Exploring how Upshaw/Ingram would fit in Seattle

April 1st, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

With the #12 pick in the 2012 draft, the Seattle Seahawks select...

If the Seahawks draft Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram in round one, how would they fit into the defensive scheme? Are they LEO pass rushers? Would they play the WILL or the SAM? Are they orthodox 4-3 rushers who take over the Raheem Brock role?

These questions are asked more than any other on this blog. This probably means I’ve not done a good enough job describing why they fit in Seattle, so hopefully we can get to the bottom of this today. Firstly, I was grateful to hear Scott Enyeart – USC beat writer – discussing the subject in a podcast for the HawkBlogger site today.

“The concept is an elephant defensive end. Basically it’s kind of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end type player who’s got some 3-4 principles and it was a way to generate some pass rush and also be really super effective against the run. That fast twitch, speedy edge rusher, that Justin Tuck type – I don’t know it that’s necessarily what Seattle wants because I think they want to be able to be effective against the run and not have a drop off and have to run certain players in the game and those types of things. So I think that’s Upshaw’s versatility over your traditional, you know, ‘LT – I’m a linebacker I’m going to get down on the line and be a pass rusher’. I think that’d he’d be able to be effective against the run and I think that’s what I like about him maybe over Ingram – versus the run. But I do think that maybe an ‘elephant’ role, that would put him in the Clay Mathews class as he was used under Pete Carroll.”

The Seahawks need an elephant. Someone who continues to improve the team’s strong run defense, but also helps create more of a pass rush threat to compliment the LEO Chris Clemons. The player needs to be a three-down type who can line up at the same time as Red Bryant and Clemons. He needs to be in on any play call – 3rd and short against the run, 1st and 20 against the pass. He needs to read well in space, be aggressive against the run and get to the quarterback. He doesn’t need to be Jason Pierre-Paul or DeMarcus Ware, because this is another one of Pete Carroll’s specialist roles. The Seahawks won’t be drafting a prospect who necessarily puts up the big numbers or has the rare athleticism, but as part of a collective group, they have an essential role to play.

Since Carroll arrived in Seattle – facing a substantial rebuild as big as any in the NFL – he’s had to be both radical and patient. This off-season presents an opportunity to address the linebacker position, with David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill both entering the free-agent market and with other needs (QB, OL, DB, WR etc) addressed, at least for the immediate future. This coincides with a wealth of talent in the particular target areas discussed here.

I’ve included part of a presentation conducted by Carroll at a Nike coaching clinic during his time as Head Coach at USC. The colored words below are Carroll’s, per Trojan Football Analysis. Although there’s quite a lot of detail and X’s and O’s to this piece, it does explain the team’s base defense and how Upshaw or Ingram would be used as an ‘elephant’ or SLB if they’re taken with the 12th overall pick.

Pete Carroll:

The front of the defense is called a “4-3 under” defense. We use it in combination with different secondary schemes such as Cover 1, 2, 3, or man to man coverage, etc. I’ll start out by explaining the 4-3 under in conjunction with Cover 1. In this case we’ll call it Under-Cover-1 Flex (Diagram 1). The flex call means that free safety is going to the split end side of the offense. The word flex is just a term we use in reference to the split end side of the offensive line. The tight end side we call the solid side. From this front we get a “gap control” type of play. When you put a defensive lineman in a gap and tell him he has to control the gap he can play very aggressively. He can aggressively attack the line of scrimmage and not just read and react.

The more the attacking oriented the defense is the better off it will be. Obviously when you come off the ball, sometimes it is run and sometimes it is pass. We like to be in the mode of attacking the line of scrimmage, so when it is a pass we will get pressure on the quarterback.

Diagram 1. 4-3 Under-Cover 1-Flex Front

With this basic front we can get eight players in the box area of this defense on run plays. We are going to stop the run on defense very well when we use this front. In this defense we outnumber the offense. The defense has more players at the line than the offense can block.

The SLB plays the tight end in man-to-man with this front using outside leverage as he is aligned in a loose 9 technique. The SLB can not get hooked as he is playing outside leverage on all blocks. The nose tackle (NT) is in a 1 technique to the strong side. The defensive tackle (DT) is in a three technique to the weak side. The ends (DE) are in a 5 technique on the offensive tackles. The MLB has responsibility for the strong side B gap and the WLB for the weak side A gap.

The free safety (FS) is playing down to the line of scrimmage on run plays and is responsible for the number two receiver to the weak side of the formation on pass plays. He plays the receiver as well with outside leverage. It should allow him to play really aggressive in the running game because the running back can not beat the free safety coming out of the backfield. The WLB and MLB are bracketed on the other running back playing him in and out with outside leverage. The corners are matched up with the WR’s man-to-man in this scheme.

The thing that is challenging is the MLB defending the play action plays. However, he knows that he is vulnerable and can overplay to where he is vulnerable.

No matter what coverage you are playing you have to convince your players to win their leverage side. If the coach tells a player to play outside leverage and complains when a receiver catches a ball to his inside, the coach is wrong. When we give them a leverage side, we are telling them to just do that aspect right at least.

To take this even further for example we tell our corners to play inside leverage (i.e. to the inside shoulder of the receiver) in this defense. This helps the corner avoid giving up the big play to the inside of the field. If you want them to play the out route towards the sideline you have to give them someone playing support over the top. There is not a corner in college or the NFL that can both play the out routes and also avoid giving up the deep ball to the inside. You have to be realistic as to what your players can do. They only way a corner can play inside leverage and make a play on the out route is if the offense screws up or the quarterback makes a bad throw or the receiver runs a bad route. If you don’t understand that then you are asking the corner to do something he can’t do.

The flex side defensive end is playing on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle in a 5 technique. He does not have to be a large player and can be more of a pass rushing end. The only thing he can not do is get hooked or reached by the defender and moved out of position. He can play pass first and still be effective. However he does have to maintain gap responsibility for the defense to work. The key to the defense is not getting hooked. If the solid side defensive end is aligned in the strong side C gap he simply can not get hooked. He has to control that gap as does each position on the defensive line.

If the offense comes out in a one back set everyone plays the same except for the free safety. He is still playing the number two receiver to the flex side but he has to move outside to cover him.

Diagram 2. One Back Set & Doubles

Diagram 3. Trips Set

To stay out of mismatches, the corners can take the wide receivers and match up with them (Diagram 4). If both wide receivers come to the same side, we can put both corners on them and cover the remaining receiver with the strong safety. If the corners are on the boundary side the free safety is in the middle. If the corners are on the other side of the field the strong safety is in the middle.

Diagram 4 Twin Doubles

The other one-back set we see a lot of is the one-back and two tight end set (Diagram 5). We put the free safety up on the second tight end. That gives you a problem with run support, but we can play it that way. Everything in the defense is basically the same.

Diagram 5. One-back and two tight ends set

If the offense comes out and gives the defense a two-back and two tight end look nothing changes for the defense (Diagram 6). The corner comes inside and plays man-to-man on the second tight end. Everyone else has the same match ups they had with any two-back sets.

Diagram 6. Two-back set with two tight ends

I want so show you how we react to the run so when you see the film you will know what we are doing (Diagram 7). Our defensive ends are aligned in 5 techniques. The nose tackle is in the A gap to the strong side in a one technique. The weak side defensive tackle is in a 3 technique off the outside shoulder of the guard. The WLB has the A gap to the weak side, but on plays to the strong side he has to get over the center’s block quickly. He cheats somewhat to the strong side with his alignment.

Everyone on the defense is turning the play inside. No one can ever get hooked. The MLB has the strong side B gap. If he is attacking in the B gap, he meets the block and turns it back inside. He plays with his head and outside arm free taking the block on with his inside shoulder. The free safety is our backside player. If the ball breaks back to the weak side A gap he has to make the play there. If there is a reverse run back the other way he has to make that play also. He generally does not cross the center line to make many plays.

Diagram 7. Strong side run responsibility

On the strong side if the offense is lined up in an I formation they have only four blockers to that side. The defense has four defenders and the WLB flowing fast to that side. Everyone on the defense is knocking the ball back inside to the WLB on this play.

If the ball is run to the weak side the MLB becomes the backside run player (Diagram 8). His play depends upon the direction of the run. He has to first defend against any cut back runs through the strong side B gap. If he needs to run through the backside B gap on plays away from him he can. The free safety can do the same thing on the plays away from him. If you ask the MLB to play the cutback and to get over the top then he is not going to be able to be aggressive.

Diagram 8. Weak side run responsibility

On plays to the strong side everyone plays with their outside arm free. If the SLB gets a down block from the tight end he rides him down and looks into the back field for the next block coming at him. On that block we ask him to wrong arm the block and bounce the ball outside. With that type of play we get what we call backer force. The MLB sees the power play going off tackle. He knows the SLB is going to bounce the play. He comes over the top and plays the ball with the strong safety coming up late to play the ball from the outside. Everyone plays with their outside arm free.

There are various adjustments we can make with our personnel. We can take our nose tackle and move him head-up onto the guard for example into what we call a G position. What we normally do is slant back to where we came from. As long as the defender keeps the ball on his inside shoulder he can play as fast as he wants to.

We can also use our base alignment to show overload to one side and then slant back to the other side before the snap of the ball. That is the flexibility of the defense.

There is a lot of flexibility for changing the force in this defensive scheme. If the offense picks up on the fact that the free safety is your weak side force man then they can develop schemes to make it hard for him. All we do then is to change the force on the play from the free safety to the corner in order to switch it up.

We can also change the force by slanting the defensive 3 technique and 5 techniques inside and scraping the WLB outside. We bring the corner off his wide out and make him the force man. He is playing the number 2 wide receiver out of the backfield and thus is the force man on the run to him. The free safety then rolls over the top of the corner into the deep half of the field. If you don’t want to play him in man-to-man you can play zone. With this kind of force change you can play quarter zone coverage to the strong side and half coverage to the weak side.

Most of the time we play our corners in some form of press coverage and have at least one safety deep in the hole for protection against the big play. Against some of the more spread out offenses we will back off our corners. With some spread formations we want to get the defensive backs eyes on the football. The deep safety is a player that is close to my heart. That is what I played. The deep safety has to play two routes. He has to defend the seam route and the post route. That is all I ask him to play. He has to find the seam route from the number two receiver. If there are two of them then he has to get in the middle and play them both. On the post route he has to stay on top of that route. That is easy to do but it becomes harder as offenses do more of it and get better at it.

In general we flip flop our defense. The SLB always goes to the tight end side. We often employ a rush and drop end from either side of the line. The rush guy goes with the SLB and the drop end goes with the WLB. The MLB aligns then to the SLB side of the play. The corners match up with the wide receivers and the safeties flip flop to the passing strength and running strength of the formation. This is our base defense.

As you can see, the base defense has a linebacker playing up at the LOS in each call. The determination to be strong against the run is described in detail, and a player like Courtney Upshaw would provide the kind of edge control the defense requires. The big issue that is often referred to on this blog is how Upshaw would deal in coverage versus a tight end, but I think this is adaptable. Carroll has consistently taken players (Red Bryant being the key example) and played up to their strengths, while minimising the weaknesses. Suggesting a possible adaptation or manipulation to suit a player such as Upshaw is not about changing the entire concept of the defense, it’s about limiting a weakness while still benefiting from the positives.

In many ways Upshaw is ideal for the elephant in that he can provide solid run defense but still rush the passer, as Enyeart testified in his quote at the top of this piece. If covering certain tight ends is an issue (it would be, certainly compared to a more athletic prospect such as Melvin Ingram and even he’d struggle against the best) then why can’t you work around that? One of Seattle’s tall and physical corners can move inside, the MLB can come across and cover. I would describe it as acknowledging that you can’t always find the perfect player for every role. If a prospect is ideal in every way but for a certain aspect (ie. coverage vs TE’s) then you work around it to benefit from the other positive aspects. That’s not such a major stretch and not a great detachment from game-planning to face a certain prospect in a given week. After all, it could be that in some cases against weaker tight-end opponents, you revert back to the original base-plan anyway. You’re not going to likely put a linebacker on Jimmy Graham anyway.

I think the information above will help paint a better picture of how Upshaw and Ingram would be used as an aggressive hybrid of the DE/LB position – an elephant. The reason Upshaw might have the edge is due to his superiority vs the run and his physicality, plus his ability to read in space. Ingram would still fill the role and would have other advantages, they’re just not as valued as the run defense aspect. I think the other goal aside from drafting for this position is to make the MLB and WLB as athletic as possible. Hawthorne is unsigned for a reason and I think the Seahawks would really like to install linebackers who can cover as almost a premium. This is why I believe Zach Brown could be an option, because his major positive coming into the league will be sideline-to-sideline mobility and coverage. If you have Brown covering the TE and one of the big corners in a 2TE set, you’re maxing out the potential of your elephant.

Elsewhere…

Mark Eckel of the Times has been surveying NFL scouts and personnel on the top defensive prospects in the 2012 draft. Here’s some of the quotes he received for the defensive lineman:

On Michael Brockers: “I think he’s the best DT in the draft. He can play the run and he has some pass rush.”

On Fletcher Cox: “He’s OK. He can be a bit of an enigma. He’s getting a little overhyped because of the Combine. He’s perfect for a 3-4 team as an end, I don’t like him as much in a 4-3.”

