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College football Saturday open thread

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

I’m heading to Husky Stadium shortly for the Washington vs Arizona State game. I’ll post some thoughts when I get back to the hotel. In the meantime if you’re watching a game today tell us about it in the comments section.

Meet up and quick thoughts on Chris Wormley

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Flight done and I’m here in Seattle to attend the Washington vs Arizona State game on Saturday and the Seahawks/Eagles game on Sunday.

A few people have talked about meeting up.There are a few things we can do. On Friday I might have some time in the afternoon or possibly the evening. If people wanted to go grab a coffee/beer or something and talk some football I’ll see if we can get something sorted. Alternatively a meet-up before the Huskies game could also be possible — however I’m planning to get to the stadium relatively early so it might have to be around midday.

I’m open to suggestions. I’m based at the Fairmont hotel in downtown. If we can get something arranged I’ll leave final details on here later today or early on Friday.

Secondly, I spent a bit of time watching Michigan defensive lineman Chris Wormley. He’s a player I’ve only previously had half an eye on. Today I watched three sets of Draft Breakdown tape. I’m keen to see more.

I suspect the Seahawks would ideally like to add another inside/out rusher. It was interesting that after signing John Jenkins, Pete Carroll made reference to improving the interior pass rush. They’ve seen Jordan Hill get injured and then released, Quinton Jefferson is on I.R. And with Michael Bennett currently out — there isn’t really a pass-rush threat working the inside.

They have some bulk — Athyba Rubin is under contract, Jarran Reed should only get better with time and Tony McDaniel has slotted back into a productive role. What they really need is a change-up.

I’ve seen Wormley listed at 6-4 and 295lbs and 6-6 and 302lbs. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. projects a forty time of 4.85. If those numbers are accurate, Wormley is worth considering as a possible option.

For starters his gap discipline is excellent and that’s pretty much one of the most important things if you’re going to play D-line for the Seahawks. They put a high priority on players who can execute their jobs, control the situation and work against the run. Wormley is very good here with plus strength and the ability to handle 1v1 blocks consistently well if he lines up inside or out. He plays with heavy hands in the run-game.

He’s nearly always on the field for Michigan (doesn’t get subbed very often) but he’s still willing to string plays out and work in pursuit. He plays with an edge and he’s tough.

As a pass rusher nobody would say he’s twitchy but he does have a decent get-off. He had 6.5 sacks last season and 14.5 TFL’s. This year he already has 7.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s. You can’t argue with his production. He’s savvy with the push-pull move and he has enough power to drive blockers into the backfield to impact snaps even when he doesn’t get on the stat sheet.

We’ll need to see how he performs at the combine to determine whether he’s a realistic option for the Seahawks. If they want to keep adding big, tough, bullying defenders with versatility, Wormley could be someone they’re looking at. It’s a nice deep class for defensive linemen though so there will be plenty of alternatives.

Kam Chancellor is still the man in Seattle

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas combine to deliver a big hit on Rob Gronkowski

“They (Patriots) think Michael Bennett is their best defensive player. I tend to think Kam Chancellor is the difference maker on that defense.”

Matt Hasselbeck on ESPN 710 this morning (listen here)

After a great win in New England, I didn’t really expect to be discussing Kam Chancellor’s future in the comments section. That’s what happened though — and it’s a topic that comes up an awful lot.

I’m not here to tell people they’re wrong or shouldn’t be discussing certain subjects — this is a free blog and a place to talk about anything.

I’m also not calling the person out for having the opinion. I respect their views and don’t want to deter them from contributing in the future.

Yet it does feel like we spend an awful lot of time discussing who ‘needs to go’ in Seattle. One week it’ll be Darrell Bevell, then it’s Tom Cable. Jimmy Graham will have a quiet game so he needs to be cut or traded. And the other name that frequently comes up is Kam Chancellor.

Really there’s no need for any of this. Seattle’s offense has ranked in the top ten in DVOA for the last four years — so the offense must be doing something right. Jimmy Graham is on pace for a 1000-yard season and ranks among the top three TE’s in the league statistically despite missing most of the first two games.

And then there’s Chancellor — rapidly becoming so terribly under-appreciated by certain elements of Seattle’s fan base.

There’s a reason why people like Matt Hasselbeck view him as the defensive MVP on the team. His ability to organise, be a tone-setter, be an intimidating force over the middle and contribute vs the run is unmatched in the NFL. There is only one player like Kam Chancellor. There’s unlikely to be another any time soon — he is a thoroughly unique individual.

