Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Five hopes for the 2018 season

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Firstly, if you missed the recent podcast don’t forget to check it out:

1. The Seahawks fix the run

It’s popular these days to try and diminish the importance of the running game. Regular readers will know I’m not convinced by the statistical arguments that suggest the run is overrated. Clearly you can create a somewhat convincing case based on situational stats and recent league trends. I just happen to believe there are certain things you can’t measure. Including the complete importance of a truly threatening running game.

I think this Tweet sums it up:

The Seahawks sold out to stop the run in this game, focusing almost their entire attention on Leonard Fournette. They were willing to challenge Blake Bortles to beat them. And he took the opportunity in what was undoubtedly his cleanest game of the season (and possibly his career).

I suspect many teams were willing to risk Russell Wilson beating them in 2012-14. They knew stopping Marshawn Lynch was the key. And even when they succeeded, as was occasionally the case, the attention Lynch drew often made life so much easier for the quarterback.

It’s probably one of the reasons they were a lot more successful ‘getting by’ on the O-line. Paul McQuistan was their starting left tackle for eight games in 2013. You’d barely notice aside from that one game in St. Louis.

If you can force teams to dedicate their focus to stopping the run, undoubtedly there are benefits to be felt. It might be difficult to quantify this but should you really even need to? Does everything need a number these days?

There’s also the cultural benefits of being a tough, physical running team. Lynch clearly inspired the LOB. The two key sections of Seattle’s team worked off each other, sharing the same attitude and intensity. It’s no coincidence that Seattle has lost the fear factor they once had since the running game collapsed.

2. Less politics please (don’t judge)

I’m not the type of person to write the words ‘stick to sports’ in a Tweet. I’m also not the type of person who wants players, fans or media to bury their heads in the sand and ignore big issues that need to be discussed.

That said, I think there’s too much politics in everyday life at the moment. You can’t escape it. Nearly everything is politicised. I appreciate why. This is a politically charged time around the world. Social media has become a hotspot for political views.

However, sometimes it’s nice to not have to think about politics. That doesn’t mean you’re ignorant to the issues facing the world. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

Increasingly it’s harder to separate the NFL from politics. Every press conference Pete Carroll faces is always a mix of social ills and football. Every game there seems to be some kind of political strand attached. A lot of articles in the NFL media talk about politics, not football.

I’m not blaming anyone for that. I just wish that, occasionally, the NFL could go back to being a fun release.

3. A satisfactory resolution to the Earl Thomas saga

Richard Sherman wasn’t supposed to get cut. Cliff Avril wasn’t supposed to retire this way. Michael Bennett wasn’t supposed to be traded for peanuts.

Who could’ve predicted any of that back in 2013?

It seems, sadly, that the Earl Thomas saga is going to end in a similarly unsatisfactory manner.

It’ll be difficult to witness a dramatic holdout stretching into the season. The negative vibe of the Kam Chancellor holdout hurt the team. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that with Earl.

Either way a parting appears inevitable. Possibly via free agency next year.

What constitutes a satisfactory outcome? A fair deal via trade or an extension of sorts. Just something that doesn’t have the fans wringing their hands for weeks on end. Either draw a line on the situation and allow people to move on, or come to a compromise. And for either scenario to come true, it can’t be the Seahawks conceding alone. Earl Thomas has to be willing to compromise too.

4. Fresh start

The 2017 season wasn’t much fun. The Seahawks were in contention in the win column but most people knew they weren’t a genuine challenger. The injuries mounted, the run game collapsed and the defense started to toil. It was a far cry from the unbeatable excitement witnessed from the 2012 season right through to the end of that Super Bowl.

The Seahawks may never be able to recapture that magic. It’s perhaps unrealistic to think it’s even vaguely possible. However, they still have the ultimate playmaker at quarterback. They’re trying to get the running game back. They have some new, young pieces on defense supported by some exceptional veterans.

If nothing else, it’d be pleasing to witness a fresh start. A new energy. A reason to believe again.

5. A pass rusher emerges

The Seahawks’ biggest question mark on the roster is the pass rush. They have some young pieces but not a lot of proven quality outside of Frank Clark. Dion Jordan showed flashed in 2017 but has to prove he can stay healthy. The rest have to show they belong.

It’s possible we’ll spend most of the 2018 college season looking at pass rushers. That’s not a problem, the 2019 draft promises to be loaded on the defensive line. However, it would be a huge bonus if Jordan, Rasheem Green, Barkevious Mingo, Marcus Smith, Jacob Martin, Shaquem Griffin or another name really stood out and showed they can be part of the long term future. Especially with Clark set to be a free agent at the end of the season.

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Some much needed perspective

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

It’s becoming increasingly trendy to roast the Seahawks these days.

I suppose it’s something to talk about. It is June after all.

Here’s the latest offering…

Forget how they built one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, found a franchise quarterback in round three and were a yard away from back-to-back Super Bowl Championships.

Ah, but now they’ve appointed an unpopular former GM as a consultant, so they’ve clearly lost their edge.

Let’s have a bit of perspective. I thought it was worth going back to 2012 to find out what people were saying about Ryan Grigson when he became the Colts GM.

Here’s a section of a piece by ESPN:

Grigson has been listed as a future front-office star after helping to build two Super Bowl teams including the championship-winning Rams in 1999, his first season in the front office.

In 2001, Grigson became an area scout for St. Louis. He joined the Eagles as a regional scout in 2003 and gradually moved up the ladder from regional scout, to director of college scouting and eventually to director of player personnel, the job he had held for the past two seasons.

“He has been a great adviser to me and somebody I have leaned on to bounce ideas off of many times over my career,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said in a statement. “He leaves no stone left unturned in his efforts to find good players and we were lucky to have him here in Philadelphia.”

