Jordan Hill: problem solver

May 1st, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Jordan Hill is what the Seahawks need for their defense.

It’s a pretty obvious statement, considering they took him in the third round. How much did we talk about defensive tackle being a priority during the regular season? Every week? This pick wasn’t a reach or a desperate attempt to solve one of the few problem areas on the team. It was calculated, planned and inspired.

I’ve long been a fan of Hill’s, which is in part why I’m fairly positive about the pick. However, I wanted to go back and see what I’d actually written about Hill on the blog, before returning to the tape for a closer look. On January 29th I noted the following:

Out of all the players I’ve looked at so far, Penn State’s Jordan Hill is one of the players to keep an eye on in those mid-to-late rounds.

He’s 6-0 and 295lbs and plays with good leverage. If he gets a sniff of a gap he often takes advantage, using his speed to get into the backfield. In a 1v1 match-up he holds his own in the run game, holding his position with surprising power at the point of attack even against top offensive line opposition such as Wisconsin.

Hill’s a fighter — a relentless bundle of energy who defined his teams attitude last season. He chases outside of the tackle box, doesn’t give up on plays and often executes via the second effort. In the Senior Bowl he struggled a bit to generate pressure against a double team, but it was testament that the lineman even in that environment were consistently locking onto him and trying to shut him down. Although he didn’t challenge the quarterback against the double team, he more than held his own and managed to hold position. The Seahawks don’t have enough players on that defensive line right now that warrant a double team.

On February 14th after further tape review, I also wrote the following:

I cannot talk highly enough of this guy. He’s solid against the run despite a lack of pure size (6-0/6-1, 295lbs), he gets into the backfield to make plays and he’s got that little spark to his game that you want to see from a three technique.

Since the Seahawks drafted Jordan Hill, I’ve gone back to watch four Penn State games. You’ll find tape of two of the games below (vs Wisconsin, Iowa). The other two were Ohio State and Virginia from last season. You tend to watch a guy a little more closely when he’s going to be on the team. You look for ways in which he fills a need. I’m fairly confident Hill is the closest thing Seattle could find to the interior penetrator they needed. That’s without being in a realistic position to draft a guy like Sheldon Richardson.

I’m still not sure how the Seahawks intend to play their hand at defensive tackle. I’m not sure anyone is, because they have some options now. Clinton McDonald and Jaye Howard remain on the roster from last year. They signed Tony McDaniel in free agency and added Hill and Jesse Williams during the draft. They could rotate these guys to suit. Williams (who I’ve also watched more of since the weekend) is a one-dimensional player who offered very little pass rush in college. He was tough up the middle, difficult to move. In short yardage and goal-line situations he could be an asset. I’m not convinced he’ll offer any kind of pressure though, which is really what the Seahawks need inside.

To be more exact, they need a three technique. An orthodox three technique. A guy who isn’t completely hopeless against the run, but is quick enough to shoot a gap, force the guard or center into the pocket, get some pressure on the quarterback and move well laterally against the run. Hill ticks all of the boxes, which is why I think he’ll eventually win a starting job. He’s not an amazing athlete otherwise he’d have been going in the top-15 like Richardson. Yet the style of play is fairly similar. Even though Hill played a lot of one technique in college, he’s not merely a backup for Brandon Mebane. He can start at the three. And he can be disruptive.

Looking at the defensive line, they have the ability to use three different players at the LEO (Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril). They can double up with speed off the edge in an obvious passing situation. They can use Michael Bennett as a specialist three technique or power end. They say they’ll try Avril and Irvin at linebacker. There’s so much potential there, so many different looks to present to an offense.

The biggest difference maker for Seattle’s pass rush next year might be from the inside in base. On 1st and 10 at the 20, I don’t think they’re going to get too cute with a lot of foreign looks. I think we’ll see a LEO alongside Red Bryant, Mebane and another (probably Hill). We’ll see three linebackers on the field. Or maybe two linebackers and Antoine Winfield in the slot. Just my guess. For the last three years in this situation, the entire responsibility for a pass rush lay with the LEO (Clemons). While that position has been productive for the Seahawks, alone it hasn’t been the catalyst for a fearsome pass rush.

