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Some thoughts on Seattle’s aggressive 2017

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

I’m heading out to Husky stadium tonight for the Oregon vs Washington game. Before leaving I wanted to put down some thoughts on the aggressive approach the Seahawks are taking this season.

With two big trades for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, the Seahawks no longer own the following:

2018 second round pick
2018 third round pick
2019 second round pick

It’s a considerable outlay and the team might feel the loss of those picks down the road. Change isn’t that far away for the Seahawks. Several key players are getting older. As new players get paid (Sheldon Richardson and Frank Clark presumably) there might not be the money to keep other stalwarts.

There’s no doubting Seattle’s approach. They’re not completely abandoning the draft (they still have their first round picks) but they’re focusing on a very specific window here. Probably this season and next.

This isn’t so much about sustainability anymore as it is maxing out the potential of this core group to win multiple Championships.

Why might that be?

1. The NFC is wide open

The teams that really dominated the NFC during the last two seasons are faltering. Atlanta look completely different minus Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The Panthers have well and truly made that 2015 season look like a flash in the pan. The Cardinals are ageing, injured and without Calais Campbell.

The top ranked team currently is an upstart Eagles with a second year quarterback. They’re good. They might turn great by the end of the season. But for now it’s hard to look at Philadelphia and see the same kind of threat as Atlanta a year ago or the Panthers in 2015.

The Seahawks have talent spread evenly enough across their roster to take control of the NFC, much in the way they did in 2013 and 2014. A couple of key areas were letting them down — left tackle and the running game. The Duane Brown trade solves one of those problems. Now they have to find a way to field a competent running attack.

Neither problem is solved without the deal with Houston. And while they could’ve possibly still worked through the NFC field to get a #1 or #2 seed — the aggressive trade makes it more likely to happen.

I watched a NFL Network segment yesterday where a group of players made their mid-season Super Bowl predictions. All four picked a different NFC representative — Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans. That’s how winnable the NFC is this year.

The opportunity is here right now. Can you blame the Seahawks for doing whatever it takes to grasp it?

2. Change is inevitable

This core group are not going to just keep playing forever. There will come a time, possibly as early as the 2019 off-season, where major surgery is required on the roster. Will players retire or move on? Will there need to be cuts to allow room for others to be paid?

And perhaps more significantly, how much longer is Pete Carroll going to coach for?

This is his show after all. If he wants to max out this tenure with this Championship caliber team, doing what it takes to win now will be at the forefront of his mind.

That’s not to paint Carroll as this selfish ego-maniac only interested in winning during his time in Seattle. Don’t you all feel similarly? Would you rather this era be best known for one title, one agonising near-miss and a bunch of Divisional round exits?

If the Seahawks win at least one more Championship this year or next, we’ll have lived through a legendary era of Seattle football. Ensuring that happens is the most important thing right now. It’s more important than any future mini-rebuild. And here’s why they can feel that way…

3. Russell Wilson will be the man

Whenever the roster changes eventually occur, the quarterback is going to be so important. We’ve seen Pittsburgh, Green Bay and New England go through roster facelifts and remain competitive. Why? The quarterback.

So while spending future stock might prevent the Seahawks retaining a loaded roster in nearly every facet, Wilson is good enough (as evidenced against Houston) to elevate this team and keep it winning while a transition period occurs.

Hopefully he’ll be doing that as a two or three time Super Bowl winner. If not, well at least they left no stone unturned. Brady and Roethlisberger were able to win Championships without complete rosters so a few big name departures or retirements doesn’t spell the end of Seattle’s window.

There’s one other final thing to remember here. Seattle has made four big trades since 2013:

Percy Harvin
Jimmy Graham
Sheldon Richardson
Duane Brown

Clearly there are mixed opinions about these deals. Nobody can dispute, however, that all four players were incredibly unique, productive players with star potential.

It says something that Duane Brown might be the least talented of the quartet and yet he plays a position where there’s a dearth of talent currently in the NFL. His addition might be the most important.

Draft picks are the best way to bring in cheap talent and build a deep, competitive roster. But you’re not getting players of this quality and proven production in rounds 2-3 or even the late first.

They weren’t trading for washed up players or players who hadn’t proven anything. They were bringing in pure quality.

Such is the NFL, none of the deals have worked as well as the lesser compensated deals for Marshawn Lynch and Chris Clemons. Can you really blame the Seahawks for trying though?

We can only imagine how many rings Aaron Rodgers would have right now had Green Bay taken a few more risks to help him get back to the Super Bowl.

At the very least we can live with the knowledge the Seahawks were much more pro-active.

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Seahawks draft needs — status check (DE, OL, RB?)

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

With the Seahawks trading their second and third round picks in 2018 for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, a lot of importance is going to be placed on their remaining first round pick.

The safe odds are probably on another trade down to regain some of the spent stock.

