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Thursday notes: Ten wins & C.J. Prosise frustration

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

How many games will the Seahawks win?

When I received this Tweet, I responded with a gut feeling and said ten wins while hoping for more.

It’s a comfortable answer but is it fair?

The Seahawks won ten games in 2016 despite a laundry list of issues. Russell Wilson wasn’t healthy at any point in the season after hurting his ankle in week one, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett suffered horrific injuries, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett missed time, the O-line was terrible and the running back situation was at times chaotic.

Having relied on Marshawn Lynch for so long, the Seahawks were suddenly leaning on Christine Michael, C.J. Spiller and Alex Collins in a key game against Atlanta. Michael, a cast-off from a year ago, was now leading the running attack until he was again cut. Thomas Rawls never seemed to be fully healthy after a week two setback and C.J. Prosise (more on him later) played six games.

Despite all of this, they were a blown week 16 home game against Arizona from claiming the #2 seed and a playoff bye. That’s pretty incredible really.

When you factor in the tied game against the Cardinals and the week two write-off in Los Angeles where Wilson could barely move, a more fortunate run with injuries could’ve easily led to a +12 win season.

As they start afresh with a healthier group, a (hopefully) improved O-line and Wilson looking very sharp — there’s little reason for a conservative prediction.

So why is it still hard to say more than 10 wins?

It’s probably fear of the same thing happening again. The Seahawks have been so snake-bitten with injuries in the last two seasons. No team had more players on injured reserve in 2016. They lost so many crucial contributors and were already nursing the likes of Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls back from serious injuries.

It’s an inevitable part of the game and players who were seemingly invincible were hurt for the first time. Earl Thomas hadn’t missed a game in his NFL career since arriving in 2010. Then he breaks his leg in the ‘year of the injury’. Wilson — so durable and elusive — was suddenly hobbled with various issues.

There’s also a bit of recency bias at play. Seattle’s potent running attack fell of a cliff in 2016. It was toothless — partly due to Wilson’s injury taking way the scrambling dynamic and partly due to the O-line and the running back injuries.

For the Seahawks to be at their very best they need teams to fear the run. Between 2012 and 2014 opponents probably spent hours trying to work out how they were going to handle Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. How do you guard the scrambling ability of Wilson, fill the second level with coverage and still keep the required eight-man box to defend Lynch?

They might not have Lynch any more but there’s no reason why the running backs on the roster can’t at least provide some balance. You only have to look at the offense with a healthy Rawls in 2015 for evidence of that.

Even if Rawls and C.J. Prosise continue to be perennially banged up, Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson are a better alternative than scrambling around for a C.J Spiller type or needing to lean on Alex Collins or Troymaine Pope.

And if the Seahawks can stay somewhat healthy and if they can run the ball effectively — then there’s no reason why they can’t be that +12 win team again.

After all, the 2014 season wasn’t a stroll in the park. They had to deal with Percy Harvin’s departure, growing unrest with Lynch, injuries to key players like Brandon Mebane. They had a slow start and were 3-3 and 6-4 before ending the season with a six game winning streak and earning the #1 seed.

Some strife is manageable, clearly. In 2015 and 2016, trying to move on from the Super Bowl defeat, the end of the Lynch era, the injuries — it ended up being too much.

And yet both times Seattle still eked out ten wins.

So while that feels right as a prediction for the 2017 season, it’s probably subconsciously an attempt to avoid tempting fate. Because unless the Seahawks suffer another miserable year of drama and injury — they comfortably have the talent to top ten wins and have the kind of season that puts them right in contention again.

Are the Seahawks running out of patience with C.J. Prosise?

Brock Huard had some very interesting things to say on his 710ESPN show this morning:

“Here’s what I know — and they won’t say it publicly — but C.J. Prosise, this organisation is getting frustrated with him. You’re just a tease right now. And that’s not the position you want to be in…

“…there comes a point, when you’re drafted in the third round, when these organisations say you’re just not durable man and you’re just not reliable and we cannot trust you. And for that matter, you’re fired. And I don’t know if that’s going to be in ten days. I don’t know if there’s going to be a real need and somebody else says I’ll take on some of that risk and I’ll trade, give you something in the fifth or whatever, but man. There comes a point of frustration where there’s a tipping point. It’s one thing when it’s a blunt trauma and you fracture your scapula, it’s another when it’s hamstring and it’s groin and you’ve got to be right.

“I played with guys like this. Dave Wyman played with guys like this. ‘Everything’s got to be right’. You’ve got to feel good like a track superstar that can fine tune every hamstring, tendon and every muscle in their body they just feel it. And he’s getting kind of close here to pushing that real line.”

Pete Carroll announced today Prosise will not play against Kansas City on Friday (qualifying that if it was a regular season game he might be involved).

Thomas Rawls is also out.

Both players are clearly very exciting running backs with a lot of potential. Eventually, however, they’ve got to put a season together.

Rawls is a slightly different case because his injuries (broken ankle, broken leg) were serious and incidental. He’s also an undrafted free agent whose issues are, if anything, a result of trying too hard and playing without fear.

Prosise is a third round pick. He had the broken scapula but has also missed a lot of time with little niggling injuries. Huard appears to be suggesting he’s the type of player — and they exist in every sport — who retreats into the background as soon as they don’t quite feel confident enough to go at anything below 90-95%.