On Dontari Poe: “He’ll be overdrafted. He did all of that at the Combine, so some team will take him way higher than he should go. I mean watch him play, just watch. He didn’t do anything. And he wasn’t playing at a very high level, either. All I know is he had one sack last year and it came against Austin Peay. You probably didn’t even know Austin Peay had a football team.”

On Kendall Reyes: “Of all of them, he’s a pure 4-3 tackle, he can play the 3-technique for you.” Another scouts is quoted as saying: “He’s soft. He doesn’t finish.”

On Devon Still: “He was very inconsistent from what I saw. He’s going to need a lot of work. I think he’ll be all right, just not right away.”

On Jerel Worthy: “I don’t like him. He’s lazy and he’s not productive.”

On Alameda Ta’amu: “He’s a classic 3-4 nose. I’m not sure I like him in a 4-3.”

On Quinton Coples: “He’s good as hell, but he’s nuts. I’m not sure what’s up with him. I’d put him at left end in a 4-3, but he could do everything if he wants it.”

On Whitney Mercilus: “Those 16 sacks are a little deceiving. A lot of it was just cleaning up. He’s not good against the run at all, so he might have to be a situational pass rusher.”

On Jared Crick: “A lot of his sacks came when (Ndamukong) Suh was still there. A real try-hard guy. What you call a plugger.”

161 Responses to “Exploring how Upshaw/Ingram would fit in Seattle”

  1. Tanner says:

    When talking about the type of players he wants on the defensive line, Pete has repeatedly stated that they look for versatility and uniqueness. Melvin Ingram played pretty much every position on the defensive line during his career at South Carolina (even nose tackle), despite his unconventional size (6’1″ 264 pounds). Courtney Upshaw is a liability in space and cannot cover, which is why on passing downs he switched from OLB to DE. Neither of them will play LB in a 4-3 in the NFL. Due to his ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line, I believe Pete would choose Ingram over Upshaw. That is if Ingram even falls to 12. If drafted by the Seahawks, Ingram could be Clemons’ backup at Leo, and on passing downs he could come in and play end opposite Clemons or move inside and rush from the defensive tackle position with Jason Jones. He is the most versatile defensive lineman in the draft. If Pete can somehow get Ingram in the first and pair that pick with DE Bruce Irvin of West Virginia in the second, our pass rush would be completely revamped. The defensive line on passing downs could be Clemons-Ingram-Jones-Irvin. Deadly.

  2. ba_edwards24 says:

    Rob, what do you think the possibilities of doubling up on an elephant prospect and a leo prospect. Like Upshaw at 12, Chandler Jones/Vinny Curry at 43. Or Upshaw at 12 and Cam Johnson at 75. I like the possibility as we have no pass rushing depth, and the chance that a 30 year old Clem gets injured seems feasible. It would also give us a chance to replace him as a FA next year. I like the possibility. Doing that and drafting a coverage based linebacker could give us a beautifully revamped front 7.

  3. Bert says:

    Great write-up! I’ve been interested where Upshaw could fit in our defense and I think you’ve done a great job explaining how. He’ll definitely struggle in coverage, but if we get a player like Zach Brown, he can definitely cover up that weakness like you said. I could see Upshaw being a huge impact player like Matthews was at USC and he’ll probably be used in a similar role.

  4. dave crockett says:

    Nice write up. I’m reminded how much football jargon is almost intentionally confusing.

    The comments from scouts are interesting. I’ve been getting–like many of you–Greg Cossell’s tweets on various prospects. One point he’s hit repeatedly is that fans often see player evaluation in “black-and-white” polarizing terms. But this time of year I read many, many surprisingly polarizing comments from (usually anonymous) scouts and executives, like some of those above.

    I get that these are not necessarily damning comments. They merely point to weaknesses. Some are also smoke screens, intended perhaps to drive down a prospect’s value (and thus draft status). It’s just that if you read long enough you get polar opposite comments on prospects, allegedly based on film study. Many of these guys put stakes in the ground. I just wonder how often their evaluations are correct.

  5. Rob says:

    Tanner – Upshaw and Ingram would be playing the elephant, not an orthodox linebacker. That’s the point I’m trying to make here. We can talk about coverage issues until the cow’s come home, but Seattle wants someone who a.) helps the pass rush and b.) provides good run support. All from the LOS. When USC used an elephant they manipulated coverage, this is all about improving from the front and finding a guy who plays three downs alongside Red and Clemons, not someone who spells or plays nickel. And in terms of the order of how the two players are ranked, that’s not what I’m hearing.

    ba_edwards – I think it’s unlikely in the early rounds. I expect a DE/OLB hybrid at #12, then linebacker and RB to be the next two targets. In the latter rounds they’ll look for value and that’s when we could see that depth found.

  6. Darnell says:

    If Upshaw were a Hawks that’s how I would picture him – a run stuffing, edge setting force agaist the run and and edge rusher against the pass. I think he can be very very effective if always on the LOS.

    The thing is, KJ sure looked good playing SAM last year, he just reacted and closed so quickly and destroyed anything tht came on a reverse or went to the flats. I guess my question would be does KJ project as an effective WILL or MIKE or would drafting Upshaw diminish KJ’s effectiveness?

  7. Rob says:

    I think KJ can play anywhere, Darnell. I think actually the team would be near lock-down on the edge with CU on one side and KW on the other. Think it could end up being very fluid, with Wright lining up at MLB and WLB.

  8. Hawksince77 says:

    Rob,

    Before I argue with your defense of covering for Upshaw’s deficiency in pass coverage, let me make sure I understand. You address the issue in the following comments:

    “The big issue that is often referred to on this blog is how Upshaw would deal in coverage versus a tight end, but I think this is adaptable. Carroll has consistently taken players (Red Bryant being the key example) and played up to their strengths, while minimising the weaknesses. Suggesting a possible adaptation or manipulation to suit a player such as Upshaw is not about changing the entire concept of the defense, it’s about limiting a weakness while still benefiting from the positives.

    In many ways Upshaw is ideal for the elephant in that he can provide solid run defense but still rush the passer, as Enyeart testified in his quote at the top of this piece. If covering certain tight ends is an issue (it would be, certainly compared to a more athletic prospect such as Melvin Ingram and even he’d struggle against the best) then why can’t you work around that? One of Seattle’s tall and physical corners can move inside, the MLB can come across and cover.”

    The problem with this solution is that the defense doesn’t know if the play will be run or pass, play-action or a straight drop-back by the QB. As such, the big CB you would slide over to cover the TE already has coverage responsibilities. As does the MLB – in the “4-3 Under Cover Flex” the SLB (Upshaw) has specific coverage responsibilites, and that is the TE. The MLB is responsible for defending the play-action. If the offense is playing a defense with limited ability to cover the TE, or if they do, will expose them elsewhere, they will key on that vulnerability, and it won’t take a Graham or Gronkowski to do so.

    There might be a scheme where Upshaw fits, but I don’t think it is this one. He doesn’t have the skill-set to be an every-down DE, and he doesn’t have the skill-set to be a 3-down OLB.

    Asserting that PC will simply get creative and work the scheme to fit someone like Upshaw’s skill-set doesn’t answer the question, but instead, simply re-asks it.

  9. Darnell says:

    Cool.

    KJ’s versatility seems to be key to keeping a lot of options open and has to do with the delay in paying Hawthorne and Hill (those guys deserve starter money but the Hawks might have other younger/faster ideas in mind). Though converesely keeping Hill and Hawthorne keeps you from “needing” to draft certain positions. Interesting dillema. Ideally, but unlikely, Heater and Hill are still FAs after the draft

  10. Hawksince77 says:

    It seems to me that the solution is to find a SLB that can play strong against the run, can cover the TE, and rush the passer on occasion.

    I don’t know who that would be, but if the scheme calls for it, such players must exist.

  11. Colin says:

    There are issues with all the 1st round pass rushers in this draft; Seattle is just going to have to take one and fit him in with his strengths. I like Upshaw and Coples the most, largely because Upshaw provides pass rush and is excellent against the run. Coples is just a freak at defensive end. Ingram, Mercilus and Perry will all struggle against the run IMO.

    I really think that 12 pick comes down to Richardson, Upshaw or Coples. Unless Blackmon falls (not likely) or some other phenomenom.

  12. Nate Dogg says:

    What makes Upshaw better than Hightower for that role?

  13. Rob says:

    Hawksince77 – Adapting the coverage responsibilities is no great shake to maximise the elephant. That is a base defense above, but it’s not written in stone. For example, this base defense doesn’t have Red Bryant playing end. And Carroll has been creative before, as noted by Scott Enyeart in the podcast. I get the impression if we sat here and argued why Zach Brown is a better fit because he can cover, that would be more acceptable. Yet for a large part of Carroll’s presentation, he talks about winning he LOS battle, strong against the run, pass rush, turnovers etc. Brown would be hopeless there, but he can cover a TE or WR. Upshaw can do everything Carroll talks about, but can’t cover an athletic TE. So why wouldn’t PC adapt? And without making it blatant, there’s a reason I’m trying to explain this.

  14. Rob says:

    Nate Dogg – It’s basically the role Upshaw played at Alabama.

  15. Doug says:

    This site is just the bomb..
    What’s great about it is that everybody can chip in their $.02 either on the fly or backed with all of their deeply dug up info. Everyone sees every player just a little differently, and how their favorite player will be a better fit than your player. That’s all fun and cool.

    The best part is that EVERYONE shares the same bottom line, and that is the Hawks kicking some major butt. Each and every scenario presented and hashed out, is all for the same cause, the betterment of out squad.

    So, I know that I throw a lot out there, and that I disagree strongly with a few of you, but please know that I want the same thing at the end of the day as you do, and that I would buy any one of you a beer at the pub, and put my arm around your shoulder as my comrade in battle as we support our boys against the rest of the world.

    For we ARE, the 12th man. Cheers to you my brothers…

  16. Doug says:

    And with that, Rob, your love affair with Upshaw needs to end, and you need to climb about the Coples train, and start advocating a trade up to secure this young man…

  17. kevin mullen says:

    I really do hope PC/JS do select an elephant. Imagine the damage Red Bryant and an elephant could do, I’d hate to be either Tackle!

  18. Rob says:

    Doug – Coples intrigues me a lot in terms of a physical specimen, the tape scares me to death. From what I’ve been told, the perceived motivational problems are not a concern for certain PNW based franchises, but his run defense definitely is. When I initially got that info, I looked beyond it as ‘this guy is a strong possibility’ because they weren’t put off by the attitude. Now when I read what Pere wrote in this presentation and how much they talk about the run, it puts a doubt in my mind. I’m not sure Coples can be an elephant, and if he can’t you’re taking one of RB or CC off the field IMO. For that reason I’m zoning in on Upshaw and Ingram. And in doing so, I felt this piece was necessary to try and get into how they might fit, because it’s a subject that comes up a lot that maybe hasn’t been addressed in the way it should. I suspect we’ll be able to go into it more in about four weeks.

  19. Scott says:

    Pete also does a position by position breakdown of the defense, and he wants that Elephant to be quite possibly the best and most versatile athlete on the field. Clay Mathews is just that, and I can see Ingram in that role. This is quite a reversal for you Rob, as you were pretty dismissive of Ingram early on.
    Upshaw is just a problem. Good at a bunch of things, but not great at much, and certainly not a super fluid athlete. If he was never expected to do anything except hang out in the backfield, he is just fine as a 2 down guy. But I simply can’t see him beating a quality LT around the corner.

    If Matthews is the prototype for the Elephant 3 down player, Upshaw is not a fit, pure and simple. Ingram is closer to fitting that mold. For the record, though, Matthews has arms 2 inches longer than Ingram.

  20. Rob says:

    Scott – I’m still not a fan of Ingram, but I’m also not going to let my own impression of a prospect get in the way of what the Seahawks might think. I take on board what you say about Matthews/Elephant but I do believe they see Upshaw being ideal for this role. If he’s still on the board at #12, there’s a chance we’ll have the opportunity as a group to look into this further and find out more. I’d also say – he’s not likely to come up against the LT that often, more often TE’s and RT’s. As discussed, I think they can easily – without any seismic shifts – manipulate coverage responsibilities to enable a pretty fluid three-down player who’s able to act on 3rd and 2 and 3rd and 20. One of the main reasons I mocked Zach Brown to Seattle in R2 is that I think part of the plan is to acquire a linebacker who’s best aspect is coverage for those reasons.

  21. Doug says:

    Wow, Red and Upshaw crashing in from the same side would be serious wouldn’t it?

  22. woofu says:

    Could you respond to the Hightower LEO question?

  23. Rob says:

    What is the Hightower/LEO question? I definitely don’t see Hightower as a LEO, but I’d love to see him play WLB in Seattle.

  24. woofu says:

    It was asked above but your current answer is enough.

  25. Misfit74 says:

    Great article.

    I know I’ve read some people talking a lot about Upshaw in coverage but that’s not the main issue I’m concerned with. It’s hard for me to believe that he’s going to be a great (or very good) NFL pass-rusher. Sure, he’s supposed to be balanced and is most-likely a strong run-defender and that’s obviously a plus. I will say that this perspective may allow for a player like Upshaw who doesn’t quite fit the traditional pass-rushing mold like Ware or Von Miller do to enjoy success in what would be a specialized role with the Seahawks. That’s a hard thing to measure when you want to see ‘elite pass-rusher’ as the solution to the goal of adding to our pass-rush and providing a compliment to Chris Clemons, if not find his eventual replacement. Granted, the knocks I have on Upshaw are mostly vs. the traditional things that make up a prolific pass-rusher and I favor the guys tilted (heavily) in favor of pass-rushing instead of those primarily strong against the run (at least as a biggest strength). Coverage issues can be remedied by scheming and other players helping in various ways. It’s individually as a pass-rusher that I’ve yet to be sold on completely.

