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Sunday thoughts: GB plan, ‘the trade’ and cut down day

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

What is Seattle’s thinking at defensive tackle?

At the moment Seattle’s roster is light at defensive tackle. Only Sheldon Richardson, Naz Jones and Jarran Reed are what you’d call orthodox interior linemen. Michael Bennett can move inside — but usually Seattle carries a bit more beef on the D-line.

This could be indicative of a plan to face Green Bay.

The Packers are probably not going to try and ram the ball down Seattle’s throat. In the 38-10 rout at Lambeau last season, starting running back Ty Montgomery rushed only nine times for 41 yards. Christine Michael split the carries with a 10/36 stat line.

Montgomery (a converted wide out) remains the lead back, supported by rookie Jamaal Williams. This doesn’t scream physical running attack. Plugging the middle and taking away rushing lanes isn’t necessarily going to be the key to winning this one. Pressuring Aaron Rodgers and getting the pass rush going could be.

When they want to be stout up front, Richardson, Jones and Reed can line up possibly at the same time and handle those duties. We might see a lot more ‘attack mode’ though in an attempt to pressure Rodgers. That could mean, at least for one week, a lot more of Bennett lining up inside next to Richardson with Avril and Clark working the edges with Bass and Smith also getting involved.

Attack mode.

They have to try something new, because Rodgers hasn’t had a tough time working Seattle’s defense in the last two meetings at Lambeau. He’s 43/56 passing for 495 and five touchdowns (zero interceptions).

After this game, we might see a bit more beef added to help Seattle take away the running game (their modus operandi on defense). For example, it’s hard to imagine Seattle carrying only three defenders when they head to Tennessee to take on ‘exotic smashmouth’.

In Lambeau against the Packers in week one? Quickness >>>>>> Beef.

Some thoughts on the cuts yesterday

It’s probably fair to say there was some mild hysteria when it was revealed the Seahawks were going to cut Kasen Williams. There was also a lot of disappointment expressed when it was announced Pierre Desir was departing too.

Both players have subsequently been snapped up on waivers by the Browns and Colts respectively.

However, I wanted to try and bring some perspective to these two decisions.

As fans and observers, we really do have limited access to the overall decision making process. We see four pre-season games and some training camp workouts. We might believe that’s enough to judge who ‘won’ a competition for a roster spot — but how accurate is that?

Seattle’s coaches and front office staff have to consider many things here. Club control, future cost, age, who best fits the specific role, who has the most potential, who works the hardest to improve or absorbs coaching easily? These are things we don’t really have any clue about.

The decision to keep Amara Darboh over Kasen Williams has been described by some as evidence of ‘third round pick survives because they spent a high pick on him’. Ask yourself this — what do we actually know about Amara Darboh as fans?

This team has poured over the college tape on Darboh, extensively studied his backstory and in the draft clearly believed he had the potential to be a very useful player in Seattle.

Are they now going to go against all of that work, all of those judgements and cut the guy just because Kasen Williams had a good pre-season?

Here’s Darboh matching up with Shaquille Griffin in 2016. That’s the Shaquille Griffin a lot of people want to see starting at corner for the Seahawks…

It’s nothing to do with abandoning ‘competition’ or any of that jazz. Are we really going to limit ‘always compete’ to four games against backups in the pre-season?

Imagine in 2015 if Tyler Lockett, as a third round rookie, got hurt and never really got into his stride during his first pre-season. And then Seattle cut him in preference of a pre-season phenomena. Would we be looking back on that as a wise move?

So why didn’t Williams get in ahead of Tanner McEvoy, you might ask? Perhaps it comes down to the role they’ve earmarked for what is, essentially, the fifth receiver on the roster? If that spot is about special teams and the occasional opportunity to make a big play — they might see McEvoy as a better special teamer and he’s shown he can make explosive plays.

Some people will also wonder about J.D. McKissic. He carries a lot of value for his ability to wear a number of different hats and be a key special teamer. Despite Pete Carroll’s claim that Tyler Lockett will do all the returns, do we know if he’s even going to make week one? Furthermore, did you notice how the sideline roared every time McKissic made a play in pre-season? It might not have shown up in the games but behind the curtain, it appears there are quite a few people impressed with McKissic’s potential and attitude.

It’s a difficult balancing act sometimes, especially when your cuts actually matter on a loaded roster. A team like this always leaves itself open for criticism. It’s the price of success. If they’d cut Darboh and he went on to have a good career — imagine the grief Seattle would get for giving up so quickly on a third rounder? Now if Kasen Williams becomes the second coming of Terrelle Pryor in Cleveland, people will equally criticise. There’s no easy answer.

Further thoughts on the Sheldon Richardson trade

The deal received almost universal acclaim, which is unusual given the high price of the trade and the fact it could end up being a one-year rental. Usually when a pick in the first two rounds is involved, there’s a few dissenting voices.

Scot McCloughan said something interesting on Twitter this week when asked about the trade. He said it was a great deal because he’d never get a player like Richardson in round two next year.