You get the feeling Rawls would go at 20% if he was allowed to. Prosise is going to have to play through some discomfort, get out there and make it happen.

It’s probably too soon to consider cutting ties and making any kind of bold move (unless an interesting deal for an O-liner or interior pass rusher emerges) — but Huard’s words certainly suggest the Seahawks are running out of patience with their third round pick in 2016.

One final note for today — can you believe this was five years ago?

The Super Bowl winning season in 2013 was, of course, a fantastic year for Seahawks fans. There probably wasn’t a more exciting or interesting time though than the emergence of Wilson in 2012.

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Seahawks trade for Matt Tobin & roster thoughts

Monday, August 21st, 2017

NOTE — I’ve updated this piece following the trade reported above. Below you’ll find some thoughts on the roster at the mid-way point of the pre-season.

Matt Tobin is a 27-year-old former UDFA in 2013. He’s been with the Eagles for his whole NFL career, starting 21 games (although he only started once last season).

It’s not a particularly cheap trade. The Seahawks have had some success in round five over the years (Sherman, Chancellor). The swap sees them move down two full rounds. The Eagles get Seattle’s fifth, the Seahawks get Tobin and a seventh.

Clearly they felt they needed more competition at tackle following the George Fant injury.

Eagles fans seem mixed on this. Scanning through the reaction on social media, there’s a genuine even split between ‘great deal’, ‘fair deal’ and ‘WTF?’.

His 2017 cap hit is $900,000. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, so it’s a rental. This further illustrates why the Fant injury is so frustrating. The Seahawks are forced to be pro-active in acquiring the cheapest tackle they can get, purely to have some depth at the position.

Moving onto the roster thoughts…

Room for an extra runner?

Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise and Chris Carson will make the roster. Last year the Seahawks carried four running backs and a full back — so add Marcel Reese to the group and that could be a complete quintet.

But do the Seahawks need the insurance of another running back?

Last season Rawls, Lacy and Prosise combined to miss 28 (!!!) regular season games. Rawls and Prosise missed the Minnesota game on Friday with minor injuries.

It’s unlikely Mike Davis and Alex Collins will clear waivers if they’re cut. Seahawks running backs are regularly snapped up. If you needed to add a running back mid-season (and Seattle has faced this dilemma in each of the last two years), you’re unlikely to find anyone as good as Davis or Collins.

Keeping one more runner just provides that extra insurance in case of an emergency. In the past Seattle has had a ‘red shirt’ player on the roster (think DeAndre Elliott, Kristjan Sokoli or Benson Mayowa). Maybe this year instead they simply retain another running back?

It could even be J.D. McKissic. Yes he had the fumble against Minnesota but he’s also provided some special teams value and he can play the Prosise role if needs be too.

The receiver position appears fairly resolved

Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson are locks to make the team. Brock Huard recently mentioned some chatter that Jermaine Kearse could be moved. Until it happens, it’s hard to make a roster projection that doesn’t include one of the few experienced and consistently healthy receivers on the roster.

Kasen Williams has done as much as anyone in pre-season to warrant a roster spot and appears locked in too (at least for the time being). They could potentially keep a sixth receiver (especially if Lockett needs time as he returns from a broken leg) and presumably that would be third round pick Amara Darboh.

It’d be rough on Tanner McEvoy. He’s not had the opportunities in pre-season he had a year ago. He made a handful of plays as a rookie transitioning to a new position. Unless the Seahawks intend to move Kearse to go with a youth movement or opt to cut a player in Darboh whom they recently invested a third round pick — it’s hard to find a way to fit him in.

O-line could provide some intrigue

It’s reasonable to expect the Seahawks to retain nine O-liners, possibly ten if they’re willing to sacrifice someone at another position. Several spots are clearly secured — Luke Joeckel, Rees Odhiambo, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, Oday Aboushi and Mark Glowsinki will almost certainly be on the roster.

Newly acquired Matt Tobin likely makes it considering the outlay they just spent on him.

So who else makes the cut?

Pete Carroll spoke glowingly about Jordan Roos at a recent press conference, suggesting the rookie UDFA was also a virtual lock to make the roster and provide depth at guard. That could be the group, unless they want to carry ten given Fant’s injury.

Tyrus Thompson comes in to essentially tryout but he doesn’t have much time. He’ll have to impress when he gets an opportunity and the Tobin deal is ominous for him. The big knock on Thompson coming into the league was effort and desire. He’s running out of chances in the NFL.

According to PFF Joey Hunt has been Seattle’s best ranked pass protector in pre-season. Meanwhile Will Perciak is second only to Germain Ifedi in run blocking. Either player could be retained if they want to carry an extra man.

How will the front seven shake out?

Athyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Naz Jones are locks as interior D-linemen. It’s an area that still looks a little thin and they could use one more rotational player. A trade to add another D-liner still feels possible.

If not, you can make a case for several players. Rodney Coe is among Seattle’s best defensive performers in pre-season according to PFF. They traded up for Quinton Jefferson in the 2016 draft and Tylor Harris and Garrison Smith have had the occasional good play this year.

At defensive end, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will be on the roster. David Bass couldn’t have done any more really to win a roster spot. That could be the five.

This really comes down to how they view Marcus Smith. Carroll spoke positively about him last week and he played well in his debut against Minnesota. As a former first round pick with upside, they could see an upside and value that isn’t present in Bass. Alternatively they could keep Bass and cut one of the linebackers to retain Smith.

