Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Learning lessons from Pete Carroll’s Seahawks

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

The Bills are banking on Sammy Watkins (above) and E.J. Manuel working out

The Seahawks are a team that broke away from conventional wisdom. That’s well publicised by now. It’s almost a little tiresome to keep bringing it up.

But it’s true. And if I were an owner looking to move in a new direction, I’d be looking at Pete Carroll’s work in Seattle with envy.

There’s nothing overly scientific here. They look for rare athletic qualities and guys with the attitude to compete. Of course it’s much more sophisticated than just that, but it’s nothing a competent and experienced NFL staff can’t at least attempt to emulate.

It doesn’t even have to be a carbon copy. It’s just about knowing what you want to do and getting after it. What constitutes one of ‘your’ guys? You can open up the competition in camp and let them go for it. Let the best man win. Always compete.

But it’s also knowing when to make specific moves. Taking calculated risks and not forcing the issue. Seattle turned over every stone to find a winning formula. They invested in players they could believe in — they didn’t invest heavily in specific positions because, well, that’s how you build a team.

The Seahawks went from lifeless also-rans to Champions in four years. You’d think teams would be scrambling to try and replicate it.

And then you look at why some franchises just can’t get out of their own way.

Buffalo — forever in the shadow of New England (at least in my lifetime) — pick the worst draft for QB’s in years to go after their guy in E.J. Manuel. He struggled, he got injured. The Bills panicked. Now they’ve blown two first round picks on Sammy Watkins in an attempt to make life easier for their young quarterback.

I like Watkins. But here’s the thing — Atlanta moved up 20 slots to get Julio Jones in 2011 and gave up two first round picks to do it. Buffalo pulled the same move (with the same trade partner coincidentally) to move up five slots.

It’s a kings ransom. And now they’re not only banking on Watkins proving he was worth the outlay — their banking on their first round quarterback being competent (and healthy) enough to supply the ammunition.

Buffalo’s key draft stock from 2013-2015 is tied into two players. The future of the coaching staff and front office will be forever connected to the performance of Manuel and Watkins.

Even if the plan succeeds it should be seen as reckless and impatient.

It’s almost the exact opposite of Seattle’s approach.

Perhaps there are other things at play here? The eventual sale of the team could lead to jobs being lost. This could be an aggressive attempt to prove a point before major changes occur at the top. Who knows.

But they couldn’t have done things any more different than Seattle. And I just find that very confusing.

I also find it interesting personally to critique Buffalo because to be honest a few years ago I probably would’ve given their pro-active approach a huge thumbs up.

I, like most people, felt this was the way you had to build a team:

1. Find a quarterback
2. Give them some weapons
3. Develop a dynamic passing offense

Teams like Indianapolis, Green Bay and New Orleans placed their trust in being able to put up huge numbers behind a prolific passer. If Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees got injured — it was over. But while ever they were healthy and active their teams had a shot.

I passionately thought the Seahawks needed that at the start of the Carroll era.

I was wrong.

In 2010 we spent great time discussing the minimal pro’s and significant con’s of Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. My final 2011 mock draft had Colin Kaepernick posted at #25 to Seattle. We also debated and dissected Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jake Locker.

Who could be Seattle’s 40 TD machine?

They didn’t draft any of those players. They waited. And waited. And then found a player they could believe in. The man who would quarterback this team to a first ever Championship.

And they did it their way. Running the ball, playing great defense. Not relying solely on the man under center being healthy, working in a flawless pocket.

When you see teams trying to build around one vital player and position, you almost have to smirk.

Yet you do it — or at least I do — with the knowledge I would’ve made exactly the same mistakes before Carroll and co. arrived in Seattle.

Following the growth and development of Carroll’s Seahawks has been a great lesson in team building. We are better educated fans because of the experience. We are more aware. And yet there are still teams in the NFL making the same old mistakes.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri) vs Vanderbilt

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Far from the finished article but one to monitor going forward. We talked about him in greater detail here. There’s a degree of physical development required plus some technical refinement. But Golden has as much potential as anyone considering he’s a recent JUCO transfer with limited experience.

With Kony Ealy and Michael Sam turning pro, there’s a great opportunity for both Golden and Shane Ray in 2014. Pass rusher could be a long term need for Seattle.

LIVE Google Hang out: June 9th

Monday, June 9th, 2014

So the technical problems are finally solved. Let’s celebrate.

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: