“I don’t know if Pete and I would’ve been able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey.”
— John Schneider
“We had to get that done.”
— Pete Carroll
Of the ten players drafted by the Seahawks this week, only Joey Hunt was described as a player they simply had to have.
It was the most interesting part of Carroll and Schneider’s day three press conference. It made an undersized sixth round center thoroughly more fascinating than he otherwise would’ve been.
So this felt like the ideal place to start when reviewing Seattle’s draft class.
The Seahawks run a zone blocking scheme and yet the personnel they use is a real mixed bag. Mike Shanahan’s pure use of the scheme focused on agility and often smaller linemen. The Seahawks have started guys like James Carpenter, Justin Britt, Robert Gallery and now Germain Ifedi. All were in the 6-5, 320lbs range more suited to a man blocking scheme.
I haven’t spent any time studying what the Seahawks called in the run game last season and they may already do this — but I wonder with this pick whether they plan to run a ton of outside stretch. It relies on the left tackle and centre working to the second level, while the guards are asked to pin their defenders inside. Both Garry Gilliam and Hunt are athletic enough to do this — and it might be why they’re looking for size at guard and right tackle as a compliment.
This type of running play is also hugely beneficial for a runner like Thomas Rawls. He attacks the LOS so well, reads the hole and explodes. He’s extremely precise and sudden. They might be designing their O-line around Rawls — and possibly C.J. Prosise too (or at least that type of runner/skill set).
The combination of size/agility across the line also possibly counters some of the issues the traditional ZBS has faced against the growing disparity between O-line and D-line in the NFL. You’ve got some bigger maulers in there but still complimented with athleticism/agility at certain positions too. It could also allow the Seahawks to install some man-scheme counters and game plan for specific opponents.
So what about Joey Hunt specifically? I watched two games today (vs Kansas State & Minnesota).
He loves to get to the second level and doesn’t waste any time in doing so. He’s also a master at executing precise double teams — an underrated aspect of the ZBS.
The scheme in its most basic form asks a lineman to determine whether he is covered or uncovered on a given snap. If he’s uncovered, the player is often required to work a double team. Time and time again on tape you see Hunt effectively blocking inside on a double team. It seems like he’s reading the plays correctly, understanding his duty on a snap-by-snap basis and doing what he needs to do. If that’s the case, it arguably makes him relatively prepared to succeed in Seattle’s scheme.
Only this week Pete Carroll mentioned how disappointed he was watching college O-line tape pre-draft. Carroll, Schneider and Tom Cable have talked about how badly prepared offensive linemen are entering the league. If Hunt provides any kind of an edge here in terms of his readiness — that has to be a plus.
On the first snap of the game vs Kansas State Hunt perfectly executes a double team, opening up a huge running lane for a long touchdown. On several occasions in this match-up he opened up running lanes right up the gut.
There are two other big positives on tape. He sets well in protection with an upright posture and he’s very good at the legal cut block (which remains a key feature of the ZBS).
Size could be an issue. There are times when he’s walked back into the pocket. He seems to struggle against long defensive linemen who get into his frame and move him off balance. There were a couple of times where he struggled to plant and hold position and was nearly on the turf. He was handled pretty easily on both occasions and didn’t really have a counter. He’s only 6-2 and 300lbs with 30 1/4 inch arms. He’s pretty adept at squaring up and winning with leverage — but there are times where he’s controlled by bigger, longer and more explosive defensive linemen.
There were times where Hunt showed really good technique with his hands. On a couple of attempted spin moves he just worked the DL and stayed in position. He moves well on his feet and wasn’t beaten once vs Kansas State or Minnesota by a swim/rip.
His main challenger for the job is Patrick Lewis who himself is only 6-1 and 311lbs with 32 1/2 inch arms. It’s kind of peculiar that the Seahawks have looked at so many contrasting body types at centre. Hunt and Lewis are small and lack length and yet Max Unger was around 6-5 and 305lbs. All three lack truly explosive athleticism. Then there’s Kristjan Sokoli — the best athlete to enter the NFL in a generation with size (6-4, 295lbs) and length (34 inch arms).
There isn’t a great deal preventing Hunt from competing early for a starting spot. He’ll battle with Lewis, Sokoli and possibly Will Pericak. That’s a wide open race and let’s not forget — Lewis a year ago didn’t win the job vs Drew Nowak.
It wouldn’t be a total shocker if the Seahawks started a sixth round rookie on their O-line in 2016 — along with possibly two other rookies if Germain Ifedi and Rees Odhiambo hit the ground running.