He’s also a highly underrated playmaker. Just think of the many vital, critical plays he’s made in the last two years alone:

— Punching the ball out at the one-yard line vs Detroit in 2015, turning a probable loss into a win in a split second

— Forcing Adrian Peterson to fumble in the 2015 playoff game vs Minnesota — the subsequent drive led to a touchdown and a lead Seattle never surrendered

— Defending Rob Gronkowski on the final play on Sunday night, matching up 1v1 in coverage against one of the best in the league and defending the pass

— Forcing Julian Edelman to fumble the ball at midfield and giving Seattle’s offense a chance to claim a winning seven point advantage on the next possession

— The pick-six against Carolina in the 2014 playoffs, sealing a vital victory in a game also known for Chancellor leaping over the LOS to try and block a field goal

This doesn’t account for all the other plays he made earlier in his career, such as the unforgettable hits of Vernon Davis or his inspired Super Bowl performance against Denver.

It has been suggested by some that Chancellor isn’t the same player any more — and yet he continues to make such vital plays for the Seahawks in their most recent game.

Mike Bar broke down his performance vs New England for Field Gulls today. He notes:

“Kam was unbelievable on Sunday night. It was reminiscent of 2014, when he missed several games with an injury and then returned in peak form, wrecking offenses all throughout the trek to the Super Bowl.”

He concludes his piece with the following assertion:

“Plays are to be had on Chancellor. Brady completed a few balls on him, although nothing was seriously damaging. Like I said, he’s not the best safety in the league.

“He is, though, hands down the most dominant player at his position in the league and every facet of his game wrecked the Patriots’ chances of victory throughout the 60 minutes of play on Sunday. He came through time and time again, taking points off of the board for New England and preserving Seattle’s chances at victory. Nobody in the league at the safety position can have as obvious or pronounced an impact as Chancellor.

“We are watching peak Kamtrak right now and Bam Bam’s boom train doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.”

Elliot Harrison also summed it up in his power rankings piece for NFL.com this week:

“While many were breathlessly marveling over the improved play of a healthier Russell Wilson in Sunday’s win at New England, I couldn’t help but think about what an elite player Kam Chancellor is. During a time where we debate whether this quarterback or that quarterback is “elite,” a guy like Chancellor deserves way more attention. Forget the non-call (the right call) on the fourth-and-goal throw to Gronk — the hustle play Chancellor made down the line to grab LeGarrette Blount’s feet as the Pats RB tried to dive over the pile won the game. Seriously: It won the damn game. It reminded me of the effort play Chancellor made against the Lions last year on “Monday Night Football,” peeling off his man to belt Calvin Johnson at the goal line, force a fumble and essentially win that game. Chancellor is talented, football smart and, most emphatically, all heart.”

It’s that heart which is also so important to the Seahawks. I posted this video on Sunday night after the game — but it’s worth another look:

Every player on this team gravitates to Kam. The Seahawks had other players like that — Red Bryant for example or Michael Robinson — but Kam is on a different level. When he’s speaking, people listen. When he tells you to do something, you do it. Offense, defense. He’s the man people turn to.

Yes — he’s had injuries. Some perspective is required though. Chancellor missed two games last season due to the holdout and three due to injury. Between 2010 and 2014 he missed three games in total.

Michael Bennett missed three games due to injury in that same timeframe. Bobby Wagner missed eight games between 2013 and 2015. K.J. Wright missed four games in 2012 and 2013 combined and Cliff Avril began his NFL career in Detroit playing 15, 13 and 13 games in his first three years.

Chancellor isn’t the only player to miss time and his injuries are not chronic knee or back problems. You get banged up in this league, especially when you play an overly physical brand of football. C’est la vie.

If he only plays 12 games a year for the rest of his career, that’ll still be better than the 16 you’ll play without him if you move him on.

Finally onto the finances. What incentive is there to make a move there either?

According to Spotrac, the Seahawks are set for $24m in free cap space in 2017. They have no core free agents unless you want to include Steven Hauschka, Kelcie McCray or Luke Willson.

If they cut J’Marcus Webb they’ll gain a further $2.5m in cap space — pushing the overall number to around $26.5m.

They legitimately have enough money to give Chancellor, Bennett and Avril a pay rise and still make one or two moves in the market if they wish to.