It’s an interesting point — and one worth indulging.

The Seahawks are using their draft capital in a way that suits them at this moment, in 2017. Yes high draft picks are important. However, it’s evident how difficult it is becoming for some of the younger guys to make an impression when challenged to displace players within arguably the most talented roster in the league.

This years natural second round pick, Ethan Pocic, would probably be a rookie starter in Seattle in the past. Instead he’s on the outside looking in, unable to usurp the incumbents who in fairness have made improvements gradually as pre-season progressed. Amara Darboh, a third round pick, was being touted as a potential cut by some people.

Taking into account Malik McDowell’s injury, only Naz Jones, Shaq Griffin and Chris Carson have really scratched the surface of genuine playing time. It’s unclear how much any of the three will play against the Packers — you’d still expect the veteran players in front to get most of the snaps.

There’s a tendency to point the finger at the front office in a situation like this and say they should do a better job in the draft. In reality, this roster is absolutely jam packed as it is. Rich in talent across the board. It’s a difficult roster to crack. The only exception is the O-line really — but even there we’re seeing green shoots of potential.

In comparison, there is no doubt whatsoever that Sheldon Richardson is going to have an impact or win a starting job. He’s not only a terrific defensive lineman, he fills a need which is incredibly difficult to solve via the draft. There just aren’t that many players like Richardson in the NFL or college football. Quality interior pass rushers are surprisingly rare.

Seattle’s 2018 second round pick has been used here to bolster the team significantly for this season. To genuinely enhance their chances of winning another Super Bowl. It’s not a desperation move — it’s a calculated one. The very thing an asset should be used for.

There’s a stigma within the NFL that using picks in this way is a bit of a negative thing. The popularity of the event, the way the draft effectively builds teams quicker than the NBA or MLB and the desire to analyse the process has made draft stock more and more valuable.

Indeed we’re seeing teams now, even in the last few days, accumulating picks knowing they face a big rebuild ahead. Almost cutting their losses and preparing for the future before week one is even on the horizon.

The Seahawks aren’t in that position. They’re right in the middle of a Championship window. Ideally you want those early picks and an opportunity to have a fun and exciting draft. Yet this trade for Sheldon Richardson is worth so much to the team today. Seattle really is in a position now where the future — and the 2018 draft — can wait. It’s time to get after a Championship. Richardson helps them do that.

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CFB week one notes: Vita Vea, Greg Gaines stand out

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Washington duo make a big impression

Yes, it was against a bad Rutgers team. Yes, there’ll be tougher challenges and better match-ups ahead. But the first performance of the season where two guys simply looked better than anyone else on the field came in Washington’s opening game on Friday night.

Defensive tackle duo Vita Vea and Greg Gaines controlled the LOS every time they were on the field. It was a perfect example of two future NFL players standing out and jumping off the screen.

Vea consistently showed the brute strength to manhandle lineman and shove the pocket from the interior. He flashed a terrific bull rush and he’s a natural nose tackle. The comparisons to Haloti Ngata are not unwarranted, it’s that similar combination of unnatural mobility for his size and simply being the strongest guy on the field.

Gaines is quicker and often he’ll work his way into the backfield and offer more pass rush. However, he’s still incredibly stout and when he needed to work vs the run there was very little mark down compared to Vea. He’s also really busy — the motor never switches off. He works to the ball, plays to the whistle and just keeps going.

On one 3rd down on the goal line the two absorbed the entire three man interior OL allowing Keishawn Bierria the room to explode into the backfield on a run stop.

At the end of the first half, Rutgers went into hurry-up mode and caught Vea/Gaines off the field. They ran the ball to the tune of +30 yards, upping the tempo and not allowing Washington the chance to make a substitution. The difference in run defense when they weren’t on the field was strikingly clear. Rutgers just ran it up the gut three teams with great success.

As soon as the Huskies were able to get Vea and Gaines back on the field just before the two minute warning, the drive stalled at midfield and Rutgers ended up missing a long field goal.

Vea easily has the potential to work his way into the top-15 if not the top-10 in next years draft. Gaines is highly underrated and while he won’t go as early as Vea — he certainly has a NFL future.

If there’s a reason why Washington can again compete at a high level this year, the ability of these two to consistently control the LOS is even more important than the explosive, athletic offense highlighted by Dante Pettis and Myles Gaskin.

Not getting the Josh Allen hype

All we’ve heard over the summer is how great the 2018 quarterback class will be. Never mind that Josh Rosen has serious shoulder concerns, Sam Darnold hasn’t even played a full season of college ball and Josh Allen is, well, overrated.

When you watch his play on tape you do see some real flashes of brilliance. He has the physical tools you’d expect in a first round prospect. You also see maddening inaccuracy, incredible decision making and a player that hasn’t performed well against decent opposition.

Yes, he plays for Wyoming and doesn’t have the best supporting cast. It didn’t stop Paxton Lynch leading Memphis to a victory over Ole Miss and making the Tigers a genuine contender before he turned pro. Allen hasn’t really been able to emulate that so far.