It’s a move that could impact D.J. Alexander. Yes he’s a very good special teamer — yet the likes of Dewey McDonald have done enough to warrant keeping around and they’re not going to cut Michael Wilhoite or Terence Garvin. So if they want to keep Smith and Bass, Alexander could be the odd one out. Several players from Chris Carson to J.D. McKissic to Kasen Williams have shown up on special teams in pre-season. That might make them consider whether they want to keep a player like Alexander who is solely a special teams ‘specialist’.

Secondary looks settled and sorted

There’s nothing to debate at safety (Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bradley McDougald, Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson should make the team) and the cornerback position is pretty settled with Richard Sherman, Shaquill Griffin, Jeremy Lane, Tramaine Brock and Neiko Thorpe all likely to make the cut.

Brock’s addition probably doesn’t spell good news for DeAndre Elliott. They liked Elliott enough to redshirt him a year ago though so they might keep some faith in that particular project.

It’s interesting though how little hype there is around Pierre Desir. He’s played well in the two pre-season games so far (something that is recognised by PFF) and yet there’s an air of resignation already that he’s on the outside looking in.

Again, some of the thinking here changes dramatically if the Seahawks trade Jeremy Lane (something being discussed among fans recently). Although Tramaine Brock’s addition increasingly looks less like a Lane replacement plan and more like the team insuring themselves against needing to start someone as inexperienced as Elliott if one or two injuries occur.

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Report: Seahawks to sign Tyrus Thompson

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Thompson was a somewhat highly touted lineman at Oklahoma, starting at left tackle ahead of Daryl Williams (a player who went two rounds earlier in the 2015 draft).

Teams reportedly had mixed feelings about him. While some thought highly of his size, length and athletic potential — others were suspicious about his effort.

The difference between Williams and Thompson was pretty obvious. Williams played with an intensity and an edge lacking in Thompson. He had the skill set to start at the next level but questions lingered about his desire to make it happen.

That kind of makes sense when you look at his career to date. Drafted by the Vikings in round six, they cut him by September 18th. He lasted a few months on Jacksonville’s practise squad before signing with the Lions in January 2016. That spell in Detroit lasted until May. He switched to New Orleans but was cut in October.

After a year in the league he’d already had four teams.

His latest stop was in Carolina where he lasted a few months and was cut a week ago. All of the teams listed above have had issues with their O-lines, so it’s not encouraging that he hasn’t been able to stick anywhere.

He’s yet to feature in a NFL game.

This is the situation Seattle faces, however. There isn’t a ready made market for replacement left tackles. They’re being forced to look for someone who can supply depth and might be able to stick as a backup. Thompson has the athletic potential and the size (6-5, 324lbs, 35 inch arms). Lance Zierlein noted in his blurb:

“Has NFL talent and athleticism. Is able to climb up to the second level and engage assignments. Effective wall-off blocker. Can change direction in pass protection and is able to adjust in space to get to moving targets. Light on his feet for a big guy. Has the feet and length to be a starting left tackle in the league. Has athleticism to recover when beaten in pass protection. Can move laterally and make tough blocks when needed.”

Thompson might not last long in Seattle — but in terms of the available options to bring someone in at a cheap cost to provide some competition and depth at tackle, this was one of the few possible moves that carried some upside.

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Some thoughts on the George Fant injury

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

George Fant’s injury is, as Pete Carroll put it, ‘heartbreaking’.

His rise from undrafted free agent/basketball player to starting left tackle was meteoric. His occasional struggles last year were predictable and his improved play in the first two pre-season games of 2017 was encouraging.

Early in the game against Minnesota he handled $58m pass rusher Everson Griffen not once but twice:

He’s in control. His footwork compliments his power at the point of attack and he’s balanced.

He looks like a starting left tackle.

The Seahawks haven’t had much luck with injuries over the last twelve months. A year ago Seattle’s season derailed in week one with Russell Wilson’s ankle problem. By the end of the year Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett had missed significant time while Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett suffered broken legs.

And there’s the laundry list of injuries at running back.

Before the 2017 season has even kicked off the Seahawks are without their starting left tackle due to an ACL injury and their first pick in the draft, Malik McDowell, is out indefinitely.

It’s also troubling to see Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise picking up minor niggles again.

Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Naturally there’s an air of despondency among Seahawks fans. Fant was starting to look really good. He’d been anointed the starter. Things were settled on the left side of the O-line.

However, some perspective is required before the trade demands spread like wildfire and panic sets in.

For starters, while losing Fant is a blow, this isn’t an injury to Earl Thomas or Russell Wilson. Seattle has two players on the roster with experience at left tackle (Luke Joeckel and Rees Odhiambo) and they have depth at guard.

Joeckel might not have the athletic upside of Fant but he was a former #2 overall pick as a left tackle. Odhiambo was also highly thought of when Seattle spent a coveted third round pick on him a year ago.

When Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 they had Paul McQuistan as their starting left tackle for eight games. It didn’t derail the season and McQuistan, as serviceable as he was, probably isn’t a better left tackle than Joeckel.

If they want to add an outsider, Branden Albert is the name that stands out. He was recently released by Jacksonville after retiring and un-retiring in a short space of time. Is he likely to move to Seattle on a minimum contract? It’s not improbable but he’d have to value competing over money.

It’s also unclear whether the Seahawks would want to go with a street free agent and struggle through growing pains when they have options on the roster already.