Chancellor’s 2017 cap hit of $8.125m isn’t small — but he’ll be the seventh highest paid player on the roster next year as things stand. That’s not unreasonable given his overall importance to the team — even if he misses games.

Perhaps there is some lingering ill-feeling after the poorly advised holdout a year ago? I can understand that. Yet the Seahawks appear to have moved on and there’s no sign in that video above that Chancellor is mailing anything in.

Maybe this is a minority view among fans? Possibly. I could be overstating the clamour to move on from Kam. He is as vital as anyone else on the defense though — and if this piece is nothing more than an opportunity to reinforce that, I think it’s worth putting out there.

EDIT — Regular contributor Volume 12 just noted in the comments section that Chancellor is, in many ways, Seattle’s answer to Ray Lewis. I think that is the ideal comparison.

As for this…

The Seahawks have gone above and beyond to give Christine Michael an opportunity to deliver on his massive potential. He’s not taken those opportunities — and he might not get another one.

It’s sad to think Michael will look back in 10 years at this major missed opportunity in the NFL. He’s had a fair crack though, he can have no complaints there.

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Patriots

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

What a beautiful victory.

This was a game that had absolutely everything — including the right score at the end. The Seahawks thoroughly deserved to win another classic between these two. In typical style, they won it by a matter of inches right at the death.

And if you’re into this kind of thing — there was a dose of poetic justice too. The Pats had second and goal at the one-yard line and ran two QB sneaks and threw a fade pass. Their big bruising, physical running back (with three touchdowns in the game already) stood and watched.

If only this was a Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, this Seahawks team made a statement today. They went to the NFL’s #1 team after a short week and beat them in their own backyard. The Patriots, fresh from a bye week, didn’t see this coming.

To be fair, not many did. Especially outside of the PNW.

Russell Wilson was phenomenal — throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns (all to Doug Baldwin). He had to be too as the defense squandered several opportunities to get off the field and Seattle botched numerous red zone visits, frequently settling for field goals.

Yet Wilson’s ability to pull off a drive and keep the scoreboard ticking over was critical. Aided by a wonderful performance by running back C.J. Prosise in his first start, the Seahawks dominated New England’s defense.

They were 50% on third downs, had 420 net offensive yards compared to New England’s 385 and showed for the second week in a row they can win this way.

The defense isn’t playing brilliantly at the moment — the running game isn’t the same as it’s been in the past. But they’re out they’re — winning predominantly with the pass.

6-2-1

It’d be unfair not to highlight certain aspects of the defense for praise. Deshawn Shead had another strong outing including an interception. The difference Kam Chancellor made was obscene — including a forced fumble, several key hits in the run game and the crucial defense of the fade to Gronk to confirm the win.

Chancellor might not be a 16-game player in the regular season any more — but he’s a difference maker. A vital difference maker.

This guy is the heart and soul:

Frank Clark is up to 7.5 sacks — his latest a superb one-handed jersey grab to deny New England another red zone touchdown. Cliff Avril got the treatment in this game — so it was good to see Clark and rookie Jarran Reed having an impact with sacks.

The Seahawks could’ve had a more comprehensive victory if they didn’t resort to settling for three points so often. They squandered several red zone opportunities and probably should’ve had +40 on the night. It feels fixable this year — and there was some misfortune (the Prosise run that was challenged probably stands if it’s called a TD on the field).

Seattle stays on the coattails of Dallas for the #1 seed and solidifies its position as the #2 with Atlanta, Minnesota, Green Bay, New Orleans and Carolina all losing.

Perhaps even more comforting was Arizona’s narrow 20-17 win against a weak 49ers team. They laboured badly at home against a side in contention for the #1 overall pick.

The Seahawks retain a two-game lead in the NFC West and the Cardinals look a shadow of the team that won the division last year.

Seahawks 2017 draft targets: Looking for bullies

Friday, November 11th, 2016

I wrote a piece for Field Gulls today but wanted to post the link here too (check it out). It’s a review of Seattle’s possible 2017 draft needs and prospects the Seahawks might consider at each position.

