Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Maintenance update

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Just a quick update as I’ve received a few emails recently asking what the latest is.

My laptop is in for repair and fingers crossed will be back with me later this week. Apologies for the prolonged absence but hey — at least it waited until after the draft.

Doug Baldwin agrees 2-year contract extension with Seahawks

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Maintenance update

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

In many ways this is perfect timing — just a couple of weeks after the draft. My computer needs to be reformatted and won’t be cleaned until next week. Sadly this means an extended break from the blog post-draft. I expect to be back up and running next week. Thanks for your patience.

An early look at 2015, in particular Mizzou’s Markus Golden

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Missouri’s Markus Golden could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season

We’ll get back into the current draft class tomorrow but I wanted to have a quick look at the 2014 college season and put down a few players to monitor over the summer months.

Obviously it’s too early to get a firm handle on who we’ll be talking about in 2015 but there is one name in particular I wanted to put out there.

Markus Golden — defensive end, Missouri.

He’s listed at 6-3 and 260lbs and had 6.5 sacks as a junior last season playing behind Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. He chose not to declare for last weeks draft because he wanted a year as a starter. Golden’s a former JUCO transfer from Hutchinson where in a single season he registered 26 TFL’s, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions. He played mostly special teams in 2012 for Mizzou before taking on a bigger role in 2013.

He’s an outstanding athlete with great burst off the line. He can hold his own too as you’ll see in the tape below — on one play he kicked inside, held off two blockers to make a play on the running back at the LOS. He’s got a real nose for the ball and plays with a relentless effort. It’s hard not to appreciate a play like this:

It’s not just the pick six. He shoves the quarterback a good 15-yards just for the hell of it. The guys a beast and could easily be the best pass rusher in the SEC this year.

Need more evidence? Golden was the only player I saw on tape that flustered Ja’Wuan James last season. James went in the top-20 this year because he’s solid with great technique, balance and footwork. Nobody played him like Golden (#33 in the tape below).

We also know after the 2014 draft that the Seahawks are putting a big emphasis on character and the ability to fit into Seattle’s locker room. That’ll be no issue here — he’s a mature, competitive character who speaks well during interviews.

Pass rusher could be a target area for the Seahawks in a years time. Cliff Avril will be a free agent and in an off-season where Russell Wilson will sign an enormous new contract — he could be difficult to keep. Even if Avril re-signs, Seattle could use even more options up front. They’re banking on younger players like Benson Mayowa, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh stepping up to the plate this year.

For me Golden has all the makings of a potential top-15 pick if he stays healthy and productive — so he might not be in range for the Seahawks anyway all being well. But if you want a player to get excited about over the summer — this is a good place to start. You can see some coaches tape below and a list of suggested 2015 prospects to get into during the off-season.

Other potential 2015 prospects to study

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
A good bet to go first overall next year. Mariota is a toolsy quarterback who made a big decision to return for one more year at Oregon. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s a thoroughly modern QB and a threat to run. Also has none of the character baggage Jameis Winston possesses.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
As noted above, he could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season. A relentless athlete with top-tier potential. A very exciting prospect and one to monitor.

Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Could’ve been a first round pick this year but chose to emulate Jake Matthews and return to the Aggies to play left tackle. Handled Dee Ford in the Auburn game. The complete package and another top-10 pick in the making for Texas A&M.

Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
I’m not a fan of Stanford linemen. The scheme is too clinical and players get way overrated every year. Yet Peat might break that trend. He’s 6-7 and 312lbs with long arms and a great attitude on and off the field. Could be a high pick.

Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman who also chose not to declare for 2014. Expect another cluster of tackles to be the making of this class and Erving is a powerful, athletic OT who watches Jameis Winston’s blindside.

La’el Collins (T, LSU)
The third tackle on this list who made a late decision not to declare for the the 2014 draft. The Tigers offense lost a lot of talent this year, so we’ll see if it has any impact on Collins’ stock. Ideal size at 6-5 and 315lbs.

Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
Former 4-star recruit who can play end or tackle. Great size at 6-5 and 290lbs. Needs to break a trend of disappointing Trojan prospects who get a lot of hype but sink like a stone. He’s a playmaker but needs to get stronger, can be pushed back working inside.

Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Great competitor on the field, a playmaker and gun slinger. Yet there are so many question marks. Off the field he’s a disaster zone. He needs to grow up and show some responsibility. Can he quicken up a slow release and avoid distractions?

Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Typical Iowa offensive lineman. Well coached, blue collar attitude. Just goes out and plays. 6-5 and 315lbs. No nonsense offensive lineman who excels in the run game. Not quite as adept against speed but will make a great right tackle.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Gets banged up too much and his personality is pretty aloof. Awkward public speaker. And yet on the field an absolute beast when healthy. Not many running backs with his size return kicks for touchdowns. Big time prospect if he stays focused, avoids injuries and matures.

Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Long, physical corner who played Brandin Cooks as well as anyone in the PAC-12 last season. Loads of potential and along with Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha — could make the Huskies draft-relevant in 2015.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Explosive first step, great burst off the snap. Not the biggest or strongest but teams love guys like this that fly around the edge. Would’ve been a high pick this year in a disappointing class for edge rushers.