Even so, at the moment they’ll be relying on day three hits to make their 2018 class an impactful one. And they’ll probably focus on whatever they determine to be their biggest need with that early pick.

As things stand, there are probably three main contenders:

Defensive end

The future of Cliff Avril is unclear. Hopefully he will make a full recovery from his neck injury and return at the incredibly modest sum of $8m for next season. Whatever happens, an EDGE rusher or LEO is likely to be a point of focus.

Avril is approaching the last year of his contract, Michael Bennett turns 32 in less than a fortnight and Frank Clark, probably due an extension at some point, appears to be the only truly long term feature.

Marcus Smith and Dion Jordan were brought in as projects. It’s possible that either player, after a year with the team, could be re-signed to show what they can do in 2018. That’s a possibility but not something we can say with any certainty today — especially in the case of Jordan.

If Malik McDowell returns next year and with Sheldon Richardson, Nazair Jones and Jarran Reed working with Michael Bennett and Frank Clark — Seattle has size and freaky athleticism on their D-line. Speed and quickness off the edge could be a need to compliment what they already have and that looks like a good early bet to be Seattle’s focus with their top pick.

Bruce Irvin — 1.55 10-yard split, 4.50 forty
Cliff Avril — 1.50 10-yard split, 4.51 forty
Marcus Smith — 1.57 10-yard split, 4.68 forty
Dion Jordan — 1.61 10-yard split, 4.54 forty

This is the type of speed they’ve had and could be missing in 2018. Considering the Seahawks are likely to be out of range for the likes of Bradley Chubb and Harold Landry, it’ll be interesting to see which other prospects time well at the combine.

Offensive line

Call this the Dallas approach. The Cowboys just kept pumping draft stock into their O-line until it became a major asset. The plan has enabled Dallas to transition from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott and make Ezekiel Elliott one of the best playmakers in the league.

Seattle’s line is starting to take shape. Hopefully Duane Brown provides an answer at left tackle. Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi appear locked in at center and right tackle respectively. The hope has to be that Ethan Pocic will become a regular feature at one of the guard spots and/or they could still re-sign Luke Joeckel.

If Joeckel was to walk and if Oday Aboushi wasn’t re-signed, bringing in a top class guard to complete the set could be Seattle’s answer to Dallas’ plan. It’d have to be for a top talent, however.

Quenton Nelson at Notre Dame is one of my five favourite players to watch in college football at the moment. He’s sensational and could easily emulate Zack Martin by going in the first half of round one. If he fell a bit like David DeCastro and was around in the 20’s, he would be a major value pick.

Ohio State’s Billy Price could be an alternative option. Both Nelson and Price are highly aggressive, mobile, gritty blockers. They probably won’t be there for Seattle — but if they were, they could finally turn the offensive line into a major strength and help the Seahawks get back to running the ball the way they want to.

Running back

It could be quite a deep running back class in 2018 although it feels at the moment like the best value might be in the round 2-4 range. Clearly Saquon Barkley is going to go in the top-five. Then there’s a long list of names that could go anywhere from the mid-first to the late third.

The earliest pick Seattle has spent on a running back in the Pete Carroll era is a second rounder for Christine Michael. He was a physical freak of nature with all of the talent in the world. If the Seahawks were ever going to draft a running back in the first round, they’d probably have to be a similar athlete.

We also know they have a body type they like and a preferred physical profile. They’ve consistently brought in explosive athletes rather than speed demons and all of their backs have been in that 5-10 to 6-0 range in height and around 220lbs.

Before Seattle was forced to cough up their third rounder in the Brown deal, that looked like a sweet spot for a RB pick. With the running game in flux, they might be more inclined to attack this position early. They’ll need to do something though. Eddie Lacy isn’t likely to return, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Procise haven’t worked out so far and Chris Carson will need to recover fully from a broken leg.

It’ll be interesting to see how Nick Chubb tests following his knee injury. We’ve often referenced his performance at one of the Nike SPARQ combines. If he gets anywhere near that again and the medical checks are OK, he could go very early.

There are others to mention — Bryce Love, Derrius Guice, Damien Harris, Ronald Jones and Royce Freeman to name a few. The one I’d keep an eye on the most at the moment is San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny.

He’s having a fantastic year with 1368 and 12 rushing touchdowns (plus 136/2 as a pass catcher). He has six career kick return touchdowns and he combines toughness, elusiveness and the ability to break off big plays. He’s in Seattle’s size bracket (5-11, 220lbs). He also talks well in interviews and is elevating his team to a strong season.

I’m not sure where Penny will go in terms of round. We’ll need to see how he tests. Yet if the Seahawks did move down into rounds 2-3 to accumulate more picks, I wouldn’t bet against Penny landing on this team.

There are other positions we could mention. It’s pretty clear the Seahawks want to invest in a young quarterback to work behind Russell Wilson and provide some cheap security. That’s less likely to happen now that they don’t own picks in rounds 2-3.

Linebacker was highlighted as a need area by Pete Carroll at the end of last season and the depth they brought in arrived via free agency. They might seek to draft some young talent at linebacker.

Tight end could also be a focal point considering Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both out of contract.

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Thoughts on the four big trade deadline deals

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Duane Brown from Houston to Seattle

The news broke today that Jeremy Lane failed a medical in Houston and won’t be part of the trade. Here are the new terms:

Seahawks get: Duane Brown and a 2018 5th round pick

Texans get: Seattle’s 2018 3rd round and 2019 2nd round picks

The second day of the draft won’t be very interesting for Seahawks fans in April unless they trade out of the first round again.

It’s quite an expensive deal now in terms of draft stock. Seattle has one pick in the first three rounds in 2018. The mid-season nature of the trade and the cost makes it arguably their most aggressive deal to date.

At the point of Lane failing his medical the Seahawks lost a lot of leverage. They had to get this deal done. This is an unfortunate albeit necessary decision to trade the 2018 third round pick.

You’d rather not lose so much draft stock but there just aren’t that many good three techniques or left tackles available. Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown are quality additions befitting of the price.

The expectation is surely for Richardson to be a long term fixture and you won’t find a player of his talent level in the second round next year (not even close). Brown at age 32 isn’t a long term solution but he’s one of the few good left tackles in the NFL.

Look at this list of all the offensive tackles currently playing in the league. How many would you covet or want to pay a big contract to? Then consider the complete lack of options in the upcoming draft. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey will likely go in the top-20. Trey Adams is reportedly returning to Washington and Connor Williams at Texas is raw and hurt.

Furthermore the Seahawks needed some security next season with George Fant continuing to recover from a serious knee injury.

So while the Duane Brown deal ended up being more expensive than expected — it gives the Seahawks a better chance of succeeding this season and next. For that reason, the cost is probably a moot point.

Jimmy Garoppolo from New England to San Francisco

This was a highly surprising move, costing the 49ers their 2018 second round pick. For a long time it felt inevitable that Kirk Cousins would be reunited with Kyle Shanahan next year. It felt like a good match — Cousins is able and experienced enough to be a successful quarterback in Shanahan’s productive system.

Clearly the Niners didn’t want to wait around or get into a bidding war, which is understandable. Did they want to wait until March for a chance to woo Cousins, only to miss out and then need to look for an alternative? By that point Garoppolo could’ve signed elsewhere.

Adding to the problem is the quarterback draft class. Multiple reports are suggesting Sam Darnold intends to return to USC. Josh Allen has not lived up to the slightly strange national media hype going into the season. Josh Rosen has played well but many people have touched on his personality being a bit of an acquired taste — while Lamar Jackson has felt the strain of having to carry Louisville all year.

It’s not clear which or any of these quarterbacks will actually declare. Even Josh Allen has been talked about as a possible graduate transfer, as he maybe looks to bolster his stock at a better team than Wyoming.

All things considered, the Garoppolo deal makes sense. The Niners make a statement to the player that you are our guy. They’re not turning to him having missed out on Cousins. They’re making a firm commitment now. That matters to players.

The rest of this season can be used to climatise the new quarterback into the system. They can be creative in the draft and free agency — improving other areas of the team, possibly trading down for more picks and selecting the best player available to keep rebuilding a team desperately in need of talent.

Jay Ajayi from Miami to Philadelphia

Adam Gase labelled his offense the worst in the league after last weeks embarrassing loss to Baltimore. Matt Moore is considered a respectable backup but he’s still Miami’s third choice at quarterback. It’s pretty remarkable that had the Dolphins beaten the Ravens they would’ve been in first place in the AFC.

Ajayi and Gase clashed from day one. If you recall he didn’t travel to Seattle for the week one game last year. Eventually he worked himself back into favour and managed to put a string of good performances together. This season, however, he hasn’t had much of an impact.

He ran for 122 yards against the Chargers and 130 against the Falcons. Apart from that, Ajayi is averaging 2.5 yards per carry in his other five games. He hasn’t scored a touchdown. There have also been some concerns about the health of his knees — a problem that saw him fall to the fifth round in the 2015 draft.

A change of scenery might be best for both parties. Gase gets to make a statement to his struggling offense in the hope this will trigger a reaction. Ajayi gets to play in an offense that has to account for a prolific Carson Wentz and he might get more favourable opportunities to run the ball.

For a fourth round pick it was worth the gamble by the Eagles. Even if he doesn’t work out it’s a deal worth making. The paltry return though suggests Ajayi, while a big name who enjoyed a strong 2016 season, might be more of a headache than a productive runner. And before anyone makes the comparison to a certain trade in 2010 — he isn’t Marshawn Lynch.