And Lynch really is a good example to mention here. He has the physical tools and arguably played better football in college (at least so far). He was a first round pick. Lynch is currently stuck as the #2 in Denver, benched for a seventh round pick. Why? Because physical tools aren’t enough.

Allen played against good-not-great Iowa today and finished with a stat line that read: 23/40 passing, 174 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He only mustered three points on offense (Wyoming lost 24-3).

Look at what happened on this screen pass he threw:

A lot of respectable people think Allen is a stone-cold lock for the top five, if not the #1 overall pick. I’m not buying it. Not at the moment.

Other highlights

— We talked about Clemson receiver Deon Cain a few weeks ago. He scored a 61-yard touchdown against Kent State on Saturday. Clemson is basically wide receiver U — the way they coach their WR’s is unmatched. Smart guys, highly athletic. Cain is the next one off the production line.

— Saquon Barkley is a superstar in the making. A freak of nature athlete with ideal size/height. He did it all against Akron in a big opening victory for Penn State, running for 172 yards on just 14 carries (two touchdowns) and adding 54 receiving yards on three carries. He’s a legit Heisman candidate and a top-10 pick in the making.

— Penn State’s senior tight end Mike Gesicki also scored two touchdowns and collected 58 yards on six catches. He’s another name to monitor.

— A year ago I thought Bradley Chubb was destined for the first round. He’s Nick Chubb’s cousin. He could be a big mover this year, potentially landing in the top-20. Here’s how he started the new college football season:

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Seahawks trade for Sheldon Richardson

Friday, September 1st, 2017

I thought Sheldon Richardson was the best player in the 2013 draft.

I suppose I should also say that I thought Dee Milliner was pretty special too and he’s already out of the league. When the Jets drafted both players in round one, at the time it felt like a major coup.

Unlike Milliner, Richardson has enjoyed some success in the NFL. In 2015 he was ranked at #55 on the NFL’s top-100 players list:

This is a major move for the Seahawks to fill a need they’ve had throughout Pete Carroll’s time in Seattle. They’ve never had a dynamic interior pass rusher who can play any down and distance and move around the D-line.

They hoped that could be Malik McDowell. If the Seahawks are spending a second round pick plus Jermaine Kearse on Richardson, it’s fair to wonder what this says for McDowell’s health and future in Seattle.

Another thing to remember here is — while the price might be high in terms of a draft pick, if Richardson has a great contract year (and with the free agency market exploding in recent years) the Seahawks could easily recoup a third round comp pick if he walks.

Here are a couple of pieces I wrote about Sheldon Richardson before the 2013 draft:

The ‘trading up for Sheldon Richardson’ article

Sheldon Richardson – Seattle’s ideal 2013 pick?

If Seattle’s D-line can stay healthy, they’ll now be able to line up a front four of Avril, Bennett, Richardson and Clark when they want to be in attack mode.

It’s not a cheap deal. It came at a price. But this is the type of aggressive move we’ve seen before. Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham, adding Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. And it significantly improves Seattle’s pass rush and defensive line.

The move comes after the Seahawks converted $6.975m of Doug Baldwin’s $7.75m base salary into a signing bonus, creating $5.2m in cap space this year. Trading Jermaine Kearse also saves $2.2m.

Earlier today Seattle traded a seventh round pick (acquired in the Matt Tobin deal from Philadelphia) to the Patriots for cornerback Justin Coleman.

Tramaine Brock is being moved to Minnesota, also for a seventh round pick. It seems like he wasn’t going to make the cut in Seattle and the Vikings wanted to make sure they got him.

According to Ian Rapoport, they could deal Athyba Rubin:

There’s also been talk of possible deals including Jeremy Lane and Alex Collins.

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Seahawks beat Raiders, thoughts on the QB battle

Friday, September 1st, 2017

It was difficult to get much out of the Raiders game on a first viewing. On offense it was basically set up as a battle of the quarterbacks. Seattle paid lip service to the running game, throwing 37 times in total and some of the more successful runs were QB scrambles. Trevone Boykin was the leading rusher with 42 yards.

You could make a realistic case for both Boykin and Austin Davis remaining on the team as the backup.

Boykin was more explosive and exciting but also the more reckless with two poor turnovers. Austin Davis doesn’t have the wow factor and has some physical limitations but he didn’t make any mistakes or turn the ball over.

Neither player has really separated from the other so it probably comes down to preference. Do they want the younger quarterback more closely aligned in style to Russell Wilson? That could be the deciding factor.

There was a large part of the second half where Davis, without any running game, was unable to move the offense either methodically or with chunk plays. The whole thing stalled. Yet at the end he led a successful game winning drive.

In a real game he could at least expect to have more support from the running game and he’d be playing with people like Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks would probably try to keep it tight — so a clutch final drive here is a plus point. Davis presents the option of a poor man’s Alex Smith. If he was required to play a few games he might be able to manage the situation with a strong supporting cast.