That’s Howie Roseman, the guy receiving widespread praise for building a Super Bowl winning Eagles roster in two years.

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Some thoughts on the Earl Thomas situation

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Earl Thomas wants to be paid at a time when the safety market is ice cold

There’s no obvious solution. Earl Thomas wants to be paid. The Seahawks are wary of handing out another big contract. They haven’t received any serious trade offers. And the safety market is ice cold.

While social media is currently awash with extreme views on both sides (he should be ashamed vs overly sympathetic), a conclusion isn’t forthcoming.

Why don’t they just pay him?

There’s certainly a case to be made for rewarding Earl Thomas and removing any future drama. Thomas continues to play at a high level and probably is the best safety in the league.

On the other hand, the Seahawks have been here before. Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor were all playing at a high level too. It was a nice gesture to reward all three. But none of those extensions were shown to be wise investments and the Seahawks were left carrying a lot of dead money.

It’s taken a pro-active off-season to rectify the cap problem. You can forgive the Seahawks for not rushing head first into another third contract for a player.

In the next 8-12 months they have some big decisions to make. Do they pay Frank Clark? Duane Brown? Tyler Lockett? K.J. Wright? Do they make Russell Wilson the highest paid player in the league? This is a lot to consider. If they pay Thomas today, Clark is knocking on John Schneider’s door tomorrow. Others will too. And they’ll know the threat of absence has worked.

How does the safety market play into this?

Currently it’s an ice cold market. Thomas couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and become the highest paid safety in the league. Eric Reid isn’t the only unemployed safety. Kenny Vaccaro doesn’t have a contract either.

Thomas is clearly on a different level in terms of talent — but teams are not rushing to invest in safeties. Not at the moment.

We’ve seen this happen at other positions before. The running back market has dried up completely. We might be witnessing a similar occurrence at safety.

The fact nobody has made a big trade offer is perhaps indicative of the changing financial landscape. Why were Dallas the only team seemingly interested in trading for him? Why did they only offer a third round pick? Why didn’t another team offer more?

They knew it wasn’t just a draft pick at stake. It was a massive new contract too. One they were unwilling to pay.

If that’s the case, how is Thomas going to get paid?

It’s not abundantly clear if any team is actually prepared to match his demands. It’s possible nobody is.

If that’s the case, what motivation is there for the Seahawks to pay him more than $13m a year?

If Thomas feels disrespected by that thought, he need only remind himself that the Seahawks did make him the highest paid safety in the NFL when he signed his last contract. The Seahawks, on that occasion, recognised his talent and rewarded him.

Can they really be blamed now for not handing out another mega-deal when the safety position isn’t generating big money and teams aren’t rushing to acquire Thomas and pay him?

How else will the team be approaching this?

Presumably they anticipated Thomas’ decision. It’s not surprising. They’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this.

There will be one irksome factor. They’ve actively worked to avoid any distractions this year. They’ve undertaken a reset, a fresh start. The Thomas saga carries at least some potential to clash with this approach. Will it impact players close to Thomas? How will the handling of this situation impact future negotiations with the likes of Clark and Brown?

Will Thomas hold out during the regular season? Will he play under his existing contract? If so, are the Seahawks destined to watch him walk away in free agency? Will the potential use of the franchise tag create even more conflict?

There’s much to consider.

What was the plan then?

They at least appeared to entertain the possibility of dealing Thomas pre and during the draft. The 2018 third rounder, reportedly offered by Dallas, might seem more attractive the longer this drags on. Especially if the saga continues into the season and becomes an unwelcome distraction.

You can forgive the Seahawks for not wanting to give away such a fine player though. It’s easy to be sympathetic with their situation. They likely wanted a fair trade offer for a future Hall-of-Famer. They spent a second and third rounder on Duane Brown. He’s four years older than Thomas.

Can they trade him now?

If they try to they’ll be playing with a weak hand. Teams are aware they could lose him for nothing in 2019 (and as we discovered with Jimmy Graham, a compensatory pick isn’t assured). They run the risk of having the situation become a distraction. It’s unlikely anyone is going to pony up a big trade offer at this point.

If trading him is the preferred option now (and it might be) the best case might be to hope a team becomes more aggressive closer to the season. Seattle paid a second rounder for Sheldon Richardson right before the start of the 2017 season. If a team like Dallas sees Thomas as the man to push them over the top — they might bite. So far, they’ve resisted.

It’s also entirely possible teams will look at the poor value Seattle received from the Richardson trade and think, ‘we’re not making that mistake‘.

Is there no solution at all?

I can think of only one. A compromise. Thomas accepts he won’t top Eric Berry’s salary and it won’t be a long term deal. The Seahawks increase Thomas’ pay but do so for the 2018 and 2019 season with an option for 2020.

It’s hard to imagine Thomas agreeing to those terms. He wants long term security. But if teams aren’t willing to offer a 4-5 year contract at mega-money, is such a contract his best bet? And does it protect the Seahawks against a repeat of the Chancellor, Lynch and Bennett extensions?

Someone has to compromise. Whether it’s Thomas, the Seahawks or a team willing to make a trade. Personally, I think it’s unrealistic to think the only ones who should cede any leverage are the Seahawks.

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Seahawks sign Brandon Marshall & a new podcast

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

For reaction to the Brandon Marshall signing and a lot more — check out the podcast below…

This isn’t a bad time to look for value.

Mychal Kendricks will provide a team with a serviceable linebacker at an attractive price. Dez Bryant will sign with a team at some stage.

The Seahawks have dipped into the market to add Brandon Marshall, having not drafted a receiver from a weak pool in the 2018 draft.

I struggle to find any negatives to the deal.

No doubt someone will find something to quibble about. They’ll highlight a PFF statistic that shows the Giants horrendous 2017 offense was, well, equally horrendous when Marshall was healthy. Or they’ll note his age (34) and wonder why they decided to add a player who was injured for most of last season.