Kelvin Benjamin from Carolina to Buffalo

You have to admire what the Bills have done this year. They’ve created a tough, physical team that is punching above its weight. They’re 5-2 and challenging in the AFC East. They’ve also made several big moves.

Sean McDermott clearly wants his guys. And when you’re winning games after making all of these different trades, people are going to start trusting your judgement.

They’ve accumulated so much draft stock so far with an extra pick in rounds one, two and three in 2018. Dealing one of those early picks (a third rounder) to Carolina for Kelvin Benjamin was totally justifiable.

It’s a peculiar move by the Panthers considering they lack great depth at receiver. Remember Greg Olsen is also still injured. Are they considering trying Christian McCaffrey in the slot, at least temporarily?

Benjamin has had a bit of an enigmatic career. He made a number of big plays in his final year at Florida State, showing off fantastic size and strength and dynamic athleticism for his incredible frame. He also had plenty of drops — thus why he lasted into the late first round.

He missed Carolina’s Super Bowl season through injury and his weight has fluctuated. When healthy, however, he’s been reasonably productive.

McDermott seems like a good judge of character and has been around Benjamin so he’ll know what he’s bringing in. Considering they have those extra picks in rounds one and two, trading a third rounder for Benjamin seems like a low risk move to get Tyrod Taylor a big target on the outside.

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Seahawks trade for left tackle Duane Brown

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Let it never be said that the Seahawks left anything to chance during this Championship window.

This is their fourth big trade since 2013 and second during the 2017 season alone. The Seahawks want to win the Super Bowl. And they’re going to do as much as they can to make it happen.

The price is quite steep but Seattle, once again, found itself in a sellers market. The Seahawks have traded both their 2018 and 2019 second round picks for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown. That tells you everything you need to know about Seattle’s urgency to add another title.

This is an important move for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there isn’t a left tackle answer forthcoming in the 2018 draft. With five wins already and the Seahawks well placed to make a run, they’re unlikely to be picking in the top ten. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is playing well enough to go early, Trey Adams’ knee injury means he’s reportedly staying with Washington next year and Texas’ Connor Williams is talented but raw and currently injured.

So this trade works in two ways. It provides an immediate answer at left tackle and buys the Seahawks some time.

They won’t need to dig through a bad looking free agent group at offensive tackle. They won’t need to be aggressive in the draft or pick at the O-line scraps in the first round.

These were basically the options available to solve this problem:

— Trade up in the 2018 first round (hard to do without a second round pick)
— Sign one of the ‘top’ free agents (Nate Solder was the only mildly appealing name)
— Hope Fant recovers in time for the 2018 season
— Try to make a trade now that helps both immediately and for at least next season

With so few good left tackles actually playing in the league, Seattle managed to acquire one. Which is no mean feat.

It’s an immediate upgrade at a vital position, filling one of the teams’ biggest voids and finally putting to bed the constant talk of improving the position.

Brown is 32 so he isn’t likely to be a long term solution. That could be Fant. Indeed this trade also allows Fant to recover properly and in good time. Brown isn’t a bad mentor either.

People have often complained about Seattle’s unwillingness to pay attention to the offensive line. They’ve answered that call. Now they have, potentially, at least three positions solidly filled with Brown, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi. Luke Joeckel has shown enough promise to consider a possible long term fixture (health permitting) at left guard. Ethan Pocic could fill the right guard slot in the future. That’s a strong looking quintet for this year and potentially beyond.

If you missed it earlier, I also posted some further notes on yesterday’s win.

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Further thoughts on the Texans win

Monday, October 30th, 2017

So far, this season is actually pretty similar to 2013. Here are the comparisons:

— The Seahawks won a classic vs Houston that included a come-from-behind victory inspired by Russell Wilson, a pick-six and interceptions by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman

— The Seahawks beat the Giants in New York

— Seattle won their home opener against San Francisco despite a rough first half offensively

— They beat the Rams on the road thanks to a late red zone stop

— They botched a winnable road game against an AFC South opponent

There are other similarities too:

— Not running the ball well? In 2013 the Seahawks had to abandon the run against the Rams with Marshawn Lynch recording 23 yards on eight carries. In the season opener in Carolina, Lynch had 43 yards in 17 carries. None of this compares to yesterday’s stymied run attack — but it’s worth highlighting.

— Seattle’s 2013 Championship winning, legendary defense gave up 21 points in a half to the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. In the process they made Mike Glennon look invincible and conceded 158 rushing yards to sixth round rookie running back Mike James.

— The wins against the Rams and Buccs were so underwhelming, critics questioned Seattle’s validity as a contender. They won their next three games against Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans by a combined score of 108-37.

— Was the O-line great in 2013? It was good when Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini returned from long-term injuries. Paul McQuistan started eight games at left tackle, book-ending seventh round rookie Michael Bowie. The results, at times, were similar to what we’re seeing this year.