Honorable mentions

Landon Collins (S, Alabama) — could easily be the next big defensive back prospect off the Nick Saban production line.

Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska) — former JUCO transfer, 10.5 sacks last season and has the length (6-6) to be a big time threat off the edge.

Chaz Green (T, Florida) — has all the tools to be a great left tackle but injuries and inconsistent play haven’t helped.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) — under sized and had a disappointing 2013 season. Natural catcher though but is he another Woods/Lee?

T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama) — playmaker who fumbles way too much. Ball security must improve.

Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) — exciting linebacker who received a third round grade this year but could be set for a big rise.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) — missed a trick by not declaring this year. Looks like he could be a solid player at the next level.

Doriel Green-Beckham (WR, Unknown) — kicked out of Missouri. Major character red flags. And yet immensely talented. Has time to bounce back.

Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) — did the right thing not declaring for 2014 and needs time on the field at UCLA. Makes too many mistakes.

Post-draft Google Hangout: 14th May

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Two hours of Seahawks talk with Kenneth Arthur, Jacson Bevens, Davis Hsu and I.

Cassius Marsh could be Seattle’s next day three diamond

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Cassius Marsh could be the next big steal in Seattle

Cassius Marsh might be my favourite pick from Seattle’s 2014 draft class. We’ll get onto why in a moment. First there’s this…

Justin Britt #68

Cassius Marsh #91

Kevin Norwood #81

Eric Pinkins #39

Paul Richardson #10

I’m not sure if this is deliberate or not, but these are the roster numbers issued to some of the rookies. Britt has been given Breno Giacomini’s old number, Marsh gets Chris Clemons’ #91, Norwood will sport Golden Tate’s #81 and Pinkins gets Brandon Browner’s #39.

Richardson gets the #10 jersey — the same as DeSean Jackson. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Obviously there’s no way of confirming if this is some kind of motivational tool to the class of 2014. Either way it’s a nice touch. It’ll be ever nicer if the Seahawks can find the new Gicomini/Clemons/Tate/Browner/Jackson from this group.

Let’s get into Marsh. I had to do him next because of all the videos I’ve watched since the draft, his play stood out the most.

He might have Clemons’ number, but he looks like a very different player. I doubt the Seahawks plan to turn him into a LEO. He can play end, but he’s really effective working inside. He’s a really versatile rusher and will probably line up in multiple different looks.

And there’s so much to like about his play.

I had to go back and double check his bench press number from the combine. Fourteen reps? Seriously? Because on tape you’d never guess it. He’s a strong dude. I’m not sure what he weighed in 2012 but he held his own working inside — more so than 2013 when I believe he dropped weight. He has strong hands, he holds his position and doesn’t get pushed around. He can disengage and work to the ball carrier. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Marsh is what he can do when he builds that core strength. If he can get even stronger, watch out.

Part of the excitement is built around his already sound hand technique. Sometimes I think it’s a major advantage to not be an elite speed rusher in college. If you just consistently beat guys off the edge with speed you don’t really have to develop your technique. If you’re jumping snaps and rounding the corner to be effective — what are you really learning? At the next level it’s so much harder to do. Tackles are quicker and stronger. You need to be able to mix it up, get off a block, counter. There’s been so many first round defensive end busts in recent years and in nearly every case it’s an athlete with little technique who just can’t adapt.

Marsh is a 4.89 runner at 252lbs, so he doesn’t have blazing long speed. He had a 1.66 ten-yard split — the same as Kony Ealy. It’s a pretty good get off but nothing special. Marcus Smith — a first rounder — had a 1.57. Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack both had 1.56′s. Smith and Mack both weighed 251lbs at the combine, while Clowney was 266lbs. You can see why he went first overall and the difference between the first and fourth rounds right there.

(Incidentally, Jackson Jeffcoat had a 1.60 ten yard split in the one forty he ran at the combine. He managed that at 247lbs.)

In college Marsh had to find other ways to be effective. He couldn’t rely on pure speed.

Hand technique is the #1 underrated characteristic in defensive ends for me. It doesn’t get talked about enough. You need a few strings to your bow. Cliff Avril is an exceptional pass rusher because he has 4.51 speed off the edge and he’s also incredibly strong with good hands. He can bull rush, he can get off a block. He can swim and rip. He sets up blockers and you really see him convert speed to power. He has a great lateral pursuit. He’s close to the perfect package.

Marsh will never have Avril’s burst but he’s well on the way to ticking the other boxes. His hand placement is excellent — whether it’s gaining leverage working inside, setting up for a club/rip off the edge or just using power to shove a lineman into the pocket. He loves a scrap — he loves to initiate contact and win 1v1 battles. Even when he over extends and stretches, he seems to generate a fair amount of power. Again, if he can get even stronger you could be looking at a really special player.

You’ve got to love his motor which never stops. When the play isn’t coming right at him, he’ll disengage and go looking for the ball carrier. He doesn’t seem to tire easily and he keeps going. You can tell he loves the game, loves the competition. He constantly plays on the edge of what’s legal — he’s pretty much the Breno Giacomini of defense. He’ll take some frustrating penalties but in the grand scheme of things he’s having an impact.