It’s true that the current Marshall isn’t going to be the one who thrived in Chicago and for periods in Denver, Miami and New York (with the Jets). He might not even be the same player that battled so entertainingly with Richard Sherman in 2016 (one of the best WR vs CB matchups we’ve seen in recent years).

None of that matters though.

He’s signed a $2m contract. The Seahawks can easily cut him at any time. They can take a look, see what he has to offer, see if he fits in. Then they can make a decision.

The worst case scenario is he joins a list of big-name veterans that spent a brief period with the team before moving on. Terrell Owens and Antoine Winfield didn’t exactly destroy Seattle’s dynamic during the 2012 and 2013 pre-seasons before being cut.

The best case scenario is he finds a role on the offense. The Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson and aren’t flush with experience at receiver. There’s no guarantee Jaron Brown, Amara Darboh, David Moore, Marcus Johnson and Damore’ea Stringfellow are going to fill the void.

Now another name is added to the competition.

Bring it on.

And if anyone doubts Marshall’s willingness to come in and compete and understand his (possibly) limited/niche role on the offense — you only have to look at his contract. According to Spotrac he’s earned $79,211,648 in cash during his career so far. Yet here he is, playing for a token $2m at the very end of his career.

It speaks to a player unsatisfied with his achievements, seeking one last shot to win a Championship. A player determined to give it one last go.

This clearly isn’t about money. It’s about opportunity. The Seahawks aren’t guaranteeing him anything here. He has to win a job. Just like many other members of this roster.

By signing this contract at this stage in his career — Marshall is saying ‘I’m ready to compete‘.

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Breaking down the draft class: Jamarco Jones

Monday, May 21st, 2018

PFF really liked Jamarco Jones (click here). So much so, according to this video they graded him as a second round talent:

So why didn’t he go in the second round?

I think there are two reasons.

Firstly, it’s his combine performance. TEF has helped us quantify the number of truly explosive offensive vs defensive linemen entering the league in recent years:

Explosive offensive linemen at the combine:

2016 — 6
2017 — 3
2018 — 7

Explosive defensive linemen at the combine:

2016 — 26
2017 — 30
2018 — 22

This is an era of football where the best college athletes are playing defense. John Schneider references this all the time. It’s a problem that exists, it’s hurting the league and they need a solution.

Offensive tackles with fantastic physical profiles are going to be over-drafted for the foreseeable future as teams look for that solution. Kolton Miller is a fine example. He had a Lane Johnson-esque combine. He didn’t play like Johnson at UCLA but found a home in the top-20 because his combination of size, length, agility and explosive traits is all too uncommon at his position these days.

Jamarco Jones is a lot more Orlando Brown than Kolton Miller as an athlete.

Here’s his combine performance:

Height: 6-4
Weight: 299lbs
Forty: 5.50
Bench: DNP
Vertical: 24 inches
Broad: 8-6
Three-cone: 8.32
Short shuttle: 4.92

At least Orlando Brown had the excuse of being 345lbs. Incredibly, he comprehensively beat Jones in the three-cone (7.87).

Jones had the third worst vertical, third worst forty, third worst short shuttle and third worst three cone among offensive linemen.

Seattle’s starting left tackle in 2018 (Duane Brown) ran a 4.52 short shuttle, a 7.58 three cone and a 5.08 forty (despite carrying an extra 16lbs).

That’s the main reason why Jones dropped to round five. This is a league crying out for an athletic counter punch to the extreme athleticism playing defense. His combine performance likely took him off a number of draft boards.

In his bio, an anonymous NFC Executive is quoted as saying:

“His Combine was awful. He athletic testing was reject level. It’s hard to trust a tackle to start if he has reject level testing.”

What’s the other reason he dropped?

I’ll come back to it. I want to talk about the positives first.

When Jones connects, he usually wins. There are numerous examples I could show you where he engages the block and finishes. His hand placement, power and toughness are all commendable. If he gets his hands on you, it’s very difficult to disengage or counter.

I watched three games (Iowa, USC, Michigan) and never saw an instance where he overextended and lost balance. It’s impressive at the level he played and the opponents he played against. In the BIG-10 you don’t see many elite speed rushers but you see a lot of power and physicality. He matched up perfectly well and didn’t lose many hand battles. He often deals the first blow, delivers a jacked-up punch and finishes. He’s precise with his hand placement and the punch carries precision and power. He won nearly every battle I saw where he connected with the defender.

I didn’t see him beaten by a bull rush either. There were a couple of occasions against Michigan where he was jolted back. Against Iowa I noted a snap where he was moderately pushed back into the pocket. He simply dropped the anchor and held the defender at bay long enough for the quarterback to make a clean throw.

You see a lot of snaps like this vs Rasheem Green. He connects, finishes and it’s job done:

For the most part he handles his business. I could show you multiple videos of standard pass sets where he connects and finishes. If you were wondering why he started for Ohio State despite such a poor combine, clips like this will shed some light:

He is also able to move people in the running game. He had one nice snap against Iowa where he engaged the defender at the LOS and drove him back five yards on 2nd and 3, paving the way for the running back to get a first down. He’s not a tone setting mauler per se but he was reasonable in the short yardage game and his ability to connect and finish is a positive here too.

There are examples of second-level willingness and effectiveness:

There’s also evidence of handy double team work and there were examples where he passed off one defender inside to cover a stunting pass-rusher attacking the edge. His awareness and level of comfort were impressive.

Yet he has one maddening major technical flaw I can’t get my head around.

Play inside out. Don’t get beat inside. Make sure the DE has to get you outside. Especially when you have 35 1/8 inch arms.