    When comparing Upshaw more strictly to traditional pass-rushing successes, there isn’t a ton to like about a semi-one-dimensional bull-rusher/power-rusher type that may not have the first-step explosiveness and closing speed to consistently threaten the opposing team’s pass-protection and ultimately close the deal with a hit, hurry, or sack on the Quarterback.

    Perhaps Upshaw fits a role unique to our team and because of that fit will prove to be an effective player for us and really make a difference getting after the Quarterback. I still have reservations, but this article at least gives me some background and maybe more important: some hope that if we do draft him (likely at #12) he’ll be a success story as a Seahawk.

  26. AndrewP says:

    Rob- baseball-esq stats geek question for you:

    What is a projectible stat line for Upshaw in regards to sacks/tfl/total tackles in his peak seasons?

  27. SHawn says:

    First of all, Rob, I am now in full agreement as to where we would use Upshaw. Thank you for the in depth article.

    Second of all, I think that used in this manner, his coverage responsibilities are very limited. If the TE goes out AT ALL for a pass, he leaves Upshaw unblocked save for maybe a FB or RB. By the time the TE gets behind the MIKE, Upshaw will have the sack. If he cuts or hooks before that the MIKE should have the easy tackle.

    AS before, my ideal draft, save for trades, is Upshaw and Hightower to play the SAM (elephant) and MIKE. THat lets us slide KJ outside.

    Holy crap I would sell my left baby maker for season tickets if that was our rds 1 and 2.

  28. Rob says:

    Good question, Andrew. It’s difficult to be really specific on stats. I think in a highly productive season you could get up to 10-12 sacks. If he gets 8-10 sacks he’d still be doubling the production of the team’s second most productive pass rusher in 2011. 60-70 tackles consistently. Against the run he’d be a force beyond statistical analysis.

  29. SHawn says:

    Rob, do you not see Hightower as a MIKE, or do you just prefer KJ in that role if those were our LBs (Upshaw, Hightower, Wright)??

  30. Rob says:

    Shawn – great point on the TE in coverage, one I wish I’d included in the piece now that you mention it. As for Hightower at the MIKE, I could definitely see it. I was working under the impression that I’d move KJ inside but really both guys are so flexible, whether you play Wright at MLB or WLB, or Hightower at MLB or WLB… you can’t really go wrong. But I do expect Hightower to be a first round pick.

  31. SHawn says:

    I do as well. Hopefully we want him enough to move into the late 1st, (right before Baltimore) to steal him. I just think he is much more talented than Brown or Kendricks or Lewis. But since Pete talked about how many LBs are “draftable”, I doubt it will happen. But I can dream the dream.

  32. Rob says:

    In my updated mock for this week, Hightower will go #21 to Cincinnati.

  33. Michael (CLT) says:

    So, the 12th pick in the draft is worth 20 snaps a game?

  34. Nolan Thomas says:

    So if Zach brown isn’t available who else can cOver the te that would be available in round 2? Dose mychal Kendrick’s fit that mold? I haven’t like what I have read about Zach brown people say he is soft. Would that matter in the role you envision him in? Or do u disagree with the soft label?

    Thanks again for all the work you do by far my favorit web site

  35. Rob says:

    Michael – Wow.. the offense will be rocking if the defense only see 20 snaps a game.

    Nolan – Kendricks, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David. I like Sean Spence a lot but covering TE’s will never be his thing. Thanks for the kind words.

  36. Nolan Thomas says:

    Clt, I think rob said he would play all three downs

  37. Michael (CLT) says:

    Amen, Rob. That would be a good sign :)

  38. Michael (CLT) says:

    No way Upshaw plays all three downs. If he does, Seattle will be exposed.

    Again, I hope I am wrong. This is not playing:
    1) kent state
    2) penn state (dude was third string last year. ugh)
    3) North Texas… really?
    4) Arkansas… legit
    5) Florida… whose buying Brantley as a real QB?
    6) Vanderbilt… Duke of the SEC… any more questions?
    7) Ole Miss… atrocious team… atrocious
    8) Tennesse… Chris Simms for President!
    9) LSU… Their QB is UFA… maybe their 2nd teamer can go to Seattle in 4 years. Ugh.
    10) Georgia Southern… really?
    11) Auburn… have nothing for ya hear. These guys were bad.

    Ingram gets basically the same competition.

    So, go long. Draft Gillmore at CB. Against the grain, but so what. Guy is a freak talent, and at a position that will demand 35 snaps a game.

    If Upshaw had 2011 time two for Illinois, he’d be questioned.

    I am all Upshaw’d out.

  39. Nate Dogg says:

    Rob – That doesn’t really answer the question though (Why Upshaw over Hightower for the role). Seems like it’d be easier to keep Hightower in for any situations. He can pass rush, blitz, defend the run and they wouldn’t be gambling on whether Upshaw can play linebacker.

    Also, I wouldn’t really agree that that’s what Upshaw currently does for Alabama. He seems more like their Demarcus Ware than their Clay Matthews.

  40. Hawkfin says:

    I wonder what the whole re-signing of Hawthorne will do to this theory?
    (I think that i read somewhere in this article, that this is probably “why we are not resigning him”?) Maybe I took that out of context though?

    But anyway, I’m hearing that we are getting REAL close to re-signing him in fact. Rumors.

    If so, it will at least give us the opportunity to take the best player/athlete at the very least. Maybe it’s still this Elephant position, I don’t know?

    I still question Upshaw’s pass rush ability – Basically what Misfit74 had posted.
    But, I do see the run support factor he’ll bring per how this article would use him and still offer some rush ability. The article makes a good case for him to support how to use him at his best.

    If that’s the route we do end up going, this is how I would view the 2 in question:
    Ingram = better rusher/weaker run support (Better coverage skills if it matters)
    Upshaw = better run support/weaker rusher (I think less athletic/speed)

    I think I’d still go with Ingram and sacrifice some run support I think.

    I would worry this Def gets eaten up on the pass with limited LB’s/etc though.
    I’ve always believed you get you’re main rush from you’re front 4. After that it’s all a bonus and gravy with you’re LB blitz packages, etc.

    I guess I’ve always pictured the Elephant role to be more of a true LB that creeps up at the line and then rushes. But, allot of times still doing coverage. So both functions.
    Otherwise, it’s basically a 5 front and 2 LB all the time. That’s scary vs pass one way or another.

    I personally don’t see us going with this Def. just to support the player that we don’t even have to draft.

    Again, I also don’t see why a Coples, Whitney, Hightower could not perform this same function for there rookie year or whatever?
    If coverage is out of the equation, why could they not perform the Elephant role that is described?
    I mean there’s not much to it. It’s basically, pause, wait for run support and blitz.

    What do they need to recognize as Rob has put it?
    It’s either stop the run or Blitz right? If not, then it’s coverage where Upshaw lacks?

    My scouting says (Coples, Whitney, Hightower) are all fine in run support. The first two are better rushers though and I’ve seen Hightower come in also at times from LB.

    Anyway, good article. Very strong case made. I can see the points and where Upshaw would be used to his best.

    Doug – I love u man. :)

  41. Hawkfin says:

    I agree Nate Dogg… I think Hightower could perform this just as well and be a true LB also.

    I’m thinking we go Luke if we resign Hawthorne though. Move Luke outside.
    Then play a more traditional Def. like we usually do, but added speed, coverage, and tackles.
    Just what I see them doing – Not sure what I want.

  42. Hawksince77 says:

    Rob,

    Your response failed to convince me. Given the prolific passing league, and the increased impoortance of TEs in the passing game, I don’t see how covering that position can be taken so lightly.

    You responded in part this way:

    “Upshaw can do everything Carroll talks about, but can’t cover an athletic TE. So why wouldn’t PC adapt? And without making it blatant, there’s a reason I’m trying to explain this.”

    The first part of the statement repeats the “PC will think of something” response, the same one we have been hearing that keeps the question unsettled. The second part of the statement gives me the impression that you know something you simply can’t share. If so, I can respect that.

    As far as not covering the TE at all (this from Shawn’s comment above):

    “Second of all, I think that used in this manner, his coverage responsibilities are very limited. If the TE goes out AT ALL for a pass, he leaves Upshaw unblocked save for maybe a FB or RB. By the time the TE gets behind the MIKE, Upshaw will have the sack. If he cuts or hooks before that the MIKE should have the easy tackle.”

    So what happens when the TE runs a route away from the Mike? The WR on that side runs up the sideline leaving no one to cover. How is that not an easy completion for 10-15 yards, every time that coverage is called?

    Somebody has to cover the TE when the other team drops back to pass. This could be any down and distance. In the base defense, the SLB has that responsibility. If the SLB blitzes, the coverage rolls to cover the TE. If a different defense is on the field, the assignments are different.

    In the base defense, the SLB will do one of four things: track down the ball carrier (something we think would be Upshaw’s overwhelming strenght; cover the TE in man coverage (a glaring weakness against the better TEs in the league); drop back in zone coverage (a weakness); rush the passer (decent ability). Again, that could happen any down and distance. That player needs to be able to do all three well. If not, the opposing offense will take advantage.

  43. Rob says:

    Michael – I’m not sure what quality of QB has in terms of relevance here. Most college teams don’t consistently face elite level QB’s.

    Nate – I think Upshaw is a superior prospect to set the edge, play the run at the LOS, pass rush. I like Hightower a lot but I can’t see him in this role.

    Hawkfin – Free agency is essentially over now, so if Hawthorne comes back it’ll be on a ‘compete’ deal. Minimal or no commitment, easily cut-able. He had no market, which wasn’t a complete surprise in fairness, and that’s why he remains unsigned by any team. So if Seattle re-signs him, I doubt it has any real bearing or that priorities in the draft would change. Coples, Mercilus and Hightower will not match the run defense capabilities of Upshaw. Not even close. It’s also about helping set the edge, being physical, not allowing the team to run. There are major areas where Upshaw will be crucial, and a guy like Mercilus just couldn’t match that.

  44. Doug says:

    I wonder how well a front of Clemons, Jones, Mebane/Red, and Coples would fare in itself, without needing 5 to create pressure. That way your 3 LBs can pick-up the TE’s and RB’s and the Safety’s can just play normal. That’s it!, just have everybody play normal because we don’t need to do weird crap to get a good pressure going. the front 4 do it by themselves!

    Luv u too Fin, war Hawks!

  45. Rob says:

    Red Bryant might be the most important person on the defense – in his specialist role too – so taking him out of the line or moving him inside isn’t an option.

  46. Michael (CLT) says:

    Rob – More to the point: No one has spoken of Gillmore on this site.

    What are your thoughts?

  47. Bobby Cink says:

    No one has really spoken of Gilmore on the site because CB is not such a need that we would spend our first round pick on one…

  48. PatrickH says:

    If Upshaw is drafted and put in the SLB role, then one way to provide coverage on the TE is to get the strong safety involved. Referencing diagram 1, have the free safety at the middle of field instead of being close to the LOS, and have the strong safety closer to the LOS next to the MLB.

    I still prefer Ingram over Upshaw though. Ingram provides more flexibility for pass defense, which I think in modern NFL is more important than run defense.

  49. Michael (CLT) says:

    Wow. Drafting a SLB at 12. I never would have thunk it. Why not just keep Curry. He can cover and set the edge. Instincts are of little use with SLB. They have a role to play, and must execute their own responsibilities.

    Why not a CB at 12? Or a guard. Why not a Pro Bowl player?

    Seriously, with Rob’s outstanding justification, I can see the Upshaw/Ingrahm draft. I just don’t see greatness.

    Why not trade the Eagles for Tapp back. Maybe give them a 5th and Breno.

  50. Ben says:

    The “Elephant LB” is the same thing as the LEO. The exact same thing. While Pete has suggested that all shapes and sizes of guys could work in this position, he prefers speed rushers (which makes Upshaw something of a poor fit):

    http://www.seahawks.com/news/articles/article-1/Just-call-him-%E2%80%98Leo%E2%80%99/b7b6abb4-3cbd-4140-9806-a46c2c813322

    So, how again, are we supposed to get Upshaw on the field the same time as Clemons in the base defense?

  51. FWBrodie says:

    Rob, this post is awesome. Super informative and thought provoking. Thanks.

  52. FWBrodie says:

    Ben, SLB (potential Upshaw position) plays on the LOS in Pete Carroll’s base defense. Diagrams are included. It’s how Carroll did things at USC, and Rob is inferring that it’s how he’d like to do it in Seattle but has yet to have the proper personnel.

  53. Jeff M. says:

    The most important thing to note with regards to linebacker coverage responsibilities is that in all of those diagrams we’re playing Cover-1, which means 6 man defenders (2 corners, 1 safety, 3 linebackers–with the other safety playing deep) to cover 5 eligible receivers. Pete says explicitly in Diagram 1 that the Mike and Will are bracketing one of the backs–they actually look to be doing so in every one of the diagrams shown.

    You can easily shift which guy you’re doubling, though, both depending on your own personnel and the opponent’s. The Mike and Sam could bracket the TE inside and outside while the Will has single coverage on the back. Or the SS and Sam can high-low the TE while the Mike and Will are in single coverage on the two backs and the FS plays the deep zone.

    You also have the ability to bring five, giving the Sam no coverage responsibilities on a given play and leaving the other five man defenders one-on-one.

    All of these are made easier/more-effective with fast, sideline-to-sideline coverage LBs at Mike and Will (which Rob has talked about repeatedly). But it’s most important to note that it’s absolutely not a set-in-stone element of the defense described above that the Sam is one-on-one with the TE.

    Will he be on some snaps? Yes. Particularly against a team with a TE who’s a better blocker than receiver (or who has good hands but not deep speed). Against a team with an elite vertical threat at TE we’re much more likely to have one of the safeties (or even a corner) in coverage or double-cover with the Sam playing underneath. This is true whether it’s Upshaw, Ingram, Wright, whoever. Depending on who the Sam is, you give him slightly more/less coverage responsibility, but we have room to do so in our scheme (again, Cover 1 means one more man defender than eligible receiver). And we will have even more room/flexibility if we add a Brown/Kendricks/etc. type in round 2 or 3.

  54. Darnell says:

    Or maybe just draft an actual elephant.

    Roger Goodell, “With the 12th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks select….An Elephant,Defensive End, Africa”

    or Jamarcus Russell.

  55. Hawkfin says:

    I don’t understand how this def will actually work all that well actually?

    If bring you’re safety up to help the stinking TE like Patrick just said, then they will go deep over the top on you. If Upshaw doesn’t take the TE, it’s 5-15 yard completion all day long. And what about the RB going out in the flat on his side. What about when they add extra wide outs.

    I think it’s pretty realistic to say Upshaw would have to get in coverage. There will be holes somewhere. Otherwise, just put 5 on the line all the time and draft a DE.

    I think it’s a theory that can only happen if Upshaw can do coverage. Yet, we all know this is where he’s unproven. Hightower or Ingram are better fits to move around wherever, and still play LB and still blitz.

    I know I’ll receive hate on this call: But, I could see Upshaw either being a run stopping MLB or bust in the pro’s. Yet, he couldn’t beat out Hightower for that role.
    Because Hightower is better and they had nowhere to put Upshaw other then DE and let him rush and clog. And of course Alabama can get away with that because there talent was all so good.
    I’m a little nervous of the Upshaw pick, especially at 12. I’m just saying.

  56. MJ says:

    Great post Jeff.

  57. Ben says:

    @FWBrodie,

    Rob and Scott completely misunderstand what the “Elephant” is. It’s a pass-rushing specialist currently played by Clemons. The SLB is a completely different position with completely different responsibilities.

    We’re talking about replacing the Curry/KJ Wright role (set the edge in run support, cover the TE) with a guy primarily involved in pass-rush. We may get more sacks out this but there’s no way that TE coverage is going to improve and we shouldn’t really expect our run defense to improve all that much.

  58. MJ says:

    Saban’s most talented defenders are always lining up in various roles. He did the same thing with Dareus but in a different way obviously. Hence Hightower and Upshaw filling those roles.

    And to some of you, we are picking 12th, not 2nd. The only “Elite” prospects we will be looking at play non-premium positions. Some of you are getting way too caught up on the individual and their projected stat line over the effect that individual can bring to the defense as a unit. Once again, Red Bryants stats “suck,” but his contribution is monumental. Ingram or Upshaw might not get 10+ sacks, but their presence could generate 15+ sacks more as a unit. I feel like some of you are dying to get the “40 home run guy,” and don’t care that he hits .220 and strikes out 150 times (to use a baseball analogy). There’s a ton of value for guys who do everything well. That type of player is much harder to find than some of you are making it out to be. Perhaps the most overlooked fact with Ingram/Upshaw is the attitude/presence they would add to the defense.

  59. Hawkfin says:

    1 safety deep is not good enough in my view. I think you need 2 safety’s to split the field from the deep ball in today’s NFL.
    We might get torched in this system. Especially, if Upshaw is not good or fast enough to give us any more pressure then what we already get. Or if he’s to late.

    And our LB’s will be spread thin in the middle. And you got a mismatch with a Safety trying to cover a WR.

  60. MJ says:

    Ben…the “Leo” and “Elephant” are two different concepts. Listen to Scott Enyearts podcast who coached with Carroll. I think Rob might have actually put the snippet in this article.

    To my knowledge, the “Elephant” is similar to Saban’s Jack LBer, hence the supposed interest in Upshaw. Line of scrimmage players, well rounded/versatile.

  61. Hawkfin says:

    The way Ben is describing it, is what I thought as well

  62. Nate Dogg says:

    Rob, you don’t see Hightower as a linebacker? That’s what the SLB is first and foremost. Even if you think Upshaw is the superior prospect at defensive end, you’re ignoring a lot of what they ask their linebackers to do to fit him in there.

    Also, Seattle played as much Under as they did Over last year. If that continues Upshaw linebacker abilities will be even more in question.

  63. RJ says:

    I’ve been an Upshaw hater for a while, but I figured he would play weakside. This one article singlehandedly changed my opinion of how we should draft. Touché

    1- SLB/DE C. Upshaw
    2- LB M. Kendricks
    3- RB L. James

  64. MJ says:

    Hawk fin – you do realize that Carroll’s defense is very Safety driven. Free Safety is hands down a premium position for Carroll and fortunately we have a safety who is able to do that.

    I think some of you guys are viewing the defense as this cookie cutter situation. Most of the great defensive minds in football use hybrid/unorthodoxed systems. Finding the “perfect” player for each position in a traditional defense is nigh impossible. I think this is the beauty of Pete Carroll, is his ability to adapt systems to players, and not trying to jame a square peg in a round hole.

    I am kind of surprised how little faith has been shown in Carroll and defense specifically. This team went from a wet paper bag to one of the fiercest/youngest defenses in the NFL. Whoever he drafts, there will be a well thought out plan for that individual.

  65. Ben says:

    @MJ,

    Scott never “coached with Pete” and this isn’t the first time he’s been wrong about something. If you read the link I posted, Pete says that the LEO and the Elephant are the same thing with different names. And we already have one in Clemons.

  66. MJ says:

    Ben – my mistake then. I thought he had a connection to Carroll.

  67. Hawkfin says:

    I don’t question any of that MJ – He fits system to player very well. I LOVE that about him.
    He over-turned this roster with gamer’s! No doubt.

    But you’re asking him to draft a player for a new system we don’t currently run.
    I see the point that he did this system in College, but that doesn’t mean you can do the same things in College that you can in the Pro’s. It will be interesting if he can.

    But, I think this Elephant spot will ALSO need to provide coverage as well. I think it has too.

    I’m sure IF he did draft Upshaw he will maximize him to the fullest. I have no doubt.
    But, in my view I don’t see Upshaw worth this huge change/move on Def.

  68. MJ says:

    Ben – missed your link earlier. He had me fooled I guess. So, yes, now I am struggling to see the Upshaw fit, but more concerning is that I am struggling to see where they plan on getting pass rush. We didn’t pay Red that money to sit. Apologies for the mistake.

  69. PatrickH says:

    MJ,

    Ben is correct. Scott said that Clay Matthews played the “elephant” position, and Clay was the weakside DE on USC, which corresponds to the Leo position for the Seahawks. I think Rob misinterpreted what Scott has said in the podcast.

  70. MJ says:

    Hawk fin – you bring up great points. I guess my concern is just what they want the defense to look like. The only way it makes sense is if he’s going extremely unorthodoxed. I must admit I am thoroughly confused by what they are trying to accomplish now that I read Ben’s link.

  71. MJ says:

    Patrick…I listened to the podcast. That’s literally what Scott said. I read Bens link and understand that Carroll referred to it as both Leo and Elephant. It’s looking like Scott is confused about this concept. In Rob’s defense, that is how Scott described it (sounding like Scott is off though).

  72. PatrickH says:

    By the way, Pete Carroll did run this 4-3 under defense as the base defense in his first year as Seahawks HC, with Aaron Curry at the SLB position. Last year he changed to a more conventional 4-3 over front. It will be interesting to see if he will go back to his favorite under-defense scheme next season.

  73. MJ says:

    2 things…so is this Scott dude full of it? (serious question as he had me fooled)

    2 – How the heck do we get a pass rush? I am so confused by the philosophy now.

  74. MJ says:

    Patrick – I get the 4-3 under/over…it’s just that Red’s presence IMO severely limits what we can do. It seems like it would be very difficult to find a worthy SAM, in regards to providing legit pass rush, while not being a complete coverage liability. I guess it will make sense after week 1 when we see it in action. Thanks for pointing that out about Scott…he makes it seem as if he is PC’s right hand man. I should have done more digging.

  75. Ed says:

    1 Luck
    2 Griffin
    3 Kalil
    4 Richardson
    5 Claiborne
    6 Blackmon
    7 Ingram
    8 Tannehill
    9 Coples
    10 Reiff
    11 Cox

  76. PatrickH says:

    Well, if I remember correctly Scott did point out in a podcast a year (2 years?) ago, that PC preferred big, press-man coverage kind of cornerbacks, and the subsequent drafting/signing of Sherman, Browner, and Maxwell seemed to confirm that. So he had provided good insights into the FO in the past.

  77. Hawkfin says:

    This is why we need to be thinking about a NEW DE of the future… One that does provide better sack ability and pressure on every down. And the one guy is long in the tooth anyway.
    OR
    Just fill that role that Curry couldn’t do. (Probably Ingram)
    OR
    Just a solid LB in general

    Can’t kill 2 birds with 1 stone I feel. Yet, the Upshaw fans think this will do the trick for everything it sounds like to me. I guess they just want a every down player which I get.
    But, you can get everything in one.

    If we re-sign Hawthorne, then It may allow us to draft Coples or Whitney for future. And LB later in the draft.
    Maybe they can still bring one of these DE’s on certain packages, but if nothing else they can keep our DE’s fresh so that we can give constant pressure and maintain depth and any injuries.

    I still think we lack a “Ray Lewis” type player in the middle of the Def though.
    (i.e. strong MLB) – This is where Hightower comes into play for me also.

  78. Bobby Cink says:

    I understand that that Seahawks.com article has made the transition from naming the Elephant to the Leo. I think what has happened is that Rob has started calling the SLB as was described in the article as the Elephant. I think this because what he has been describing as the Elephant is completely different from the Leo in my mind. The Leo is alright in run support but he is supposed to get after the passer. Upshaw as the new Elephant (not Leo, who is Clemons) is going to be about stopping the run but will also be rushing the passer sometimes as well, and sometimes covering a TE. I guess I think of it as the position that KJ Wright was playing particularly when he forced Hanie to throw the pick 6 in the game against Chicago. But perhaps I am mistaken, in which case I’d if Rob could clarify.

  79. Hawkfin says:

    Good Mock ED: I could see it going that way for sure. That’s about how I have it.

    Seahawks 1:12 – Luck Kuechly

    My vote: Whitney Mercules
    Probably should be: Dont’a Hightower

  80. Hawkfin says:

    Oops – Luke that is

  81. Hawkfin says:

    Mercilus – GOD, please forgive my spelling of these guy’s
    Need to add a edit function here

  82. Jon says:

    Wow, I’m pretty sure some people on this sight either don’t read or are just not able to set there own ego aside. I’m looking at you Ben. It seems to me that Scott likely knows the D of USC better than you do and he has had many years to learn about Petes system inside and out. The Elephant is a 3-4 OLB the LEO is the DE (Cris Clemons). PC runs a mixed 3-4 and 4-3 system this is why their is a LEO and an Elephant. They are both on the field in the base defense. That brings me to the next point. This article is about our base defense, we will have nickle and dime packages, nobody has said otherwise.

    Honestly, how can you say that Rob does not understand anything. I see that he is the one that wrote this entire article, and most of the articles on this site for that matter. He is very informative in and has taken the time to be so in everything he has done and said on this sight.

    I think another player that we are forgetting so far in this discussion is Shea McClelin (spelling ?) from BSU. He would set the edge, rush the passer, and from what I have read he can cover if it comes to that. I really don’t see the wonderful ability that some are talking about in coverage that Ingram has, he and Upshaw seem very similar in many ways with Upshaw better against the run

    Thank you Rob and keep up the good work.

  83. Hawkfin says:

    I like Shea, but he’s a 2nd rounder or 3rd rounder at best…. And I see him as a true DE.
    Not this Hybid player. I don’t see coverage skills with him either. Just my view of course.
    (He’s one of my fav’s though if we draft DE late)

    Ingram has fluid hips and seems to offer some ability in coverage. I loved his pick 20 yards deep on the fake field goal. He’s also more of an athlete that might actually fill a Hybrid role. He is very fast and athletic type of guy. He does many different and unusual things for his team for a big man. I think he was even doing some kick or punt return. Can’t remember now. The dude does back flips standing still.

    His coverage skills are also in question though, but to me not as much.

    Upshaw was a pure clog the middle/Run stuff and tried to blitz from a DE. Doesn’t show a lot of speed.

    I think one of the main points was: To draft a guy that is ALWAYS on the field.
    So If he comes off the field in nickle and dime packages, how does that help the pass rush either? And it avoids the major point of drafting a full time guy with Upshaw.
    He’s not a full time player then.

    And If he stays on, again the coverage skills come into play.

    I remember the big thing in Pete’s first years was trying to make Curry the blitz guy and coverage guy. I think that still holds water of what he wants to do with that OLB.

  84. Ben says:

    (maybe I should be Ben a or b or ben 2 1/2, I can’t keep track)

    Excellent breakdown and I love Doug’s heartwarming 12th man toast. Back at ya.

    Yes, clearly Carroll and Schneider are idiots and don’t know what they are looking for that fits their defense. People get so keyed into a specific complaint about a prospect (Upshaw) that they can’t take a step back and look at the bigger effect. We get so damn nitpicky, the truth is at 12 there will be some great choices to improve our d, each choice having strengths and weaknesses.

    If Upshaw is superior against the run, makes a lot of plays in the backfield and has good pass rush skills and technique (though apparently not the only kind the generic “you” will accept) but doesn’t cover the te as much as people are insisting, where’s his value?

    I’ll tell you. A stronger run stopper (combined with Red and the rest of the d) will make the other team’s passing situations worse. In general a team’s offensive goal on most series is to get to 2nd/3rd and short. The more you neuter their running game, they become one dimensional and/or are pushed into longer 2/3rd down situations, which helps the pass rush/cover because it takes that much longer to let the wr/te get far enough out to convert (over simplified I know, bear with me).

    Upshaw’s pass rush skills are clearly good enough to be in the top 3 (pass rushers) of this year’s draft or he will fall much further than the 12th pick. Carroll and Schneider have declared they want to improve the pass rush. If they take Upshaw at 12, rest assured it will be because they believe he will improve their pass rush (both with his run d and pass rush). The more pass rush threat from different positions we get, the more we’ll see better pressure from all over.

    So I ask. Which is more important? To discard Upshaw as a pick because he might not cover te’s as much (and God forbid the pass defense plays some kind of zone double coverage at times, not just man) but then take another prospect who has questions in run d, motor, technique, etc. Or take the guy who might violently detach Alex Smith (legally) from the ball, let alone from the game. This guy is mean and nasty and obviously if he is picked at 12 rest assured Pete and Schneider have answered this question and are looking a lot more at their whole defense than us knuckleheads.

    When Upshaw is separating ball carriers from the ball and possibly holding up body parts he has removed (more or less legally) and shouting to you, “Are you not entertained?” are you going to respond: “No, I want you in coverage, get on a treadmill.”

    One quick other thing, hearing Rob describe what would be a perfect complement to an Upshaw pick, it sounded like he was describing Kuechly to a T. Elite pass d. Too damn bad we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Probably never happen but I wouldn’t complain at all if they took Upshaw at 12 and traded up (I’m semi serious here) for Kuechly. I’m sure Kendricks or Brown will be fine too. Cheers

  85. Jarhead says:

    I think we may be overthinking things a little bit too much. The major point is- on first and second- strongly indicative of run downs Upshaw will help set the edge, fight of lead blockers and shed blocks to search out the ball carrier. On third and well second and long Red comes off the field and Upshaw is an edge rusher from the left. His coverage skills will never be of terrible concern. There are other players who can assume respnsibility of that. Ingram does not possess the instincts, seperation ability, or strength to set the edge or shed blocks. And because he is athletic does indicate the ability to sufficiently cover te’s himself. There has been nothing I’ve seen on tape to show me he is adequate in coverage. Because he is athletic does not guarantee cover skills. With Upshaw you know you’re getting a beast and run stopper, and his coverage is suspect. But he possesses strong instincts and a nose for the ball. This guy played big in every big play he was in. I think it’s as simple as that. In likely run plays Upshaw will play backer, in passing situations he will rsuh from de. Our coaches will gameplan and scheme to preare us. Let’s not overthink this waiting for the perfect guy who can set the edge, run with graham, and rush like lt. He doesn’t exist

  86. Ben says:

    Hawkfin, in nickel and dime Upshaw would/could play de opposite Clemons.

  87. A. Simmons says:

    The LEO/Elephant dates back to Carroll’s days with San Francisco. Charles Haley was the LEO in Seifert’s system in San Francisco. Carroll used the LEO/Elephant at USC. Clay Matthews played LEO and he played it from the position Clemons plays it from now from what I understand. Upshaw may be able to be a Charles Haley-type of player.

    This focus on Upshaw’s coverage ability is unncessary. If Upshaw is in on passing downs, he will not be covering the TE. He will be rushing the passer. If we take Upshaw, it will be to use him as a pass rusher with run stuffing ability. They will shift the TE coverage responsibility to KJ Wrighter, a MLB, or Kam Chancellor. Whereas Upshaw will move up on the line and rush the passer from either Clemons position or across from Clemons depending on the front. Sometimes he will rush the passer from outside Red like Curry did.

    In essence, they will attempt to turn Upshaw into the player they wanted Curry to become. A guy they didn’t need to drop into coverage too often that was focused on run stuffing and setting the edge and dropping his hands into the dirt and rushing the passer from one of the unique fronts and standing up and rushing the passer.

    This defensive scheme is extremely versatile. The idea behind it is to set up unconventional looks that confuse the offensive blocking scheme and bringing pressure from unusual areas. Pass coverage is two components: coverage and pressure. Right now our pressure component is lacking. Upshaw improves that component.

    KJ Wright is our coverage backer. He has proven excellent at that. Upshaw would only occasionally be used in coverage and primarily be a pass rusher with solid run support. I don’t see a problem with the pick unless you don’t believe he can rush the passer.

    When rushing we would probably see a front of Clemons, Mebane, Jones, Branch/Red, and Upshaw. Coverage would consist of Wright on the TE, Kam, Earl, Sherman, Browner, and a Nickelback. Or one of our Bandit packages. Rarely will you see Upshaw in coverage or a standard four man rush. Our expectation is that our five guys will overpower their five guys if they send out that many receivers and our coverage will hold up. We should win this matchup against the offense 90% of the time.

  88. FWBrodie says:

    Ben: Elephant/SLB who cares what it’s called? That’s irrelevant. You can read direct quotes from Pete Carroll describing his defensive philosophy above. He clearly describes a role that has been missing in his defense since he’s been in Seattle. Does it not make sense that he would like to fill that void? Has his philosophy changed? Doubt it.

    It isn’t like they’d plan on rolling out the exact same formation and personnel package every play and every situation. We will still see nickel, dime, and bandit coverage, we’ll still see 4 down lineman with Red on the bench in obvious passing situations, we’ll still see Clemons or Upshaw or whoever dropping into zone coverage, and probably more things we’ve never seen them do. Pete Carroll succeeded with his base defense at USC, Upshaw succeeded at Jack LB in college, Nick Saban and Pete Carroll managed to cover TE’s even when they’ve rushed 5 players. I mean the definition of blitz is rushing the QB with more than 4 players. Stop freaking out. Do the math: 5 o-line and a QB = 6, which means if every other player on the field runs a route the Seahawks minus 5 players rushing the QB still outnumber them by one. Pete Carroll knows what the hell he’s doing.

    For those of you wondering why Hightower couldn’t fulfill that role, he is not going to be able to hold his ground against a tackle. He’s a second level player. Quality pass-rusher from the LB spot, yes. Capable of swinging down to end in obvious passing situations, certainly. Anchoring when the RT tries to kick him out, not very well. He will lose that battle at his size.

  89. I liked the point about Ingram and Upshaw’s limitations in coverage and how that might explain Seattle’s desire to get faster (so that they can lean on the MLB and WLB to cover more). That makes a lot of sense and explains why Seattle is so super high on Zach Brown.

  90. Heh, article went so long the ran out on the background image!

  91. FWBrodie says:

    Jon, I was thinking to myself who the Seahawks could turn to in the case that they took Richardson or someone else in the first round and McClellin was who I thought of as well. I think that’s about where he’ll go too, near the top of the second. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him taken late in the first for that matter. He looks fantastic on the edge. I think he’s a better prospect than Branch or Curry.

  92. Rob says:

    Michael – I’ve not spent a ton of time studying Gilmore due to likelihood Seattle won’t draft for the position in the first two or three rounds. I’m not entirely convinced he’s as good as advertised, a little stiff in coverage and on tape I thought R2/3, although I was mainly watching other South Carolina defenders. Size/speed combo though, so matches what teams are starting to look for, a trend at CB preempted by this coaching staff and GM.

    Ben – I’m pretty sure the LEO and elephant are different despite what is discussed there, and I base that only on what I remember from USC and the corrections made at the time regarding Elephant/LEO. I think Scott believes – and I’m inclined to take his view – that the LEO is an adaptation of some of the Elephant concepts, but they are different roles. A lot of people called Clemons an Elephant after that trade, but it was corrected to the LEO. At USC there were multiple players they wanted to get into aggressive positions and from what I remember, Matthews took that role due to the flexibility of Cushing and Maualuga.

    Darnell – I like that idea. I heard he runs a 4.4 forty too, although he needs to learn to pin his ears back on third down.

    Nate Dogg – I said I see Hightower as more of a MLB or WLB in this defense rather than the elephant role I think Upshaw will play.

    Ben/MJ – Scott recruited with Carroll and has covered USC as a beat writer for several years.

  93. D says:

    “I’m all Upshaw’ed”. Ha! Well put… that said, Great article!

    I for one will always one to highly value mean, big and fundamentally strong players on the defensive side of the ball. Thus, I am all for Upshaw but maybe it is time to look at some other possibilities in the 2nd or 3rd?

  94. A. Simmons says:

    Unless you can find information to the contrary, the Elephant/LEO are the same position. Carroll said it was called the Elephant back in the days when San Francisco ran the defense.

    This is from Carroll’s own mouth and I’ll take that over any one else:

    http://www.seahawks.com/news/articles/article-1/Just-call-him-‘Leo’/b7b6abb4-3cbd-4140-9806-a46c2c813322

    [i]Carroll learned the spot – then called “Elephant” – as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (1995-96) under coach George Seifert. He then used it when he was the head coach with the New England Patriots (1997-99) and at USC.

    “‘Elephant’ was just an e-word to designate a guy as being different from the regular defensive end,” Carroll explained.

    Seifert had used the spot to feature the pass-rush skills of Fred Dean and Charles Haley. Dean produced 17½ sacks in 1983, Seifert’s first as defensive coordinator for the 49ers, and Haley had 12 sacks in 1986 and 11½ in 1988 – as well as 10½ in 1989 and 16 in 1990, after Seifert was promoted to head coach.[/i]

  95. A. Simmons says:

    To summarize it better, the LEO/Elephant is more of a player type than a particular position on defense. It’s a way to use a player that has strong pass rushing skills, but isn’t your typical defensive end. I think that is what confuses some people thinking the LEO/Elephant is a particular position on defense rather than a type of player.

    Upshaw seems to fit the player type as does Ingram.

  96. JROCK419 says:

    Good write up I was wondering how he would fit on the field.

    This could be interesting, put Upshaw at Elephant, KJW in the middle, and a fast linebacker, ala Brown, Kendricks, David, etc (someone who could also man the middle if needed) and this team’s defense is all of a sudden elite.

  97. peter says:

    Ben “2.5”

    That was awesome about: No, we want you to cover TE’s so get on a treadmill.

    Though Shea McClellin may not be the best player to draft in any round, though I think he is, part of what has vaulted up higher in the draft discussion, is the how he did play LB in high school, has great movement, and at each event from senior bowl on out, he has consitently impressed scouts and coaches with ability to not just go through LB drills, but excell at them as well…Where he fits on the team if at all I’m not sure about, but a 6’3″ 258 LB/DE hybrid who actually can cover as well as rush the passer and play against the run seems like a Pete Carrol versatility pick to me.

  98. Hawksince77 says:

    After reading all the comments (very interesting and informative discussion for those of us struggling to understand who Upshaw would contribute to PC’s defense, a contribution worthy of the top Seahawk pick) a couple of comments:

    1 – my questions concerning Upshaw’s coverage ability and the responsibilities related to his proposed position on the field are based on the information provided above. That information provides specific information related to the responsibilities of that position, and clearly state that TE coverage is one of them. If a different defense is called, with different responsbilities, then we have a different discussion. As it stands, the SLB in that defense has TE coverage responsibilities, so not sure why the various reactions critical of the coverage criticism.

    2 – the offense can pass on any down and distance. That means the SLB in that defense has to do one of two things while defending a pass play – rush the passer (that would be a blitz, as the SLB would be the fifth rusher, unless the defense had one of the down-lineman fall back in coverage), or drop into coverage, either man-to-man or in zone.

    The second comment is responding to those who claim that on run-downs, Upshaw would do X, but on passing downs…The fact is, the other team can pass on rush downs, and vice-versa. Every 3-down player on the defense has assigned responsibilities in both pass and rush defense, and for the SLB, that will occasionally require covering TE or RBs in space.

  99. Doug says:

    I’m starting to agree with the concept that The elephant position is what Pete tried to get Curry to play, due to the fact that he couldn’t remember his responsibilities at any other spot. But, he couldn’t separate, nor did he have any spin moves or an ability to overpower ANY oline player. He couldn’t cover due to a lack of anticipation, so he really was worthless.

    Upshaw (on tape) seems to be able to get some separation and actually get into the backfield now and then. He wouldn’t be able to cover, so he wouldn’t be asked to.