Out of all the day three picks Seattle made on Saturday — Marsh is the one that I’m most looking forward to watching during the pre-season. When he gets pro-guidance and can concentrate exclusively on development, he could make immediate and drastic improvements to what was already a pretty solid college career. It’s going to be hard work. He didn’t look in great shape at the combine despite slimming down to 252lbs. He could gain another 10-15lbs and look better for it. If he’s prepared to put in the graft he could be an exciting player.

Arizona State (2012)

There are two big plays in this game that really show what Marsh is all about. The main one comes at 3:06. He’s lined up over the A gap, initiates contact with the left guard and drives him into his own end zone. The quarterback senses the pressure immediately and panics — Marsh disengages from the guard and closes in on the sack/safety. The QB desperately tries to get rid of the football and throws an interception, turning the ball over in his own red zone.

Marsh didn’t record a stat for this play but it was all on him. Brute power to drive back the guard, the ability to disengage and force the mistake/turnover. This is brilliant, textbook interior rush play — befitting any of the top three techniques. It’s not always about pure speed and exploding through gaps — in the NFL you need plays like this where you just win in combat.

At 0:26 we see another example where he keeps his feet moving to drive back the center into the quarterback, again collapsing the pocket. He shows active, violent hands. I’m a sucker for interior rush plays like this where you drive the lineman back into his own QB. Speed’s fun to watch, but this is just a great exhibition of power and flat out wanting it more. It’s about desire.

Look at those two plays and remember this is a 14-reps guy on the bench. Now imagine what a summer in the weight room at the VMAC could lead to.

It’s not just about power either. Look at the quick hands at 4:12 and 5:03. If you want to see Marsh’s daft penalty for the game, head to 4:30 for a late hit out of bounds. He plays almost the entire game inside and doesn’t get blown up until 5:16 on 4th and 1 — a situation he wouldn’t face at the next level (not working inside, anyway).

I watched two other games — New Mexico from 2013 and Houston from 2012. It’s not all great. When he played at a lighter weight last season he didn’t appear to be quite as stout in the middle. He’s not an explosive edge rusher — he’s more of an effort and motor guy. He’s never going to be Clemons working the edge and putting up 11-12 sacks a year.

But the Seahawks have got something to work with here. Something to really develop. A player who can work against the run off the edge, who will provide some pressure at end. A player who can slip inside and hold his own while providing some pocket-collapsing ability even on early downs.

Yet more than anything he’s just a fantastic competitor. A really sparky, zoned in brawler who isn’t scared to mix it up. He could develop into another strong leader and personality for this defense. This first summer is vital though. If he can improve physically and put in some big work in the weight room — you could see an impact even in year one as part of the rotation. He has to make the most of every day leading into camp.

Providing he does this — if I was putting money on the next day three diamond this team uncovers, it’d go on Marsh.

And oh yeah, he can even take the occasional snap on offense too as a red zone receiver/tight end.

John Schneider breaking down Seattle’s draft

Monday, May 12th, 2014

I’m taking a day today, but we’ll get back into the drafted players tomorrow. In the meantime here’s GM John Schneider discussing the 2014 class:

Paul Richardson — the plan, the pick & the tape

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

It’s not often a pick is tipped by an existing member of the team on local radio, but it emphasises Paul Richardson’s fit in Seattle that Doug Baldwin name checked him in an interview on Friday.

Fast forward to 12:52:

I recall hearing this and thinking, “nah”. The Seahawks needed a bigger receiver, not another lithe 5-11/6-0 type. This was all about a jump ball specialist with a great wingspan — and a red zone threat.

That’s where I/we went wrong this year. And it’s why Baldwin wasn’t disclosing any inside information in that piece — he just knew better than us. As a Seattle receiver he knows what they want, what they look for. He admits they’d like to get a bigger receiver, but they also want rare athleticism, shiftiness and a lack of stiffness. Pete Carroll made the same point himself in Friday’s press conference. They love size at receiver, but it’s tough to match up size with quickness.

With hindsight — and every draft is a learning curve — that would’ve almost certainly made Cody Latimer a much less likely option than we thought. Latimer is big and athletic, he makes tough catches and he run blocks superbly. John Elway admitted in an NFL Network interview that Denver loved his run blocking. In many ways he did fit Seattle.

But he isn’t shifty or smooth. He is a little stiff. He doesn’t glide like Paul Richardson.

Any big wide out they’re going to take better be able to move. They can’t take an age to get up through the gears. It has to be initial explosion and not gradual acceleration. They need to be able to explode out of their breaks and get open. It’s clearer now that they’re looking for guys who do it all — not just high point the football and compete.

Ultimately size doesn’t matter. Being something akin to the complete package does. Speed, hands, length, routes, big plays. Even then you need to match it all with the character, drive and determination to fit into Seattle’s intense locker room. The weak won’t survive. Schneider’s said it. Baldwin said it in that KJR interview. Carroll’s taking the ‘always compete’ mantra to a new level. I’ve never heard a team talk so openly in this way before. Multiple warnings that you better go hard or go home.