Boykin is the opposite end of the scale. He keeps plays alive that appear lost, can get big gains with his legs and occasionally provides a bit of X-factor similar to Wilson.

His two interceptions today though highlight an issue. He can be careless and inaccurate. Just as he did against Kansas City where he threw 0/6, there were also some uncatchable passes tossed around.

He’s more feast or famine. Boom or bust. He could have a day where he’s spectacular and makes explosive plays. He’s also going to be throwing into tighter windows against better DB’s in a more intense environment — not the first half of the fourth pre-season game against backups. Can he avoid missing the target and throwing those crucial picks?

His two turnovers in this game in particular prevented Seattle taking complete control of the game in the first half. Instead of 17-0 or 24-0 it remained 10-0 — and eventually 10-10. Both picks were really ugly — a ‘chuck’ (Pete Carroll’s word) downfield to nobody in particular and a bad read throwing into coverage.

Poor clock management also stopped the Seahawks getting at least a field goal at the end of the first half.

But he is more like Wilson. And while he’s nowhere near the same level — there is some appeal in retaining the same style of offense if your backup needs to come into the game.

Here’s another thing to consider — if Seattle faced an opponent with their backup quarterback, it’s very likely the opponent will try to take away the run and put the game on the passer. Of the two QB’s, who is better equipped to handle that situation? The one who can be creative, extend plays and improvise is probably the answer.

And that doesn’t mean I think they should keep Boykin over Davis. I’m just relaying some of the points to consider. It’s a very close decision and probably why so much focus was on the passing game in this contest.

Davis is probably the more comfortable choice — Boykin the one that allows you to retain a scrambling offense.

If Davis was required for a three or four game stretch, he’d probably give you an opportunity to win each game as long as the team keeps things close. He possibly won’t be as flustered by what a NFL defense throws at him. But he might not have the physical tools to win any of those games if it’s on him alone to do so. Boykin has the skills to come off the bench, make some great plays and win a game. But how would he deal with opponents getting a week to game plan for him, confuse him and when the pressure’s on — will he resort to mistakes and inaccuracy?

Elsewhere, this is interesting:

A big trade could be imminent.

A quick other final point — the DeAndre Elliott ankle injury makes the cornerback situation a little clearer. Pierre Desir, who was arguably already making a strong statement to be on the roster, is in an even stronger position today. His tipped pass at the end led to the game ending interception.

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Some thoughts on the Jermaine Kearse trade report

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

A few quick thoughts on this…

1. Jermaine Kearse has been a fantastic Seahawk, responsible for some of the greatest moments in Seattle sports history. He was also responsible for some of the most important plays, to get to Super Bowls and to help win Super Bowls. He deserves nothing but respect from this fan base. And that should be remembered by all, today and in the future.

2. It’ll be fun for some to speculate on what this might mean in terms of a potential return. However, rather than expecting the Seahawks to collect a defensive line stud such as Sheldon Richardson it’s probably more an acceptance of the wide receiver situation on Seattle’s behalf. They have a logjam at the position. The younger players have stepped up in pre-season. They are a group playing at a high level, including Kearse. It’s also a bit too soon to write off Amara Darboh (‘the future Kearse’) just three games into his first pre-season. This might be an attempt to see what you can actually get in return for a player who has made some big plays in the NFL, to try and recoup the fifth rounder spent on Matt Tobin.

3. When you actually look into the contract situation, trading Kearse only saves the team around $400,000 in cap room despite his $4m cap hit (he has $3.6m in dead money tied to the deal). So trading Kearse doesn’t make any room for a bold move. This is further evidence that it’s more likely an attempt to see if they can recapture the lost Tobin 5th rounder than the catalyst for a power play trade.

EDIT — I was incorrect. According to @Patscap a trade would actually split the dead money between 2017 and 2018, so it’d be $1.8m in each season. This would save Seattle $2.2m this year.

4. It still looks highly appealing to go after a player like Sheldon Richardson but financially, they’d have to do some major manoeuvring. They only have about $8m in cap space at the moment, most of which is required for the existing roster, IR and the practise squad. There isn’t an obvious cut to save money and they’re not going to trade someone like Jimmy Graham. They also have to consider the future. They aren’t flush with cash and have to consider that players like Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas can expect new contracts soon. Look at Matt Stafford’s recent contract and you’ll see how expensive Wilson will be in contract #3. Then you have to consider how much Frank Clark will cost and whether you want the flexibility to keep Graham. Eventually the spending has to be capped somewhere. If there’s a magic trick they can pull off to land Richardson, fantastic. But that’s what is required.

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Some post-Chiefs thoughts for Saturday

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

— It’s getting to the point where it’ll be disappointing to see Thomas Rawls start ahead of Chris Carson in Green Bay. That’s no slight on Rawls — but Carson has competed for a job and earned a role with his performances in camp and pre-season. He’s physical, decisive, explosive and has shown an ability to get the tough yards while also making plays in the passing game. He’s also no slouch in pass protection — the usual hurdle rookies have to clear. It’s not unfair to suggest he has the potential to be a ‘complete’ running back. A Chris Carson and Eddie Lacy one-two punch against the Packers is an enticing thought and could help Seattle set a tone. And unfortunately, both Rawls and C.J. Prosise can’t have any complaints if it happens. Carson and Lacy are out there competing. Rawls and Procise are banged up again.