Try not to read too much into the negatives of last nights tremendous win. Yes the Seahawks couldn’t run out of a large, wet paper bag. Yes the defense gave up an unusually high number of chunk plays. Yes they almost dropped a home game many assumed would be a straight-forward victory.

Such is life in the Pete Carroll era. The unexpected happens, weird games occur and unlikely victories are mixed in with the occasional baffling defeat.

Here’s what we know about this team. Defensively they are a lot better than they showed last night. Deshaun Watson had a fantastic game. Despite his performance (no doubt aided by a bye week and two weeks of preparation on with Bill O’Brien) the Seahawks still won. Because ultimately, that’s what this team does. Finds a way to win, more often than not.

If Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Sheldon Richardson, Frank Clark, K.J Wright and the rest are out on the field — there’s very little reason to be overly concerned with the defense. It was a rough outing against a brilliant opponent that still included five sacks and three interceptions.

Clearly the running game is more of a concern. Despite a lot of focus in the off-season and plenty of talk about repairing the run, this is possibly an even weaker running attack than last season. A bit of everything seems to be at fault.

There are plays if you watch back the Houston game where running backs are misreading and leaving yards on the field. There are times when the run blocking is not very good and RB’s are getting hit three yards behind the LOS.

It’s hard to know what they can do right now. The run blocking isn’t suddenly going to make a major jump half-way through the season. Eddie Lacy has been a big disappointment and Thomas Rawls’ 2015 season is increasingly looking like a mirage. C.J. Prosise could be the answer if he could stay healthy for more than five minutes — and J.D. McKissic is more complimentary X-factor than feature back.

Would Mike Davis do any better? Maybe. Or he might just be the next one to struggle.

Sadly any hopes of a consistent running game fell with Chris Carson’s broken leg.

It’s hard to work out what the solution is going forward. In the past Seattle managed to put together a collection of terrific run blockers. This group might just be better at pass pro (and it’s getting better, week after week). The Seahawks used to be able to rely on Marshawn Lynch for production — but legendary, future Hall-of-Fame running backs aren’t readily available.

They’re not going to get at Saquon Barkley next year so they might have to keep looking at several options until they discover the long or medium term answer. That could be a free agent splash (Carlos Hyde?) or future draft stock (more likely middle round than first round). Hopefully Carson makes a full recovery but he’s in the same boat as George Fant now — you want to rely on them for the long term but how can you after both picked up serious injuries?

The good news is Wilson looks like he’s starting to go on one of his mid-season blasts. And he showed yesterday that if the running game or defense can’t seal the deal — he’s capable, along with his receivers, of picking up the slack.

A couple of other quick notes…

— The trade deadline is tomorrow and while there’s been a lot of talk and rumours, nothing has materialised so far. Peter King from MMQB thinks something could happen:

The Seahawks are snug up against the salary cap, and if they want (Duane) Brown, they may have to redo Brown’s deal and redo some of their own contracts. That’s, of course, if Schneider can find a deal to satisfy the Texans by the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline Tuesday. My money’s on Schneider.

It may be moot. But I don’t think so. Schneider is one of the most aggressive GMs in recent NFL history. He knows his offensive line is the major Achilles heel on the team, the one thing standing in the way of what could be the last deep playoff run for an aging defense. To beat Philadelphia’s outstanding front seven, Schneider knows he might have to go get a tackle by Tuesday’s deadline. Joe Staley’s overpriced in San Francisco (and suffered a reported suborbital fracture under his right eye on Sunday), and Cordy Glenn not likely to be freed up in Buffalo. It might be Brown or Colt Anthony Castonzo … and Brown’s better. We shall see.

— In previous drafts a lot of the players we liked on this blog ended up in the AFC North. It was fun watching three prospects we really liked playing so well for Houston together. Here are some articles and notes on all three pre-draft:

Deshaun Watson: “Watson is the latest victim of familiarity. Increasingly we’re rushing to criticise and lament big name college football players. Every problem is over-analysed. Every hole examined. When do we get back to focusing on what a player can do?

DeAndre Hopkins: “He’s a top-20 talent who may go later… and a smart team will be ready to capitalise.

Will Fuller: “Fuller is an explosive, dynamic receiver with exceptional character. Teams will covet him.”

In particular the piece about Watson really resonates today, especially this bit:

Are there flaws? Yes. Some of his turnovers this season were careless and reckless. Yet overall he has a 90:32 touchdown/interception ratio in college. He’s been a relentless winner on a team that was previously never quite been able to get over the top.

There are so many positives. Would he improve a team like Cleveland or San Francisco? Absolutely. Is he a superior prospect to the #1 pick last year? Probably.