Schneider pointed out before the draft that they used a lot of visits this year to see how players acted in the VMAC. How did they approach the staff? They had meetings with the club psychologist to test whether they were mentally strong enough to deal with being ‘all-in’. This goes beyond thorough. Schneider suggested it was in part due to mistakes made in the past on players who didn’t have the will to succeed in this ultra-competitive environment.

Again in hindsight you look back and recall listening to certain players speak. Martavis Bryant is shy and awkward in interviews. Cody Latimer isn’t too dissimilar — he’s not a confident public speaker. Then you put on an interview with Richardson. He’s focused and willing to talk. Confident without being cocky. There’s a determined look in his eye.

He appeared on the NFL Network hours before Seattle took him at #45:

You might ask whether it’s too difficult to judge a man’s character based on media interviews. I’d suggest if you’re uncomfortable talking to a middle aged journalist on a practise field you’re unlikely to ooze confidence sat in front of a NFL Head Coach, a GM and several scouts. Richardson filled every criteria — including the character test — and that’s why, according to Schneider, they were willing to take him at #32 without the Minnesota trade.

That’s not to say the pick will necessarily be a roaring success. Not all of Seattle’s ideal fits have panned out. They’ve had some major success stories (obviously) but also a few misses too. There’s a danger sometimes in placing too much faith in what you believe is a perfect fit. Tim Ruskell was so zoned into what he wanted (senior, big school, zero red flags) he forgot the most important thing — adding good players to your team. You can lose sight over what essentially makes a good roster. Pure talent. Seattle’s current front office aren’t anywhere close to Ruskell in terms of vision — but it seems they too are starting to become quite restrictive in terms of what they’re looking for.

The approach to the offensive line is a good example of this. It appears Tom Cable has the ultimate say on who he wants/doesn’t want. And that’s why you see a guy like Justin Britt going in round two. Cable likes his wrestling background, attitude and upside. He likes how he matched up with Jadeveon Clowney. But he’s a player Mike Mayock had in round five based on the tape. If Britt succeeds it’ll validate the plan. If he fails, an offensive line that ranked poorly over the last couple of years could get even worse having lost Breno Giacomini to the Jets. And some would argue there appeared to be more talented players on the board.

It’ll be fascinating to see if they can keep the hit rate going over the next few years.

Yet at the same time, they’re only going after what has worked so far. Ruskell’s vision wasn’t built on a foundation of success. It was just personal preference. Schneider and Carroll are being restrictive because guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin and others are so amped, driven and focused. They live, breathe and sleep football. Searching for more of the same, in this instance, is totally justifiable. Not that they need any seal of approval from me.

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Let’s get into the tape.

Richardson didn’t have much impact against USC in what ended up being a convincing blowout victory for the Trojans. But there is one area I want to touch on.

He’s an excellent route runner as we’ll see later on. But in this game two snaps were a little frustrating. At 0:51 he runs a laboured route, giving it away too easily and almost jogging into the break. The defender has an easy read and he needs to do a better job here selling the deep route before snapping back inside. Get the corner turned. Otherwise he’ll break passes up like this all day.

At 2:09 we see a similar issue. He fails to get separation over the middle and ends up well covered on a crosser. These routes always give an advantage to the receiver if they can sell it in the break. Once again he fails to do that. The quarterback hits him in stride but the presence of the defender behind Richardson leads to a soft incompletion.

This is better:

He engages the route and almost gives the impression he’ll be run blocking. He then darts inside leaving the defender on his heels to get a first down. More of this, less of the routes we saw above.

Cal plays a really soft coverage on Richardson in this game — allowing him to make four easy catches in the first five minutes. The cushion’s too big in zone (see 0:21) and when the corner plays up at the line (0:29) they don’t do anything to disrupt his route. It sets up a deep shot at 1:08 where he gets separation with pure speed down the middle the field. If the quarterback puts a bit more on this it’s a touchdown. Instead it’s just a big gain. But again it really is an appalling coverage job. Enormous cushion, watch him run past you and struggle to recover. Poor defense.

We’ll see later on in the Arizona tape that you just can’t afford to do this against Richardson. If he gets a cushion he’ll just run away from you and find the open spot downfield. This won’t change in the NFL and he’ll draw attention from the free safety on many snaps as a consequence. His big task at the next level will be dealing with press — but there’s also enough evidence on tape where he’s shifty enough to stutter-step and elude contact.

The best play on the Cal tape where he actually wins vs being gifted an easy catch comes at 2:55. Colorado lines up two receivers to the left including Richardson. They both run downfield with #87 getting passed off to the safety by the outside corner. Richardson sticks his foot into the ground and drives to the sideline really doing a good job selling the deep ball. He’s wide open when he makes the catch — and this time it’s on technique and not a terrible defensive scheme.

He also makes a nice sideline grab at 3:53. Good route, nice catch in a tight spot. Just gets one foot in. It follows a failed deep shot on 3:43 where Richardson runs away from the safety and the QB just misses. He can certianly take the top off a defense that’s for sure. Russell Wilson won’t miss shots like this.