Here are the games on my schedule tomorrow:

Pittsburgh @ Clemson
South Carolina @ Florida
Auburn @ Georgia
Michigan @ Iowa
California @ Washington State (which is on at 4:30am over here so I’ll save for another day)

And here’s a mock draft to get you into the weekend:

1. Browns — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
2. 49ers — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
3. Jaguars — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
4. Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. Jets — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
6. Titans via Rams — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
7. Panthers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
8. Buccaneers — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
9. Cardinals — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
10. Bengals — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
11. Titans — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
12. Colts — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
13. Bills — Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
14. Chargers — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
15. Ravens — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
16. Dolphins — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
17. Browns via Eagles — John Ross (WR, Washington)
18. Saints — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
19. Packers — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
20. Steelers — DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
21. Lions — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan)
22. Washington — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
23. Eagles via Vikings — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
24. Giants — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
25. Texans — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
26. Broncos — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
27. Falcons — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
28. Seahawks — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
29. Chiefs — Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
30. Raiders — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
31. Cowboys — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
32. Patriots — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)

Three players in focus: Anderson, Chesson, Chubb

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

It’s still too early to get a proper handle on what Seattle’s future needs are. An upturn in the running game or accomplishing the desire to become the bullies again would change things. The Seahawks are a good team but they’re not bullies.

It feels like we should be looking at Ifedi and Reed types again. Attitude, grown men, big men. Nasty edge.

It’s why I’m focussing a lot on Utah tackle Garett Bolles (a guy who looks like he was made to play for this team). He would provide even more physicality, size, grit and edge in the trenches. This looks like a strong draft for defensive linemen and linebackers so a DE/DT or a LEO/LB type could also be on the radar in the first few rounds. Extra running back competition (bell-cow even?) seems likely. They’re also good enough and deep enough overall to focus on players who just fit what they look for regardless of positional need.

I wanted to write about three players today. One I’ve focussed on before, one is a new name and one we’ve only really discussed in the comments section.

Ryan Anderson (DE, Alabama)
I’m not sure whether Anderson is long enough or twitchy enough for the Seahawks, although he was a four-star recruit. Either way, the guy has just consistently made plays for ‘Bama this year. Every single week he turns up. His stat-line is incredible — 12.5 TFL’s in just nine games, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven more QB hurries and countless other splash plays.

As a pass-rusher he fires off the LOS with a great burst (his split could be good), he understands leverage and hand-use. He’s not an explosive athlete but he converts speed-to-power well and he’ll dip his inside shoulder before winning to the outside. He attacks the edge and he’ll stunt inside. His effort is fantastic, he plays with his hair on fire.

He reportedly has 31-inch arms and you can see he has issues disengaging at times when a blocker really locks on. He also appears to have average range and there’ll be some concern if he’s asked to play more as an OLB/DE hybrid that he could be exposed in coverage. As a pass-rusher he’s just so fun to watch though — and he’s a valuable locker room presence (good for quotes, bit of a joker, leader, grown man). Only last week he discussed changing his number to #4 to honour injured safety Eddie Jackson. He’s well matched to the AFC North. His value for Seattle will depend on his combine performance but his production, edge, nasty play and grit are unquestionably ‘Seahawky’. You could imagine his personality in Seattle’s locker room. It’s just a question of his fit as an athlete.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
One of my favourite players coming into the season, Chesson has been relatively quiet so far. He has 416 receiving yards and just two touchdowns. That’s actually similar to last year — before he exploded into life in November. Last weeks 112-yard, one-score performance vs Maryland suggests it could happen again.

The great thing about Chesson is his value in multiple facets of the game. He’s a terrific gunner with great speed to be a major player on special teams. He’s scored a touchdown as a returner too (vs Northwestern, 2015). He’s possibly the best blocking receiver in college football and a real asset to the running game. He leaves everything on the field as a blocker — just throws himself into it and he’s big and strong enough to sustain blocks. He also has terrific speed and quickness. If he works on the unnecessary extra steps he takes occasionally coming out of his breaks he could be an explosive receiver. He’ll chew up a cushion easily and he’ll be able to fight against man coverage.

Chesson is the perfect compliment of athlete and competitor. He’s a well spoken, personable individual who doesn’t complain about his role on the team and does the dirty work every week without much of the reward. He has tremendous football character and a clear love for the game. Stats or no stats — the guy screams Seahawks. Receiver isn’t a major need but if they want a longer target who can contribute in so many different ways — Chesson could be a second day option.

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
I’ve watched a fair bit of NC State this year and Chubb has stood out on each occasion. He really impressed during the farcical Notre Dame game (played in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew). The conditions were about as bad as you’ll see at a football game and that clearly impacted the two offenses. A five-yard run was a minor miracle. Chubb still played well and collected three sacks through sheer effort and physicality. He succeeded against Mike McGlinchey too.