There’s probably a lesson for us all here. There’s a constant need for people to Tweet opinions, offer ‘takes’ and provide relentless mock drafts. There’s nothing wrong with critiquing players and assessing what they can and can’t do. Just maybe spend a bit more time on the ‘what they can do‘ bit.

Watson could and probably should go in the top-10. I can’t believe there are bad teams in the NFL without quarterbacks that won’t be significantly better off with him under center.

He was over-analysed to the point of insanity. He’s a winner, a playmaker and a leader — and the teams that passed on him will be severely regretting it today.

I’m not surprised the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin in 2013. It would’ve been interesting to see if Hopkins would’ve been their pick at #25 had they not made the deal. He looked perfect for Seattle — a student of the game who talked about routes and coverages during media interviews, a gritty player who carried his offense and played with a chip on his shoulder. He’s one of my favourite players we’ve covered since the blog started in 2008 — so this post-game image was pretty cool:

Sherman wrote on his jersey:

“To Nuk, I told you! You were a dog the first time we played! And you have worked to become one of the best in the league!”

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Instant reaction: Seahawks win game of the decade

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I have to be up very early to present a breakfast show, so I will keep this brief and have more thoughts tomorrow.

That was an incredible game of football, typifying the character and mental toughness Pete Carroll has brought to this franchise.

On a day where the defense gave up more big plays than you could ever imagine, the running game had to be abandoned and the Seahawks gave up what felt like a back-breaking turnover in the fourth quarter — they somehow, someway, found a way to win.

Incredibly this one topped the Pittsburgh victory in 2015 for drama.

It was also a fantastic portrait of Russell Wilson’s talents. This season has often been about the offense not supporting a top-performing defense. In this game, the complete opposite was true. Wilson and his receivers took on the Houston Texans and had to match every blow dealt by Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.

(How good was Watson by the way?)

Even after the late pick, Wilson came flying back after a key defensive stop to lead this team to victory. It was a stunning performance by the quarterback.

It’d be wrong, however, not to highlight the brilliance of Paul Richardson. His jump ball catch at the end was so vital. It could’ve been another turnover, easily. It could’ve been incomplete and the Seahawks would’ve been left with a mountain to climb. That chunk play put Seattle in a position to win and was as important as his two touchdowns (a third was taken away due to a silly penalty from Thomas Rawls).

He wasn’t alone. Jimmy Graham (no, they’re not trading him) got two touchdowns and Tyler Lockett had a huge day. Doug Baldwin chipped in.

Now, enjoy the win and pray for Earl Thomas’ hamstring. More tomorrow.

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Jordan Palmer highlights O-line issues in the NFL

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

We talk a lot about offensive lines. Understandably so. The league has a problem. And while many Seahawks fans think the problem starts and ends in Seattle, the reality is there’s a dearth of talented and available O-liners at the pro level.

There are reasons for it. A point we often touch on (and one backed up multiple times by John Schneider when he’s asked about O-liners) is the preference of the top college athletes to play defense. As Brock Huard suggested a few weeks ago — Walter Jones is probably playing three-technique if he’s a college freshman in 2017.

Now, former NFL quarterback turned QB guru Jordan Palmer has suggested another potential problem to consider.

When asked by Mike Salk on 710 ESPN about the changing face of the game and the emergence of a different quarterback profile, Palmer had this to say:

I believe the game is going towards the mobile quarterback. If you look at what’s happening at the college level, with the similar constraints on the coaching staff that they do in the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in the NFL, and so the position — and everyone thinks quarterbacks are the ones that aren’t being developed — the number one position, if you talk to real coaches, is O-line.

They don’t have enough padded practises in college to really teach it. And then in college they also don’t run the ball a whole lot so you get kids learning how to do one thing pretty good. Then they go to the NFL and what’s happening is these older linemen are going to start retiring, you’ve got a bunch of young guys who don’t know what they’re doing. And there’s not enough time in the CBA to fix it. So the way that I think it’s going to play out to the layperson and somebody just watching on TV is it’s going to create a precedence for quarterbacks who can extend the play.

It’s a subject that has come up more often in recent weeks. Due to the CBA practise restrictions, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for teams to sufficiently develop their offensive linemen early in their careers. There will always be exceptions — but those exceptions will likely be the true standout players who go in the top-20 of the first round (the Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan types).

The Seahawks haven’t been in range to draft the top offensive linemen in a draft class for five years. They’ve always been picking late in the first round. They’ve been forced to develop later round picks or players that fit a certain physical profile.

Imagine how difficult that is considering what Palmer is saying here?

It’s something to think about when judging Tom Cable.

We’re seeing Germain Ifedi show signs of development this year in his second season. Maybe, just maybe, some growing pains were inevitable given Palmer’s points above? It took Justin Britt three years to settle into the pro’s but now he’s one of the finest center’s in the league. Ethan Pocic didn’t start the season and perhaps now we understand why? His debut performance against the Giants was encouraging.