There are two plays that really stand out against Oregon (three if you count his touchdown throw at 0:43) and one ugly drop.

First the positives. Richardson’s first catch is another example of solid route running. He starts in the slot and shapes to run to the right sideline. He then turns and runs a go-route downfield. The corner completely bites on the outside move and he can’t recover. Richardson’s wide open when the quarterback throws for a big gain. This is a very technically accomplished play.

At 2:11 he makes a superb one-handed catch. Not only does he track the ball over his shoulder and secure it while leaping in mid-air — he’s also being dragged back on a clear pass interference by the corner. I remember watching this game live and thinking it was a catch-of-the-season candidate.

Sadly there’s a bad drop to even it out. At 3:14 he does the hard part — shaking off the corner with ease and rushing down the right sideline. He’s wide open. The throw this time is on the money. It’s an easy catch for a huge gain. And he drops it. Whether he takes his eye off the ball or hears footsteps I’m not sure. It’s a poor drop. On the plus side the little stutter-step to get open was textbook receiver play — but you’ve got to have that one.

He does have a second drop in the game at 4:08. The QB is hit while he throws and the ball loops kindly to Richardson. Again, he just drops the ball. There’s no excuse because he’s under no pressure.

There were two issues in the USC tape running over the middle. Not so here. At 0:25 he runs a much better route inside creating separation and making a difficult grab. It sets up the kind of play that warrants comparisons to DeSean Jackson.

At 0:38 he’s given a huge cushion and he just explodes into the open space downfield. As soon as the corner turns (his cousin as it happens, Shaq Richardson) it’s over. He has to turn because he fears the go route down the sideline. As soon as Richardson sees the switch he cuts across the middle. The corner can’t recover. This is the D-Jax style play. It’s what he’s famous for. And when he makes the catch he finishes it — running clear into the end zone. Hopefully Richardson will force pro-corners to respect his deep speed in the same way. If he can get them turned, he’ll work the middle. If they don’t turn he’ll beat them in a foot race and compete for the ball. This is a great example of technique and explosive athleticism working together for a big play.

This was a pretty spectacular game for Richardson. At 2:24 he makes an acrobatic one handed catch similar to the one Percy Harvin made against Minnesota last season. It’s tight coverage, he palms it up in the air with one hand and comes down with the grab.

He also hurt his lower leg/ankle in this game and didn’t play most of the final quarter.

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I’m not big on posting highlight videos to show what a player is capable of — it’s a small sample of extremely positive plays. But I also think the four games available online don’t really do his playmaking quality justice.

As you can see he’s a big play artist. The Seahawks love that, along with the speed.

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I can see why they wanted to add a deep threat to the offense. For all his athletic brilliance Percy Harvin has never been a true downfield receiver. He does his damage with YAC and getting the ball in his hands quickly. He’s going to operate mostly in the slot and the backfield — getting the ball on a quick hitter and going to work or using the jet sweep/end around’s.

By adding Richardson you’re adding another weapon the defense has to account for. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch running the ball so do you drop the safety into the box? You’ve got Percy Harvin lined up in the backfield drawing attention. Russell Wilson’s running ability adds another dimension. And now you’ve got a genuine deep threat to keep a defense honest. Until now the Seahawks never really had a true field-stretching playmaker.

He’s probably not going to be a 1000 yard receiver — in the same way Baldwin, Tate and Rice never topped that mark in Seattle. Harvin will get the opportunity if he stays healthy because you’ve got to feed him the ball. Richardson isn’t a production machine in the waiting. But he will make chunk plays and his mere presence on the field will make life easier for the other weapons on the offense.

It’s a thoroughly understandable pick. Not the orthodox split end we expected but the thinking behind the selection is clear.

Positives

– Fantastic speed, glides downfield and has similar physical skills to DeSean Jackson

– Technically gifted, knows how to get the corner turned and use that to his advantage, explosive out of his breaks most of the time

– Catches the ball away from his body with relative ease

– Despite a lack of size he competes for the ball, good leaping ability and clear evidence on tape that he’ll try to high point the football

– Driven personality fits the team

– Even if he’s not making a play, his presence can help keep a defense honest

Negatives

– Doesn’t drop many passes but the ones he does spill tend to be easily avoidable

– Will need to show he can avoid press at the next level, might have games where he’s shoved around and can’t back down, quick feet and shiftiness will help him avoid contact

– Very little experience as a return man so immediate impact could be limited

– Small hands (sub 9 inch) that aren’t the strongest, good ball skills but doesn’t absorb the football

– Even beyond his rookie season, Richardson’s role could be fairly limited if he isn’t making big plays or acting as a decoy

Final thoughts: Seattle’s 2014 draft class not that unpredictable

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

You’re going to hear quite a lot about Seattle’s front office keeping people guessing. But how true is it?

By now we know what they like. The SPARQ chart matters. They want explosive, unique athletes. They don’t want guys who sound passive when they talk and play with a similar attitude. They want competitors with a point to prove. “Smart, tough, reliable” — that’s how John Schneider put it in his day three press conference. Not to mention players who can, in his words, “survive” in Seattle’s locker room.

