether he has a NFL future remains to be seen. It’s hard to gauge where his stock is. It’s a big week for him.

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
I’m not sure anyone can do more than Herbert this week to improve their stock. If he delivers a strong week of football he could turn into a top-10 lock. He has the size, the arm and the innovation.

Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir Rhyne)
Discovered by Seahawks scout Ryan Florence last March, Dugger can reportedly manage a 40-inch vertical and a 4.4 forty. He has 33 1/8 inch arms and he’s 6-1 and 218lbs. He stood out at Lenoir Rhyne (and he should do) with big hits, highly athletic plays and major special teams value as a returner.

Lamical Perine (RB, Florida)
Played well for Florida but his athletic upside is the question mark. Does a good job fighting through tackles but lacks long-speed and explosive traits.

Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State)
Such a fun player to watch. Benjamin is tough, gets the job done and has nifty agility highlighted by a 4.10 short shuttle at SPARQ. He should have a really strong week and a good performance in the game.

Jared Pinkney (TE, Vanderbilt)
Touted by many as a potential first rounder before the season started, Pinkney and Vanderbilt never got going in 2019. This is a chance to regain some standing.

Harrison Bryant (TE, Florida Atlantic)
Named the best run-blocking tight end in college football by PFF. FAU running backs averaged more than 2.0 yards before contact when rushing around the tight end spot this season. One to watch.

Van Jefferson (WR, Florida)
There’s definite talent here and this is a good opportunity for Jefferson. Like everyone else, he needs to show the same ability Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin flashed a year ago to get open and make it look easy.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Ranked by PFF as college football’s best runner of the post-route in 2019, Aiyuk is massively underrated by the media. Jim Nagy told us in the podcast that he was being graded higher than N’Keal Harry in NFL circles. Fantastic talent.

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Why a good plan can still go wrong & Julian Okwara

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

The Seahawks have the cap space to be aggressors in free agency, specifically to fill their D-line needs. Pete Carroll has admitted their decision to coach at the Pro Bowl is partly inspired by an opportunity to recruit. It’s not as simple as having the cash in your wallet though.

You can come up with a really solid plan that is logical and makes perfect sense. Then things change.

Take a year ago for example. The Seahawks traded Frank Clark while probably feeling good about the D-line draft class. In the days leading up to the draft the media suggested Rashan Gary could last deep into round one.

Instead Gary was the #12 pick. The rush on defensive linemen started early and didn’t ease up. Seattle’s options at a vital position of need had shrunk by pick #21 — let alone after trading down.

I think a bit too much is made of the L.J. Collier pick. People have called it a ‘panic move’. Teams plan and study so much and spend weeks setting up their boards. You don’t ‘panic’ on draft day. There may have been disappointment in the way the first round shaped up but it’s very unlikely they were caught short, bungled whichever remaining D-liner was on their board onto a slip of paper and made a bad call.

Collier had a rough rookie season. It’s worth noting though that he played very well in his final year at TCU, was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl and while he lacked twitch and speed he was very powerful with solid explosive testing numbers.

He had the grit, fire and determination they were after throughout their draft class. Collier was also seen as an elusive five-technique. They’d been trying to replace Michael Bennett for some time and with no Cliff Avril type available, the pick made sense even if people are piling on because he struggled in year one. Let’s give him some time. Not everything has to be a huge drama.

The wider point I’m making though is Seattle had a plan that if they’d sat you down and talked you through it minutes before they pulled the trigger on the Clark trade, you’d probably have nodded along and said, ‘that makes sense’.

That it didn’t work out perhaps as they fully intended is just how it goes sometimes. It will happen. Nobody is perfect.

John Lynch just won executive of the year and his first two draft picks were Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. Thomas looked like a game-wrecker and Foster fell but was seen as one of the most talented players in the 2017 draft. Thomas has seemingly been on the trade block since year two and Foster was cut after numerous off-field drama’s.

Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s plan was drenched in logic. It just didn’t work out.

It’s impossible for teams to hit every time. You’ve just got to hope you’re right more than you’re wrong. Whatever anyone thinks about Pete Carroll and John Schneider at the moment, they’ve been overwhelmingly right more often than they’ve been wrong.

Together they built a legendary roster. They drafted a franchise quarterback in round three, created a famous secondary, drafted a Hall of Fame linebacker in round two, brought in an iconic running back for a fourth rounder via trade and led the team to two Super Bowls. And while people love to focus on the more recent misses such as the Malik McDowell pick, there are still so many successes that get overlooked. Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, the Clowney and Diggs trades, moving up for D.K. Metcalf, Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson in round seven, Will Dissly in round four, Bradley McDougald, Michael Dickson.

If the 2019 first round didn’t go according to plan, it shouldn’t have any impact on whether you trust them going forward. Again — no franchise is hitting 1.000 in free agency and the draft. Not Bill Belichick and the Pats. Not the Saints, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Eagles or any other team that has enjoyed consistent success.

The Seahawks will likely enter this off-season targeting moves in free agency to upgrade their defense. I think they will be aggressive too. They have cap space to spend and can easily create more. If they want to make trades, they have the picks to do it. If they focus on the D-line in free agency and are left with holes on the O-line — the draft could provide a solution there given the depth of options.

Yet we might see players paid way beyond their true value on the open market. That’s one thing I don’t think the Seahawks will do — overpay.

They’re not going to be reckless.

The aim will probably be to mimic Green Bay a year ago. They paid a high price for Za’Darius and Preston Smith but not beyond what constitutes reasonable value.

Considering the likely high price to retain Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle can probably afford one more nice D-line signing. Preferably someone with the speed and twitch to rush the edge and fill the massive Cliff Avril-shaped void.

Yet if they were interested in Dante Fowler — for example — and he received offers in the $20-22m range, they’d have to move on. And you run down the list.

This is one of the reasons why a trade could make sense. If you deal for Von Miller as we’ve suggested could be an option, you know what his salary is. You’d be paying $14-15m in 2020. That’s very reasonable. And it might be worth losing a high pick in a trade to avoid overpaying for a lesser player.

A similar option could be to try and trade for Calais Campbell. He’s older but still dominating with 31.5 sacks, 44 TFL’s and 76 QB hits in the last three seasons. Schneider and Carroll have talked about finding their answer to Campbell since drafting McDowell in 2017 (the year Calais left Arizona for Jacksonville). It feels like they’ve wanted him for years. Maybe try and get him then? He’d cost $15m in 2020 and would lift Seattle’s defense to a new level on his own.

The point is you have all these different options on the table and you can have ideal scenarios, Plan A’s and Plan B’s. Yet every situation is dependant on what someone else does. Whenever that’s the case, you’re never completely in control. Not if you want to be sensible.