Overall he has 13.5 TFL’s in nine games, six sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s added weight over time, going from about 225lbs as a three-star recruit to a listed 275lbs now. I think his playing weight is probably nearer to 265lbs and he’s an EDGE rather than an inside-out DE/DT type.

He’s the cousin of Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia). At the Nike SPARQ Combine in 2013 Nick had an elite performance. I’m not suggesting Bradley is capable of anything similar — but it will be interesting to see how he works out if he declares in the off-season (he’s a junior). Bradley’s brother is a linebacker on the Lions practise squad (Brandon was an UDFA this year). He ran a 4.68 at his pro-day at 235lbs with a 1.60 split. If Bradley gets a split in the 1.5’s or at 1.60 he becomes very interesting.

He does show a nice get-off, he’s quick to accelerate off the snap and he contains the edge well in the running game. Chubb works well to finish when he gets into the backfield — he’s tough to shake off and he handles space well (he did a good job on a TFL vs Dalvin Cook last weekend, Cook couldn’t dodge him even with so much space available to make a move or bounce out wide). He’s the impact player on NC State’s defense with a nice blend of attitude, edge, power and quicks. Much will depend on his workout (forty, split, three-cone, explosive tests) but if he’s a good enough athlete he could be one to monitor. It’s worth noting that Rivals listed Alabama among interested parties during recruitment. With so many twitchy EDGE rushers going early (Garrett, Williams, Smoot etc) Chubb could be a second rounder with value.

Instant reaction: Seahawks win, somehow, again

Monday, November 7th, 2016

The Seahawks constantly find ways to play really stupid, crazy, stupid, glorious games. More often than not, they somehow find a way to win them (apart from that one).

This looked so much like it was going to be a crushing loss. With a trip to New England next week, there was a genuine risk of falling to 4-4-1 and enduring a three-game losing streak.

And just as that thought was starting to manifest and become reality, the Seahawks won a football game in the fourth quarter again.

So now they’re 5-2-1, still in control of the NFC West and currently the #2 seed.

If the NFL has a ratings problem, they should put this team on primetime every week.

That said, this strange 31-25 victory highlighted some major problems that will almost certainly prevent the Seahawks from winning a Championship unless they are addressed.

Their identity for years has been defense and running the football. They did neither well tonight.

The defense struggled to get a stop on third down, the tackling was poor, they struggled to get off blocks and they regularly lost contain.

The running game was ugly from the start, was never established and played no part in Seattle’s offense other than to waste a down.

So it was up to the passing game to keep this one close. Fancy that — after years of doing the opposite of NFL’s pass-heavy trend, suddenly the Seahawks became Green Bay.

Like Dom Capers’ often befuddled Packers unit, a spate of trickery up front (different O-line combinations, looks) seemed to work all night.

Like Mike McCarthy’s current offense, Seattle had a non-existent running game. At least the Packers have the excuse of lining up a legitimate receiver at running back instead of a guy who made the conversion in college.

And like Green Bay — a creative quarterback was the only solace to make anything happen.

At least they found a way to adapt and win.

The third down conversions by Buffalo were incredible. They managed 12/17 (!!!!!) for 70% (!!!!!).

When they needed to make a one-yard run they could do it. They were often in manageable situations due to their balance — running, passing, mobile QB (sound familiar?). And when they needed the quarterback to make a play he often had the time (or just the one man to dodge in the backfield to extend the play) to find an open receiver.

Michael Bennett is always going to be a miss — he’s one of the best players in the league. I think we’ve seen in the last two weeks how vital he is. Bennett’s ability to impact snaps and disrupt even when he doesn’t record a stat or a splash is highly underrated.

It’s hard to say whether communication was an issue again in this game. It felt that way but is it just a lazy answer to turn to after the problems in the Atlanta game?

The tackling was a strange issue all night — so to was the inability of Seattle’s D-line and linebackers to get off a block. Buffalo executed their assignments well — but it didn’t feel like there were many 1v1 wins for the Seattle defense tonight. Kelcie McCray dodging Cody Glenn with about four and change to go to tackle LeSean McCoy was a rare moment (and a vital one as it turned out).