— The snap counts were interesting from the Chiefs game but provide more questions than answers. Shaquille Griffin played only 25% of the defensive snaps, despite seemingly edging towards a starting role. Is he now retreating into more of a backup/redshirt type role or do they just want to look at other players? Pierre Desir was given 40% of the snaps. He was well graded by PFF in weeks 1-2 — were they taking a closer look at him? David Bass also got some nice playing time (43% of the snaps). They could also be gathering tape to use in possible trade talks this week. And while it was assumed the virtual benching of Alex Collins was a clear sign his days are numbered, a lack of snaps could just as easily indicate a desire to try and sneak him onto the practise squad.

— The Seahawks clearly are still looking for a bit more on the D-line, thus they’re bringing in former Raider and Brown Desmond Bryant (per Bob Condotta). Speaking before the Chiefs game John Schneider reminded everyone that the Seahawks are the most aggressive team in the league at this time of year in trying to improve the roster. It won’t be a surprise if they’re very active this week, before or after the Oakland game on Thursday. The D-line still looks like an area where they can use some further depth. As well as Bryant they might look at recently released Kony Ealy or Ahmad Brooks. The game last night showed Seattle has some good but not great EDGE depth. Do they have enough guys who can play inside though? Is the run defense any kind of concern in pre-season? Do they have enough interior rush? This part of the roster is still a question mark.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Chiefs 26-13

Friday, August 25th, 2017

— The refs had a really fussy game. This didn’t happen against the Chargers or Vikings, gratefully. Today, a player only had to look in the general direction of an opponent to get a flag. If the NFL is going to continue with four pre-season games, they need to stop them becoming training exercises for the referee’s. Yes they need something to analyse, coach and report to the teams. Not to this extent though. In particular a pass interference call against Neiko Thorpe was laughable — but it started to feel like they were looking for something on every snap. That’s because they probably were.

— Aside from one bad play at the start of the second half, this was a good day for Seattle’s starting O-line. Here are a couple of examples:

The one bad play involved left tackle Rees Odhiambo. He was beaten badly by Chris Jones here:

It’s going to happen sometimes — just as it would’ve happened to George Fant too. Overall this felt like a positive performance from Odhiambo and Seattle’s starting offensive line, albeit against a pretty vanilla Kansas City game plan minus their top pass rusher (Justin Houston).

For all the hand-wringing on Ifedi, his run blocking has been excellent in pre-season. See him drive his guy off the line to create a big running lane here:

— Chris Carson is so dynamic, it’ll be hard for them to keep him off the field in week one. That doesn’t mean he’ll start or dominate the carries. He has to have some game time though, surely? Once again he ran with a purpose, collecting 46 yards on eight carries and adding a 37 yard catch (44 receiving yards in total). Momentum continues to build with Carson. The training camp hype was warranted.

— Trevone Boykin failed to complete a single pass despite six attempts (unless you count the ‘completion’ he threw to the Kansas City Chiefs defender for an interception). He didn’t throw a catchable ball in his six throws and was wildly inaccurate. Austin Davis doesn’t have anywhere near the same X-factor but he managed his snaps, found a target and moved the ball. He scored a nice touchdown to Tanner McEvoy. And in the nightmarish situation where Wilson cannot start — that might be more beneficial. If Boykin had the edge coming into the game, Davis arguably stole it today. It’s fair to wonder what the plan was at the start of the third quarter though. Lots of sideline shots from Boykin and a more controlled offense to follow. It’s possible they tried too hard early in the second half to give the receivers a chance to make plays.

— Special teams had a weird game. Blair Walsh was excellent and Neiko Thorpe and Jeremy Lane in particular seemed to be flying around making plays. The kick-off coverage was poor at times though, they gave up a 100-yard touchdown return and had a blocked punt.

— David Bass continued his fine pre-season. He surely can’t do any more to secure a roster spot? His big sack was probably on Patrick Mahomes but it wasn’t the only moment where Bass shone on the night. He was disruptive and could be edging someone like Marcus Smith off the roster.

— Jermaine Kearse had a special teams whiff on the 100-yard score but he made two big catches, led the team in receiving (59 yards) and it’s still hard to imagine the Seahawks parting ways with him considering Tyler Lockett is still returning to 100% and Paul Richardson’s injury history.

— Pete Carroll spoke very positively about J.D. McKissic in the week and they were clearly giving him every chance to win a roster spot tonight. He returned kicks, caught passes and even ran the ball. He lacks suddenness as a return man but had some good offensive plays. Strangely, he looks a lot quicker at running back than he does returning kicks. Alex Collins not getting a single carry likely suggests he’s nearing the end of his Seahawks career. They might be hiding him to try and sneak him onto the practise squad. The sideline was roaring at a McKissic stiff arm on one run. He looks like a strong candidate to stick — especially if Lockett can’t return kicks.