Hopefully they find their solutions before the draft. It’s possible, however, that they might need to do more work. Perhaps they retain Clowney but then can only add a seasoned, possibly cheaper veteran like Everson Griffen? What if the more preferable options aren’t there? What if teams don’t want to trade away their best players?

You have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Again, this isn’t a good draft class for pass rushers. It’s frustratingly weak actually. There’s a lot of hype about certain players but the reality is quite stark.

For starters, there are a handful of players who are increasingly overrated and not actually a great fit for what Seattle needs. Jim Nagy told us on the podcast recently that Josh Uche and Zack Baun are not LEO types. They’re players who will have to adjust to play SAM linebacker — not an easy adjustment — and then they might be situational rushers. Seattle isn’t short of linebackers and their pass rush isn’t really lacking a part-time contributor. They need a Cliff Avril not a Barkevious Mingo.

K’Lavon Chaisson is similarly better suited to being a SAM or outside backer in a 3-4. His sacks and pressures come mostly on stunts. LSU do a good job finding ways to utilise his athleticism by creating open lanes. He’s not a dominant EDGE and he only had 6.5 sacks in 2019. Two came against Oklahoma — and one of those sacks came when he was being blocked by a receiver.

Curtis Weaver used to be 300lbs and he looks like it. His frame lacks muscle definition and he’s a bit podgy. His tape is impressive but he’s in a category where you need to see how he tests. His frame doesn’t exactly scream ‘twitchy EDGE who can win with speed at the next level’.

Yetur Gross-Matos has a good frame and his hand-use at times is good. He lacks great speed though and his play is so inconsistent. It’s worth noting that he ran a 4.75 short shuttle at SPARQ. He won’t run that slowly at the combine but the tape checks out with the test. He seems like more of a base-end type than a quick-twitch EDGE. Seattle has enough base-end’s already.

The one player who might possibly just be of interest is Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara.

For starters, he has the frame. He’s 6-5, about 250lbs and according to ESPN he has 34 1/4 inch arms. Reportedly he’s been timed running a top-speed of 21mph — a mark usually reserved for the quicker receivers in the NFL.

You do see flashes of speed on film — especially when he’s chasing down a running back from behind. There are examples where he just beats the tackle to the edge with ease. He’s very comfortable dropping or working in open space. He looks twitchy. He can defend the perimeter (something Carroll highlighted as an issue in 2019). You see him shedding blocks, sifting through traffic and finding the ball-carrier on screen’s and end-around’s.

Okwara lacks upper body bulk but still appears to have some power. During recruiting, Rivals noted his natural strength despite possessing a skinny linebacker frame. PFF gave him a 90.4 pass-rushing grade in 2019. He had 93 pressures in 2018 and 2019. He was also a team captain this season.

It also needs to be noted he didn’t shine against Georgia’s top-rated O-line. He does have a tendency to drift in and out of games. He ended the season injured. Virginia was his big 2019 performance where he dominated but there weren’t other examples of that level of play.

To me he would be a compliment rather than a lead dog straight away but that’s OK. We’re talking about a scenario here where the Seahawks have possibly re-signed Clowney but haven’t added a stud to play across from him. They’ve had to box clever, maybe added a short-term solution like an Everson Griffen and now you’re adding another body to the rotation.

I do think Okwara has a good chance to go in the top-40, especially if he tests well. The bad pass-rush class will help him. He ticks a lot of boxes too.

I’ve looked and looked for options but it’s a real struggle to find good pass-rusher’s in this draft. Okwara is probably the one you can make a case for with an early-ish pick. I’m not ready to bang any table’s for him like I would an Anthony McFarland, Logan Stenberg, Cesar Ruiz, Willie Gay Jr, Jaelen Reagor, K.J. Hamler, Brandon Aiyuk, Bryan Edwards or Rashard Lawrence. Give me a 1.5 10-yard split though and I could be persuaded.

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Previewing the options for the Seahawks in free agency

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Dante Fowler had an excellent 2019 season with the Rams

I’ve broken this piece into four tiers — expensive free agents, value free agents, trade candidates and players who will likely be tagged.

Expensive free agents

The Seahawks need an injection of talent, particularly on the defense. They need more speed and more physicality. In 2011 they accelerated their team building by signing Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. For the first time in a long time, they will likely be players in the market again this year.

That said, they also need to find value where they can. The 2013 off-season was a success because of the value of the Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril deals, not just because they landed both players. Their ability to find value (as they did in the Clowney & Diggs trades in 2019) is as important as anything. Yet free agency is a new beast these days. And they might have to prepare to go big.

Dante Fowler (DE, LA Rams) ranked sixth in the NFL with 16 TFL’s — the same number as Nick Bosa and Cam Jordan. He also ranked highly with 11.5 sacks and 36 pressures. Fowler also ran a 1.59 10-yard split at the combine and the Seahawks are desperate for some speed. He’s only 25-years-old. He should receive a lot of interest and Seattle could (should?) be one of the suitors. A book-end duo of Clowney and Fowler could set them up for a number of years and would be worth investing in.

Arik Armstead (DT, San Francisco) ranked 16th in the NFL with 35 pressures in 2019 — more than Robert Quinn, Matt Judon and Everson Griffen and two fewer than Von Miller. Armstead also finished with 10 sacks and 11 TFL’s. He has massive size (6-7, 290lbs), defends the run well and can move across the line. He’s only 26.

James Bradberry (CB, Carolina) doesn’t get much attention but he’s one of the better players set to reach free agency. The Panthers aren’t flush with cap space. Bradberry, 26, had to cover Michael Thomas, Mike Evans and Julio Jones in the NFC South and held his own. The Seahawks are unlikely to spend big on a cornerback (we know how they roll) but Bradberry is someone who will have a strong market.

One position they could invest in is nickel/slot corner. That was an area they really struggled with in 2019. Chris Harris Jr (CB, Denver) will leave the Broncos and would be an expensive addition but would inject genuine quality to the position.

There’s a dearth of good offensive tackles in the league and Jack Conklin (T, Tennessee) has timed his return to form perfectly. He had the fifth best run-blocking grade among tackles per PFF and has really helped Derrick Henry excel. I’m not sure we’ll see the Seahawks go big for a pure right tackle but he’s someone who’s probably high on the NFL’s radar.

Jordan Phillips (DT, Buffalo) recorded 9.5 sacks in 2019 while also setting a career-high in tackles (31). He also had 13 TFL’s — one fewer than T.J. Watt. He’s 6-6 and 340lbs with the arm length (34.5 inches) Seattle loves. He plays well against the run but provides a plus pass rush for his size. The Bills are going to let him test the market and he could get an attractive offer.