Let’s break down why this draft class isn’t really that unpredictable.

Round 1 — Missing out on Dominique Easley
It appeared there was at least some disappointment in the war room live feed when New England selected Easley at #29. Ian Rapoport later appeared to confirm Seattle’s interest on Twitter.

He just looked like a Seahawk and that’s why we spent so much time discussing him. Explosive off the snap, unique athleticism. He fought through the adversity of two serious knee injuries. He’s a team captain who commanded respect from his team mates and coaches. Great personality. It didn’t take an expert to realise why he’d be an option at #32. New England got a great pick.

Round 2 — Taking Paul Richardson
The Seahawks love speedy competitors at receiver who high point the football and make big plays. We didn’t spend much time on Richardson because he’s only 6-0. I wrongly assumed the Seahawks would want a bigger receiver to compliment what they already had. That wasn’t the case. They took another one of ‘their’ guys. Richardson ran a 4.40 at the combine officially but managed a hand time in the 4.3′s. He had a 38 inch vertical jump. He’s a classic Hawks receiver.

In hindsight I should’ve been open to the idea they’d go for this. I had Richardson graded in round two and in a two-round mock draft put together after the combine, I had him going to the Jets with the 49th pick. Seattle took him at #45. It’s only a surprise because we didn’t consider a receiver of this size.

Round 2 — Who is Justin Britt?
That’s the question many people asked when Walter Jones announced the name of Seattle’s pick at #64. Morgan Moses was still on the board and they’d already passed on Joel Bitonio and Cyrus Kouandjio. Mike Mayock said he gave Britt a 5th round grade. Other people claimed he was a late rounder at best. It was an unpredictable pick.

However — the Seahawks needed to draft an offensive tackle. And that means Tom Cable gets to pick his guy. You know, the same Tom Cable that scouts possible defensive line converts. He knows what he wants. It would’ve been more surprising to see him go after a sluggish tackle like Morgan Moses. Instead he gets the high school wrestler with a 45-0 record. That’s a Cable guy. And while ever he’s part of Seattle’s coaching staff he’ll continue to hand over his list of targets, rather than just selecting the next big name on the board.

Round 4 — Seahawks go for Marsh, Norwood & Pierre-Louis
We discussed both Marsh and Norwood on the blog. Marsh met with the Seahawks on April 11th. Pete Carroll recruited him during the USC days. We noted he had a solid 10-yard split of 1.66. A surprise pick? Not at all. A week ago I wrote this piece talking about Norwood’s excellent fit in Seattle. They ticked almost every box — athletic, gritty characters, competitive.

Anyone who follows the Field Gulls writers on Twitter will be familiar with Pierre-Louis and his SPARQ rating. He’s a fantastic athlete. A typical WILL linebacker for Seattle’s scheme. With Malcolm Smith a free agent next year it’s no surprise at all they made a pick like this. In fact out of all the linebackers in this class — Pierre-Louis screamed Seahawks the most.

Rounds 5-7 — Taking a shot
They did what they usually do in this range. They drafted an athletic, tall defensive back (Eric Pinkins). They took an interior defensive lineman (Jimmy Staten — pronounced the same as Staton incidentally). They took a SPARQ demon (Garrett Scott) and a running back/full back (Kiero Small).

Perhaps we weren’t overly familiar with the names, but you could write down a list of day three targets and DB, DL, OL and RB would be on it. The Seahawks have consistently looked at these areas for depth later in the draft.

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All of the players in their own way are extremely ‘Seahawky’. In every draft class there are going to be a lot of prospects who fit the bill. We can identify them on an athletic level. We can look at need areas they might target.

But if we actually want to project accurately who they might take we need to sit in on their meetings. We’re going to need feedback from their psychologist. We’ll need injury reports. Because the determining factor won’t be a forty, a three cone or a vertical jump. That just gets you through to the next stage of consideration. Now it’s about fitting and “surviving” in that ultra competitive locker room.

We have little chance of projecting who they’re going to like or dislike based on Youtube interviews. It helps — because you only have to listen to Paul Richardson speak and then Martavis Bryant to see a major difference. But it’s an interview. On Youtube. It’s hardly a detailed session with the club shrink.

Essentially it boils down to this. We know what to expect. This is an incredibly Seahawky draft and even if the names aren’t what we were expecting — when you break it down it is fairly predictable. There’s not some unbeatable code to work out. Yet we’ll never nail it completely. We can talk about likely targets as much as we want — we’ll never be able to go deep enough into personalities and character to know if they passed the ‘Win Forever’ test.

But we can make an educated guess on who they’ll like.

Thoughts on the draft overall

It’s at this point we should probably remember the keys to this off-season:

1. Re-sign Michael Bennett
2. Extend Earl Thomas’ contract
3. Extend Richard Sherman’s contract

All three of the top goals were accomplished. Anything else was a bonus.