‘Next man up’ is probably the answer. After all, if there is any flexibility to make a tweak or two to the roster, are you not better off bringing in the much talked about extra D-liner and trusting Joeckel and Odhiambo to hold down the left side?

At least Odhiambo is getting plenty of snaps. Against the Chargers he saw 90% of the plays — 30% more than anyone else. He again led the offense versus Minnesota with 67% of the snaps (Ethan Pocic was second with 54%).

It’s a crying shame for George Fant and hopefully he can make the kind of miraculous, inspiring comeback we’ve seen from Jimmy Graham, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett over the last 18 months.

The experience of those three players in particular will be a useful resource and Fant won’t be short of support. The Seahawks appeared as connected as ever during the Minnesota game.

The positives for me were Naz Jones and Marcus Smith. Seattle needs D-line and pass rush depth. Jones was a beast throughout, creating pressure and showing a relentless attitude. Smith had three QB hurries and looked like a former first round pick with a role to play.

It was also encouraging to see the tight ends involved, Mike Davis had a nice cameo at running back and of course Kasen Williams had a stunning pair of catches in the first quarter.

It’d also be unfair not to mention the form of Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin. Wilson looks incredibly sharp and Baldwin appears ready to further enhance his ever growing reputation. It was also fun to see him get in Chris Carson’s face after he checked out of the game in the second quarter. Moments later, Mike Davis scored a touchdown on a checkdown by Wilson. It was a little reminder by Baldwin that the ‘Always Compete’ mantra doesn’t take a play off.

The Seahawks look strong after two pre-season games. The key is to avoid further injuries and find a way to add another impact defensive lineman to the rotation.

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Seahawks vs Vikings

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

I’ve only watched the first half (3am kick off here, driving to London Saturday morning). I wanted to put this up as an open thread with a few thoughts…

— What a shame for George Fant. He was looking strong and in control. It’s a cruel game sometimes. The Seahawks’ injury bug is already in full force. Malik McDowell and George Fant are out before even week three of the pre-season.

— Germain Ifedi unfortunately appeared to have several errors in the first half. He gave up a way too easy sack vs Danielle Hunter, just ‘opening the door’ as Brock Huard put it. There are too many of these instances. It wasn’t all bad by any stretch but that’s the thing. We need to start seeing a level of consistent play.

— After the first offensive drive it felt like Kasen Williams had won a roster spot. He had a high-point catch vs Xavier Rhodes on the left sideline and scored a touchdown on a fade in the red zone.

— Earl Thomas had a huge hit for the second week in a row. He’s ready for week one.

— Doug Baldwin was yelling at Chris Carson after he checked out of the game late in the first half. He did this during training camp too. Mike Davis duly obliged, entering the field to score a touchdown on a Wilson checkdown.

Justin Britt signs $9m a year extension

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Continuity at last on the offensive line.

There are legitimate reasons why the Seahawks endured a period of adjustment on their O-line. With Justin Britt, there were also legit reasons why it was important to keep him in Seattle.

It took him a couple of years to find his spot but Britt excelled at center last season, providing the kind of quiet consistency Seattle has lacked with its O-line since 2014.

The quarterback-center relationship is an underrated combination. Russell Wilson has taken snaps from a lot of different players — Max Unger, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Patrick Lewis, Drew Nowak, Britt. Having finally settled on a comfortable partnership, the Seahawks clearly wanted to put an end to all the changes.

The quarterback likely appreciates this news more than anyone.

This should change once and for all the somewhat misguided notion that the Seahawks are unwilling to spend on the offensive line. For the right player, they’re clearly prepared. Britt was the right player.

It also changes some of our thinking. Previously we’d discussed Ethan Pocic being a ‘hedge’ pick. If the Seahawks didn’t want to spend $9m a year on Britt they had the option to move on next year, inserting Pocic as the starter.

It’s fair to say in light of today’s news that this was an incorrect assertion. Seattle clearly is very fond of Britt. His $9m a year salary puts him among the top earners on the roster. It means he’s a core player.

The timing equally suggests this was a priority not a possibility.

With hindsight I/we should’ve taken Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s words as gospel after the draft. They liked Pocic’s ability to play multiple positions. Now they have a guy competing to start at right guard and right tackle — and a player who can fill in at either position or center when needed.

This also eats up a significant chunk of any remaining cap room, unless the $9m a year only kicks in from 2018 and he continues to play the 2017 on his $1.09m cap hit. I don’t know how likely this is, we’ll have to wait for details on the contract.

If the new money comes in the extension, it doesn’t impact their ability to be creative in trying to do some of the ‘tweaks’ Mike Garafolo talked about earlier in the week (namely, adding an interior pass rusher to make up for the loss of Malik McDowell).

It was interesting to hear Brock Huard discussing possible roster moves on ESPN 710 this morning. Click on this link and fast forward to around the 4:15 mark.

Brock was talking about Jermaine Kearse and his skill set. Mike Salk asserted that Kearse won’t be going anywhere because of his contract.

Huard’s response was intriguing:

“Well, I don’t know. I was talking to a few folks yesterday and I don’t know how many of them are going to go on the record with this — not Gee Scott by the way — but I talked to some other people around the team and, ah I don’t know. I had that assumption too, I had that assumption — oh yeah’s he’s a lock, there’s no way — that contract and everything else. And you see some little trade rumblings here and there, some needs (at) other places. Amara Darboh they can’t wait to watch, Kasen Williams put on a show (in) game number one. I don’t know if that’s quite set in stone they way it was heading into camp.”