    He definately is a beast, and I think everyone can agree on that, and would bring one more level of uncomfort to opposing QB’s. He also seems to have an idea of what and where he needs to be and be doing, so that is also a plus.

    His personal sack numbers might not go over the top, but his comotion could certainly increase the groups numbers.

    Can you tell I’m trying to talk myself into a bowl of Upshaw?

    It will be such a sad day in here if he goes at #10 or 11 won’t it?

  100. andy says:

    So after reading all this debate i would like to play devils advocate. What if they picked Kuechly at #12 because they feel his coverage skills/instincts are superior to all other options? (not to mention Zach Brown could be gone by #43?) Who then could they get at #43 to fill the SLB/elephant/whatever position? McClellin? Curry? others?

  101. peter says:

    Doug,

    I agree that the overall net benefit with a player such as Upshaw, and not really mentioned in the discussions, is due to increased commotion, the other parts would also increse their hits on the QB and hopefully subsequent sack numbers. In an offesnse things can sometimes be a vacuum, see: Brady to Moss, or agian Brady to Gronkowski. But he sum of a defense seems to me a fucntion of all the cogs…Better pass rush=better coverage, better Run D=opponents having to air it out, ex: The baltimore game where Flacco hucked it nearly 50 times, turns out dude might not be a 50 pass per game QB…And for the skae of this argument, a guy like Upshaw specifically Upshaw could help Mebane get 5 sacks a season, Bryant might actually get some sacks, etc…

    Right now I consider the D-line to be good to great, even with out the Pass rush… if we could add one or two more components who won’t be expected to produce Von Miller, Aldon Smith Numbers, of course that would be awesome, but if they can provide consistent pressure every snap frommultiple spots in multiple formations, then even guys like Clemmons may be able to poduce higher totals, and on down the line…In some ways I’m surprised that Clemmons even gets 11 sacks a year with him being nearly our sole pass rusher.

  102. Jon says:

    yeah, with Shea McClelin I was thinking 2nd round.
    I think the question for me on Kuechly is his aggression. I would rather trade up using a 2nd and 4th to pick up Hightower, or wait for one of Kendricks, Brown in the 2nd or someone else later on.

    I am also on the bandwagon of that CB from Montana (whats his name). I think he is an upgrade by year 2 or 3 over Browner. I love what Browner does but I think teams will find his weaknesses and be able to take more advantage the more tape we are able to see. That would be if the Montana Kid makes it to the 3rd round for us of course. I could not imagine this team using its first three picks on D, but I would not be at all upset with all these scenarios.

  103. peter says:

    Jon,

    Trumaine Johnson, he’s the guy. I’d really like to see him as well.

  104. vertigoman says:

    Rob,
    Great write up as usual.
    What other players could fill the elephant role after round 1?
    Could McClellin work there in round 2?

  105. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I just am not convinced yet.

    Three things we KNOW Pete covets:

    1. Pass rush
    2. Speed
    3. Versatility

    Upshaw is terrible at #2 and #3. His value is essentially all #1. He’s not the ‘only’ prospect capable of setting the edge (the same edge that Bryant is essentially setting by himself). Unless they plan on playing Upshaw instead of Bryant, then I don’t see this ability being worth anything. This means that Upshaw or Bryant are now relegated to situational player.

    Is Upshaw’s pass rush ability so great as to ignore the fact that he provides none of the other abilities we know are desired? I don’t see that at all.

    We said we wanted to improve the pass rush and improve speed at LB. In terms of speed, you’re talking Kendricks, Brown and McClellin. McClellin is intriguing and while I understand that he’s a reach at 12 — I don’t know that we’re generally averse to taking whomever we think is better. We reached on virtually every pick last year (Carpenter, Moffitt, Durham and Sherman were all considered reaches).

    If they are taking Upshaw, I see him as a severe liability in defending the flat. We were dead last in terms of allowing receiving to RBs in the NFL. Upshaw would be a significant downgrade from Hill. If the Mike/SS are covering the TE that the SAM is now abandoning, who is covering the flat for Upshaw?

    McClellin is certainly big enough to work with Bryant to achieve the same edge setting capability. McClellin has great size for an LB. Really, both are hybrid types — Upshaw being a slower/bigger pass rusher. McClellin being a faster, versatile hybrid.

    We know that Pete covets versatility, as that creates mismatches or limits mismatches that can be imposed on the defense. Upshaw would be alongside Mebane as the least versatile player on the defense. I don’t see his pass rush acumen being great. It’s simply good. Is good pass rush and no versatility worth more than speed and versatility? Is Upshaw’s pass rush ability that much better than McClellin’s, or Ingram’s to concede the liabilities he’s going to incur? I don’t think Upshaw can cover the flat at this level. As a SAM, he’s going to have to cover them at times. He’s a mismatch in waiting.

  106. peter says:

    I’d agree witht the point about speed, but about versatility:

    Upshaw could spell, Clemmons, Play SLB, Play end in 3-4 defensive packages, and perhaps even spell Bryant to add new wrinkles while subbing in say Malcolm Smith from a pure speed stand point.

    I do think McCLellin is one the Hawks should pursue, but along with the addition of Upshaw, then you’ve basically added two DE/LB and all of Pete’s talk about KJ Wright playing the WLB seems premture, I think he’d be an even greater asset at the Mike, with Upshaw and McClellin.

  107. vertigoman says:

    Who on the Hawks currently plays the Elephant role in certain packages? Is it even employed or is is it more of a group share kindof thing? Seems like the Sam and Will were pretty traditional last year. Was Curry supposed to be an Elephant?

  108. Hawkfin says:

    Wow, the Upshaw love is strong! Love is blind I guess.

    I’ll be laughing if we pass on him and others do as well.
    He’s moving up the boards like Tannehill on this board – All Hype.

    To me he’s a middle of the first round pick. Same area as Hightower’s value.

    Attyla the Hawk – I question if Upshaw is even that good at you’re #1/Pass rush.
    The only thing to me that stands out is his clog the line role and run support.
    The rest of those 3 things are weak in my view…. Upshaw is not a born pass rusher in my view, he’ll be lacking. So those of you who think he’ll replace our DE are mistaken. Something that should not be in the works anyway, unless you get a true pass rushing DE to replace.
    When Upshaw is left wide open, he gets in there. Otherwise, he’s just there and clogs.
    He’s to slow. He’s NOT a pass rusher. He’s not this amazing athlete that people are making him out to be.
    Well – This is my views of him anyway.

    He will not fix our pass rush! Only weaken our coverage’s.

  109. Rob says:

    Andy – I think that’d be putting the cart before the horse a bit. Kuechly’s not brilliant in coverage, he’s more of a read/react type who judges the field in front of him superbly and gravitates to the ball. He’s not exceptional in coverage, you wouldn’t make it his primary talent. With Brown however, I think you would. So taking Kuechly not only doesn’t really answer the coverage issue, but it also means the player you’re drafting to be the x-factor to help the pass rush is coming from a much smaller pool. I’ll be surprised if Seattle drafts Kuechly.

    vertigoman – I think the priority is to address this in R1 and only extreme circumstances (eg Trent Richardson falling) would change that. But Vinny Curry would be the one to watch. As for last year, I don’t believe they fully utilised this role due to personnel and other priorities. But this off-season has presented the opportunity to change that and target specific players.

    Attyla – You could also argue, reading the above from Carroll, the main aim of his offense is to win the LOS battle, play great vs the run and force turnovers. Upshaw fits that. He’s also more versatile than ‘terrible’ and let’s be fair, he’s not Demarcus Ware but his speed isn’t terrible.

  110. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I can see Upshaw being versatile in the scope of subbing in for Clemons OR Bryant. Obviously in that case, we’re talking about versatility in a situational construct based on the talent we have today.

    I could see a base defense:

    Upshaw/Clemons, Bryant, McClellin line.

    Pass situation:

    Clemons, Upshaw, McClellin

    With packages where you could sub in Branch/Upshaw for Jones/Bryant.

    When I look at what Upshaw would bring to positions we’ve already established — I see value. Both immediate and long term. But it also requires that we assume we spend a different pick to fill the Sam hole. Not assume that Upshaw is that player.

    Clemons needs an heir apparent. And if Upshaw can perform either DE function, that leaves us in the position of getting either a Leo or traditional end in the future. In that sense, I see Upshaw having tremendous value. Perhaps they are seeing an addition of him, and possibly a Sam and Mike as well this year. A 3 player situational rotation at DE.

    That would have value.

    But in terms of a Sam, Upshaw doesn’t indicate any affinity to do the things a LB should do. He’s a DE/Leo hybrid. Not a SAM/Leo hybrid. He has the size and stoutness. But absolutely zero speed necessary to be a Sam. He’s even a bit slow for DE, much less Leo.

  111. Hawkfin says:

    vertigoman – We don’t even play this mythical Elephant. :)

    We play the typical 4 down line, and 3 LB’s. The LB’s all play a zone coverage most of the time and provide run support.

    Curry was supposed to come up often on a blitz, but couldn’t do it. And also lacked coverage skills.

    Note: It will be said we don’t have the personal to run it. Maybe so.

    I see us drafting Luke Kuechly the more I think about it.

  112. vertigoman says:

    Rob-Thanks for the reply. I’m not a V. Curry fan from what I’ve seen. If that’s the alternative then Upshaw is looking better by comparison. I’m still on the fence with Upshaw, the scheme fit makes him more appealing but he just doesn’t seem to be a difference maker (like an elite pass rusher) that you’d want to draft at 12.
    Because of that, I’m hoping they explore trading back for more ammo. There seems to be a lot of 2nd day talent at LBer.

  113. Rob says:

    Time for a pep talk everyone.

    For four years, this blog has been a pleasure to write. The main reason for that was the community it created – a relatively small group of Seahawks and other NFL fans who loved to talk draft. There were no crossed words, and many people complimented how this site had managed to stay away from the kind of bickering found on forums and other NFL/Seahawks blogs. Everyone’s opinion welcome, 100% pure draft talk.

    To quote Hawkfin above: “Wow, the Upshaw love is strong! Love is blind I guess. I’ll be laughing if we pass on him and others do as well.”

    This to me isn’t in the spirit of this blog. It’s not about laughing at being proven right. We all have strong views, and they will be shared. But if indeed someone has to be right and someone else wrong, that’s just part of the process. I appreciate that I’ve projected Upshaw substantially to the Seahawks – based on my own grade and certain bits of info that have been passed on. If he isn’t drafted by the team, I anticipate there will be a line of people ready to let me know about it. That’s par for the course, it comes with the territory of trying to project the draft. It’s inevitable and I will embrace it in the spirit it will be intended – which will probably be light hearted for the most part. But in the lead up I’d like to avoid the kind of bickering and desire to be proven right that I feel we’re moving towards. We’ve always been above all that. All we’re doing here – and I speak for Kip too – is trying to offer the best possible insight into the draft as we see it. We’ll be wrong more than we’re right. But we’ll always be here. And whether we’re right or wrong in just over three weeks time, come May we’ll just be doing what we always do – analysing the next group and looking at the players Seattle drafted. Let’s enjoy this place.

    Hawkfin – I’m not sure anyone has ever said Upshaw is an amazing athlete. But I must say given your largely negative review above, I’m a little surprised you still value him as a mid-first rounder. And let’s be fair here, Seattle are picking in the mid-first round.

  114. Jeremy says:

    Rob – Been a long time reader and always appreciate the opinions posted from the others after an article. I too have noticed a negative trend growing in the posts and am happy that you have addressed it. Something that needs to be remembered I think is that everything posted on here is sheer speculation. So to get so wrapped up and upset by that speculation by Rob, or another poster, is simply not necessary. There is no need to be upset by someone’s opinion on something they themselves are speculating about. None of this is real until after the draft. Until then, this is all just talk back and forth among fellow Seahawk fans.

    My opinion: from a fans perspective and an excitement factor, my wish pick would be for a balls to the wall, pin your ears back elite pass rusher. having said that, I don’t feel that there is that type of player available in this draft. Furthermore, we have the 12th pick(mid first round), so that type of elite talent is would not be available to us even if there was someone fitting that description. Having said all of that, from an overall team perspective, and scheme perspective, I do think Upshaw is a good fit for what we are trying to do. I’m hardpressed to think of anyone in the NFL currently that fits all of the criteria people seem to want this pick to achieve(high level passrusher, edge setter, run stuffer, coverage abilities). So to ask all of that from one player may be a major reach and will lead to some disappointment. Now if you think about the direction the team may be trying to go down the road, without thinking specifically of who the had personel wise last year, then changing the type of LB we’ve had to a more speed/athletic LB would change the entire team dynamic. I think it’s narrow minded to only view the first round pick as the end all be all. The entire draft needs to be taken into account for what each player may be able to do. Each player on D has a major impact on what the other players on D are able to do. It needs to be looked at as a collective as opposed to a sum of it’s individual parts.

    Just my two cents.

    Thanks Rob for the site. Hopefully we can all lighten up a little and enjoy the site for what it is intended to be. That being an site specifically for Seahawk fans to gather information on players that at likely to be drafted by their team. As opposed to a site being expected to provide answers to what the Seahawks are going to do exactly with their draft picks.