It would’ve been nice to add Jared Allen to replace Chris Clemons. It would’ve been nice to add Dominique Easley to the pass rush. It wasn’t to be. There’s still enough of a threat within that front seven and the opportunity is there for the likes of Mayowa, Scruggs, Hill, Boatwright and now Marsh and Staten to have an impact.

However, I don’t we should put ourselves in a position where we never question the front office. Why eliminate debate in favour of blind faith?

There are still two areas that concern me following free agency and the draft:

1. The offensive line

The Seahawks are down a starter from last year after Breno Giacomini — one of the better right tackles in the league — signed with the Jets. Seattle did suffer with injuries last year and that had a major impact on the overall performance of the line. But Russell Okung is an injury-prone left tackle. Right now he’s still recovering from a toe injury that hampered his 2013 season.

The depth of the line has to remain a question mark. It’s clear they have a lot of faith in the young players and also coach Tom Cable. Yet who plays left tackle if Okung goes down again? Is Michael Bowie good enough to start at right tackle permanently? How does Justin Britt fit into the equation — and if he doesn’t beat Bowie out, haven’t you just wasted a valuable second round pick?

They’ve lost a veteran starter and put almost all of their faith in Cable’s youth project and remaining healthy at key positions. Considering this was a clear need area going into the off-season, can anyone say with any conviction that a pretty average line (at best) has improved? Has it possibly got worse? And let’s not forget — they have to play the Niners front seven twice, Arizona’s defense twice and Robert Quinn/Chris Long/Aaron Donald twice.

2. Red zone

According to this study the Seahawks ranked 14th in the red zone in 2013. It’s not bad but you get the sense they could be better. There were missed opportunities last season.

Part of the issue is the lack of a bigger receiver. They don’t have anyone you can just throw a fade to in the corner of the end zone. Zach Miller’s never been a prolific touchdown maker. Getting Anthony McCoy should help.

Neither Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood are red zone targets. They’re basically more of what Seattle already has. And that’s fine. But you can’t help but wonder if it’s an area that needed to be addressed one way or another. Unless, of course, Cassius Marsh’s touted H-back role is going to be the shock find of pre-season.

Seattle’s UDFA class

Here it is so far, although this is yet to be confirmed. Some of these guys will merely be getting a try-out at mini-camp:

Dion Bailey (S, USC)
Keith Price (QB, Washington)
Andu Pulu (T, Eastern Washington)
Garry Gilliam (T, Penn State)
Camren Hudson (S, Troy)
Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
Zach Zulli (QB, Shippensburg)
Brock Coyle (LB, Montana)
Demonte Mcallister (DT, Florida State)
Chase Dixon (TE, Central Arkansas)
John Martinez (G, USC)
Bronson Irwin (G, Oklahoma)
A.J. Harmon (T, Cumberland)
Adam Taalat (DE, Gallaudet)
Tavita Woodard (DE, Hawaii)
Jimmy Legree (CB, South Carolina)

There are more than a handful of names on that list with the potential to stick on the roster. It appears Seattle’s decision to release a ‘sales brochure’ to prospective UDFA’s worked a charm.

Brandon Coleman ended up signing with the Saints while Antonio Richardson landed with the Vikings. Both players had knee issues in college and it looks like they were taken off many draft boards.

Over the next few days we’ll look at the players Seattle added and get into the tape.

LIVE: Day three of the 2014 NFL Draft (R4-7)

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Day three begins at 9am PST. I’ll be live blogging on Seattle’s picks, offering thoughts and posting tape/highlights as we go along.

The Seahawks begin the day with three fourth round picks, plus a pick each in rounds five, six and seven.

Remaining picks:

Round 4 — #8 (#108), #11 (#111), #32 (#132)
Round 5 — #32 (1#72)
Round 6 — #32 (#208)
Round 7 — #12 (#227)

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Round 4 — #8 (#108)
Seahawks select Cassius Marsh (DE, UCLA)
Seattle worked Marsh out at UCLA during the off-season. He had a 4.89 in the forty and looked stiff, but he did record a good three-cone (7.08s) and short shuttle (4.25s). Originally committed to LSU but then switched to the Bruins. Had six sacks last year including two against USC. He caught a touchdown in 2012 acting as a tight end. There are some character concerns. He was ejected against California (and subsequently suspended against Stanford) for throwing a punch at an offensive lineman. He’d just been called offside on consecutive plays and took a high block on the next snap. He looks like a guy who lost weight — still carries some size even though he was 252lbs at the combine. He weighed 300lbs as a freshman. They could ask him to add weight to play inside — or they could use him off the edge. Versatile guy, gritty and competitive. He’s 6-4 with arm length a shade under 33 inches.

The Seahawks have traded the #11 pick in round four (#111 overall) to the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ll next be on the clock with the 23rd pick in round four (#123 overall). The Bengals drafted UNC lineman Russell Bodine. They get a sixth round pick (#199 overall) for moving down.

From the Tony Pauline Tweet/Scouting report above… I like this particular quote on Cassius Marsh:

“Fights with his hands, works to get off blocks and quickly locates the ball. Chases the action hard. Intense and finds ways to make plays. Fluid if asked to twist or stunt. Shows the ability to redirect to the action and flashes power knocking blockers away.”