If you pair this with Garofolo’s report earlier in the week, there certainly seems to be a desire to make some moves before the season. That could involve Kearse and/or Jeremy Lane, given what Huard says here and the fact they just signed Tramaine Brock.

For what it’s worth Huard later goes on to mention Sheldon Richardson at the end of the piece but the conversation doesn’t really go anywhere. There wasn’t a ‘this could happen’ line but neither was there anything to suggest it’s unlikely. That remains a really fascinating option for now as long as Britt’s extension doesn’t significantly increase his 2017 cap hit and they find a way to make savings elsewhere (either by moving players to New York or by Richardson being willing to take a pay cut).

Furthermore, the Jets have big needs at receiver and cornerback at the moment.

Something seems to be brewing, whether it’s for Richardson or another player/players. This should be an interesting few weeks.

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Will the Seahawks trade for Sheldon Richardson?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

You’ll notice in the video above, Mike Garafolo references the Seahawks will be ‘tweaking’ their roster before the season begins. ‘Just stay tuned’ Garofolo adds, providing a layer of intrigue.

So what could this be?

The Seahawks today agreed terms with cornerback Tramaine Brock on a one-year contact. Garofolo’s ‘tweaks’ aren’t referencing Brock, however. He already touched on that potential addition in his segment.

So what is he talking about?

The one big loss so far in pre-season is Malik McDowell. The Seahawks were banking on him contributing as an inside/out rusher, providing a new pass rush element that has been lacking for a couple of years. With McDowell possibly sidelined for the whole season — it’s an area the Seahawks would presumably like to address.

The Jets’ Sheldon Richardson revealed recently that the Seahawks were interested in trading for him but wanted him to take a pay cut. His cap hit this year is $8m. Seattle only has $9m in remaining cap space according to Spotrac and they can ill-afford to enter the season with only $1m spare. They’d have to make some savings.

Is it possible Seattle retains interest, especially in light of McDowell’s injury?

ESPN reporter Rich Cimini believes the Jets are still interested in trading Richardson and are eager to upgrade at cornerback:

“I think they’re still open to trading Richardson. From what I hear, they’d like to bolster the cornerback position and he’s obviously their best bargaining chip — maybe their only chip.”

Adding Tramaine Brock allows the Seahawks to feel comfortable trading one of their existing cornerbacks.

Jeremy Lane’s cap hit is $5.25m this year. If Seattle moved him to New York for Richardson, they might be able to make it work financially. Brock adds an experienced replacement to the roster who can play outside and nickel.

They’d likely have to spend a draft pick too.

The Jets are in a major rebuild this year and have been trying to move Richardson for a while — a player they’re unlikely to re-sign when he becomes a free agent in the off-season. When he leaves, the best they can hope for is a third or fourth round comp pick. A similar offer today — such as a fourth rounder — might be tempting. They get the pick in 2018 instead of 2019 for starters. And if they want to spend big in free agency on a different player they won’t lose the comp pick.

They’d also get a corner in Lane who is still young enough to work with (he turned 27 in July) and if they wanted, they can cut him quite easily in 2018.

The Seahawks would get a one-year rental in Richardson — a player capable of providing the interior rush they desire. He replaces McDowell in the line-up and probably even offers an upgrade. Richardson isn’t a rookie and has the motivation of being in a contract year.

You could argue it’s a lot for a one-year rental. Consider this though — McDowell will hopefully return in 2018, the Seahawks are unlikely to be big spenders in free agency and if Richardson moves somewhere else for good money they’ll recoup their outlay via a 2019 comp pick.

And who knows what else could happen? The Seahawks brought in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril as rentals. They’re still here, integral parts of the defense. They might find a way to keep Richardson too.

This could all be rosterbation of course. Big trades are rare at this time of year, although the recent deals involving Buffalo, Philadelphia and Los Angeles show they aren’t improbable. A Sheldon Richardson trade makes sense for both parties — and Garofolo hinting at further tweaks to the roster suggests something is in the pipeline.

If it isn’t Richardson, we could well see a different trade for a pass rusher.

Some brief thoughts on the O-line vs the Chargers

I quickly re-watched Sunday’s game yesterday, focusing on the left side of the O-line. I’ll watch the right side later today.

I thought Rees Odhiambo had a terrific game. He played 90% of the snaps on offense, 30% more than anyone else. He spent some time at left tackle and left guard. It’s at guard though where I thought he showed a ton of promise.

Luke Joeckel is the presumed starter but if Odhiambo continues to play the way he did against the Chargers, he has to be in with a shout to take the job. It really was a fine performance. Odhiambo was in control, flashed power in the run game and had no trouble in pass pro. Taking Kasen Williams’ four catches out of the equation, I’d argue Odhiambo was the biggest positive from the game.

George Fant also had a very good display. There are still times where his footwork isn’t quite right and he’ll give up some pressure — especially against the likes of Melvin Ingram. He’s not going to be the finished product in week one of his first proper pre-season. However, there was one occasion where he just engulfed two defenders with size and power. His fundamentals are light years ahead of where he was a year ago. I noticed on more than one play Germain Ifedi didn’t use his frame and length to keep the EDGE outside, allowing him to dip back inside and create pressure. At the very least Fant didn’t have any moments like this. If you have this kind of size/arm length and you’re playing tackle, just keep everything outside.