We can go down the list really. James Carpenter took a while but developed into a productive guard. J.R. Sweezy, a former defensive tackle at NC State, became a regular starter quite quickly. It took Max Unger some time to turn into the player he eventually became. We saw positive signs with George Fant before his knee injury. Luke Joeckel was making strides before his recent surgery.

That’s not to say every decision or error is suddenly justified. Perspective is important though and Palmer highlights a point worth noting. Teams are limited in what they can do because of the CBA and it’s taking O-liners longer to get to grips with the pro-game.

If anything the Seahawks were ahead of the curve. They were one of the first teams to start an elusive quarterback capable of extending plays. They deliberately made the scramble a feature on the offense — embracing the situation rather than fighting it. They seemed to identity a ‘type’ of linemen they could mould and develop without owning a pick in the top-20.

We’ll see if their way of doing things can produce a solid O-line as it gains further experience.

The good news for the Seahawks is Ifedi, Pocic, Britt, Joeckel and Fant are all trending up.

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Top-20 feature — another October projection

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

I wanted to update this from a few weeks ago. Several players (Tim Settle, Maurice Hurst, Bryce Love, Anthony Miller) deserve some recognition.

Although it’s in the format of a mock draft, it’s not a serious projection. This is simply a way to highlight a few names and pair them with team fits.

If you think someone should be on the list let me know in the comments section. Sam Darnold (QB, USC) and Trey Adams (T, Washington) were not included due to recent reports suggesting they won’t declare for the 2018 draft.

#1 Cleveland — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#2 San Francisco — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 New York Giants — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#4 Indianapolis — Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
#5 Cincinnati — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#6 Tampa Bay — Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
#7 Arizona — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
#8 Baltimore — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#9 Oakland — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#10 New York Jets — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#11 Los Angeles Chargers — Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)
#12 Chicago — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
#13 Dallas — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#14 Denver — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#15 Cleveland (via Houston) — Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
#16 Detroit — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
#17 Atlanta — Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
#18 Washington — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#19 Tennessee — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#20 Jacksonville — Billy Price (G, Ohio State)

Players considered:

Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Austin Bryant (DE, Clemson)
Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)

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Tim Settle is a fantastic prospect

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

In Tony Pauline’s latest ‘risers and sliders’ piece today, he highlighted Virginia Tech defensive tackle Tim Settle:

A redshirt sophomore graded by a number of scouts prior to the season, Settle is playing beyond expectations and has turned in some dominant performances this year. One of those performances occurred this weekend when he was a one-man show against North Carolina, posting five tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The big defensive tackle has recorded 9.5 tackles for loss in seven games this season. Tipping the scales around 325 pounds, Settle is more than a big man that takes up space in the middle of the line; he’s a playmaker who displays a great degree of athleticism and explosion in his game.

After reading the words ‘325 pounds’, ‘playmaker’ and ‘great degree of athleticism’ I wanted to check him out today. I managed to find the North Carolina game on Youtube (see above) and also watched his performance vs Clemson last season.

Tony wasn’t kidding — this guy can move. The 325lbs feels like a conservative estimate. Settle is enormous — and yet he moves with the quickness of a much lighter defensive tackle.

His swim move in particular is a thing of beauty. Take a look:

That’s Settle taking down Deshaun Watson. Look how quickly he’s on the right guard. He just brushes him aside with a perfect swim and he’s in the backfield. Watson tries to take off, sensing the pressure, but no dice. Settle brings him down by the ankles.

You don’t often see this level of athleticism combined with that size.

He’s a former four or five star recruit and he’s always been big (listed at 325lbs by Rivals during recruiting and in some places at 339lbs). He’s a local guy and committed to Virginia Tech but he was coveted by Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and others. He took a visit to USC, Oklahoma State and, somewhat surprisingly, Washington State.

He’s only a redshirt sophomore so might not declare for the 2018 draft. Considering the way he’s playing this year, he’ll likely have a big decision to make.

In the North Carolina game he was terrific. Granted he was playing a weak opponent (UNC’s first two offensive snaps went for -20 yards and the game ended 59-7). Yet he kept jumping off the screen. You just don’t see big men move as fluidly as this:

On one play he lined up at DE and patiently just contained the edge. He then exploded through the B gap and chased the quarterback as he scrambled out of the pocket forcing an incompletion.

The first hit in the video above knocked the QB out of the game. The second hit had him carried off the field.

On the following drive, North Carolina started at their own one yard line. Virginia Tech spelled Settle here and took him off the field. UNC moved the ball well, converting a couple of third downs and getting up to the 25. Settle came back onto the field at this point and immediately bull rushed the right guard two yards into the backfield and dropped the running back for a loss.

Next play? Settle initially shapes as if he’s running a stunt before engaging the center. He shrugs him off with a superb pull/push move and shares a sack with a blitzing defensive back for a loss of 11 yards.