It’s incredible how one-dimensional Seattle’s offense is. This will be of most concern. At least the defense is capable of playing a great game (see: Arizona on the road). There’s very little excuse for the running game short of Thomas Rawls being injured.

Even with Russell Wilson looking a lot healthier, they got nothing on the ground. No balance. No production. Absolutely nothing. Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise combined for ten yards on eight carries.

That’s unheard of for this team since the 2010 rebuilding year. They are officially back at square one in trying to establish the core identity of their offense.

It would be easy to watch Wilson dealing, Graham and Baldwin catching passes and the Seahawks finding an explosive element and assert that the offense ‘was back’ or is ‘fine’. Not true. They want to run. Seattle’s offensive identity will never be right when they’re this poor running the ball.

Running the ball is as important to Pete Carroll’s philosophy as the defense.

They are not now a ‘passing team’.

They are a team that is struggling to run the ball.

And we saw in the second half why you don’t want to rely solely on the pass. When the easy completions weren’t there or the big plays — drives quickly stalled. A penalty or a sack can immediately kill a drive. You need to be able to run the ball.

What’s the issue? It’s really hard to say without a long, close look at the tape. It never felt like there was any running room. It equally never felt like either Christine Michael or C.J. Prosise were hitting the hole with any venom. It was hard to watch McCoy — dodgy hamstring and all — looking so much more vibrant, breaking ankles all night with some terrific cuts.

Is Rawls going to be the answer? A more pertinent question right now would be ‘can Thomas Rawls stay healthy?’

Unless things change dramatically there is no doubt at this stage what Seattle’s needs are going forward. Better run blocking up front and an playmaker in the backfield. I wrote another piece earlier about Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, check it out.

The good news is Wilson looked so much more like his old self today and is clearly getting healthier. I also don’t want to read any more about Jimmy Graham’s position on this roster. Imagine what they’d be without him right now?

It was also another really good day for Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. Add Bennett again in a few weeks and that should give the defense a real jolt for the run-in.

We’re half-way through the season now and barring another major upturn in performance, we have a grasp on what this team is.

It’s very similar to 2015 without a running game.

The defense is capable of really good football — but they’re also capable of giving up long, unforgiving drives at crucial moments.

The offense relies on Wilson and when healthy he’s as good as anyone in the league. But they are not bullies. So far they haven’t achieved that off-season goal.

The 2015 Seahawks were a weird animal because they finished 10-6 and blew several games and could’ve been 12-4 or 13-3 and yet they never felt ‘that’ good. The 2016 version has a nice 5-2-1 record but doesn’t quite feel like a great team yet (that could change as it did in the second half of 2014).

This was a stressful win but here’s a thought to finish. Imagine how stressful it was for the Cardinals and Rams fans to see it end in a Seahawks win, sensing a genuine opportunity to open up the division snatched away for at least another week.

Pre-Monday Night Football Garett Bolles post

Monday, November 7th, 2016

I spent a bit of time today ahead of MNF watching more Utah tape specifically to see left tackle Garett Bolles.

The Utah @ UCLA game is on Youtube (as is nearly every CFB game these days and some are even condensed into 30 minutes) and you can watch it above. I also found the Arizona game.

I didn’t realise initially how good he is getting to the second level — but Bolles vs UCLA repeatedly dominated here, stayed square on the linebacker or safety, had excellent hand placement on the inside shoulder and buried his guy. It led to two huge touchdown runs for Joe Williams and several other nice gains.

On one inside reach play he engaged with the DL with a ferocious initial punch, gained immediate leverage through his hand placement (again on the inside shoulder) and just turned the defender with a flick of the hips. He was in complete control of the block and just planted his legs in the turf and it was over. Along with a terrific block by the left guard it created a huge running touchdown. Power, technique, athleticism, control, balance — it was all on show. It’s so rare to see a tackle do all of this well. Usually you’ll see a guy win with power but struggle to flip his hips and turn the defender. Bolles does this — and looks completely natural in the process.

He’s a special, special talent. The type that college football is crying out for — and the NFL is in desperate need of. He just has the perfect compliment of athleticism and control in pass protection, the agility to pull and connect with blocks on the move, the nastiness and edge to finish, the ability to handle counter moves and stay on a block, the willingness to not only get to the second level but destroy opponents when he gets there.

He’ll press a guy and stun with an initial jolt of power and he has the natural ability to set and control the block to finish. When a DE tries to work-in a spin move after losing initial leverage or position, he just stays on the block and finishes. He always finishes.

He plays with such an edge, he plays to the whistle and sometimes beyond. He fits the style of a J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi or Breno Giacomini in terms of attitude. He’s a Tom Cable offensive lineman. He has to be.

Bolles plays with fantastic leg drive in the run game but he also has a smooth kick step (could still use a little refinement), he’s plenty agile and looks like a plus athlete who should impress at his combine.

I want to highlight two plays where he excels at the second level. I’m using highlight footage because it’s easier to locate vs the three hour tape above:

Play 1 (1:58 in the video)
Bolles pulls from the left tackle position (he’s #72) and just executes this block perfectly. He hits the hole and locates the safety at the second level, before dumping him on his ass to spring Joe Williams for the big touchdown run. Perfection. So many college tackles are willing to get to the second level but don’t execute. They’ll half block the guy or try to just get in the way. Bolles destroys his man here, buries him into the turf.

Play 2 (2:13 in the video)
Bolles pulls into the centre and connects with a linebacker two yards beyond the LOS. Joe Williams follows him and reaches the second level. Bolles drives the linebacker 13 yards downfield before sending him to the turf. Williams scores another long touchdown run.

Williams the running back was playing in his second game after reversing his decision to retire. He had 332 rushing yards in this game. People have asked in the comments section about him — and he’s quick, sharp and has nice suddenness. But he gets the insane yardage here because of his offensive line. Bolles in particular is integral.

He had a similar impact pulling from left tackle against Arizona (during Williams’ short retirement). He had three false starts but he dominated in the run game. Armand Shyne had a big touchdown running to the left with Bolles turning the end inside (similar technique as noted above vs UCLA) and the guard pulled to take out the linebacker springing the big hole.

There is absolutely no doubt that in this era of struggling college O-lines and NFL teams desperately seeking help in the trenches that Bolles is a first round talent. Everything about him screams ‘Seahawks’. They’ll be lucky if they’re in a position to draft him one day. If you missed it last week check out our piece touching on the way he battled adversity (grit = Seahawks).

If he turns pro and heads to the combine it’ll be interesting to see if he passes our TEF (Trench Explosion Formula) test. His play for Utah suggests he will conquer it easily and is destined for the top-32.

Will he turn pro? He can stay at Utah for another year if he wishes but he’s 25 next summer. The Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin in round one when he was a similar age. Tony Pauline recently suggested Bolles will consider turning pro if he gets a first round grade.

Saturday notes: ‘Bama defense is too good

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Florida @ Arkansas

Florida’s two stud linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone were both injured during the game — and the Gators usually physical, intimidating defense was pretty lightweight as a consequence. Arkansas, hammered by Auburn last week, ran all over them.

Safety Marcus Maye had a mixed day. With the front seven struggling to contain the run he was often a needed last line of defense, recording 11 tackles and making one really good form tackle after a strong catch-and-run by Devwah Whaley. He also had a couple of avoidable errors.

There weren’t many opportunities for Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson to impress at cornerback. Arkansas managed their offense nicely, worked play-action and the screen game and didn’t take many risks at the second level after an early pick-six.

One player who did have a good day was defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. He doesn’t get too much attention but he consistently finds a way to impact games. He had a really nice interior rush for a sack (he was only give half a sack on the stat sheet) and had a couple of hurries too. He could be a value pick in round two.

Alabama @ LSU

This game perfectly highlights the problem with college football that is translating to the NFL. The best athletes are playing defense and the offenses (in particular offensive lines) don’t stand a chance.

Both OL’s were miserable in this game. In particular, LSU provided zero resistance to the brilliant ‘Bama front seven. It was a massacre, a complete ass-kicking up front. The quarterback Danny Etling was hit every time he dropped back to pass and managed a paltry 92 yards passing from 24 throws.

They tried to establish the passing game and took shots downfield — probably in an attempt to open up running lanes. It never happened — and thus it was almost impossible for Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.

There will be a temptation to point the finger at Fournette and use another bad day vs Alabama to bash him. He had 35 yards on 17 carries in an eerily similar game to last year. It would be so foolish to make that assertion. For example, virtually every time LSU handed the ball off one of two things happened:

1. Alabama’s D-line collapsed the LOS and had 2-3 players in the backfield almost immediately after Fournette received the ball.

