When I posted a critical view on Melvin Ingram last week, it instigated a heated debate as to whether he fits into Seattle’s scheme. Clearly, a lot of people out there like the guy enough to draft him with the #11 or #12 pick. I’m not one of those people, but so far it’s been a health discussion. By all accounts Ingram had a fine work out at the Senior Bowl and his stock is gaining momentum. I suspect he’ll get a sack or two in the game on Saturday. He’s a pin your ears back type of pass rusher, a guy who may be ineffective and even frustrating for three quarters of the game but will then makes a sack or two late on.
While the Seahawks want to improve their largely anaemic pass rush, I can only see Ingram in a diluted role. Seattle has only one reliable pass rusher who has performed consistently well in the last two years and that’s Chris Clemons. While he is a free agent in 2013 and already 30-years-old, finding a long term replacement is not an absolute necessity at this point. The Seahawks need to find a compliment to Clemons, not a replacement. Pete Carroll testified in his end of season press conference that he wants to spend his first round pick on someone who is a constant contributor right away. Ingram’s role in year one (and maybe year two) would be to replace Raheem Brock on obvious passing downs and maybe kick inside occasionally (also in 3rd and long situations). You’re also banking on Clemons digressing in 2012, because if he records double-digit sacks again in 2012 I’m not sure you chase him out of town just because he’s turned 31. After all, Jared Allen is only a few months younger than Clemons.
I highlighted Courtney Upshaw yesterday as someone who could be a better fit given the circumstances. He has superb recognition skills, he’s a contributing force against the run and will be able to rush the passer in a lot of different packages. Drafting Upshaw would essentially push Seattle’s hybrid defense closer to the 3-4 on certain downs than the current 4-3. It’s still largely the same ideology with the same personnel on the field – but with Upshaw at WLB yet playing a lot of downs at the LOS across from Clemons. This would give the team a lot more balance in terms of a pass rush, while also improving the teams run defense. It’s not impossible for Ingram to play a similar role but Upshaw is vastly superior defending the run (perhaps the key identity for this defense), he’s harder to move, he has the ability to read and react with superb pursuit and he has greater experience on underneath coverage. Ingram is a better speed pass rusher, but I think the other qualities are strong enough to separate the two in terms of what the Seahawks are looking for with the #11 or #12 pick.
Ingram is a fun player to watch, but I also think he’s a little overrated. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the Nebraska tape (see video above) and he’s largely ineffective for most of the game. Upshaw is a master of leverage - he’ll get under the pad level and drive you backwards with a superb bull rush. He has violent hands and does a great job keeping lineman off his frame. Ingram might be a more athletic player in terms of foot speed and mobility, but he’s far too upright and when a tackle or interior lineman gets underneath his pad level, it’s over. Look how many times Nebraska’s #50 gets into his body and dominates Ingram. He had no answer against the left tackle – he couldn’t beat him on the edge for speed. If he engaged he couldn’t get off the block, he couldn’t bull rush the guy. You see in the video at the end of the game how he almost takes himself out of the play by standing off the tackle as if he’s saying, ‘I can’t beat you – I’m trying to work out why.’ South Carolina’s staff pretty much moved him permanently into the middle on a three man front because he had no success off the edge.
As an interior rusher he didn’t achieve a great deal more and couldn’t get away from the center/guard double teams – often being stoned at the LOS. You could argue he was a liability against the run overall. He had one productive play on a spin move and you have to give him credit for having mastered that one move. When I interviewed Hall of Famer Richard Dent last year I asked him what young defensive lineman should do when approaching the league. Dent believed young lineman should concentrate on having one move you can perfect, that you can keep going back to even on a rough day. Ingram has that in his locker.