Anthony Harris (S, Minnesota) led the league in interceptions in 2019. Per PFF, Harris has the top regular-season coverage grade among safeties at 91.6. He was sixth in 2018 too. He missed just four out of 100 tackles in 2018 and 2019. He combines ball-hawking and good coverage with sure-tackling. The Vikings will be desperate to keep him but they’re currently $4m OVER the cap for 2020.

Austin Hooper (TE, Atlanta) will likely have a robust market. He’s only 25, has excellent agility (4.32 short shuttle) and does everything well. He had 787 yards in 2019 and six touchdowns in 13 games. With a weak looking tight end class in the draft and considering his production and consistency, it’ll be a surprise if Hooper doesn’t get paid big money.

Players who could provide value

Karl Joseph (S, Oakland) is someone I’ve liked for a while. He was the fiercest hitter I think I’ve ever watched in college. He was a former #14 pick but it hasn’t really worked out in Oakland. Let him be an intimidating force. He’s only 26. He needs a change of scenery and a chance somewhere.

It’s tempting to think of Ndamukong Suh (DT, Tampa Bay) as a busted flush these days but there are two reasons to be interested. Firstly, he might be cheaper on a short-term deal at his age (33). Secondly, he anchored Tampa Bay’s top run defense. They gave up 73.8 YPG in 2019 — the best record for five years. He also had a healthy 24 pressures this season.

The Seahawks were reportedly interested in Everson Griffen (DE, Minnesota) before he re-worked his contract. He is able to void his deal in the off-season. He had 12 TFL’s, eight sacks and 34 pressures in 2019. At 32 he would be a shorter-term option but probably wouldn’t break the bank.

Remember everyone laughing at the Redskins for giving the Chiefs Kendall Fuller (CB, Kansas City) and a third rounder for Alex Smith? Despite his horrible injury, Smith looked good in Washington and Fuller’s career collapsed. He was even moved to safety. He played his best football in the slot though. A fresh start and some confidence plus a return to nickel might be just what he needs.

A former third-round pick, Jordan Jenkins (OLB, New York Jets) has the size and length (6-3, 260lbs, 34 1/4 inch arms) plus the quickness (1.58 10-yard split) Seattle needs. He has 15 sacks in the last two years. He could provide some value as a complimentary rotational piece. His 4.80 forty, however, isn’t very ‘Seahawky’.

Danny Shelton (DT, New England) was linked with the Seahawks a lot in 2019 before eventually returning to the Patriots on a one-year $1m contract. If that’s the kind of money he’s available for, the Seahawks could do a lot worse than sign him to aid their run defense.

Brian Poole (CB, New York Jets) signed a one-year deal worth $3.5m a year ago. The Seahawks might be a bit more pro-active at the nickel spot this off-season. Poole has some value and his experience in Atlanta means he should be able to adjust to Seattle’s scheme somewhat comfortably.

Formerly the #32 pick in the 2016 draft, Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Kansas City) has fantastic size and length (6-4, 275lbs, 35.5 inch arms) and he ran superbly at the combine (4.63 forty, 1.58 split). He had 5.5 sacks in 10 games in 2019. He’s someone you might be willing to take a chance on with such an attractive physical profile but he’s unlikely to get big offers.

The Seahawks have been willing to take on a reclamation project in the past. Vic Beasley’s (DE, Atlanta) career has stalled. However, he ran a 4.53 at the combine plus a 1.59 split. They need some speed and Beasley might be comparatively cheap if other options are unavailable.

Possible trade targets

Trades are vital. Clever deals can set you up to win big. Look at the Seahawks. They spent barely anything to acquire Chris Clemons and Marshawn Lynch. More recently, they traded up for D.K. Metcalf and got fantastic value in deals for Jadeveon Clowney and Quandre Diggs.

The Niners are better with Dee Ford, ditto the Titans and their trade for Ryan Tannehill. Is any Chiefs fan complaining about Frank Clark after his performance against Houston?

It feels like there’s room for a trade addition at some point during the off-season.

As noted in more detail on Tuesday, a trade for Von Miller (DE, Denver) could potentially work for both teams. Seattle would acquire a player on a reduced salary, they could rush with four again in 2020, they’d solve their biggest hole without needing to enter the free agent market. It’d be expensive though and would probably cost the #27 pick.

Calais Campbell (DT, Jacksonville) has had an incredible three years with the Jaguars. He had 31.5 sacks, 44 TFL’s and 76 QB hits. He anchors the run defense and he creates pressure. The Jaguars may well have zero interest in trading him. It doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone.

We’ve seen how much the Seahawks benefit from good safety play. Jamal Adams (S, New York Jets) was a trade target for Dallas before the deadline. He’s such an intense, physical, playmaking safety. He’s a blue-chip talent. However, they really like Bradley McDougald and only spent a second round pick on Marquise Blair a year ago.

Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Washington) is 31 and has one year left on his contract. His cap hit is only $11.6m in 2020. He has 90 career sacks. He has the length and the quickness Seattle needs but he has been banged up. If the Redskins decide to make some changes under Ron Rivera, it’s possible he might be available at a decent price on a one-year rental.

Russell Wilson, like everyone else, is going to want to see the defense fixed. But you better believe he’s also going to be pushing for more weapons. The draft is extremely rich at receiver so this could be a moot point. However, Stefon Diggs (WR, Minnesota) is clearly frustrated and is close to Wilson. So is Odell Beckham Jr (WR, Cleveland) and who knows if he sticks around with the Browns? Wilson deserves as many quality targets as possible.

The Seahawks need to add a tight end at some point. O.J. Howard (TE, Tampa Bay) and David Njoku (TE, Cleveland) have both been linked with moves away from their current teams. Seattle really values the agility testing at the position and Howard ran a 4.16 short shuttle and a 6.86 three cone. Njoku ran a 4.34 short shuttle and 6.97 three cone. Howard will be expensive but it’s hard to tell with Njoku given Cleveland’s just cleaned house again.

Players who will get tagged and be unavailable

Chris Jones (DT, Kansas City) has had so much production. There’s no way the Chiefs let him go. A trade would only be a possibility if he has ridiculous contract demands. If that isn’t the case, Kansas City can carry on during this window with all their top talent intact.

Yannick Ngakoue (DE, Jacksonville) might want to leave Jacksonville but it’s pretty obvious they have no intention of letting him walk. They can save $20m alone just by cutting Marcell Dareus. That money will simply be transferred to Ngakoue.

Derrick Henry (RB, Tennessee) has nothing left to prove. The likelihood is he gets tagged and then the Titans work on tying him up for the long term.