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The Cardinals just selected Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. It’s a great pick. Bruce Arians is the perfect coach for Thomas, the Arizona system will suit him down to the ground. In terms of a developmental guy in round four who could start one day — excellent value. Smart pick by the Cardinals.

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Here’s a really interesting take from Mike Florio on the Marsh pick:

Check out this quote from Florio:

“In connection with our position-by-position previews on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, a seasoned and respected NFL scout told me that Barr is regarded as the most overrated pass rusher in the class — and that Marsh is regarded as the most underrated pass rusher.”

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Round 4 — #23 (#123)
Seahawks select Kevin Norwood (WR, Alabama)
I wrote a piece on Norwood just over a week ago (click here). He’s a very dependable receiver. Extremely competitive in the air. Fast forward to 1:41 in the video below:

Alabama toiled against an over-matched Kentucky team in that game. They turned the ball over (T.J. Yeldon fumble) in the red zone. Another drive stalled a few yards out and they had to settle for a field goal. They were making mistakes.

A frustrated A.J. McCarron just throws one up for grabs downfield as he tries to make any kind of play. Norwood is in double coverage and after play action, McCarron really shouldn’t be throwing this pass. Norwood bails him out by high pointing the football between the two defenders and making a huge gain. After this play Alabama coasted along to a big win. That catch changed the game. It was Norwood’s first meaningful contribution too — and the most important by any player on the day.

In the article I wrote last week, I pointed out that Alabama used Norwood in the same way Seattle uses its receivers. They don’t throw a ton. But when they do throw — you better be ready to make a play. That’s Norwood. He might get three targets in a game and make two catches for 45 yards and a score. He also makes improbable catches by the sideline, he extends drives. He’s a very Seahakwy receiver.

Fast forward to 2:48 in the video below to see why he’ll work well in the scramble drill:

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Three big names who could be falling due to injury concerns:

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia) — already had one ACL injury, hurt his foot at the Senior Bowl and didn’t work out during the off-season.

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers) — had reconstruction surgery on a knee last summer.

Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee) — more knee concerns, talk during the combine suggested he could fall as a consequence.

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Round 4 — #32 (#132)
Seahawks select Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB, Boston College)
6-0, 232lbs — ran a 4.51 at the combine. SPARQ demon (no surprise) and potential depth replacement for Malcolm Smith who’s a free agent next year. Had 28 reps on the bench and a 39 inch vertical. 10-8 on the broad jump also stands out. Should have an immediate impact on special teams. High impact player with great character and experience. Should be protected in Seattle’s scheme — will get a chance to play in space. Great short-area quickness. Below you can see his tape vs the National Champions Florida State, USC and North Carolina from 2013:

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Brent Urban has just been selected in round four by Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens. They always take one player I’m really high on every year.

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Is it me, or has this 5th round dragged like crazy?

Two big name quarterbacks — Aaron Murray and A.J. McCarron — were selected in round five by Kansas City and Cincinnati respectively.

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Round 5 — #32 (#172)
Seahawks select Jimmy Staten (DT, Mid Tennessee St.)
I can’t offer anything here. He doesn’t even have a profile on NFL.com. He’s 6-4 and 303lbs and benched 30 reps at his pro day. He had zero sacks in 2013.

Tony Pauline’s scouting report has this to say about Staten:

Ineffective making plays outside the box. Handled in a one-on-one blocking situations. Does not do a good job using his hands to protect himself. Though marginally productive, Staten was a consistent college lineman and offers potential at a variety of positions in a two-gap system.

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Round 6 — #23 (#199)
Seahawks select Garrett Scott (T, Marshall)
Scott is one of the best SPARQ prospects in the 2014 draft. He had a 33.5 inch vertical and a 9-7 in the broad jump at his pro day. Shade under 35 inch arms. Big time potential and something for the Seahawks to work with. He started at guard and tackle for Marshall. Tony Pauline says in his report that he plays with a passive attitude — which is why he’s available at this stage. He also claims he must, “improve and elevate almost every aspect of his game.” Quite a project then…

Here’s his tape vs Maryland from 2013:

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Round 6 — #32 (#208)
Seahawks select Eric Pinkins (S, San Diego State)
Pinkins is a 6-3, 220lbs safety who had an outstanding pro day. He recorded 4.44 forty, a 39.5 inch vertical jump and he put up 25 reps on bench press. In other words, he’s exactly the type of player you’d expect the Seahawks to draft in round six. Had three career picks and is considered a late bloomer.

Could he convert to corner? If he can make it work at that size… he’ll be some player.

Here’s his tape vs San Jose State:

He has some Youtube videos he may want to take down. Not impressive language used here.

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Round 7 — #12 (#227)
Seahawks select Kiero Small (FB, Arkansas)
Small is a full back and a 5th year senior. He looks a bit like Mike Tolbert — similar body shape and size (5-8, 244lbs). What can I say — this is all I’ve got:

That’s as far as we go for the live blog and also for the 2014 draft. I’ll have another post tonight reviewing Seattle’s picks.