Joeckel had a decent game without the wow-factor of Odhiambo or Fant. His upside is fairly limited in comparison. He’s steady. He’s going to be pushed by Odhiambo on this evidence though. This seems like a battle now — instead of the presumed coronation of a left side of Fant-Joeckel. The upside of Fant-Odhiambo could end up being too tempting.

In game notes: Seahawks hammer Chargers 48-17

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

First half

— As first halves in opening pre-season games go, this couldn’t have gone much better. Turnovers, big plays from a backup quarterback, the receivers and defenders making a ton of plays, the pass pro was generally good, Blair Walsh was perfect and Seattle scored 34 first half points (unusually high for pre-season but that’s what turnovers do for a team).

— There were also obvious things to work on. Tedric Thompson’s blown coverage on the +70 yard touchdown was a pretty obvious mistake he can take away to work on. Delano Hill also lost the ball in the air late in the half, allowing LA to get a late field goal.

— The overriding positive is, however, how much Seattle dominated as soon as the starters left the field. In 2013 Seattle stormed through pre-season with their superior depth. It was a show of strength, a flexing of muscles. It’s entirely possible the Chargers are really bad but the Seahawks’ depth looked really competitive today in the first half.

— Turnovers. Three of them. Seattle got the ball and put points on the board (17 to be exact). This is Pete Carroll/Seahawks football.

— The first saw Michael Wilhoite tip a pass into the hands of Terence Garvin for a superb pick six. Wilhoite and Garvin could lock themselves in quickly as the two premier backups at LB. It was great to see Naz Jones make a similar deflection on the second for a Tylor Harris pick. Christian French was gifted a third turnover after a botched hand-off. He almost took it in for a second pick six before Chris Carson punched it in.

— Garrison Smith had a nice interior rush on the Garvin pick, forcing the quarterback to make an ill-advised throw. Cassius Marsh had a nice TFL and Bradley McDougald drew a holding penalty when running into the backfield. Dewey McDonald also managed a nice TFL vs the run and David Bass recorded a sack despite being held.

— Yes the first team defense gave up a straight forward TD to start the game. It’s worth noting Seattle has conceded points on their first pre-season defensive drive in five of the last six years. They played vanilla against the team that wrote the book on how to exploit Seattle’s zone coverage in 2014. In other words, it’s no big deal.

— Seattle’s third offensive drive was very encouraging for a number of reasons. The pass-protection was very good, Trevone Boykin made some nice completions and had an excellent run play and multiple receivers made big plays.

— Kasen Williams’ high-point grab in coverage, Tanner McEvoy finding a hole in the zone and Kenny Lawler’s smart red zone touchdown highlighted the talent and depth Seattle suddenly has at receiver. Lawler looks bigger and Williams’ catch will challenge Paul Richardson’s on the first drive for most impressive of the day. The receivers were a big positive in the first half.

— Boykin hasn’t received positive reviews for the way he’s performed in camp so far but he seems like a guy who’s able to turn it on when it matters during a game. He seems to thrive when surrounded by chaos, with ice in his veins and a knack for playmaking. He looked sensational in the first half, extending drives and making key conversions with his arm and legs. He was accurate, fast and methodical. Austin Davis has a job to match this in the second half.

— Kasen Williams had another great catch on the left sideline, almost a carbon copy of his first grab. It set up Seattle’s final touchdown before half time.

— Marcus Lucas found a way to have an impact wearing #85. He’s a name to watch going forward. It was interesting to see him featured on the first drive too. There’s not much room for a tight end to emerge with all the depth at receiver — but they carried four TE’s in 2016.

— Blair Walsh had a perfect half and looked comfortable, confident and on-point.

— J.D. McKissic was on kick-return duties and had a nice special teams tackle. Having a reliable return man given Tyler Lockett’s recent return from injury could be very important.

— I’m going to reserve judgement on the O-line performance until I can focus on each player. Overall the pass pro appeared competent with a few errors (which is to be expected). A positive start.

Second half

— Kasen Williams is playing his way onto the team in this game. Four catches for 119 yards, all very similar jump balls to the left hand side. The third he actively stole the ball away from a defensive back who looked certain to make an interception. His fourth catch was inches away from a touchdown, somehow getting both feet in bounds on a superb circus catch. He was arguably the big individual winner in the game for Seattle.

— Chris Carson looks as good as advertised. He hit the hole with authority, scoring two red zone touchdowns where he powered his way in for a score. This was an impressive start to his pre-season although he only had seven carries. Tellingly he came in before Alex Collins and Mike Davis — a suggestion he’s ahead of both and so far heading for a clear roster spot.

— Boykin’s first negative play of the night was a deep shot to Cyril Grayson leading to an interception. He was under pressure and didn’t get enough on the throw as a consequence — but Grayson appeared well covered.

— Christian French followed his fumble recovery with a sack. He was only signed this week after a tryout. He’ll warrant monitoring moving forward. He also had a couple of plays where he seemed to be absorbed.

— It was a shame Cyril Grayson couldn’t come down with the touchdown to the right corner of the end zone. He got open pretty quickly in the route but Austin Davis hesitated, abandoned a clean pocket and then threw a looping but accurate pass. Grayson just couldn’t get his second foot down. It was a nice effort.

— Alex Collins had to wait for his turn and had a couple of nice plays with his first few touches. However, on a fourth and one he failed to pull in a touch pass from Davis that should’ve been caught to extend the drive. He made up for it with a touchdown to finish a well executed Davis touchdown drive.

— Considering there was a fair bit of negativity about Seattle’s two backup QB’s in the first two weeks of camp, both looked more than competent here.

— One thing that was noticeable — Naz Jones doesn’t give up on plays. He finishes, plays to the whistle and will sprint to the ball carrier downfield when needed. He also hammered Cardale Jones for a QB hit. He’s a bad ass.

— Following on from Marcus Lucas’ good start earlier, Tyrone Swoopes made a couple of really nice plays. He’s a developmental TE but on this evidence worth keeping an eye on. He’s probably a guy they hope to slip onto the practise squad but this was a nice start to his pre-season.

— This isn’t unusual during a Seahawks pre-season but it was great to see the likes of Kam Chancellor, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Richard Sherman supporting their team mates, all focused on the game deep into the fourth quarter.

— Seattle only gave up two sacks in the game. On first watch the O-line played well when Joey Bosa wasn’t on the field and the running backs overall did a good job in pass pro too. The run blocking could’ve been better but it’s not always easy to judge in a pre-season game with so many moving parts and the D-lines generally staying fresh.

— It’s testament to Seattle’s sudden RB depth that a guy like Mike Davis almost ended up being an afterthought. He ran with physicality and toughness here and could yet make things interesting in pre-season.

— Blair Walsh had plenty of practise today with eight kicks. He nailed all of them with a long of 42-yards.

— Rookie Mike Tyson was well beaten on a downfield pass late in the fourth quarter. Seattle made up for it shortly after with a fourth turnover of the night to kill the game — Pierre Desir executing a well timed blitz to get a sack/fumble.

Final thoughts

It’s only one pre-season game and this might say more for LA’s depth than anything — but this was a mightily impressive opening game for the Seahawks. They forced turnovers, put points on the board and had big plays on both sides of the ball. The 2013 pre-season showed off Seattle’s depth in a similar fashion. This was a very encouraging start to 2017.

What did you think to the 48-17 win? Let me know in the comments section.

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Friday pre-season week one notes (@ Chargers)

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Thoughts ahead of Seattle’s first pre-season game against the Chargers…

— A year ago Seattle’s first choice O-line performed pretty well in pre-season. The three interior linemen in particular (Glowinski, Britt, Ifedi) impressed, even if there were question marks at tackle. For that reason it might be difficult to judge Seattle’s O-line over the next four games. The hope has to be that there’s a level of consistency whoever’s on the field. In 2016 the second choice O-line was tossed around and dominated. If the drop-off in performance isn’t as steep this year, that might be a good gauge that we’re seeing progress.

— Sunday is a big opportunity for Shaquill Griffin. He’ll be starting at outside cornerback with Jeremy Lane out injured. Lane’s lingering soft-tissue problem has presented an opportunity for someone to steal a job. Now it’s up to Griffin to prove he’s up to the task. In 2011 an injury to Marcus Trufant gave rookie Richard Sherman an opportunity and he never looked back. Let’s see if Griffin can emulate Seattle’s #1 corner.

— We know who the impact players are on Seattle’s D-line but it’d be nice to see some depth emerge. The injury to Malik McDowell has impacted the rotation. The Seahawks don’t necessarily need more stars, just contributors. Someone who can maybe get five sacks from the interior and someone else who can take some snaps off the edge. It’d be a relief if players like Quinton Jefferson, Naz Jones, Garrison Smith and Marcus Smith have a good outing. Seattle has studs up front but the depth is a question mark at the moment.

— I want to see a lot of Alex Collins and Chris Carson. We know Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are going to make the team. There’s little need for any of the three to get a big workload this week. Collins has received praise for a productive off-season while Carson has been getting rave reviews in camp. Hopefully there’s an opportunity for Mike Davis to get some meaningful work in too.

— Nobody at camp has talked enthusiastically about the backup QB competition (even Pete Carroll has been unusually lukewarm). This is a chance for Austin Davis and Trevone Boykin to change a few minds. Seattle’s pre-season games last year turned into a difficult watch because of the inexperienced backup QB situation. If neither player performs well in this game, do the Seahawks stick it out or do they look elsewhere?

— It’s been a relatively quiet camp so far for Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson (at least in terms of camp reports in the media). Presumably all three will get plenty of reps in pre-season. It’d be nice to feel positive about Seattle’s depth in the secondary again following a 2016 season where it was somewhat exposed.

— Ethan Pocic has turned a few heads in camp and not just because of the shorts he’s been wearing. Is he legitimately going to bump Germain Ifedi at right tackle? Whoever starts at tackle (left or right) in this game is going to come up against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That’ll be interesting.

— George Fant has also received praise for his weight gain. It’ll be hard to judge him in the first pre-season game alone but it’d be nice to see signs of development, comfort and playing with greater instinct (not overthinking).

— Can someone stand out in the return game and possibly win a job as a consequence? Tyler Lockett’s return to injury and apparent good health is a boost but do the Seahawks want him returning kicks as usual during the season? Do they need to manage his work load?

— How does Blair Walsh perform? He’s likely on a short leash. If he misses kicks in pre-season they can’t roll the dice. If Seattle’s backup QB’s can’t move the ball and score touchdowns he might get a few opportunities to prove he’s a reformed kicker.