If the Bengals had any chill they’d just let A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati) finish his career with a contender. But this is Cincinnati. So they’ll probably hold him to ransom on numerous tags and force him to retire. He’d be an outstanding addition for Seattle but they probably won’t get the chance to sign him.

Justin Simmons (S, Denver) has been excellent for the Broncos but they have more than enough cap room to franchise tag him.

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Twelve 2020 draft prospects I really like

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

As well as today’s piece, here’s a podcast on the draft prospects in the National Championship game plus some Seahawks thoughts…

I want this piece to feature players who might, realistically, be available.

For that reason I’m not going to include prospects who will obviously be gone.

For example, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw would be an ideal addition. His ability to wreak havoc from the interior, win with power and quickness and take over games is exactly what Seattle needs. He’s the only player who bossed Georgia’s offensive line, leading his team to an upset win on the road. He’s the complete package.

He won’t be available to the Seahawks. Especially during a down year for disruptive, playmaking defensive linemen. If they were picking at #10 he’d probably be the first name on the list. Instead they’re picking at #27, so he isn’t.

This group will grow during the process. As always, the Senior Bowl and combine play a huge part in highlighting potential targets. I don’t even really look at cornerbacks until we discover combine measurements and body type.

Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
For me Ruiz is a top-25 talent. Michigan didn’t have a great start to the 2019 season and a big part of their turnaround was the performance of Ruiz next to Ben Bredeson anchoring the O-line.

He was the best SPARQ tester at center in 2017 with an overall score of 97.92. He’s 6-4 and 319lbs. PFF crowned him the best pass-blocking center in college football — he allowed just eight pressures in 447 snaps.

He handled Raekwon Davis against Alabama, is incredibly effective as a run blocker opening up lanes and he has the pass-blocking skills to be a long-term feature in the NFL. He has impressive character and grit having had to deal with the death of his father at a very young age.

The Seahawks may or may not be in the market for a center, depending on Justin Britt’s health and cap hit. Nevertheless, Ruiz is one of the top offensive linemen in this draft and should be a first rounder.

Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
This is going to be a draft class defined by the talent at wide receiver. Reagor is one of the best — if not the best. He hasn’t received much hype in part because TCU’s quarterback situation was a mess in 2019. However, he has everything needed to be a top NFL target.

Reagor has extreme speed and quickness. He runs electrifying go-routes and posts but he also creates easy separation on shorter routes. He’s sturdy with a good looking frame at about 5-11 and 195lbs. He ranked second only to Jaylen Waddle for punt return yards (20.80) and scored two touchdowns.

He’s surprisingly good in the red zone, using explosive athleticism (he jumped a 38.5 inch vertical at SPARQ) to leap above defenders to high-point and win jump-balls. He could run in the 4.3’s. I can’t find any flaws. A superb talent who should go in the top-25 but if he didn’t, would be a steal.

Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State)
Before the college football season I had Gay in my top-50 watchlist. In practically every 2018 Mississippi State game he made a huge play. Interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, improbable coverage, hard hits. He was a sensational playmaker.

His 2019 season was a disaster. He was ineligible to start the year then suspended for breaking team rules. The Bulldogs floundered, ended up firing their coach and now he’s turning pro.

I suspect his stock will rapidly grow later in the process. He’s too good. He ran a 4.53 at SPARQ and on tape looks like he could crack the 4.4’s. His short shuttle is a 4.26. He jumps a 40-inch vertical. There aren’t many athletes who can do what he does. Find a way to get him and work with his potential.

The Seahawks invested a lot at the linebacker position a year ago but Gay just has an ‘it’ factor about him. Seattle needs playmaker on defense, impact players. I believe he can be one and he could come at a discounted price.

Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
Wilson was one of the first players I properly studied this year and was wowed by his potential. I’m not sure why he’s not being talked about as a high first round pick, considering how much people are rushing to hype up Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton.

He’s 6-7 and 340lbs but carries the size superbly. He’s not carrying any bad weight and cuts an intimidating presence on the right side.

When he locks his arms into position defenders can’t disengage. There’s evidence of effective combo-blocks and he’ll drive defenders back in the running game. There are occasions where he gets his drop wrong and loses balance and leverage. He drops too deep against speed and gives faster rushers an opportunity to attack from within the pocket, eliminating space and freedom for the quarterback. He needs to play more inside-out. That said, he has massive potential and I think teams will love him.

Georgia’s O-line performance in 2019 was incredible. Andrew Thomas is a sure-fire top-10 pick. I don’t think Wilson will be too far behind and he declared as a redshirt sophomore which suggests he received a very good review from the draft committee. He’s being severely underrated.

K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Penn State didn’t have a great collection of skill position players in 2019. They basically had one dynamic playmaker and it was Hamler. He’s incredibly sudden, highly competitive and challenges defender’s at every level.

He also provides a special teams value, averaging 21.38 yards on kick returns. Hamler ran a 4.43 at SPARQ and will likely get into the 4.3’s at the combine. He shares some of Tyler Lockett’s ability to get open across the middle and make improbable catches. Yet he’s slighter and possibly quicker than Lockett.

He will go quite a bit earlier than many are projecting. It’s very possible he will go in the top-25. He’s not as explosive or sturdy as Reagor but speed matters in the NFL. Easy separation matters. Teams will love his ability to get open, impact games and contribute on special teams.

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
He’s a pancake machine who dominates opponents with extreme physicality. I’ve not seen a guard manhandle blockers like Stenberg in a long time. He connects, locks-on and drives defender’s off the ball. He’s a punishing finisher and will hammer opponents to the turf, judo-toss them to the ground or plough them off the LOS.

He’s a pure finisher who sets the tone and batters defenders. If you like physical, aggressive run-blocking then this is the guy for you. He’s also adept at the turns and twists and good hand-placement needed to achieve easy wins where he doesn’t have to flat-out dominate with power. He allowed only one pressure in 2019.

I’ve seen some people mention a lack of mobility and athletic limitations but there was nothing glaring. Holding penalties were apparently an issue at Kentucky. That said, the Seahawks love physical run blockers with great size. Stenberg looks like one of the toughest players to enter the league in a while. For me he’s a second or third round value pick who could rise.

Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina)
He’s a former four-star recruit and you see that athleticism on tape. He can separate with ease despite a bigger frame (6-3, 215lbs). He looks like a very solid 4.4 runner. That wouldn’t be a surprise because he ran a 4.53 at SPARQ and with combine training he can shave a few tenths off.

On top of his straight-line speed he also jumped a 38-inch vertical and ran a 4.31 short shuttle. His overall SPARQ score was an 111.96. He’s mature, determined and he’d fit the culture in Seattle.