He’s also a very busy, compact player who will get sacks at the next level. The thing is, I’m not convinced he’ll ever be more than a specialist rusher who ends up getting his production on third down. Let’s not forget – even as a fourth year junior that’s the role he had with the Gamecocks, before taking on more snaps as a fifth year senior. There’s some value to that, of course there is (see: Aldon Smith), but I’m looking at Green Bay who struggled on third downs most of the year and need a boost to compliment an elite roster. I’m looking at Baltimore who could add another piece to their elite defense. The Seahawks – as much as the defense has grown in the last 24 months – need more than a specialist. San Francisco spelled Aldon Smith because they already had guys like Justin Smith on the roster. Seattle needs a cornerstone – not a younger version of the 2010 Raheem Brock.
Onto the tape…
0:21 – Ineffective rush, too easily pushed over by the left tackle and Taylor Martinez has a clean pocket to throw a touchdown.
0:27 – Blocked out of the play by the right tackle. Doesn’t show enough drive to push the blocker backwards and once he’s allowed hands onto his frame, he can’t get free.
0:32 – Not sure what the plan was here, he shows inside but the tackle forces him to the outside. Again, once he’s allowed the tackle to get hands on his frame, he can’t disengage.
0:47 – Driven outside by the right tackle and as with 0:21, loses his footing.
0:54- Double teamed by the running back and full back as the tackle dips inside. Cornerback blitz isn’t picked up and leads to a sack, but Ingram is ineffective.
1:00 – Cannot disengage again, is too upright and doesn’t drive into the blocker. Dominated by the left tackle here.
1:08 – Three man front, Ingram is completely stoned by the guard and center working together. The rest of the defensive line and a blitzing linebacker get into the backfield, but Ingram struggles against the double team and remains at the LOS. To his credit, he sticks with the play and completes the tackle that stops the screen pass.
1:18 – Jarred at the LOS by the tight end who jabs at Ingram and then runs into space. It’s enough to take him out of the play. Ingram has to take advantage when lined up with a tight end.
2:10 – Again far too upright and allows the blocker to get into his pads and drive him out of this run play. The left tackle chirps away at the end of the play because so far, he has Ingram’s number. Playing at 6-2 and with a squat frame he has to do a better job with leverage.
2:30 – Superb pass protection again from the left tackle, dropping back and again getting hands on Ingram to basically finish the block. Perfect protection leads to a big pass completion from the quarterback.
2:46 – Does a better job against the tight end this time, dipping inside and then spinning out of the block to stop Martinez on the run option. Nice move.
3:01 – Again struggles playing inside against the guard and center. He doesn’t have enough power at the P.O.A. to drive through this situation and working against interior double teams he struggles badly. He’s the one defensive lineman stuck at the LOS while the others rush.
3:22 – Handled by the left tackle. Does a better job getting hands on the blocker and forcing him back a little, but he doesn’t beat the guy to press the quarterback.
3:30 – Kicks inside and is driven backwards by the interior lineman on this running play. Nebraska ran the ball right in his direction and he’s forced back several yards.
3:48- Left tackle seals the edge and this could’ve been kicked outside for a big gain. Ingram once again ineffective.
4:23 – Struggles badly – once again – when moved inside and defending the run. He cannot get away from interior double teams and it creates a huge hole for Martinez to run through the middle.
4:38 – Clear evidence that Ingram is struggling because he’s tentative to attack the left tackle here and basically takes himself out of the play. He’s over thinking the rush and trying to find out how he can beat the guy.
4:50 – The first evidence of an effective rush from a three-man front, where he uses his favorite spin move to get away from the left guard and force some pressure. Martinez sacks himself after the initial rush from Taylor, but Ingram was also closing in.
5:06 – Suddenly he’s on a role, abusing the center again from a three man front to record the sack. The interior lineman is outclassed here by Ingram and has no chance.
5:20 – Yet… when Nebraska go back to double teaming the interior, they take Ingram out of the play.
5:28 – Tries to rush the interior again but the spin move doesn’t work this time and he’s stopped at the line and jolted well out of the play.
Tape supplied to Seahawks Draft Blog by JMPasq