He was off the field and UNC moved the ball 24 yards. He comes back on to the field and immediately generates two huge TFL’s to kill the drive.

Just look at this against Boston College:

Be excited about this guy. He is special.

It’s always exciting to find a player like this. Tim Settle is a player to keep an eye on from now on. On this evidence he could be a very high pick one day.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Giants, move to 4-2

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

The Giants came into this game banged up and missing several key players. No Odell Beckham Jr, no Olivier Vernon, no Brandon Marshall.

Those are just the headliners.

But don’t let anyone talk you into thinking this wasn’t a terrific Seahawks win.

The defense continues to play Championship level football. Is there a better performing unit in the league right now?

They held the prolific Rams to ten points before the bye and completely smothered the Giants today. A couple of ugly plays against Tennessee in week three shouldn’t blight the overall picture. This is a unit that shut out Aaron Rodgers for a whole quarter at Lambeau. They are playing at an elite level.

The usual suspects continue to play with the discipline and execution you’d expect. Several new stars are emerging, however. Jarran Reed is quietly having a fantastic season. His sack fumble of Eli Manning today was the moment this game completely turned in the Seahawks’ favour. A tight contest, still in the balance, suddenly became a ten point Seattle lead thanks to Reed’s turnover.

It’s the second game in a row where he’s made a huge play, following the bull rush he had against the Rams to force Jared Goff to throw straight at Earl Thomas. Reed is not just a run stuffer. He is providing value as a pass rusher. He hasn’t just taken a step forward in 2017, it’s a giant leap.

Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman are equally making an underrated impression on this team. Opponents aren’t exploiting a rookie or a guy picked up via trade right before the season began. Considering these are merely the early days of their careers in Seattle, this is incredibly encouraging for the future of the secondary.

Naz Jones and Frank Clark also continue to have an impact (Clark scooped up the Reed forced fumble) and Sheldon Richardson, while not providing any big splash plays today, has fit into the defense nicely.

This group might not carry some of the attitude we saw in 2013 (they don’t have Red Bryant, Brandon Browner or Chris Clemons) but they might be performing at an equally good if not better level thanks to the youth movement and the addition of Richardson.

Bringing it all together is the play of Bobby Wagner — possibly the most underrated player in the NFL. Wagner is a phenomenal talent, one of the best players in the entire league (offense or defense) and it’s high time he received the national recognition he is due.

Yes they were facing an opponent ravaged by injuries. It’s also worth remembering what this same Giants offense did to Denver’s top tier defense a week ago:

Total yards @ Denver — 266
Total yards vs Seattle — 177

Yards per pass @ Denver — 5.4
Yards per pass vs Seattle — 3.3

Time of possession @ Denver — 30:36
Time of possession vs Seattle — 24:34

Rushing yards @ Denver — 148
Rushing yards vs Seattle — 46

It’s not easy to go into Denver, run the ball effectively and retain a balanced attack. The Giants achieved it and deservedly won on the road last week.

Today, the Seahawks virtually pitched a shut out against the same group. The only points came after a Thomas Rawls fumble deep into Seattle territory.

The defense is playing well enough for the Seahawks to win any game against any opponent. Whether they actually do or not will be down to the offense.

There was little sign of any offensive consistency emerging here. There were major highs and frustrating lows:

— Two horrible Jimmy Graham drops in the first half had everyone rolling their eyes but he had a much better second half capped by a late red zone touchdown

— Thomas Rawls’ fumble put points on the board for New York but he ended the game running hard as Seattle closed it out and managed 104 team rushing yards

— Seattle had 11 unsuccessful ‘and goal’ plays on one first half drive, meaning an eight minute attempt resulted in zero points

— They also moved the ball freely and with great success with Russell Wilson ending with 334 yards and three touchdowns

— Speaking of Wilson, he mostly had an excellent game but missed two wide open touchdowns to Doug Baldwin (wide open) and Tyler Lockett (clearly open) on a day where he could’ve easily had five scores

The encouraging thing is all the gripes are mistakes based around poor execution. Drops, overthrows and fumbles. This wasn’t a back-breaking ‘can’t run for love nor money’ performance or the type where the O-line completely destroys any chance of a sustained drive. On another day they score 30-40 points.

The Seahawks are gaining momentum and return to Seattle for two home games against Houston and Washington (I’ll be attending the Redskins game).

A quick final thought to finish on. The trade deadline isn’t until after the Houston game next week. Is it possible the Seahawks and Texans are waiting until after they meet to work something out for Duane Brown? It might explain why they haven’t signed Brandon Albert. It makes some degree of sense — with the Texans quite rightly not wanting to give Seattle a boost before they meet.

Just something to consider. The trade deadline might be conveniently placed for both teams after next weeks game.

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