— It’s hard to work out what they’ll do at receiver, especially if they’re keeping McKissic. Tanner McEvoy and Kasen Williams have staked a claim. Baldwin, Kearse, Richardson and Lockett will presumably be making it. So how does Amara Darboh fit into things? This could be an area where there’s some movement in terms of trades.

— Trumaine Brock had his first big play as a Seahawks with a sack fumble leading to a turnover. I’ll re-watch the second half to look at Matt Tobin.

— The best assessment of Seattle’s depth is how in control they look in pre-season. This is arguably as good as they’ve looked since 2013. The Chargers game was a pummelling. The Vikings game would’ve had a lopsided score if it wasn’t for Alex Collins’ late fumble. This was another big win — and it would’ve been bigger but for the special teams touchdown.

Thursday notes: Ten wins & C.J. Prosise frustration

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

How many games will the Seahawks win?

When I received this Tweet, I responded with a gut feeling and said ten wins while hoping for more.

It’s a comfortable answer but is it fair?

The Seahawks won ten games in 2016 despite a laundry list of issues. Russell Wilson wasn’t healthy at any point in the season after hurting his ankle in week one, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett suffered horrific injuries, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett missed time, the O-line was terrible and the running back situation was at times chaotic.

Having relied on Marshawn Lynch for so long, the Seahawks were suddenly leaning on Christine Michael, C.J. Spiller and Alex Collins in a key game against Atlanta. Michael, a cast-off from a year ago, was now leading the running attack until he was again cut. Thomas Rawls never seemed to be fully healthy after a week two setback and C.J. Prosise (more on him later) played six games.

Despite all of this, they were a blown week 16 home game against Arizona from claiming the #2 seed and a playoff bye. That’s pretty incredible really.

When you factor in the tied game against the Cardinals and the week two write-off in Los Angeles where Wilson could barely move, a more fortunate run with injuries could’ve easily led to a +12 win season.

As they start afresh with a healthier group, a (hopefully) improved O-line and Wilson looking very sharp — there’s little reason for a conservative prediction.

So why is it still hard to say more than 10 wins?

It’s probably fear of the same thing happening again. The Seahawks have been so snake-bitten with injuries in the last two seasons. No team had more players on injured reserve in 2016. They lost so many crucial contributors and were already nursing the likes of Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls back from serious injuries.

It’s an inevitable part of the game and players who were seemingly invincible were hurt for the first time. Earl Thomas hadn’t missed a game in his NFL career since arriving in 2010. Then he breaks his leg in the ‘year of the injury’. Wilson — so durable and elusive — was suddenly hobbled with various issues.

There’s also a bit of recency bias at play. Seattle’s potent running attack fell of a cliff in 2016. It was toothless — partly due to Wilson’s injury taking way the scrambling dynamic and partly due to the O-line and the running back injuries.

For the Seahawks to be at their very best they need teams to fear the run. Between 2012 and 2014 opponents probably spent hours trying to work out how they were going to handle Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. How do you guard the scrambling ability of Wilson, fill the second level with coverage and still keep the required eight-man box to defend Lynch?

They might not have Lynch any more but there’s no reason why the running backs on the roster can’t at least provide some balance. You only have to look at the offense with a healthy Rawls in 2015 for evidence of that.

Even if Rawls and C.J. Prosise continue to be perennially banged up, Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson are a better alternative than scrambling around for a C.J Spiller type or needing to lean on Alex Collins or Troymaine Pope.

And if the Seahawks can stay somewhat healthy and if they can run the ball effectively — then there’s no reason why they can’t be that +12 win team again.

After all, the 2014 season wasn’t a stroll in the park. They had to deal with Percy Harvin’s departure, growing unrest with Lynch, injuries to key players like Brandon Mebane. They had a slow start and were 3-3 and 6-4 before ending the season with a six game winning streak and earning the #1 seed.

Some strife is manageable, clearly. In 2015 and 2016, trying to move on from the Super Bowl defeat, the end of the Lynch era, the injuries — it ended up being too much.

And yet both times Seattle still eked out ten wins.

So while that feels right as a prediction for the 2017 season, it’s probably subconsciously an attempt to avoid tempting fate. Because unless the Seahawks suffer another miserable year of drama and injury — they comfortably have the talent to top ten wins and have the kind of season that puts them right in contention again.

Are the Seahawks running out of patience with C.J. Prosise?

Brock Huard had some very interesting things to say on his 710ESPN show this morning:

“Here’s what I know — and they won’t say it publicly — but C.J. Prosise, this organisation is getting frustrated with him. You’re just a tease right now. And that’s not the position you want to be in…

“…there comes a point, when you’re drafted in the third round, when these organisations say you’re just not durable man and you’re just not reliable and we cannot trust you. And for that matter, you’re fired. And I don’t know if that’s going to be in ten days. I don’t know if there’s going to be a real need and somebody else says I’ll take on some of that risk and I’ll trade, give you something in the fifth or whatever, but man. There comes a point of frustration where there’s a tipping point. It’s one thing when it’s a blunt trauma and you fracture your scapula, it’s another when it’s hamstring and it’s groin and you’ve got to be right.