Increasing the amount of pressure in base will take this defense to another level. Being able to really get at a team early will enhance Seattle’s status as a contender. Too many times last year they came up against a lousy offensive line filled with stopgaps and never took advantage. Press from the inside, collapse the pocket and watch the speed at the LEO position dominate.

Bennett will probably come in on third down or in situations where the other team has to chase. That’s the finishing move. The clincher. There’s improvements to be had here too — third down defense wasn’t good enough at times in 2012. Winfield also gives that area a boost.

But focusing on Hill, he offers a real chance to solve the issues in base. Let’s look at the Iowa tape. Fast forward to 2:14 in the video below:

The first thing to highlight isn’t a pass rushing move, but it’s a fun play nonetheless. Notice how well he moves laterally to the left, disengaging one block, picking through the traffic and making the tackle on a running back for a loss. That’s dominating. Let me refer back to the Bill Walsh ideal for a three technique:

“You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.”

At 2:25 he’s lined up over the center and knifes through the A-gap to collapse the pocket. He forced the quarterback to move (and fumble) forcing a turnover. This is what Seattle needs. This is what it wasn’t getting from a nose tackle masquerading as a three technique last year (Alan Branch).

You want to see some hands? Go to 3:04 and watch how he schools the Iowa guard to break into the backfield for a big sack. Lost amid all the forty times and drills at the combine is the benefit of quick, aggressive hands. Hill has them. He can play stout against the run (holds position well) but he also has the ability to get into a lineman and quickly disengage, before rushing the passer.

Hill’s not the biggest guy, but he’s well proportioned. He’s got a nice thick base and room to get even bigger up top (muscle, rather than bad weight). I think it’s actually a good thing that he’s only 6-0 and 290-300lbs. Size is important but Hill clearly gets leverage because he’s a little shorter, he’s slight enough to stay mobile but not too small that he gets dominated. I hate comparing him to the best defensive tackle in the NFL, but that’s the kind of thing that helps Geno Atkins be so successful. Hill isn’t Atkins, but they share some similar characteristics.

At 3:25 he faces a center/guard double team. The guard eventually breaks off to try and attack the second level, but as a pair they fail to drive Hill backwards. As noted in the January piece I wrote, he faced a lot of double teams at the Senior Bowl and see you it often in the Penn State tape. He was the primary focus for the offensive lineman he faced. Very few — including Wisconsin’s brutish line — managed to slow him down.

It’s not all positive, of course. In the Iowa tape you see him get pushed back at 3:41. I’m willing to take my chances on that. There are going to be plays where he gets caught a little off balance and can’t recover. You can’t win every battle. But in the four games I’ve watched since the draft, I feel very comfortable about Hill’s ability to have an impact for this team and potentially solve a pretty big problem for the Seahawks. Only two other defensive tackles went off the board before Seattle took Jesse Williams in the fifth round (Brandon Williams, Akeem Spence). I’d argue they took Hill in just the right spot, from a value stand point and in terms of availability and need. He almost certainly wouldn’t have been there in the late fourth.

Seahawks fans should be excited about this pick.

The video below is of the Wisconsin game, always worth a watch:

26 Responses to “Jordan Hill: problem solver”

  1. Bryan C says:

    It will be interesting to see what we actually do on the dline this year. We have such a broad spectrum of guys that it may be more of a case of each playing fewer snaps for the year but being much healthier come January/February.

  2. Dan says:

    GREAT analysis Rob. I feel a lot happier with the pick now.
    And laying out the options across the front seven makes me excited. Can’t wait to see the new looks. I think that speaks volumes to the signing of Dan Quinn. He’s well known for drawing up different blitzes.

  3. A. Simmons says:

    The kid seems to have a great work ethic as well. He was in the gym when doing an interview with one of the radio shows recently. Seems to take his conditioning seriously. Not only weight room strength, but cardio-vascular as well. I like that he accepts he is smaller, but is dedicated to outworking his opponents, wearing them down, and beating them as the game goes on. I like that kind of attitude. He’s definitely going to have his hands full dealing with the San Francisco offensine line. Hopefully he’ll have a healthy Mebane and rejuvenated Red Bryant helping.

  4. The Ancient Mariner says:

    I really hope they give Bennett a shot to compete with Red; he may be lighter, but he’s at least as good against the run for all that, and hed give us pass rush from the 5-tech position. I’d love to see us line up Bennett/Mebane (or Williams)/Hill/Avril — or Irvin at the LEO with Avril at SAM; if Hill plays the way I think he will (which I think is also the way you think he will), we could tear offensive lines apart with that crew.

  5. awm says:

    Good stuff Rob! Like these post draft evaluations…..

  6. James says:

    Rob, a quick check of the official weigh-ins shows Jordan at 6-1.4 and 294 lbs at the Senior Bowl. By the Combine, he was up to 303 lbs. As you say, Jordan looks like he could carry a little more upper body muscle, so if he plays at 6-1.4 and 310 lbs, that’s plenty solid enough. There was a fair amount of discussion on your blog that our ideal pick would be a Geno Atkins 3-tech, and I agree that Jordan is by far the most likely candidate. Hill’s college performance, tackles, sacks, etc, was actually better than Atkin’s, so this will be fun to watch.

  7. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    I remember your original Hill posts Rob. The first one was not too long after I found SDB, so I was paying attention. I liked his tape. His style seemed like a mix of sumo wrestler and kung fu master. I remember being impressed particularly with his arm/hand use. I thought he played violent.

    But I admit to being a bit put off by his stature. He looked small on the field (though he definitely didn’t play small). Not just short, but small. After watching him post draft, it appears to be a trick of the eye because of his muscle balance; he carries his 300lbs extremely well. Anyway, I soured on him even further after the Combine where his performance drill results weren’t great. At that point I was thinking he’s too small and doesn’t have the speed to make it in the NFL. He may look good in college, but…

    I wish I’d looked a littler further into him. If I had, I would have found out that he had his knee scoped before the Combine for an injury he sustained last Nov (before the Wisconsin game, which makes that performance all the more impressive). Putting all the pieces back together post mortem, his pick makes perfect sense and I agree he was one of 2 players JSPC absolutely had to have in this draft.

    I also think you’re right about him potentially starting, although at this point I’d say Bennett is more likely.

    Just curious Rob why you’re so hesitant to compare Hill to Atkins? They’re extremely similar physically (less than an inch or a couple pounds difference between them). They’re both mid round selections from quality programs. A review of Atkins’ Combine numbers suggest he might be the slightly better athlete. If anything, mightn’t Hill have a situational advantage over rookie Atkins coming into the League given that Hill played his college ball as a genuine 3T in a 4-3 defense?

    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Probably because “best DT in the league” would have to represent Hill’s absolute ceiling even if you believe he could be *that* good, and you never want to project a player to reach their absolute ceiling.

      • CHawk Talker Eric says:

        I think “best DT in the league” would have to represent any DT’s absolute ceiling.

        I probably should have phrased my question differently. Allow me to do so now.

        Rob, I wonder if you scouted Atkins coming out of Georgia in 2010? If yes, how does Atkins’ scouting report compare to Hill’s.

        • Kyle says:

          Nice redirect. I don’t post much on this blog anymore, much as I like it, because so many commentators seem to have a form of Aspberger’s that nitpicks without being very useful.

        • Rob Staton says:

          I think everyone was fascinated by Atkins and a little surprised he lasted until round four. He was a better athlete than Hill who for whatever reason just didn’t have the college production, even if you liked the tape. A lot of people expected him to go in round two. He was a legit 4.7 guy who put up 34 reps on the bench. A rare skill set. Hill isn’t the same kind of athlete, he’s more of an effort guy.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think you always have to be hesitant when comparing a rookie to the best player in the NFL at a certain position. I believe Hill could be a fine pick, but Atkins is elite.

      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Which is the point I was trying to make . . .

        • CHawk Talker Eric says:

          I guess it’s an issue of semantics then. All I asked for was a comparison. Not a prognostication or prediction or even a conclusion (though I’m always happy to hear one). All I wanted was an examination of two players to establish their similarities and differences. And why not? One is the premier player in the NFL at a crucial need position, the other our draft pick to fill that need. Even the most cursory of comparisons, size, or more particularly the extreme similarity of their sizes, begs further inquiry. How do they compare athletically? Speed off the snap? Technique? Lateral agility? There are many other questions. I’m curious to know the opinions of someone with superior knowledge of these two players. Am I truly the only one who is?

          Aside from that, surely you didn’t think I was asking for a comparison of a draft pick who’s never even practiced at the professional level to a 3 year vet and 2-time pro bowl/all-pro? I thought it was understood that the meaningful comparison of Hill as our 3T pick would be to Atkins as a draft pick in 2010.

          I apologize if I sound snooty but I’m actually trying to learn here. I wasn’t a draftnik in 2010, so I didn’t scout, let alone know of some DT from Georgia. But even if I was, I wouldn’t have been looking at things with the same eye for a 3T because the team’s needs were different. This year, my first as a true draft tracker, I knew that finding a 3T was one of PC’s draft priorities and I knew about Hill as a 3T prospect. The reason I knew these things is because I was fortunate enough to find SDB shortly after the new year, and instantly became addicted to this blog. So, armed with insight and information graciously provided by Rob and Kip, I did my own scouting of Hill and made my own conclusions.

          I missed. Despite his strong play in college, I wasn’t sure he had the size and speed to be an effective 3T in the NFL. Part of that was because he ran poorly at the combine. I took that at face value and essentially wrote him off (btw I won’t make that mistake again. Lesson learned). Obviously I was wrong about Hill (at least in so far as he was the 3T PC wanted), but I don’t care so much about being right or wrong. What I care about is why.

          Because without the why, the best I can ever be is lucky.

  8. Stuart says:

    Rob, I want you to know that I really appreciate your web site. You work so hard and it really shows. After the draft I was feeling, well, disapointed. My disapointment stemmed from the fact that I didnt know any of the players we drafted out side of Michael, Hill and Williams.

    Now I am learning about the players. Of course I trust JS and whatever he does but since I cant watch the players play now, I have this site to make me feel better and learn about our new Hawks. The players we could have had for the taking that hurt me were;

    -LB Arthur Brown
    -DE Armonty ?
    -WR Swope or Patton
    DT-Stephan Charles

    These were players that I really wanted badly. It will be interesting to watch and see how their careers unfold vs. the players we selected. Edge goes to JS 99.7%. See, your site had educated me enought to feel I have .03. Now I am inside of outlier status…

    • Rob Staton says:

      Appreciate the kind words Stuart. Thank you.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      It’s hard to watch other players you like get passed over by your team. Believe me, it’s harder still to watch those same players be productive answers to your teams’ present roster needs.

      The thing of it is, Seattle is really great at understanding ceiling and development. These are just two (very important two) aspects that no matter what amount of footage we look at — we really don’t have insight to.

      Just remember and accept, that there is a component to this event that we have no insight to. Seattle as an organization has become very adept at being able to identify physical characteristics they like and player make up that they feel they can work with. This goes beyond just Pete and John. It goes down to the scouts.

      We are always hamstrung by the fact we don’t have coaches tape to watch. We don’t always have the understanding of knowing what it is we should be looking for. Or if we do, how do we judge it correctly. One could look at the mixed reviews of both J. Williams and C. Harper this year.

      It’s interesting that Rob and Kip see Jesse and the first thing that you hear from them is ‘One dimensional”. Sure looked that way on tape. I did say I thought he could be more — but I would be at a loss to really demonstrate that opinion on any footage I could find. Lots of little things but the guy was not nearly the dynamic ‘win the battle’ type that Hill is.

      Yet when Pete talks about Williams, the first thing you hear from him is, “We’re playing him at the three”. Which I completely concede is very difficult to see based on the footage available with Jesse. There is simply a component to this exercise that outsiders really don’t have a whole lot of insight to.

      It’s also possible, that he sees Jesse as a base 3. The guy who comes in on first down and short yardage packages. In which case, he’s just simply a Branch successor. Bring in Hill on 2nd and long and maybe third and 4+. Possibly move Hill to the 1 on third and long and bring in Bennett for the 3.

      I’m convinced, that Pete and John are seen as unconventional because people trust what they see. But I get the very real sense that we don’t draft based necessarily on what we see. But rather what we see these players becoming. They are visionaries that see what’s possible, not what is.

      In the end, I do believe we are firmly becoming better at projecting likely Seattle players here at SDB. Outside of Simon and the 6th/7th round projects, I think all of our top picks were repeatedly linked to Seattle. There does seem to be a ‘Seahawky’ quality that has developed over the 4 drafts we’ve witnessed now.

      I’d be interested in finding out just what steered Seattle away from Swope. I really strongly felt like he was a perfect fit here. But we passed on him multiple times. Certainly I felt he would have been a bigger contributor than Tharold Simon. But then we’d have had a tougher time taking the obligatory DL/LB/OL/CB that we’ve now taken 4 years running.

      Seems like that’s the one law of drafting we aren’t going to break.

  9. Eran Ungar says:

    Great work Rob.

    To my shame i hardly paid any attention to Hill. I was under the “They are looking for a longer guy…the 6’5 and up guys”. So stupid to think that after last year’s 3rd pick isn’t it ?

    Anyway, it’s good to see you saw it much earlier.

    Since the pick i have been trying to learn more fast and getting more and more excited about Hill. He looks like a perfect fit in a big role within this swarm of angry giant wasps on the D line.

    I can certainly see him dominating in the rotation on any medium to long yards downs and 3rd downs. I can see his efforts combined with fast cutting DE’s cause many a Green Bay moments.

    I also fully agree he is far from helpless against the run and can play most positions inside so all in all – GREAT PICK.

    I think Jesse can be more them just one dimensional (Tom Cable to the rescue) but even if he is that could be one hell of a big dimension closing the middle shut on run plays etc.

    As for the base 1st and 10 at the 20 lineup – Last year it was all big guys and only the LEO rushing and it was still our most effective down. We were bleeding on 3rd and long….and Hill is so perfect to be there on those 3rd downs.

    All in all, with the best secondary in football, Young strong and quick improving Linebackers and this new D line from hell it’s going to be a very very scary defense.

    Me like a lot !!!

  10. Jake says:

    Two things stand out from Hill in these tapes:

    1. Not once in either of those two videos was he handled by a single block. He defeated the block EVERY time against some quality offensive linemen. His arm/hand usage and balance is reminiscent of Mebane. Hopefully he transitions to the league as a more athletic/pass rushing version, but he is really effective in-line. He usually anchors extremely well against doubles (which was about 80% of these plays). He destroys anyone who single-blocks him, quickly sheds and finds the ball. I was very impressed, as were the opposing coaches since they obviously ran away from him and still doubled down on him.

    2. Closing burst: He has it, Bradford/Palmer beware.

  11. Lewis says:

    Going into the draft, I was really hoping they could find a dancing bear to play inside on the D-line. It looks like Hill could be that guy. He really seems to have a strong motor. I like the fact that, even if he seems to be out of a play initially, he works through trash to try and make a play.

    I’m not looking for sack production out of the defensive tackle position (that’s gravy, as far as I’m concerned), but a guy that can disrupt the pocket enough to create opportunities for our rush specialists would be a welcome addition.

  12. geoffu says:

    This was the need pick. Or rather, where need lined up with BPA. How long have we been needing a 3-tech like this? Love this pick and I can’t wait for the first preseason game to watch these guys play.

    It’s always interesting to read national articles where journalists cut and past (or just make stuff up) then reading what’s on here. From fox sports:

    “Hill is a one-gap, two-down player who should fit in as an early down run- stuffer.”

    Oh?

  13. Wil says:

    Considering so many teams now want to emulate the SEA/SF run/option I would guess those two will devise the best defense for it accumulating those to put the 5-2 defense back in the books .
    NT ( Williams ) 2 DT ( Mebane , Hill ) 2 DE ( Clemens , Irvin ) with 2 LBs and 4 secondary

  14. Joe the Jarhead says:

    Honestly I’m much more excited about seeing Hill and his development than any other rookie. He appears to be in prime position to impact us immediately and start week 1. I hope he can be the missing interior d lineman piece that we sorely missed last year. Plus he is an actual potential starter. Which is more than can be said about any of our other draft picks. All in all I’m not so sure about this draft, so we’ll just have to see how everyone produces. But I can say assuredly, I’m stoked about Hill

  15. Michael (CLT) says:

    My god. He is really quick off the ball. He struggles (sometime blowed up) when his pad level gets high. His pad level is consistently good. He does seem to start slow in both the Iowa and Wisconsin games.

    Buy man… this dude understands gap responsibility and can really shed. With that quick first step. He will struggle with Iupati type guards. But for a late 3rd. Mebane may be his ceiling.