2. LSU’s front did enough to contain the initial blast but nobody laid a finger on the linebackers. I don’t recall a single time seeing Reuben Foster covered up. Often he was free to explode into the backfield and join the party. It’s no surprise he ended the day as Alabama’s leading tackler with 11 in total.

If you want to box-score scout and criticise Fournette, feel free. I’m not convinced anyone could run productively with that environment. LSU are an absolute mess on offense — with no passing game or O-line to speak of. When you put that next to an elite defense — it’ll get ugly. Alabama had five sacks, nine TFL’s, three official hurries and what felt like about 20 hits of the QB.

Even if Fournette is drafted by the Cleveland Browns — he won’t come up against a similar situation to what he experienced in this game.

Foster was again exceptional with incredible burst and physicality — he will almost certainly go in the top-12 as an impact linebacker. Tim Williams got half a sack (looked like a full one to me) but was incredibly physical vs the run, setting the edge and dominating with power to compliment his quickness. He’s a top-10 talent. Jonathan Allen had another sack and continues to look every bit a high pick and Marlon Humphrey — short of one deep ball error early in the game, was exceptional in coverage showing savvy and technique to go with his incredible physical potential.

Ryan Anderson also continues to make waves. He had yet another sack, several big plays and just leaps off the screen every week. He will be one of the most fascinating players to watch at the combine. He’s only 6-2 and 253lbs and lacks overall length but how athletic is he? He just makes plays every week. He would be an ideal fit in the AFC North.

LSU’s defenders also stood out. Aside from one ‘Earl Thomas-esque’ missed tackle Jamal Adams had a fantastic game. Tre’Davious White was excellent in coverage all night and did a good job containing the QB run until the final quarter when asked to help at the LOS.

Yet the lasting thought is how bad these offenses were — especially the O-lines. College football has a serious mismatch problem up front and it’s translating to the NFL. That’s why teams like Seattle are being forced to look for George Fant-types.

Washington @ California

This was a one-sided blowout but Washington again looked really strong offensively. Jake Browning isn’t a physically brilliant passer but he’s so economical with enough arm strength to keep a defense honest. His poise, accuracy and production could help him get into the first round discussion next year.

John Ross is an explosive talent worthy of a first round grade. At times Cal put three defenders on him and whenever he got a 1v1 he nearly always won. His ability to get open, break tackles, run away from defenders and make touchdowns is unmatched in college football this year. There’s some Brandin Cooks to his game, some DeSean Jackson. Teams love this type of X-factor:

Dante Pettis is kind of similar to Jermaine Kearse. The big difference is consistency (Pettis is more consistent) but they both have a sneaky explosive edge and they make plays. He won’t be a high pick necessarily but like Kearse he has a shot to stick at the next level.

Defensively there is so much talent on this Huskies unit. The D-line again was superb. Greg Gaines is a great combination of massive bulk and athleticism. Vita Vea is a huge, athletic nose tackle and Elijah Qualls is maybe a notch below in terms of potential but he’s tough to move at the LOS. Depending on how they test, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gaints and Vea in the second round mix.

Azeem Victor does a good job organising things at linebacker and they have playmakers in the secondary in Budda Baker and Sidney Jones. In this game Jones had two picks and will likely get a lot of hype this week. To me he looks a bit dinky and there were a couple of times where he gave up plays in coverage. There’s no doubting his playmaking ability, athleticism and coverage skills. I wonder at the next level whether he’s the type of guy who will make a collection of really nice highlight plays each season — but will also get bullied by bigger receivers and could be liable to give up plays too.

A team that wants to limit big plays and keep everything in front (eg Seattle) with longer, bigger corners probably isn’t going to covet Jones. He might be a good fit for someone like the Patriots who seem to value technique and execution — their corners have also always been a bit boom-or-bust.

Open thread Saturday

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Who are you watching? Let us know and comment in the open thread.

I’ve just finished watching Florida @ Arkansas. The Gators were banged up on defense — losing both Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone to injury during the game. Arkansas dominated on the ground but Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida) still had a productive game.

Elsewhere, Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn) got another sack against Vanderbilt. That’s 8.5 for him now this year. Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois) also had a good day — getting his third sack of the season against Michigan State. He totalled 2.5 TFL’s in the game.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan) had his best stat line of the year with 112 yards and a touchdown vs Maryland. If he lingers in the draft due to a lack of production — keep an eye on him. He’s a terrific athlete with major special teams value. He’s also a really good blocker in the run game.