Too often Jones was beaten inside. I don’t know why Ohio State didn’t fix this. They didn’t come up against many great speed rushers. In the three games I watched there were multiple examples where Jones dropped too deep in his kick slide and got beat inside. He left the gate wide open. He was susceptible to a counter (spin move) or simple invited the DE to pressure the quarterback:

Was he concerned about the edge rush too much, anticipating problems against speed and overcompensating? If so, someone really needed to address this and make it clear — let that guy beat you with speed. You have the length. Make his route to the quarterback as long as possible. Trust the QB to make the throw. You’re Ohio State. You have an experienced QB and numerous playmakers.

I can’t think of any other reason why he kept leaving the B gap open to be exploited. But it’s where he was beaten. And sadly, he doesn’t have the athletic profile to recover and counter.

He needs to eliminate this from his game. He has fantastic, ideal length for the position. There are examples where he just shoves a DE to protect the arc. Use their speed to their disadvantage, use your length to run them out of the play. Don’t leave yourself open to get beat inside.

Jones was a good blocker in college with a technical flaw. That’s fixable. His athletic profile is more of a concern. A pro-training program should help. It might take time though. And he’ll need to show improvement.

His athletic limitations could be a death knell to any future starting potential. However, if he can learn to play inside out and with his ability to lock on and finish — there’s at least something to work with. It was worth a fifth round pick to find out and if he ends up being no more than a reasonable backup tackle — that’s worth a day three flier any year.

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Breaking down the draft class: Poona Ford

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Seattle’s Super Bowl team wasn’t built on first round picks. They were a bunch of disrespected and under-appreciated players with a point to prove.

The early picks played their part, especially Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin. But the Seahawks succeeded because they found star players in unlikely areas. A franchise quarterback in round three, a lockdown corner in round five, a #1 receiver as an undrafted free agent, a legendary running back on the scrap heap in Buffalo.

Many of those players had clear talent. They simply didn’t fit in with conventional NFL wisdom. They were too short, too big, too slow, too difficult. The Seahawks gave them a chance to show they could excel anyway.

Poona Ford is in exactly the same situation.

I don’t often do write-ups on undrafted free agents. The Seahawks signed a bunch immediately after the draft. Two of the most talked about signings were Ka’Raun White and Taj Williams, two receivers. Both were cut almost immediately.

A draft pick will get a little more leeway.

In Ford’s case though, I wanted to put something together. I’ve already written about Shaquem Griffin here and it’s going to be hard to assess Michael Dickson and Tre Flowers. I’m no expert on punting and Flowers played safety for Oklahoma State. It’s hard enough to judge safeties using TV copy tape. It’s even harder to judge a cornerback convert.

So for that reason I thought I’d write about Ford — a player we often projected to the Seahawks in our seven round mocks.

Perhaps more than any of Seattle’s undrafted free agents, it feels like he has two things working for him:

1. A familiar burning desire to prove a point and a major chip on his shoulder

2. A worthwhile skill set, undersold by a lack of conventional size

Russell Wilson was too short. Richard Sherman too tall and slow. Kam Chancellor needed to convert to linebacker.

Players with something to offer — they just didn’t match a consensus positional ideal within the league.

For Ford, it’s his height.

You don’t see many 5-11 defensive tackles in college or the NFL. We’re seeing increasingly bigger, faster and more athletic interior linemen.

Ford can play. He didn’t suffer due to a lack of attention. He played for Texas. It’s just unusual to look at a 5-11 defensive tackle. The NFL isn’t looking for that.

Where does he fit in?

Is he a possible three technique or is he mainly a space-eating one tech? Does he have the necessary sand in his pants (303lbs) if you want him to play the nose?

The thing is, there is a lot to work with. And Ford has an unusual attribute that might make teams really regret their decision not to take a flyer on him in the later rounds.

Yes — Ford is 5-11. However, he does have 33 inch arms and a +80 inch wingspan. That isn’t normal. He has longer arms than Vita Vea and Taven Bryan. They’re 6-4 and 6-5 respectively.

In an interior battle, this is a fantastic weapon.

Ford’s height actually becomes something of a positive. Because he isn’t 6-4, offensive linemen are going to find it hard to win with leverage. There isn’t the big target to punch and jolt. You’ll struggle to get into his pads. The lower man usually wins in the trenches and Ford, by his nature, will often be the lower man.

The problem for shorter DT’s (at least the ones without the quickness of Aaron Donald or the explosive qualities of Sheldon Rankins) is they can often be overpowered. This is especially difficult if they have short arms. Even if you’re the lower man — if the other guy can keep you off his frame easily, you’re not going to win many battles.

Ford’s length and height will mean he’s not only able to win with leverage — he also has the length to hand-fight and combat guards/centers.

He’s not the most explosive tester or the quickest. That will be the challenge. At the next level can he still do all of the things we saw at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl?

At the very least he has a shot.

Case in point — watch him vs Will Hernandez (drafted #34 overall):

Hernandez has 32 inch arms. You can clearly see Ford engage, swim and get off the block. This snap highlights Hernandez’s occasional laboured footwork and he can’t recover. Ford wins, he’s into the backfield and absolutely nails the quarterback.

If he can win like this against Hernandez, a player the New York Giants liked enough to take with the second pick in round two, he has a chance to stick in the league.

Leverage really matters and this is going to be Ford’s calling card. His height and length make him a really unique player. Here’s another snap from the Senior Bowl. Look at the way he gets into the pads of the O-liner and just drives him deep into the backfield:

Can he counter? Yes he can:

Here’s another angle. It’s against Bradley Bozeman, the Alabama center:

When you see a snap like that, it’s hard to imagine how he went undrafted. Ford had a great Senior Bowl week:

And it merely followed up a stand-out performance at the Shrine Game:

Here’s what Tony Pauline noted about Ford at the Shrine Game:

Ford was not as dominant as Senat yet was pretty darn good. He was probably quicker off the snap, played with better leverage and displayed a wider variety of moves. He was impossible to stop and even hammered bigger opponents such as Cody O’Connell of Washington State on occasion. Ford has size and scheme limitations but will be playing on Sundays next year, which is pretty amazing considering he wasn’t even graded by scouts entering the season.