He broke records at South Carolina with 234 career receptions, 3045 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s not the most physical receiver when a defender gets his hands on him but he can work on that. It’s a lot harder to develop foot-speed and a good release which he has. He’s a YAC threat with the ball in his hands, he’s good on screens. He can get downfield with his quickness to deliver the big play. He can win contested catches and had a good win in tight coverage vs Florida’s C.J. Henderson.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Ranked by PFF as college football’s best runner of the post-route in 2019, Aiyuk is massively underrated by the media. Jim Nagy told us recently he was being graded higher than N’Keal Harry in NFL circles. It’s easy to see why.

Aiyuk has electrifying speed. His ability to accelerate away from defenders is quite stunning. He looks bigger than he is (6-1, 206lbs) but he’s big enough to make contested catches and do all of the stuff you’d expect from a player attempting to win at the red line.

However, it’s his ability to take a simple screen 70-yards for a touchdown or run by everyone on a deep route that will really appeal to teams. He’s an X-factor. As a bonus, he also provides special teams value. He averaged 31.86 on kick-off’s, 16.14 on punts and had one return touchdown to go with his eight as a receiver. He will go in round one.

Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
I mentioned his team mate Cesar Ruiz earlier but Brederson also warrants attention on this list. PFF rated him as college football’s best pass-protecting guard. In 451 pass-protection snaps he allowed just seven hurries with no QB hits or sacks allowed. He only allowed two pressures against Ohio State.

He’s a former four-star recruit who received interest from Alabama and Auburn before opting to go with Michigan. We know the Seahawks like player’s from UM.

He’s not a finesse pass-blocker though. He’s 6-5 and 325lbs and can lay the wood too. There are some very attractive O-line prospects in this class. The focus might be mainly on other areas (Pete Carroll has already talked about keeping continuity on the OL). However, with Mike Iupati a free agent, Justin Britt’s injury situation casting doubt on his status given the cost and D.J. Fluker only on a short-term deal, the Seahawks would be wise to at least look at some of these options.

Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland)
Maryland ended up being a bit of a hot mess this season and that had an impact on McFarland’s production. However, he’s an incredibly dynamic running back with the quick feet to avoid contact and the toughness and balance to get yards after contact.

He’s only 5-9 and about 205lbs yet he’s just so incredibly dynamic though when Maryland are rolling. He accelerates through contact, breaks tackles, has home-run ability and if he finds a crease he can make a good play a scoring play. He reaches top speed so quickly and yet has a weaving cut-back style that has defender’s reeling. He gets to the perimeter with ease but he’s patient in the backfield and assertive when a lane emerges. He can push the pile in the red zone. McFarland is so difficult to tackle — in fact he might be the hardest and most dynamic and quick running back I’ve seen during my time writing this blog. He has star quality.

Watch the Ohio State game from 2018 for a flavour of him at his best. He’s a former four-star recruit who ran a terrific 4.04 short shuttle at SPARQ to emphasise how good his foot-speed is. He jumped a 33-inch vertical which is good but not outstanding. Overall he was one of the better SPARQ testers in his class with a 112.11.

He also had a 40-yard kick return in 2019 so there could be some untapped special teams potential too.

Nick Harris (C, Washington)
He’s not the biggest lineman at 6-1 and 302lbs but it simply doesn’t matter. When you watch him play his tenacity, power and intensity jumps off the screen. He was the best performer on the Washington line. He shows good leverage, strength and you can’t drive him back.

I recall one game where he pulled to the right hand side, located a man to block yards downfield and delivered in the open space to spring a screen play for a big gain. He’s very capable of reaching to the second level.

I think he will rise during the process. Perhaps not as much as Garrett Bradbury did a year ago. After all, Bradbury had a great combine. If Harris shows well in the agility testing or displays a high degree of power then teams could consider him a lot earlier than the media are currently projecting. He did score a perfectly decent 90.6 at SPARQ.

Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU)
Nothing particularly jumps out about Lawrence’s 2019 production, even on LSU’s incredible National Championship winning team. He only had 2.5 sacks and six TFL’s. He forced one fumble and broke up three passes.

However, you always noticed him on the field. He was disruptive, rushed from different angles and was able to flash power and quickness to get into the backfield. It was also pretty clear that LSU was getting every ounce of effort from Lawrence. His motor was relentless. Winning mattered to him. Being part of the way they won mattered to him.

He’s well sized at 6-2 and 308lbs. He just looks like a NFL defensive tackle. On top of that he has the first-step quickness to provide a pass rush but his leverage is also good and he doesn’t give up huge lanes in the running game.

I just think he’s a player you take a chance on if he fits. If he has the 33-inch arms and if he can translate the quickness to a good short-shuttle time (a key test seemingly for the Seahawks) then he’s worth a mid-round pick to try and find someone at value who can contribute and help the D-line quickly.

If you missed Monday’s ‘annual start of the off-season’ piece, click here. I also posted a piece touting a possible Von Miller trade here.

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Considering trades, the Clowney inevitability & more

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Why a trade could be on the cards

Seattle’s best three personnel moves in 2019 involved a trade. They moved up for D.K. Metcalf in the draft. They dealt a third round pick to Houston for Jadeveon Clowney. Then they traded a fifth rounder for Quandre Diggs.

The previous big trade they made was the highly successful and underrated move to acquire Duane Brown.

If that isn’t motivation to re-enter the market, what is?

There are very clear benefits to making a trade. For starters, you inherit an existing contract. If the Seahawks wade into the free agent market as an aggressor, you run the risk of being exploited.

Take last year for example. Who expected Kwon Alexander to get a deal worth $13.5m a year? That in turn led to C.J. Mosley getting $17m a year from the Jets.

It doesn’t happen to every player of course. Dante Fowler — a potential Seahawks target this year — had to settle for a modest one-year prove-it deal.

There’s always a chance though that things quickly get out of control, your plans are torn up, you’re forced to look elsewhere or you end up overpaying.

All of this can be avoided if you make a deal for a player who is contracted for at least another year. The Brown trade is a classic example. He had a year and a bit to run on his Texans contract. He came to Seattle, played well and was rewarded with a handsome extension.

So what move could the Seahawks pull off that makes sense in terms of contract and fixing their enormous need on the D-line and the pass rush?

They badly need speed off the edge. They need the next Cliff Avril.

Why not put a call into Denver and see if there’s a deal to be done for Von Miller?

It’s possible the Broncos will just put the phone down. Miller is a Denver legend. They’re a team in transition with a young quarterback but they seem to feel like they’re making strides. They don’t have any cap issues and can easily retain Miller’s large salary in 2020.