“I played with guys like this. Dave Wyman played with guys like this. ‘Everything’s got to be right’. You’ve got to feel good like a track superstar that can fine tune every hamstring, tendon and every muscle in their body they just feel it. And he’s getting kind of close here to pushing that real line.”

Pete Carroll announced today Prosise will not play against Kansas City on Friday (qualifying that if it was a regular season game he might be involved).

Thomas Rawls is also out.

Both players are clearly very exciting running backs with a lot of potential. Eventually, however, they’ve got to put a season together.

Rawls is a slightly different case because his injuries (broken ankle, broken leg) were serious and incidental. He’s also an undrafted free agent whose issues are, if anything, a result of trying too hard and playing without fear.

Prosise is a third round pick. He had the broken scapula but has also missed a lot of time with little niggling injuries. Huard appears to be suggesting he’s the type of player — and they exist in every sport — who retreats into the background as soon as they don’t quite feel confident enough to go at anything below 90-95%.

You get the feeling Rawls would go at 20% if he was allowed to. Prosise is going to have to play through some discomfort, get out there and make it happen.

It’s probably too soon to consider cutting ties and making any kind of bold move (unless an interesting deal for an O-liner or interior pass rusher emerges) — but Huard’s words certainly suggest the Seahawks are running out of patience with their third round pick in 2016.

One final note for today — can you believe this was five years ago?

The Super Bowl winning season in 2013 was, of course, a fantastic year for Seahawks fans. There probably wasn’t a more exciting or interesting time though than the emergence of Wilson in 2012.

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Seahawks trade for Matt Tobin & roster thoughts

Monday, August 21st, 2017

NOTE — I’ve updated this piece following the trade reported above. Below you’ll find some thoughts on the roster at the mid-way point of the pre-season.

Matt Tobin is a 27-year-old former UDFA in 2013. He’s been with the Eagles for his whole NFL career, starting 21 games (although he only started once last season).

It’s not a particularly cheap trade. The Seahawks have had some success in round five over the years (Sherman, Chancellor). The swap sees them move down two full rounds. The Eagles get Seattle’s fifth, the Seahawks get Tobin and a seventh.

Clearly they felt they needed more competition at tackle following the George Fant injury.

Eagles fans seem mixed on this. Scanning through the reaction on social media, there’s a genuine even split between ‘great deal’, ‘fair deal’ and ‘WTF?’.

His 2017 cap hit is $900,000. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, so it’s a rental. This further illustrates why the Fant injury is so frustrating. The Seahawks are forced to be pro-active in acquiring the cheapest tackle they can get, purely to have some depth at the position.

Moving onto the roster thoughts…

Room for an extra runner?

Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise and Chris Carson will make the roster. Last year the Seahawks carried four running backs and a full back — so add Marcel Reese to the group and that could be a complete quintet.

But do the Seahawks need the insurance of another running back?

Last season Rawls, Lacy and Prosise combined to miss 28 (!!!) regular season games. Rawls and Prosise missed the Minnesota game on Friday with minor injuries.

It’s unlikely Mike Davis and Alex Collins will clear waivers if they’re cut. Seahawks running backs are regularly snapped up. If you needed to add a running back mid-season (and Seattle has faced this dilemma in each of the last two years), you’re unlikely to find anyone as good as Davis or Collins.

Keeping one more runner just provides that extra insurance in case of an emergency. In the past Seattle has had a ‘red shirt’ player on the roster (think DeAndre Elliott, Kristjan Sokoli or Benson Mayowa). Maybe this year instead they simply retain another running back?

It could even be J.D. McKissic. Yes he had the fumble against Minnesota but he’s also provided some special teams value and he can play the Prosise role if needs be too.

The receiver position appears fairly resolved

Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson are locks to make the team. Brock Huard recently mentioned some chatter that Jermaine Kearse could be moved. Until it happens, it’s hard to make a roster projection that doesn’t include one of the few experienced and consistently healthy receivers on the roster.

Kasen Williams has done as much as anyone in pre-season to warrant a roster spot and appears locked in too (at least for the time being). They could potentially keep a sixth receiver (especially if Lockett needs time as he returns from a broken leg) and presumably that would be third round pick Amara Darboh.

It’d be rough on Tanner McEvoy. He’s not had the opportunities in pre-season he had a year ago. He made a handful of plays as a rookie transitioning to a new position. Unless the Seahawks intend to move Kearse to go with a youth movement or opt to cut a player in Darboh whom they recently invested a third round pick — it’s hard to find a way to fit him in.