The size (height) and scheme issue is why he went undrafted. He isn’t going to be a five technique, he might not be able to anchor your run defense. He’s probably out for the 3-4 teams. You’re going to need him to be able to rush the passer at his size.

This isn’t a talent issue. It’s a conventional wisdom issue. One that might prevent him from having a successful pro career. But he offers a lot — he might just need an opportunity.

Here’s further evidence of his first-step quickness and then power/leverage to drive his blocker into the backfield:

It’s very hard to understand why someone didn’t give him a shot on day three.

And then there’s the chip on his shoulder. Why wasn’t he invited to the combine? The fact he went undrafted probably justifies the call. He saw the positive in the situation:

“I’m used to being at a disadvantage… I’m a strong person, and I use that to my advantage. God don’t give his biggest battles to the weakest person.”

His coach, Tom Herman, was a little more irked about it:

“Why Poona Ford wasn’t invited to the combine, I’ll never know”

Mike Mayock agreed:

“Here’s what I think about Poona Ford… A, he should have been invited to the combine. The Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, productive, tough. I think what’s happening is that so many juniors are coming out this year, they’re holding spots for juniors and kicking some of the seniors out. But there’s no doubt he should have been invited to the combine.

“You get drafted at one area if you’re a run-only defender, and you get drafted earlier if you can affect the pass game… I think that’s what people have to figure out about him.”

Herman also raved about Ford during an interview with Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN.

“He’s a captain. He’s going to be a 10-year starter in that league. I’ve been doing this a long time… there’s three defensive tackles in my 20-years of coaching that I’ve seen that I would say have elite, elite, elite work ethic, determination, drive — play after play after play. That would be Casey Hampton way back when I was a graduate assistant in 1999… the second one would be Ed Oliver who had the opportunity to coach for a year at the University of Houston… and then Poona Ford. He’s on that list. He’s explosive, he’s powerful, he’s so strong. To me he’s the perfect nose guard.”

The Seahawks have done it several times in the Pete Carroll era. Taking a chance on an underrated player due to his size? So Seahawky.

Poona Ford has a chance to make it. We’ll see if he can be Seattle’s next great find.

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Why you should ignore Seattle’s draft grades

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Pete Carroll speaks to Shaquem Griffin, part of a draft class that deserves more credit

Not everyone has been overly positive about Seattle’s 2018 draft…

Mel Kiper — C+

“I could practically hear the Seattle fans in Dallas wondering why the Seahawks waited so long to address the O-line.”

Andy Benoit — C

“Drafting a running back is an odd way to kick off your massive rebuilding project on defense.”

Chad Reuter — C

“No corners or receivers selected puts Seattle in a hole at those spots after the draft.”

Pete Prisco — D+

“I was not a big fan of trading up to take a punter (Michael Dickson) in the fifth round.”

The consensus outside of Seattle is the Seahawks had a bad draft. The perception is they failed to address three vital areas:

1. They didn’t spend another high pick on the offensive line

2. They didn’t draft a cornerback early

3. They didn’t draft any weapons for Russell Wilson

It’s easy to dispel all three complaints.

1. They didn’t spend another high pick on the offensive line

Here are the recent high draft picks they’ve spent on the offensive line:

2014 2nd round pick — Justin Britt
2016 1st round pick — Germain Ifedi
2016 3rd round pick — Rees Odhiambo
2017 2nd round pick — Ethan Pocic
2018 3rd round pick + 2019 2nd round pick — Duane Brown

The Seahawks have used more draft stock on their offensive line than any other team in the league bar Dallas. And so far, that hasn’t been a solution.

They actually need to develop some of these players.

For example, had they spent the #18 or #27 pick on a left guard this year, that likely would’ve meant benching Ethan Pocic or cutting recent signing D.J. Fluker. Pocic was named to the all-rookie team in 2017 despite playing less than a full season. Fluker, with vital experience in new O-line coach Mike Solari’s scheme, has an extremely team-friendly cap hit of $1.36m in 2018.

Trying to actually develop Pocic is a better proposition than replacing him with the 2018 version. Replacing Fluker feels like a poor use of resources.

You could argue, why not draft a tackle instead to replace Germain Ifedi? It’s a fair argument to make, although this wasn’t a good draft class for tackles. It was a far better draft for interior offensive linemen. The chances of finding a solution were limited. The Seahawks also like George Fant a lot and he’s set to compete with Ifedi to start at right tackle.

No right minded individual would argue the Seahawks O-line doesn’t need major work. It does. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more youth, inexperience and repeating the same plan that hasn’t worked so far.

The addition of Solari to replace Tom Cable is the key here. A fresh approach, a new voice, a scheme tweak or two. Perhaps simplifying things for certain individuals and allowing them to best utilise their physical talents.

The Seahawks aren’t short of highly drafted, high-upside players. What they’re short of is consistency, proper communication, execution and guidance.

It’s time to develop the players they’ve already invested in.

And a final point on this — if the complaint is they didn’t spend a high pick on the offensive line this year, well, they did. They spent their third rounder on Duane Brown (plus their second rounder in 2019).

2. They didn’t draft a cornerback early

It’s strange that this is still a ‘thing’. Pete Carroll has been in charge of the Seahawks for eight years. He’s spent one early pick on a defensive back (Earl Thomas).

Here are the players they’ve brought in and developed without spending high picks:

Shaquill Griffin — R3
Walter Thurmond — R4
Kam Chancellor — R5
Richard Sherman — R5
Byron Maxwell — R6
Jeremy Lane — R6
Brandon Browner — CFL
DeShawn Shead — UDFA
Justin Coleman — trade with the Patriots
Bradley McDougald — FA

Carroll has a proven track record of defensive back success that, for some reason, goes mostly unnoticed. Suddenly Richard Sherman is cut and the Seahawks have to change their ways. They have to spend their first pick on a corner.


Especially considering they re-signed Byron Maxwell during the draft.

This is one of the big benefits of Seattle’s scheme. They’re able to draft a profile, teach their technique and find success. The scheme doesn’t call for a big investment in the cornerback position, as highlighted by Michael Lombardi a year ago:

“I think Seattle really thought twice about paying Richard Sherman. They felt they had to when they won the Super Bowl. Now their cap’s kind of a mess and they need to fix it so I think the reason they need to fix it is because they put all that money in the corner position in a defense where, we feel you can draft players that fit that scheme.

“… the scheme in Seattle allows you to find corners, especially size/speed corners, of which there’s a bundle of them in this draft, that can play deep third of the defense, they’ll tackle and they can play within the scheme.”

They haven’t needed Patrick Peterson playing across from Darrelle Revis. The creation and success of the Legion of Boom is evidence of that.

It would’ve been more surprising if the Seahawks had spent an early pick on a corner. It would’ve been a major change in their approach to the position. Instead, they drafted a defensive back with size and length in the fifth round in Tre Flowers. Just like they’ve been doing for the last eight years.

If you know the Seahawks, you know how they handle their business at corner.

3. They didn’t draft any weapons for Russell Wilson

The Seahawks lost ten touchdowns when Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers. They lost six more when Paul Richardson joined the Redskins.

In response they drafted a blocking tight end and signed Arizona’s Jaron Brown.

How on earth are they going to replace the lost touchdowns?

Well, it might not be as difficult as it seems. And it all comes down to the running game.

While Graham was prolific in the red zone, his production mostly filled a significant void. Seattle’s running backs only scored ONE touchdown in 2017. They had four rushing touchdowns in total — three from Russell Wilson and one from J.D. McKissic.

Even the Miami Dolphins, who also scored four rushing touchdowns, had three from Kenyon Drake.

Graham’s production didn’t compliment the running game — it replaced it. It had to in 2017 — but it doesn’t have to be that way going forward.

If the running backs can start to produce at even a modest level, the lost touchdowns will be replaced.

Let’s propose a solution to replace the ten scores:

Jimmy Graham -10 touchdowns

Rashaad Penny & Chris Carson +6 touchdowns

Will Dissly & Ed Dickson +4 touchdowns

It’s not unrealistic to think Penny and Carson will manage six scores between them. It’s quite a modest total. It’s also realistic that Dissly and Dickson could combine for four touchdowns.

If the Seahawks can fix their running game — they could/should be able to actually top the lost production from Jimmy Graham.

Here are the stats from 2011-14:

2011 — 15 rushing touchdowns
2012 — 16 rushing touchdowns
2013 — 14 rushing touchdowns
2014 — 20 rushing touchdowns

2017 — 4 rushing touchdowns

If they can get back to the relatively modest 2013 total of 14 rushing touchdowns, that will be an improvement of ten scores. Exactly the amount they need to replace Graham’s production. Considering they’ve spent the off-season focusing on fixing the run, you’d hope that was achievable.

As for Richardson’s six touchdowns — Jaron Brown actually scored four for Arizona in 2017. A repeat of that production would get you almost there. Tyler Lockett should also be set for a boost an extra year on from his severe broken leg. He only scored two touchdowns in 2017 but had six as a rookie.

It’s also emerged they’re meeting with an old friend. Brandon Marshall nearly joined the Seahawks in 2010. Now he’s once again reportedly visiting the team.

Should they have drafted a receiver? Bob McGinn quoted one personnel man as saying:

“This is the worst wide-receiver draft I’ve seen in my life”

And really, it’s about more than just replacing ‘production’ and ‘stats’ this year.

It’s about culture.

In 2017 they scored 38 offensive touchdowns. They might score less in 2018 and be a more competitive team.

They lost their identity. It’s been MIA for two straight seasons.

When Jim Mora was the coach in 2009 the lack of culture, identity and a clear plan was a major issue. What were they trying to do? Who were they trying to be?

It was a stark contract to the Holmgren years.

Pete Carroll immediately rectified this. As soon as he took the job in Seattle he set out his vision, called on the players to ‘buy in’ and created the clearest identity imaginable.

That laser-sharp focus took the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl Championship.

They lost their way. They lost a focal point of that identity — the running game.

And for all the laboured hand-wringing about the importance of running the ball these days and the value of running backs, the Seahawks were at their best when they ran the ball well to compliment their defense.

It created a bully-mentality. The Seahawks were physical, in your face. They intimidated teams.

Bigger, faster, stronger.

There are different ways to win in football. There’s no ‘right or wrong’ way of setting up your team. The key is to know what you want to be, then make it a reality.

If you want to throw the ball 50 times a game that’s fine. Build your roster around that approach.

If you want to run the ball and play defense, that’s just an alternative.

Seattle set themselves up to be the run and defense team — then had to try and be the passing team when the running game collapsed.

That was the problem. They couldn’t be true to their vision. They lost their identity, the culture, the toughness.

They weren’t bigger, faster and stronger any more. They were just broken.

Fixing that aspect was the key to everything moving forward. And that’s what they’ve done with this draft. They’ve added a running back they saw as the second best to Saquon Barkley. They added the best blocking tight end in the draft. They have a new O-line coach and offensive coordinator. They signed Ed Dickson and D.J. Fluker.

This was all set up to fix the running game as a priority. As it happens, they were also able to add a pass rusher and improve their special teams.

They pretty much ticked off every ‘need’ box along the way, especially if you include Duane Brown as part of this draft class (and you should).

That doesn’t mean this draft will necessarily move the needle for the Seahawks to improve on 9-7. That’s not the argument. I’m not sure, with one pick at #18 and nothing else until #120, they had the ability to achieve that. They didn’t have multiple early picks like the Colts or Giants.

The point is, this class (along with their work in free agency) should help regain their culture and identity. They’ll be able to return to the highly competitive atmosphere that fostered the initial Super Bowl charge.

They’ll be Pete Carroll’s Seahawks again.

And if they can run the ball better, if Russell Wilson continues to perform at a high level, with Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Frank Clark and others on defense — they can be competitive in 2018.

It might only be a more palatable 9-10 win season rather than a Championship year. But at least they’d be heading back in the right direction.

This draft class helped turn the corner. And for that reason, it deserves praise and not criticism.

(Not that the critics will bother the Seahawks. If anything, this is exactly the type of reaction they wanted. Keep that fire burning).

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LIVE: Google Hangout Q&A

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Here is today’s hour-long Google Hangout. I run through some thoughts on why the Seahawks did what they had to do with this draft, we look at the day three picks and end with an extended Q&A…

Here are the review articles we’ve posted on the draft class:

Rashaad Penny

Rasheem Green

Will Dissly

Shaquem Griffin (pre-draft)

I have a Poona Ford write-up coming soon.

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Watch Rashaad Penny get the call from the Seahawks

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Breaking down the draft class: Will Dissly

Friday, May 4th, 2018

One way or another, the Seahawks were going to draft a blocking tight end.

It was inevitable. A foregone conclusion. As likely as a big investment in the running back position.

We never even really looked at the ‘pass-catching’ tight ends in this class. And that’s pretty much the whole class. The number of blockers, once again, was decidedly low. A point emphasised by Pete Carroll immediately after the draft:

“It has been harder to find, John (Schneider) has been checking it for years. We’ve really had a difficult time finding a guy that can do both, who can catch the ball and run some routes for you but can be a strong blocker.”

The Seahawks made a big investment in Zach Miller seven years ago. With money to spend and having already signed Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery, they signed Miller to a five-year, $34m contract with $17m guaranteed.

It was a huge investment at the time.

He was familiar with Tom Cable (himself having just joined the Seahawks) and fans saw a former second round pick with 2712 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns already to his name.

He was going to be a big time playmaker, right?

It depends how you define the term ‘playmaker’. Miller ended up being the perfect compliment to the Marshawn Lynch running game. He was a terrific blocker — legitimately as good as a sixth offensive lineman. When they needed an important catch to move the chains, he was often there.

In four seasons with the Seahawks he never had more than 396 receiving yards in a single year. His production statistically was unimpressive. Yet his production in terms of impact on the field was hugely significant.

When he retired after the 2014 season, the Seahawks went in a very different direction. Possibly (probably) in a retaliation to what happened in the Super Bowl, they went after a different type of tight end. A red zone monster, more of a pass catcher and certainly not a blocker.

They traded for Jimmy Graham.

They then proceeded to spend two years seemingly trying to convert him into a capable blocker. Carroll would reference Graham’s potential to become a complete tight end. It never happened. In year three he was used almost exclusively as a big red zone target. It was too late. The Seahawks — and Graham — needed a fresh start.

I don’t buy into this idea that Seattle’s culture changed the moment they traded for Graham. You could argue it was ill-advised to try and turn him into something he wasn’t (a good blocker). But there was more going on than just Graham’s addition from 2015 onwards. We were witnessing the end of the Marshawn Lynch era in Seattle, the offensive line became a major weakness and the injuries took a toll on many offensive players.

Even so, moving on from Graham and Luke Willson this year while adding Ed Dickson and Will Dissly is a statement of intent to get back to the 2011 plan.

The Seahawks don’t need an 800-900 yard tight end who can haul in 10 touchdowns. That’d be a bonus. First and foremost they need someone who can do the job Miller did. Block well, provide a reliable target.

That’s Dissly down to a tee.

Over the course of the draft coverage I mocked Dissly, Dalton Schultz and Durham Smythe to the Seahawks — all for their blocking ability. These were the three players competing in something similar to a pro-style offense (or at least an offense that featured the run). I paired Dissly with Seattle in my final seven-rounder.

Lance Zielein projected him as a sixth round pick.

Even so, I’m glad the Seahawks took him where they did. There’s nothing wrong with getting ‘your guy’. Many teams wouldn’t have been interested in a blocking tight end with a limited physical profile. But the Seahawks aren’t drafting for the rest of the league. At this time in the Pete Carroll era, with fixing the run being the priority, it was absolutely the right time to go and get a tight end like Dissly.

Not Mike Gesicki. Not Mark Andrews.

They needed someone they could put out there, deliver a decent block to help the pass or run and catch a few balls. No fuss, no pressure to get him the football. A modest albeit important job.

More than anything next season it’ll be refreshing not to read the weekly analysis of how many receptions a certain player had. Throughout Graham’s time in Seattle there was almost a pressure to get him the football. On the days when he didn’t get more than a couple of targets, it became a ‘thing’. Questions would be asked, people would wonder why they weren’t making him a feature.

There’s not going to be any of that anymore. Nobody is going to question how many targets Ed Dickson and Will Dissly received in a game. The Seahawks can go back to what they were in the 2011-2014 years. A bunch of under-appreciated, ‘pedestrian’ pass catchers. Russell Wilson can spread the ball around and Seattle can feature the running game again.

Back to Seahawks football.

Getting a running back and a tight end was vital from this class. Carroll and Schneider, quite clearly, got the two guys they really wanted. They didn’t leave anything to chance. They had their pick of the running back class apart from Saquon Barkley and they took Dissly in a range where they were assured to get him — and then declared him the best blocking tight end in the draft.