That said, there has been some friction recently between team and player. Miller expressed concern after a week-15 loss to Kansas City about the team’s direction. He quickly rowed back on it but you could sense this was a relationship with issues.

As the Seahawks showed two years ago, sometimes you just need to part ways and move on. For both parties.

His 2019 performance wasn’t up to his usual standards. He only had eight sacks — his lowest total since 2013 when he only played nine games. He was working in a new defensive scheme. Some adjustment would be understandable. He did finish 12th for pressures (37), eighth for hurries (18) and 20th for knockdowns (10th).

It wasn’t a bad season, it just wasn’t peak-Miller.

The Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb with a high pick in 2018 so they’re not short of pass rushers. If they trade Miller and make a further cap saving, they’ll have more than enough to go into the market and sign a replacement.

I think it could be a move that suits both parties.

The Broncos receive Seattle’s top pick (#27). They move on from Miller with more than enough money and cap compensation to make up for his departure. The dead cap hit for Denver isn’t insignificant ($11.75m) — but they make a decent 2020 saving ($13.875m).

The Seahawks acquire a speed rusher to compliment the presumably re-signed Jadeveon Clowney. With the Broncos eating some of the contract, they would inherit quite a modest cap-hit in 2020 of approximately $14m. That’s much less than they’d end up paying for lesser players on the open market. He’s also contracted until the end of the 2021 season.

With book-end rushers of Clowney and Miller — the Seahawks’ four-man rush would actually threaten opponents in 2020. They would’ve solved their biggest need without even needing to dabble in the open market. He would provide the quality, experience, production and leadership they’ve lacked since Avril was forced to retire.

Spending the #27 pick would be a high price — but it’s a necessary price. Yes he’s 30-years-old. However, the Seahawks traded for 30-year-old Jimmy Graham in 2015. If they can get 3-4 years of production out of Miller, that’s good value for the pick. The Seahawks need impact this off-season. They need to add players who can produce now. It’s also a poor draft class for pass rusher’s.

With two second round picks, they also might be more willing to trade #27.

The cost would also be worth it to avoid having to shell out $18-22m for an edge rusher on the open market. With the saving, you could actually make some other moves to further improve the roster.

Again, it’s possible the Broncos would have no interest in such a move. It’s equally possible the Seahawks will prefer to stick to their youth movement and acquire someone like Fowler who, at 25, could be a feature for years to come. The Metcalf, Clowney and Diggs trades all provided enormous value. This would be a much more aggressive deal.

The Green Bay Packers fixed their pass rush by signing two free agents (Preston & Za’Darius Smith). They then used their top draft pick to add Rashan Gary. The Seahawks might prefer that kind of plan.

They could also go down the same route as Kansas City a year ago and strike a deal for a franchise-tagged defender. Frank Clark has looked increasingly like a wise investment in recent weeks. Could the Seahawks assess the trade options if tagged players cannot agree long term deals with their clubs?

Pass rush is the defining off-season need but they could still trade for another position.

We know the Jets flirted with trading Jamal Adams before the deadline. I’m not sure the Seahawks would pay out to push Bradley McDougald and Marquise Blair off the field but there’s no denying the Seahawks were better for acquiring Diggs and more talent at safety would be welcome if possible.

Russell Wilson, quite rightly, is going to be pushing for more weapons. Reportedly he wanted them to consider adding Antonio Brown during the season and they eventually added Josh Gordon. With talk of Odell Beckham potentially being available, Stefon Diggs looking increasingly unhappy in Minnesota and tight end’s like O.J. Howard and David Njoku having uncertain futures — there will likely be offensive options too.

They have picks and cap space. We can’t be sat here in 12 months time wondering why they didn’t do more. They need an off-season like 2013 when they traded for Percy Harvin and signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They’ll know that.

It should be a fun off-season.

Expect Jadeveon Clowney to be back

Pete Carroll says he loves Clowney and the feeling is mutual. Duane Brown said the same thing on 710 ESPN. Apparently Clowney paid a visit to John Schneider before leaving for the off-season yesterday.

Carroll doesn’t often gush about free agents publicly. Not in the way he did about Clowney yesterday. I think he appreciates this is going to be an expensive deal. However, they can’t start to repair their D-line by losing their top player as the first move.

It’d be understandable if Clowney tests the market first. With everyone talking at the combine, he will know what offers are out there long before free agency starts. That should be the catalyst for Seattle to make him the offer that gets this done.

Then it’s on to stage two — adding a partner in crime to rush from the other side.

The Justin Britt dilemma has layers

Ideally Britt would be back next year and everything carries on. Continuity does matter on the O-line. The group also performed better than I think most people, included any PFF graders, are willing to acknowledge.

Britt in particular has been very steady and a positive leader. He’s aggressive but in a controlled manner these days.

This is a big off-season though where bold moves are going to be required. Their cap space will shrink quickly when they start signing players. Britt’s cap hit of $11.4m looked in danger even before he tore his ACL.

They save nearly $9m by moving on. Building a roster is often about making a hard decision like this. Where is your money best served? Is it on a center returning from a serious injury — or a great pass rusher or weapon for your quarterback? Especially when you look at the draft and see a good looking collection of center’s plus the very realistic possibility that Alex Mack will be cut by the Falcons and could be available on a ‘Mike Iupati’ type deal.

One thing they could do is cut Britt and make it very clear to him they want him back just not at $11.4m. Then, down the line, he could be re-signed at a more realistic price unless he decides to move on or someone makes him a superior offer.

They’d need a hedge. That could be Ethan Pocic or the re-signing of Joey Hunt. It’s not improbable though that Britt is cut and then rejoins the team later.

Prediction — George Fant will stay

A lot has been made of Fant saying he wants a chance to start. You’d expect him to say that, surely? Who wouldn’t? Left tackle is a highly paid position and he’s spent the last two years as a sixth lineman or unorthodox tight end.

However, there’s a big difference between wanting an opportunity to start and actually getting an opportunity or offer to do so.

Carroll said he wants to keep the O-line together. He said that a year ago of course and they couldn’t retain J.R. Sweezy despite a desire to do so. I suspect they will make the moves to retain Fant. They like him and he’s versatile. I don’t think he will receive the offer he’s looking for and the Seahawks will keep him by offering a strong opportunity to start at right tackle and be the eventual heir apparent to Duane Brown.

It might even be a short term deal so he can re-enter the market in a year or two.

That doesn’t prevent them from re-signing Germain Ifedi either. I think that’s a situation they play by ear. Let him test the market and see where it goes. Experienced offensive linemen often get paid. The likes of Max Unger, James Carpenter and Mark Glowinski have all left Seattle and excelled elsewhere. Ifedi might get a shot to do the same on an expensive contract. If not, he could also return.

If neither comes back, there are some appealing right tackle’s set to be available in the draft. So it’s not a position of particular concern. They will have options.

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The start of the Seahawks’ off-season piece

Monday, January 13th, 2020

This is an off-season for the Seahawks to take the next step

Going into the 2018 and 2019 seasons, ‘perspective’ was a word we used a lot. This was a re-setting team, moving on from a lot of veteran players. They had to settle their cap situation and manage a couple of drafts without many picks.

Expectations had to be tempered to an extent. There was so much change and so little resource to come thundering back into immediate contention.

Qualifying for the playoffs a year ago was an achievement. It’s hard to say whether 2019 was progress but regardless, it felt from week one onwards that this was a team that needed another off-season to reach its true potential.

Now we’re here. And they don’t have cap problems any more. In fact they’re currently projected to have the seventh most cap space in 2020. They have a healthy chunk of draft picks too, including three in the first two rounds and #27 overall.

If patience was the message for the last two years, that won’t be the case here.

Now is the time to deliver.

Everything is set up for this to happen.

When the next season comes around, this Seahawks team has to be in prime position to contend. For the NFC West, for the NFC and for the Super Bowl.

They have a fantastic culture, a sensational franchise quarterback and some core pieces to build around.

There’s one big issue that continues to hold them back.

It has been abundantly clear for a long time that Seattle’s defensive line simply isn’t up to scratch.

Here’s a reminder of how poor they were up front in 2019:

The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23). Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall.

They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96). Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%).

Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest. They had 52 TFL’s — again, fourth fewest.

They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL. Yet their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%).

In the passing game they conceded 54 explosive plays — the 14th most.

I haven’t got access to the 2013 stats to check on the peak LOB years. The earliest I can go back to is 2016. That year they conceded only 39 explosive running plays — the fewest in the NFL. They gave up 58 explosive passing plays. The big difference this season is the run game, highlighting this isn’t only a pass rush issue.

They also gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall.

They’re not disruptive enough. They don’t create enough pressure. They don’t make enough plays. They don’t do a good enough job stopping the run.

Pete Carroll, speaking at his end of season press conference, is well aware of the issue:

“We didn’t get enough production consistently. At times we were as good as anybody but not with the consistency that we need. It’s so much better to play football when you are rushing four guys and kicking butt. Everything works when you do that.”

Disruptive pass rusher’s and playmakers. The order of the 2020 off-season.

It’s interesting that Carroll somewhat blamed the missing edge pressure for Jarran Reed’s lack of production too:

“He never really got started rushing the passer, like he was flying last year and he wasn’t able to be as productive numbers wise. He’s still a really good football player and means a lot to this team and he’s really tough and a terrific all-round player but the numbers, he had 10.5 sacks last year and you know, (we) couldn’t get him going this year. Because he’s an inside guy, plays like he plays, he needs the support around him to open up the rush lanes and we weren’t able to help him enough.”

Carroll was very clear about his desire to keep Jadeveon Clowney, stating: “We would love to have him back.”

He offered this review of Clowney’s 2019 performance:

“He’s a remarkable player. What a great asset he is. He’s got such a great spirit about him. He loves the game so much, loves winning and the challenges of it. He was an incredible team mate this year and we had no idea what we were getting when we got him but he exceeded all expectations.”

And when asked about Seattle’s impact on Clowney, this was the response:

“He loves it here and he wants to be here and he dropped up to see John just to let him know how important it was to him. He had a great time.”

The Seahawks have the cap space to make this happen. He might wish to test free agency first (although he’ll probably have an idea of his market during the combine weekend). Yet with Clowney being the only true impact player up front for the 2019 Seahawks — and considering Carroll’s words above plus his age (26) — it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they let him walk off into the sunset, creating another huge hole to fill.

What do they need to add though? They already had Clowney this season. Who do they bring in to team with him?

This is the key question and the big test of the off-season. Retaining Clowney will be big and should be celebrated if/when it happens. That move alone won’t enable the team to take the next step, however. He needs help.

I think there are three keys when trying to identify potential targets:

1. Speed, speed, speed
2. Disruptive ability and proven production
3. Prototype size/length and good health

The first one is obvious. The Seahawks are simply not quick enough up front. They need the next Cliff Avril. Someone who will challenge offensive tackles with burst, quickness and an ability to work the edge.

This is also a young team. There are a lot of players ‘needing to take the next step’. What they lack is the assured consistency of an established pro. Any prospective addition has to have some degree of production.

Thirdly, they need to learn a lesson from a year ago. Ziggy Ansah was a calculated gamble and it’s totally understandable why the Seahawks rolled the dice considering the Frank Clark trade.

This year they can’t afford to rely on a player like Ansah. They need someone who isn’t rehabbing, someone who wants to help lead and possesses the fire to come in and compete and help this team reach the next level.

They also need to perhaps learn a lesson from the L.J. Collier pick. He wasn’t a particularly great athlete — more explosive power than agility and quickness. It’s too early to write him off and hopefully he will take a step forward next year.

That said, athleticism matters. Avril ran a 1.50 10-yard split. The quickness he showed on a football field wasn’t a coincidence. The physical numbers need to match up to their ideals for a LEO/EDGE rusher.

We can go into more detail on how to address this later in the week, when we study potential free agent targets and look at draft prospects.

Here’s the CliffsNotes version for now…

— It’s not a good draft at all for pass rushers. It’s going to be a major challenge for the Seahawks to fill this need with the #27 pick or any of their other draft picks. Hopefully options will emerge at the Senior Bowl and/or the combine. At the moment, however, it looks fairly bleak.

— There are some attractive options in free agency. Dante Fowler for example has the length (34 inch arms), quickness (1.59 split) and 2019 production (11.5 sacks, 16 TFL’s, 36 pressures) they need. He’s also only 25-years-old and could create a partnership with Clowney for years to come. Everson Griffen could be a possibility too, albeit only as a shorter term option.

— The trade market could come into play. It’s one way to avoid the bun-fight of free agency contract negotiations. The Seahawks have made bold trades in the past to fill needs. Could they, for example, target Von Miller? Would Denver listen to an offer that included #27? Or could they ring up the Jaguars and see if there’s any way at all to finally bring Calais Campbell to Seattle? Either way, a trade seems viable during an off-season that could/should be a bit more aggressive.

It doesn’t matter how they resolve this issue as long as it is resolved. The Seahawks have the #5 offense in the league per DVOA. They have one of the three best quarterbacks in the league. They have fantastic young weapons (and could add even more). If they needed to close the circle in 2018 by fixing the running game and their offense, now they need to close the circle by repairing the pass rush and the defensive line.