A couple of thoughts on pre-season elsewhere…

— Mitch Trubisky belongs. His debut performance for the Bears against Denver was highly impressive. Just as he did for North Carolina, Trubisky threw on the run with accuracy and velocity, extended plays and looked assured moving the football down the field. He has a ways to go of course but in terms of pure talent, he has a very high ceiling. That was always the case at North Carolina too. Let’s not forget he was only a one-year starter. If the Bears manage him carefully, Trubisky could be an exciting, accomplished passer. The talent is there. He just needs time, development and a not totally useless supporting cast.

— With Malik McDowell injured, prepare for a lot of ‘the Seahawks should’ve drafted this guy instead’ talk over the next few weeks. It’s worth remembering, however, that other teams’ rookies are having growing pains too. Take Kevin King in Green Bay for example:

He’s beaten badly on this play by the winning combination of Matt McGloin and Bryce Treggs. It’ll happen to a rookie. And while McDowell’s injury situation is bitterly disappointing and frustrating — it’s worth remembering that neither the Seahawks or Packers were banking on their first picks in the 2017 draft to launch a Super Bowl tilt this year.

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Chris Carson is making a name for himself

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

When Pete Carroll was asked about Chris Carson early in the week, he gave that look that said, ‘I’m excited but I’m saying nothing‘.

Carroll grinned and uttered a few positive words before allowing the press conference to move swiftly on.

By the end of the week, he wasn’t holding back:

“I’m really excited about this guy. Really have high hopes for him. We’ll see how he does. We’re just getting started. He’s a very physical runner in the style that we like. You can’t tell all of that here because we’re not finishing the runs with tackling but I know it’s in his background and we keep chirping at him and we’ll see it happen when the time comes. We might have a really competitive guy at that spot.”

Carson has been one of the big talking points of training camp so far. In fairness, aside from Frank Clark and Germain Ifedi doing their best impression of Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, there hasn’t been too much to discuss. Seattle’s starters appear to be relatively set in place and a lot of the camp battles are about making up the 53.

The fight to collect the 15-20% of snaps at the SAM linebacker spot hasn’t captured the imagination of most fans just yet.

The praise for Carson hasn’t just come from Carroll. Speaking today, Doug Baldwin stated he was the most polished rookie he’d ever been around and that he has “all the tools”.

Baldwin isn’t one for offering effusive praise about rookies unless it’s warranted. Combined with the positive words and the excitable body language from Carroll, Carson is certainly creating an impression.

Sheil Kapadia’s ESPN report on Friday highlights why he’s had such a productive start to camp:

“Blitz pickup is something that rookies typically struggle with. But that was not the case with Carson.

During one drill early in practice, he got matched up with veteran linebacker Michael Wilhoite on multiple occasions and stoned him.”

Pass-pro is the thing that consistently prevents a talented rookie running back taking the field. It’s why Ezekiel Elliott was considered such a sure thing a year ago — his pass-pro and pass-catching ability were as dynamic as his running.

It’s promising to read Carson is doing well with the fundamentals.

It’s also not a big surprise the Seahawks ended up bringing him in as a seventh rounder.

Seattle has a type at running back in terms of body size and general athleticism — at least in terms of the players they’ve drafted (Eddie Lacy for example is not the body type they’ve selected so far). After the combine this year we noted the minimal number of running backs in the 2017 draft that fit this apparent preferred profile:

The Seahawks have a type (explosive tester, around 5-11 and 220lbs) and the ones best matching it are Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Brian Hill and Chris Carson. Kamara might be a top-45 pick and out of contention but Jones, Hill and Carson could provide day three value and extra competition.

He’s 6-0 and 218lbs, jumped a 37 inch vertical and a 10-10 broad.

What he hasn’t had in his college career are breakaway runs for big yardage. Carson never managed a run of more than 26 yards during his 212 carries at Oklahoma State.

And that’s OK.

Marshawn Lynch, aside from two miraculous, career defining runs, wasn’t a breakaway runner either. It’s the physical punishment over four quarters, the tone-setting mentality and attitude that the Seahawks probably like about Carson (and it’s a trait we’ve seen with Alex Collins in college and Thomas Rawls in the NFL too).

This is the type of run that helps establish a tone:

He’s not the quickest (4.58 runner at the combine) but he’s tough and explosive. That’s a Seahawks running back.

He also never gave up a fumble at Oklahoma State. Another plus.

Carson will likely get plenty of opportunities to impress in the four pre-season games — but a note of caution. Thomas Rawls didn’t set the world alight in his rookie pre-season. He had nine carries for 31 yards against Denver, four carries for 20 yards against Kansas City and six carries for 20 yards against San Diego before a breakout performance in the final game against Oakland (11 carries, 87 yards). Rawls did receive rave reviews for his camp work and attitude. So even if Carson doesn’t get the big pre-season yardage, he might win a roster spot anyway.

The other thing to consider is the free stash Seattle has had on the 53-man roster over the years. They’ve red-shirted guys like Benson Mayowa, Kristjan Sokoli and DeAndre Elliott in the past. So even if Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins get ahead for the 2017 season — there might still be room to keep hold of Carson if they like him.

And let’s be right — Seattle running backs always get picked up by other teams when they’re cut. So trying to squeeze him onto the practise squad might be ambitious.

Better health, depth and quality at the running back position is vital for the Seahawks in 2017 as they look to regain their identity as a physical running offense. Carson seems to be right in the thick of the competition so far.

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