O-line could provide some intrigue

It’s reasonable to expect the Seahawks to retain nine O-liners, possibly ten if they’re willing to sacrifice someone at another position. Several spots are clearly secured — Luke Joeckel, Rees Odhiambo, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, Oday Aboushi and Mark Glowsinki will almost certainly be on the roster.

Newly acquired Matt Tobin likely makes it considering the outlay they just spent on him.

So who else makes the cut?

Pete Carroll spoke glowingly about Jordan Roos at a recent press conference, suggesting the rookie UDFA was also a virtual lock to make the roster and provide depth at guard. That could be the group, unless they want to carry ten given Fant’s injury.

Tyrus Thompson comes in to essentially tryout but he doesn’t have much time. He’ll have to impress when he gets an opportunity and the Tobin deal is ominous for him. The big knock on Thompson coming into the league was effort and desire. He’s running out of chances in the NFL.

According to PFF Joey Hunt has been Seattle’s best ranked pass protector in pre-season. Meanwhile Will Perciak is second only to Germain Ifedi in run blocking. Either player could be retained if they want to carry an extra man.

How will the front seven shake out?

Athyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Naz Jones are locks as interior D-linemen. It’s an area that still looks a little thin and they could use one more rotational player. A trade to add another D-liner still feels possible.

If not, you can make a case for several players. Rodney Coe is among Seattle’s best defensive performers in pre-season according to PFF. They traded up for Quinton Jefferson in the 2016 draft and Tylor Harris and Garrison Smith have had the occasional good play this year.

At defensive end, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will be on the roster. David Bass couldn’t have done any more really to win a roster spot. That could be the five.

This really comes down to how they view Marcus Smith. Carroll spoke positively about him last week and he played well in his debut against Minnesota. As a former first round pick with upside, they could see an upside and value that isn’t present in Bass. Alternatively they could keep Bass and cut one of the linebackers to retain Smith.

It’s a move that could impact D.J. Alexander. Yes he’s a very good special teamer — yet the likes of Dewey McDonald have done enough to warrant keeping around and they’re not going to cut Michael Wilhoite or Terence Garvin. So if they want to keep Smith and Bass, Alexander could be the odd one out. Several players from Chris Carson to J.D. McKissic to Kasen Williams have shown up on special teams in pre-season. That might make them consider whether they want to keep a player like Alexander who is solely a special teams ‘specialist’.

Secondary looks settled and sorted

There’s nothing to debate at safety (Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bradley McDougald, Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson should make the team) and the cornerback position is pretty settled with Richard Sherman, Shaquill Griffin, Jeremy Lane, Tramaine Brock and Neiko Thorpe all likely to make the cut.

Brock’s addition probably doesn’t spell good news for DeAndre Elliott. They liked Elliott enough to redshirt him a year ago though so they might keep some faith in that particular project.

It’s interesting though how little hype there is around Pierre Desir. He’s played well in the two pre-season games so far (something that is recognised by PFF) and yet there’s an air of resignation already that he’s on the outside looking in.

Again, some of the thinking here changes dramatically if the Seahawks trade Jeremy Lane (something being discussed among fans recently). Although Tramaine Brock’s addition increasingly looks less like a Lane replacement plan and more like the team insuring themselves against needing to start someone as inexperienced as Elliott if one or two injuries occur.

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Report: Seahawks to sign Tyrus Thompson

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Thompson was a somewhat highly touted lineman at Oklahoma, starting at left tackle ahead of Daryl Williams (a player who went two rounds earlier in the 2015 draft).

Teams reportedly had mixed feelings about him. While some thought highly of his size, length and athletic potential — others were suspicious about his effort.

The difference between Williams and Thompson was pretty obvious. Williams played with an intensity and an edge lacking in Thompson. He had the skill set to start at the next level but questions lingered about his desire to make it happen.

That kind of makes sense when you look at his career to date. Drafted by the Vikings in round six, they cut him by September 18th. He lasted a few months on Jacksonville’s practise squad before signing with the Lions in January 2016. That spell in Detroit lasted until May. He switched to New Orleans but was cut in October.

After a year in the league he’d already had four teams.

His latest stop was in Carolina where he lasted a few months and was cut a week ago. All of the teams listed above have had issues with their O-lines, so it’s not encouraging that he hasn’t been able to stick anywhere.

He’s yet to feature in a NFL game.

This is the situation Seattle faces, however. There isn’t a ready made market for replacement left tackles. They’re being forced to look for someone who can supply depth and might be able to stick as a backup. Thompson has the athletic potential and the size (6-5, 324lbs, 35 inch arms). Lance Zierlein noted in his blurb:

“Has NFL talent and athleticism. Is able to climb up to the second level and engage assignments. Effective wall-off blocker. Can change direction in pass protection and is able to adjust in space to get to moving targets. Light on his feet for a big guy. Has the feet and length to be a starting left tackle in the league. Has athleticism to recover when beaten in pass protection. Can move laterally and make tough blocks when needed.”

Thompson might not last long in Seattle — but in terms of the available options to bring someone in at a cheap cost to provide some competition and depth at tackle, this was one of the few possible moves that carried some upside.

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