It isn’t the only thing they need to fix or resolve, of course. Generally the defense needs more speed and playmaking. Would anyone really quibble, for example, if they were able to fix the pass rush in free agency and then traded for Jamal Adams to pair with Quandre Diggs?

They have free agent offensive linemen who will either need to be retained or replaced. Carroll stated his preference for continuity on the O-line today (“I don’t want to see a big change there“). They’ve got to add a tight end and considering the excellent draft class at receiver, they’ll probably add another target for Russell Wilson.

There are also other areas that need to be carefully considered. For example, why did they miss 131 tackles during the regular season (the fourth most in the league)? Why and how did that happen? Why has the home record been distinctly average at Century Link Field over the last three seasons? Why have they had so many injuries and how do they try to prevent that repeating? And why, despite their great decade of success under Carroll, have they only earned a playoff bye twice and won the NFC West four times (making it harder to progress in the playoffs)?

The next four months are a golden opportunity for this franchise to get back to where they want to be. They have to capitalise. In 2013 we saw the impact of a big off-season. The Percy Harvin trade didn’t work out but the double signing of Avril and Michael Bennett was a game-changer.

The moves pushed Seattle over the top and towards a Super Bowl Championship. Time to repeat the act in 2020.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beaten in Green day

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Life as a Seahawks fan.

The slow starts, the heroic rallies. Winning with blissful drama and losing in fairly crushing ways too. It’s never dull. Yet ultimately this is another season that ends without a return to the Super Bowl.

There’s no wrong way to respond to this loss and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to bemoan the slow start that made the failed comeback necessary, that’s OK. If you want to acknowledge the grit and character this team continues to show by never knowing when it is beaten, that’s OK too.

I’m going to look at it this way. I think the slow start in this game is explainable and was predictable. I also think the fact that they fought back is testament to the culture of this organisation. It should be cherished. The attitude that you see today will be integral if/when the Seahawks do eventually make it back to the Super Bowl one day.

Let’s start with the slow start.

In our game preview we more or less correctly predicted Green Bay’s strategy. They started by flooding coverage, played to contain Russell Wilson and dared Seattle to run. There were several occasions when Wilson had lots of time to throw but nobody was open because of the blanket coverage.

We ended up seeing an offense not able to do much at all in the passing game while incapable of running due to the long list of injuries.

The Seahawks adjusted, found some tempo and a way to move the ball in the second half. Yet — due to the slow start — they’d already put themselves in a hole.

We also predicted they had to stay in it early, referencing last year’s game between the teams. In that one, Green Bay took a 14-3 lead. Seattle responded though. They got it to 14-10. The teams traded scores and the Seahawks threw the winning strike. Here, the opposite happened. 14-3 turned into 21-3 by half-time.

Had they been able to cling on early this could’ve been a very different game.

I understand that people will complain about slow starts. I appreciate that Seahawks fans, as they’re known to do online these days, will probably lose their composure over the next 24 hours and call bloody murder.

I hope a modicum of perspective will be used. This is a team that was missing its starting left guard, center, tight end and running back. The two back-up running back’s are also out. So is the backup tight end. Their #3 receiver is suspended. The backup left guard got hurt in the game. Their top defensive lineman is playing with a core muscle injury. Jarran Reed has an ankle issue, Quandre Diggs has just returned with a similar problem. Mychal Kendricks has a torn ACL, Ziggy Ansah is coming to the end of his football career and Al Woods is suspended.

Not many teams could deal with all of this. Seattle has remained competitive purely due to the culture they possess, the quality of a handful of key players (especially their quarterback) and the leadership provided by Pete Carroll.

This doesn’t excuse the too-often slow starts or the fact that life is frequently made more difficult than it needs to be. Yet this is still a team that is one to be positive about and to believe in going forward.

There are still some things that need to change.

Obviously they need to be healthier. That goes without saying. They lost four of their last six games and the main reason was injuries.

They need to tackle better. That has been an issue all season.

The defense is not at the level it needs to be. The unit actually deserves a ton of credit for the way they played in the second half. Yet beyond the tackling issue — the pass rush and run defense needs to be better next season and they need to be faster.

We now know they possess the #27 overall pick in the draft.

In the coming days I’m going to post a series of articles discussing potential free agent targets, favourite draft targets, predictions and more.

Here’s a breakdown of what is coming:

1. They have to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney. They can’t rebuild their D-line by allowing their top player, at a great age, to walk away for nothing in free agency.

2. They have a call to make on Jarran Reed too. The defensive tackle market is peculiar and it’s somewhat possible his price will be lower than some people expect. Pete Carroll has described him as a leader and again. This will come down to price.

3. They desperately need to add a speed rusher who can trouble offensive tackles with quickness and burst. Whether it’s going out and signing Dante Fowler, trading for someone like Von Miller or a different move entirely — the main thing the pass rush (and defense in general) is lacking is speed. They need to find their new Cliff Avril. This won’t be a one-signing fix though and a talent infusion is needed on the D-line.

4. My hunch is they will act quickly to retain George Fant. His versatility is of great value and he’s well liked. He’s a hedge at right tackle while they let that position play out. That way if Germain Ifedi walks, you’re covered. You could also have the ability to re-sign Ifedi (although he’ll almost certainly test the market first), sign another veteran or draft a new tackle. I’d be shocked if Fant isn’t kept though.

5. They’ll need to make other calls on the O-line. There are some very attractive options at guard and center in the draft. Do they cut Justin Britt to free up $9m in cap space and draft a center (Cesar Ruiz, Tyler Biadasz, Nick Harris)? Do they bring back Mike Iupati or another veteran then draft some competition (Logan Stenberg, Ben Brederson)?

6. The other big personnel question mark comes at the skill positions and tight end. With Ed Dickson a certain cap-casualty and Will Dissly returning from a second serious injury, they’ll need to add a tight end at some point. That could be a free agent or trade addition or a draft pick. Remember — the Seahawks have invested in this position before (Zach Miller, Jimmy Graham) and could be bold again. It’s also very likely that they’ll tap into this excellent receiver class relatively early in the draft (rounds 1-3).

The positive is there’s so much clarity on what needs to happen and a clear pathway on how to go about it. The draft is poor for pass rushers but free agency is likely to produce some solutions. It’s a good draft for receivers and the offensive line. There could be interesting tight end’s available via trade or on the open market and the draft.

After two off-season’s of re-setting, it’s time for a splash. They need their Bennett & Avril double-dip that follows the Percy Harvin trade to show they mean business. They have the cap room and the draft picks to go big. Now is the time. 2020 is the year to make the leap.

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