Running back they want? Check

Blocking tight end? Check

Pass rusher? Check

The three most important needs in this draft, all checked off.

And while many will complain about the lack of yet another first round pick on the O-line (just to put last years early OL pick on the bench) or no cornerback drafted early (despite their history of success on day three and the re-signing of Byron Maxwell) — these were the real moves the Seahawks had to make.

Again, I’m not here to just cheerlead for the Seahawks. I think the fact we’ve talked about these things for months proves that isn’t the case. We focused on running backs and tight ends quite a lot. They had to come out of this class having added to those two positions with guys that fit their way of doing things. And they pulled it off, despite the lack of picks.

How do you criticise that?

They did what they set out to do. You can’t accuse them of a lack of focus or clarity here. They had one pick at #18 and turned it into two players that had been ranked in the top-50. They got their tight end. They added some really intriguing players in rounds 5-7.

This was a good draft for the Seahawks. Simple as that. It might not be enough to propel them into a far superior record in 2018. They might go 9-7 again. But it might be a more palatable 9-7 with belief restored that this team can compete again in the future.

And hey — if they can run the ball this year and with Russell Wilson at quarterback, we shouldn’t set any limitations for what they can achieve.

So what about Dissly?

An anonymous NFC West Scout had this to say about him:

“He’s a Peterson guy. All-in with his commitment to the team and what he has to do. He won’t blow you away with talent or athleticism, but he does his job.”

That’s exactly what the Seahawks were looking for. A committed team player, ready to come in and block and do his job.

Bob McGinn listed Dissly as an ‘unsung hero’ in his piece on the receivers and tight ends, noting:

A consensus choice as the best blocking tight end in the draft. “Somebody will take him late because he’s a blocking fool,” said one scout. “There’s no ‘Y’s’ (conventional tight ends) anymore. Everybody plays the spread.” Shifted from DE to TE late in the 2015 season. Adequate size (6-3 ½, 261), below-average speed (4.88) and 35 on the Wonderlic.

What do you see on tape? Nothing overly spectacular — just a large number of really solid, competent blocks. He does his job, down after down.

He plays with the kind of edge you’d expect from a converted D-liner. He’ll often finish his blocks:

John Schneider complimented Dissly’s catching ability but there aren’t too many examples to highlight. He only had 21 receptions as a Senior for 289 yards and a couple of scores. I saw him live against Oregon and he only had one reception for six yards.

Here’s the thing though — you don’t see many errors. Either as a blocker or catcher. He can certainly snatch a difficult pass out of the air:

In this game against Montana, Dissly also had a really good reception on a scramble drill. He uncovered from the right sideline and gave Jake Browning an option, collected the pass at the 15-yard line and then fought his way to the goal line, carrying defenders along the way.

This was the play that really caught my attention in that game. His ability to understand the moment, provide a target and then finish the run was very Zach Miller-esque. And it’s not like Washington has a scrambling quarterback and this was just second nature for Dissly. It showed he had a natural feel to get open, provide a target and give Jake Browning an option.

His ability to finish runs consistently shows up. Against Utah, Dissly caught a fairly simple pass to what would be the right hash in the NFL. He’s hit at the 12-yard line as he completes the pass, breaks the tackle and then drags another defender to the two-yard line.

Against Oregon State he caught a pass on an outside slant to the right sideline. He cut back inside, dodged two defenders and made a difficult first down. In the same game he caught a checkdown from Browning and it took six (SIX) defenders to halt his progress. He was pushing the pile on his own.

This was also a game where he showed a genuine ability to quickly race down the seam and provide an option. He had a really sharp break off the snap, got downfield with enough shiftiness and made a 25-yard completion.

In a game against Portland State he again took another checkdown to the right sideline, plowed through one tackle and then side-stepped another to score a touchdown.

We also know the Seahawks like the occasional trick play…

There’s no real art in judging what Dissly does well. He’s tough, physical, reliable as a catcher and blocker and has surprising power and an ability to get open.

While he didn’t run an outstanding forty time (4.87) he did manage a 4.40 short shuttle. That’s no mean feat at 6-4 and 262lbs. That agility shows up fairly often.

The other thing he has in his locker is experience playing defense. In the same way Richard Sherman had an advantage due to his time playing receiver, Dissly can think like a pass rusher. He knows what to expect, what a defender is looking to do.

We’re not going to be sat here in four years time toasting Dissly for passing Jimmy Graham as the most productive tight end in franchise history. That’s not why they drafted him. They will need to find a way to replace some of Graham’s scoring production. That doesn’t have to come from the tight ends though. Hopefully the running backs will score more than one touchdown this year.

Dissly’s here to help the Seahawks get back to their brand of football. Dissly, Rashaad Penny, D.J. Fluker, Mike Solari, Ed Dickson. All moves designed to get the balance back on this offense.

I wanted to finish today with a few words about Cliff Avril. He never quite made the headlines like Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett. He wasn’t outspoken, he just got on with the job. Yet when we look back at what pushed the Seahawks over the top in 2013 — Avril was every bit as important as Bennett.

I remember the day well when Avril signed. There was something special about that off-season. The Percy Harvin trade, Bennett and Avril signing. The Seahawks were unstoppable — on the field and in free agency.

Before he was drafted in 2008 he ran a sensational 1.50 10-yard split. That’s as good as it gets for a pass rusher. Avril will be the benchmark from which we compare every future possible DE addition to this team.

And it’s often forgotten that his rush off the left edge played at least some part in ‘the tip’.

Through his effort on the field, his charity work and the way he always came across well in interviews, Avril deserves everyone’s respect now that his career in Seattle has ended prematurely.

He was a fantastic Seahawk — and we’ll be lucky to see another pass rusher capable of combining his intensity and effort on the field with humility and charm off it.

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