  115. peter says:

    Man I am already stoked fo rthe next round starting May! Not that I have any say in it, and I’m sure it would have happened anyways if next year there is a RGIII kinof player, keep him off the front page! I swear to god that you have this inate knack of spotlighting players about two weeks out before anyone else…

    Vertigoman, I’m not trying to a polly-anna here but, I know the Upshaw thing has been scrutinized in depth here on this blog probably more then any other arena, save for whomever does draft Upshaw in their draft room, but as far as elite pass rush, and again I’m not sure he will ever be elite,but he did have some pretty good numbers as far as sacks goes against the current toughest division in football. I know he doesn’t have the build and total production of say a Demarcus Ware type, but his numbers got better each year and this last year his production was almost great. IF the seahawks do draft him I for one think he wil put up some respectable sack totals and my goal unlike Leroy Hill who dropped off production wise due to a whole mess of reasons, is that Upshaw will be able to sustain it year in and year out.

  116. SHawn says:

    Yes. The constant bickering makes me visit a read so much less. Everyone is entitled to have and to share their opinions, just lose all the negativity.

    Also, it seems that some people commented without even reading the article. Or maybe its just that some still dont understand the concept. I admit, even I didnt understand Rob’s argument about how we would use Upshaw until today.

  117. Steve in Spain says:

    Like Attyla, I think the Red Bryant factor changes the identity of the SLB we’ll be looking for in the draft. The way the Hawks prioritized Bryant in free agency and the contract they gave him signifies they see him as a cornerstone at the line of scrimmage in their base defense. Red’s single greatest strength, why he’s so important and unique, is that he obliterates the strong side running game single-handedly. Carroll’s USC Trojans didn’t have a Red Bryant – that’s why he put so much emphasis in his talk on run defense out of his SLB. Now we do have a Big Red, so the defensive identity must change.

    An ideal SLB would be elite at pass rush, TE coverage, and run defense. But standing behind Red Bryant, if you had to be weak in one of those qualities, it would best be run defense. So, I think the Seahawks will definitely be looking at a fast-twitch guy. And I also can’t believe they’d want a guy who’s a liability in man-coverage on the TE. The TE game is too important to the modern NFL to give short shrift. If I remember correctly, Football Outsiders had us as the league’s worst in coverage against TEs last year!

    As for your source, has he been telling you about Upshaw since the re-signing of Bryant? Or was it before? Perhaps Upshaw was of more interest when Bryant’s return was still up in the air…

  118. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I’ve been thinking/revising my opinion of his versatility.

    Mostly, my comments were aimed with the expectation that Upshaw would be an OLB. I agree he’s not Demarcus Ware. But Ware is a DE (and also a really outstanding talent with his own question marks coming into the draft). Obviously he developed well after getting drafted which one can’t account for going in. For an OLB, running a 4.8 (a high 4.8 at the combine), that really is slow. For a DE, it’s still acceptable.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think those times necessarily manifest themselves when you watch the tape. In pads, and running through contact, Upshaw plays faster than his 40 time. You don’t have 300 pound tackles pushing you around when you’re running the underwear circuit. Applied speed is in the end more important than stopwatch speed.

    However, if we’re thinking of Upshaw as a DE/Leo hybrid — then the pick does make more sense. Obviously the Leo is a cornerstone position as is the free safety in this scheme. Upshaw does clearly have the ability to set the edge, and in packages where you have a Jones or similar pass rush 3 tech — swapping Upshaw situationally for Bryant really does elevate the situational pass rush while maintaining a good degree of run stoutness. Third down is the money down. Situational labels can have negative connotations but they are critical to team defensive success.

    Additionally, Clemons won’t be here forever. And I can see Upshaw being a good candidate for his succession. From a versatility standpoint — it looks like Upshaw is much better suited at rotating through the DE and Leo positions. Clemons, until he got here had an incredibly checkered injury history. It makes a lot of sense to hedge that good fortune with a guy who looks to fill those unique needs cleanly.

    I’d concede that would elevate his versatility in a meaningful way. I do think his sluggish performances at the combine and the pro day tend to confirm what I thought before February: namely that he will be a liability if he’s lined up at Sam, and is asked to do more than just rush the passer or set the edge.

    I also agree that we want a prospect that can attack the LOS. But I think there is an element of ‘other duties’ that the Sam is required to fill. And just because we have a need for a Sam, doesn’t mean we’re drafting Upshaw to be that Sam. We could add other talents there too.

    My assumption that Upshaw would be filling that role could be completely in error. And certainly there would be situations where he could definitely fill that spot where we’d want the Sam to do nothing but hold that edge (short yardage) or pass rush exclusively.

    Going to chew on that idea more. As always, I appreciate the insight and the dialogue. I definitely enjoy the reasoned analysis. This time of year it’s easy to go hot and cold on prospects.

  119. Hawkfin says:

    WOW – You really pointed me out there Rob!
    I can remove myself from you’re forum if you prefer and what’s best for you’re site and you’re draft wants.

    I’ve said nothing negative to individuals here other then give my scouting evaluations and views. This was the first negative comment that was more meant light hearted and meaningless. Yet, it still did not point out an individual rather then point out all the man love for Upshaw that really gets old. It must have hit a nerve with you?
    I have my strong views, just as you do.

    I have took my share of punishment in the little time I’ve been here when I give my views, yet you didn’t seem to have a problem with that???
    One example was by FWBrodie who blasted me and my ranking ability on DE’s. Basically, calling my personal evaluation junk. Some said they “can’t even take me seriously” because of certain view points. Then someone blasted me on my spelling of Whitney. I’ve endured plenty of folks taking one lines out of my entire post, and then blasting me for it. ME personally.

    These were more personal attacks then the one little thing I said, that was not directed at any one person.
    I never once complained and wined like what you just did to me by calling me out like that. I’ve never been one that has a problem in other Forums either. That’s a joke.

    You’re a voice and board for our Seahawks – This blog is very well known and viewed by many that take it to heart. You’re views and others that follow you impact things.
    Yet, everything is focused around Upshaw, that I don’t share and agree with.
    So I’ve given my viewpoint.

    Enjoy you’re site.

  120. Rob says:

    Hawkfin – please don’t see it as a strike at you. I merely highlighted that one comment to sample what I think has become a general tone for the blog. There’s a general feeling at the moment – and it comes from those who have supported Upshaw too – that there needs to be a wrong vs right here rather than a group discussion. I just thought the comment about laughing about being proven right highlighted that. I addressed the message to everyone, and that is what my intention was. I don’t want you to leave the blog because you’ve not insulted anyone personally, but I do feel as a collective community we need to do a better job – including myself – of accepting nobody needs to be right or wrong here. But let me be absolutely 100% clear here… I don’t want you to leave the blog. You are a valuable part of the community.

    I didn’t see those personal attacks, but in future if you have any issues please feel free to email me rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

    I will say this though – there’s no ‘man love’ for Upshaw here. This isn’t the campaign website for Courtney Upshaw to Seattle. In my mocks from February to know I’ve zoned in on that pick because I think it’s likely, but I don’t see the point in ‘fighting the tide’ so to speak… if I believe Upshaw is a very likely option. I don’t do ‘crushes’ on prospects. I loved Jimmy Smith last year, and mocked him to Seattle about once or twice. It’s all about the draft. If I wasn’t a Seahawks fan, I’d still make the same projection.

  121. FWBrodie says:

    Anybody hear Melvin Ingram’s arms were measured UNDER 30 inches at his pro day? Ouch.

  122. Hawkfin says:

    Thanks Rob, I appreciate that…….
    I do love it here. I admire what you do and I love all the Hawks & Draft talk along with everybody’s views, including you’re own. It fits in line with what I do and enjoy.

    I do want to apologize for my comment that offended the integrity of the board.
    I never meant too, and I’ll be sure to watch what I say and not attack.
    Of course I would never laugh and pound my chest though. I’m nobody that’s perfect, and I can’t predict anything more then the next guy. I just put a lot of work into my scouting also. I think I was getting tired of Upshaw talk.

    I respect this site and what you do. I love the detailed analyse that’s on here, including the write up done on Upshaw. It did make me think twice, and I went back to look at more tape on Upshaw the player.

    I do want to stay here and have the opportunity to share my views.

    I think a personal problem of mine is this, and I’ll try and get over it:
    I sometimes do feel like players are being “campaigned” here. I think I was here last year for a bit, and everything seemed to gear around Jimmy Smith. Another player I was highly against at the time. But, everybody wanted J. Smith.

    I’m not sure why I feel that way with you’re site, and why I think you would be in the business of “Campaigning”?
    Maybe because most of the talk seems to be geared into 1 guy or per you’re mock. I don’t know.

    My stupid ego thinks that if everybody hears the same things, over and over again, and agrees the same way, and it’s published all over the place and everybody wants it, then it hits radio stations, and the guru’s, and mocks, etc. that it will find it’s way into the minds of our front office, etc. And just maybe they would want to satisfy there fans.
    Stupid thinking, I know.

    I’ll try not to look at this site in that fashion. But, I do think this site is highly watched.
    Anyway, I will try harder to not treat this as a “campaign” for a player that I don’t want. :)

    I enjoy it here. You guy’s do good hard work.
    Thanks

  123. Benjammin (formerly Ben 2.5) says:

    Great comment Jeremy. That was really well stated.

    Glad you spoke up about the tone Rob. Will try to be less smart-assy (a little). I feel like I get more well rounded and detailed draft info here than anywhere I look. Particularly because it’s so customized by guys who really pay attention to the Hawks as opposed to some more well known national talking heads who sometimes seem downright lazy with putting this player to a team that anyone who closely follows the Hawks can see through.

    As for Kuechly Rob, Brock said (for what it’s worth) that Mcshay said that “Kuechly had rare instincts and feel for pass coverage”. I’m pretty confused about what you said above in the comments about Kuechly being eh in pass coverage. Watching the tape you provided he even had a pretty sweet interception (over the head, etc). I liked the post you did earlier on Kuechly but maybe you can add a little here in regards to the pass coverage. I’ve been sold on Upshaw since you shared his game tape a long time ago, but I gotta confess, Kuechly is really growing on me.

  124. Christian says:

    Everyone just needs to take these player evaluations as what they are, 1 person’s or in some cases, multiple persons opinions, which are not set in stone, and are only based on the things these people have seen, they are not gospel, and what’s more there are not presented as such. I know we are a passionate fan base, and our hawks preciate that on Sundays in the Clink but there no reason, to attack your brother, or get overly wrapped up in the stuff, to the point anger spills out. Lord, the projections are just a guess, and one person’s opinion. You’re allowed to have your opinions too. Don’t take your ball and go home

  125. Rob says:

    Hawkfin – thanks for the reply. I will take on board everything you’ve said there and see if there’s a way we can angle the blog to be less ‘campaigny’ (made up word for the day) for the next draft. I suspect that’ll be difficult given the presence of one particular quarterback who appears destined to be part of this team!

    Benjamin – I think to qualify it I’d say Kuechly’s best aspect isn’t coverage, and maybe what they’re looking for is a linebacker who is just flat out outstanding in coverage to compliment the way Seattle will attack from the front. From the tape I’ve watched, he’s always going to be at his best attacking… reading the play and gravitating to the ball. I’d actually rather try to find ways to take him out of coverage if I’m honest and say… just track the ball. His instinct and feel for the game are as good as I’ve seen from a MLB, and he reacts extremely well. I’d want to kind of keep as much as possible in front of him, almost as a second line of defense if there’s initial penetration. If he’s too concerned with coverage, I think you’ll lose a lot of what he’s good at… and I think the Seahawks will ultimately want a LB who’s primary talent will be coverage. A guy like Zach Brown can play a little deeper, track a WR or LB, but also flash the foot speed to get to the LOS if required. He’s not close to the instinct of Kuechly, but he’ll shrink a field and if needed, get downfield or track a TE. If the Seahawks want to be even more aggressive at the LOS, then a guy like that is a better fit. I actually think if you draft Kuechly, you might as well just play orthodox 4-3, which Seattle won’t do.

  126. AlaskaHawk says:

    Hi everyone,
    Rob – I’m glad you diagrammed all those defences. I haven’t had a chance to study them today (to busy at work). I’m looking forward to.

    Reading all the posts, I know that Upshaw, and what to do with the #12 pick when no one is elite, have been hot button issues. I’ve been as vocal as the rest. I guess it’s not suprising that we have hot button issues. I apologize to anyone that I have offended with my occasional rants.

    Maybe it is best to leave this one alone and move on to picks #3-7. Personally I’m looking forward to Pete picking an undrafted QB again. I wonder who it will be???

  127. Doug says:

    Geez Fin, I thought you were going to leave me stranded here for a second… Don’t leave, we think alike!

    Question Robert,

    Let’s say Upshaw AND Coples are available at #12
    Who do the Hawks take?

    I would bet a bottle of two buck chuck (it’s good!) that the Hawks would take Coples. I ask cuz I’ve been seeing a few mocks of late that have us taking Coples at 12, with Upshaw going after.

    I dig your analyzation of how Uppy would fit in, but I just find him to big of an upset to coverage, that would get exploited by good teams. We would have to much “switching” as it were, attempting to get coverage on somebody, and then bang, somebody torches us.
    Thats why I would prefer a “normal” 4-3, without the trickery. Red, Mebane, Branch, and Jones, even Coples and Clemons would all have numerous interchanging abilities. This way, we can just get normal LB’s, and not have to depend on “gimicks” for a pass rush. I would just like to have some real good players that win LOS battles, and cause the QB to have to do something before they are ready, then we would have superior numbers in coverage, and so we would win those too.

  128. Benjammin (formerly Ben 2.5) says:

    Thanks Rob, that was a bloody brilliant take for just an off-the-cuff answer to a question form yours truly. Awesome, had to reread that a few times it was packed so full of stuff. I think if Coples and Upshaw aren’t there at 12, I’m kind of rooting for Mr. MLB, though your answer does give me a lot more to chew on. Cheers

  129. Rob says:

    Doug – I think it’d be unlikely they take Coples. As mentioned previously, some teams (I’m trying not to give too much away) are concerned with his run defense. Seattle’s determination to shut down the run works against Coples in that instance, and for Upshaw. I’m not denying that Coples has a superior upside – the guy is a physical freak. The tape is scary he was so average in 2011, but the Senior Bowl and subsequent work-outs just show how much potential he has. Even so, as I see and judge this situation based on the info I have, I don’t think Coples would be the pick in that scenario.

    As for the concept of moving back to a normal 4-3, I’m not sure about that one. I mean, the defense has come so far in two years playing this hybrid system. The most productive pass rusher we’ve had in a long while (Kerney aside) is a gimmick player, as is the man considered the heartbeat of the defense. Another gimmick, as far as I’m concerned, is fine. I actually really like the direction of the defense and considering we talk about players to push it closer to elite rather than players who can launch a revamp (what we were saying just two years ago), I think that’s mighty impressive. So if the Seahawks do draft Upshaw, Ingram or another player of that ilk, I’d be pretty excited about seeing it unfold.

  130. Hawkfin says:

    Hey Rob,
    I’m confused why you said “defense has come so far in two years playing this hybrid system”

    I thought we pretty much were playing a 4-3 the last few years?
    So who’s doing this Hybrid stuff now for us?

    Isn’t our 2 DE’s pretty much playing DE. It seems to me from what I’m watching out there that we are playing it pretty basic with 4 down linemen, and 3 LB’s in zone coverage.
    We’ve just improved the Secondary so much, that our Def is now clicking after such miserable years of bad Safety and Corner play.

    Please correct me on this hybrid style you are saying we use?
    I’m not seeing it out there?

    Doug – I’m not going anywhere. I love it to much. My ego was hurt and felt like it might not be welcomed. ;)

  131. Rob says:

    Some 3-4 elements to the system… the use of Red and his size as an end, the lighter Clemons rushing the edge. That’s why I used the word hybrid.

  132. Hawkfin says:

    hmmm,
    I guess I never considered Red and Clemons as a Hybrid though? They seem like pretty typical DE’s in the NFL to me. I don’t see those guy’s moving around much. Pretty basic on the line guy’s. Pretty basic set the edge and rush guy’s or DE.

    I consider a Hybrid as: A undersized DE in the Pro’s, but shifty with speed that can move all over the field in different coverage, double teams, and on Blitzes. And even sometimes fast enough to go out and take on WR or TE. “Fast LB”

  133. Rob says:

    I wouldn’t classify them as hybrid, but their involvement makes the defense a hybrid. Traditional 4-3 doesn’t tend to have a 330lbs defensive end, or really a DE as light as Clemons. Those roles are more traditional to the 3-4, so this defense has different influences and concepts which make it a hybrid IMO.

  134. FWBrodie says:

    “Normal 4-3″

    Pete Carroll has done some impressive work with the Seahawk defense so far. Abnormal, against the grain, and yet successful. Anybody can coach and personnel a normal 4-3. By doing things differently the Seahawks have an advantage. Players that they value highly can be found at relatively low cost: Clemons, Sherman, Branch, Browner, Kam. I wouldn’t give that advantage up.

  135. Hawkfin says:

    I gotchya now,
    Wow, I didn’t know Red was that big actually.

    At that weight, why can’t he move inside for us?
    I would think maybe Red could make that move. Then allow for a TRUE DE to plug in.

    Then we could get Red, Clemons, and a young stud DE on the field at the same time?

    Now wonder why he’s only got a few sacks and why our run support is so good.

    My view: Get a true DE with quickness and sack ability opposite Clemons.
    Get a true MLB to clog the middle so you don’t need a 320 DE.

  136. Colin says:

    Red is too long and tall to play at DT hawkfin. Mora tried it and they did it a little bit under John marshall in his last year here. He isn’t very good inside.

  137. Michael (CLT) says:

    Barkley will make Upshaw talk seem trivial. All hail 2013 QBOTF!

  138. Michael (CLT) says:

    HawkFin & Doug can hang out with me. There are always two sides to a coin.

    The key is to remember both sides are of ONE coin. We, in the end, all all Seahawk fans. One. Love your brothers, but make them work like hell to enjoy it :)

  139. Jericho says:

    First comment, I think. Great blog. I’ve been reading it since the blogspot days.

    @Rob: Leo = Elephant. “A. Simmons” gave a good overview of the position.

    @Hawkfin: Red had leverage issues (because of his height?) at DT. He was more or less a failure. He’s been amazing at DE in Carroll’s scheme.

  140. Hawkfin says:

    Cool, thanks for the clarification on Red guy’s.

  141. Doug says:

    I don’t know that I would consider Red a raging success at DE. He is certainly a big clog there, and helps shut the corner down against the run game, but He NEVER gets to the QB, and I personally find that to be one of our liabilities. The QB doesn’t fear very much from that side, but conversely, they don’t get much run yardage from over there. That’s why I think a true DE like Coples would give us better pressure…
    meh, I like Red, but I don’t think he is all that. I would expect more push from a guy that big, collapsing the pocket a bit more often. He seems to get locked up pretty often…
    I would just LOVE to have a speedy big long guy attacking from that side, with Clemons, and Jones from up the middle. Let Red take turns so we always have a fresh slab of huge guy in the middle…

    Geez I wish the draft were tomorrow…

  142. David J says:

    Thanks for putting some meat on your argument for Upshaw Rob. But, I still really don’t see him as the most valuable choice. Here are some reasons I’m unconvinced:

    * (LEO = Elephant = Weakside DE) != SLB. What you’re arguing for is basically an SLB whose primary responsibility is pass rush, not covering the TE (as Pete’s comments above emphasize is core (“The SLB always goes to the tight end side”)). This more or less amounts to a five man front. If you want to say he’s Clemons’s replacement and play him at Weakside DE, fine, but that doesn’t change the single-dimensionality of the pass rush.

    * We’ve struggled with covering TEs and containing QBs scrambling to the outside, especially strong side since that’s Big (Slow) Red over there. TEs are increasingly important elements of the passing game, so the SLB needs to be fast and good at coverage. Upshaw is not one of the better cover LBs in the draft.

    * Our defense is already extremely effective against the run, so asking the SLB to do more run-defense is just overkill, especially if it’s at the cost of coverage abilities in a pass-heavy game.

    * We just hired Jason Jones who promises to be a versatile pass rush from DE or DT.

    So, all that said, if we’re looking for a person to fill the SLB role in a way that fleshes out our defense in the most valuable ways, you’re looking for speed, coverage ability, blitzing ability, and excellent play recognition skills. Upshaw is not the best in the draft at at least the first two. A better complement to our existing defense is going to be somebody like Kendricks, David, Spence et al.

    David J

  143. Jericho says:

    Red’s job at DE is not to rush the passer. I would like a prototypical DE like Coples, but I think a DE/LB flex type of player would be more valuable to Seattle. LB on run downs/distances. Red’s spot on pass downs/distances.

  144. Gramsci says:

    It seems to me that the Seahawks would be interested in accomplishing 2 things in the first round:

    1. Replace Raheem Brock as the Left End in obvious passing situations.
    2. Prepare for the eventual decline (due to age) or removal (impending Free agency) of starting LEO Chris Clemons.

    Nick Perry of USC would fit both of those needs. He is similar in size and speed to Clemons. And he was recruited to USC by Pete Carroll to play the weak-side, pass rushing end. Thus, he is an obvious fit for what Carroll has in mind.

  145. Rob says:

    Gramsci – I’m not a big fan of Perry personally. I just don’t see the explosion on tape, and in the podcast linked to above Scott Enyeart makes the same point. I think his stock has been boosted because of the combine, but he’s firmly in the R2/3 range IMO. A solid alternative option if they go in a different direction in R1 (eg… Trent Richardson falls).

  146. D says:

    146 comments, wow we are pretty pumped about this draft thing huh?

  147. A. Simmons says:

    What would really make for an interesting look at this Elephant/LEO thing is for Rob to track down some Charles Haley tape and take a look at how he was utilized. That might shed some light on what Pete is talking about. I watched the old San Francisco 49ers with Charles Haley and he also played for Dallas I believe. Should be some tape out there on him to give us a little more insight into how George Seifert used Charles Haley.

  148. andy says:

    More fuel…… Yesterday John Clayton was specifically asked about “insider knowledge that Hawks will pick Upshaw at #12″ His response…. “not what i have been hearing at all, Kuechly seems to be the frontrunner right now.” Hmmmmmm….

  149. MJ says:

    Kuechly would be a monumentally terrible pick. I will take a “good” pass rusher over a “great” Mike any day of the week. After all, the Giants are known for their amazing LBers right??

  150. Rob says:

    John Clayton also said Atlanta and Seattle were favorites for Mario Williams, who was already in Buffalo the moment free agency started.

  151. myjackrebel says:

    Clayton’s comments sounded like a smoke screen to me.

  152. Rob says:

    I think Clayton was being completely sincere. He probably hasn’t heard about Upshaw and may well have heard about Kuechly. However, how many people projected James Carpenter last year? Amid all the talk of Andy Dalton (Clayton) and others, Carpenter’s name never surfaced. Ditto Earl Thomas in 2010. There’s greater secrecy about the draft than FA because agents aren’t in the middle of ongoing negotiations. Really, the draft just happens between the teams… not via the players and individuals. So there are less leaks.

  153. Colin says:

    My question to everyone out there concerned as hell about covering the TE’s:

    Will it matter how well those TE’s are covered if the front 4 aren’t getting home? Everyone wants to point out how we couldn’t cover tightends, but I disagree with that notion to an extent. When the QB can go through his reads and buy a litttle time he can always find that underneath guy.

    Pass rush needs to be the #1 priority IMHO. Not coverage guys. We get after the passer and the rest of this defense will be just fine.

  154. andy says:

    Good stuff! So interesting right now. To Colin, best scenario that Rob laid out already is getting the pass rush help at #12 and the anti TE/coverage LB at #43. (Z. Brown or L. David) I am just concerned that Upshaw will not give us that extra pass rush venom……

  155. pqlqi says:

    The amazing part of Red is that as the LDE and 330-340 lbs, he basically takes out two blockers on the strong side of the line, which is usually the side where teams put their best run blockers. Mebane also typically requires a double team, so with those two guys, four blockers are taken out of the play. That still leaves Clemons and the 3 tech to block with the 5th OL and the TE. That gives our LBs a huge advantage, but last year the aging Hill and Hawthorne couldn’t take advantage of the situation, and we were especially weak on outside runs due to poor speed at the LB position.

    Upshaw or Ingram at the strongside LB and a speed backer with similar versatility to Wright (but perhaps more speed) like David, Wagner, or Brown, who can drop into pass defense and move sideline to sideline with speed would allow the team to continue to take advantage of this size/power advantage we have at the line, add to pass rush, and improve coverage on checkdowns to the TEs and RBs.

  156. Misfit74 says:

    pqlqi –

    your posts here and elsewhere are often pure gold. Thank you. That last one is the most succinct and precise clarification I’ve read about this situation in a long time.

  157. FWBrodie says:

    plqli: I agree, good post. The idea of Upshaw matched up with a TE or a RB in a pass rush situation next to Red is really exciting to me. Most TE’s would be no match for his leg drive and powerful hands, and if they slide the tackle out to him Red, Jones, Mebane, or a combination of them are now in one on one situations. Those guys are all used to double teams and extra attention. Pass pro schemes will be stretched thin, which will cause problems all over the place for opposing offenses. Not to mention the brutality of trying to run against that front.

  158. A. Simmons says:

    That’s why Curry was so disappointing. He was usually going against a TE because Red completely domianted the tackle and guard going against him. Yet Curry was so poor at keeping the QB in sight, containing him, and continuing his progress towards him that he overran the QB even when he should have completely dominated his man. The guy couldn’t block him, it was Curry himself failing as a pass rusher. If Upshaw can succeed in those situations, that will be a vicous pass rush. Red doesn’t even really need to take up two blockers. He mainly needs to dominate the tackle to open up the outside rushing lane to the QB. All we need is a pass rusher that can take advantage of Red’s dominance of the tackle.

  159. [...] I wrote a piece exploring how Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram could be used as a hybrid DE/OLB ‘elephant’, it received a mixed response. Some agreed, others not so [...]

  160. GF Observer says:

    Upshaw has been on my radar for months now and this discussion seals it for me. He is worth the #12 pick.

    The elephant position is his best fit but not his only fit in this defense. Not to mention, have people forgotten Red’s injury track record? He could go down at anytime. Upshaw would fill in nicely. If Red manages to stay healthy then it’s a wonderful problem to have. Where do I play this incredibly disruptive DE/OLB tweener that suffs the run and puts fear into the QB on passing downs?

    Who says you can’t play Upshaw on running downs and on passing downs.

    Just like in baseball, if a guy can hit they will find a position for him and to hell with his other deficiencies. Well this guy can hit, stuff, and rush the passer.