Monday draft thoughts

February 11th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Following Baltimore's lead might not be a bad idea

Learning from the Champs

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have an elite defense during the regular season. While Seattle’s unit ranked fourth overall according to Football Outsiders, Baltimore came in at #19. The Seahawks had the third best pass defense, Baltimore’s was 13th best. And despite the presence of Haloti Ngata up front the Ravens only ranked 26th against the run. Seattle finished 12th.

For years they had one of the league’s most daunting defensive unit’s. Yet in the year Ray Lewis finally crumbled and chose to retire, Ed Reed looked human and Paul Kruger became pretty overrated, they finally won another title.

We’ve gone over Seattle’s need to improve defensively this off-season. And yet here are the Baltimore Ravens, with their rank average defense from weeks 1-17, becoming World Champions.

The thing is, they were anything but average in the post season. They recorded nine sacks — four more than the second best playoff team (Washington had five). The Ravens had an incredible SIX post-season interceptions, forced five fumbles (four were recovered for turnovers) and had 308 total tackles. In all four key defensive categories, they ranked #1.

It helps that they played more games being a wild card that won it all. Even so, they came up against some high power offenses along the way. Indianapolis at home, Denver (Peyton Manning) and New England (Tom Brady) on the road. Then the 49ers fresh from destroying Atlanta and Green Bay. That’s not exactly the route you’d pick to win a title.

So how did they turn a middling defense into a Championship?

On reflection, they played without a hint of erraticism in the post season. They didn’t lurch into big deficits, they didn’t put too much pressure on either side of the ball. They remained balanced and took their chances.

San Francisco and Seattle are often compared favourably. And they both seemed to suffer from the same issue — they were both patchy in the post-season. The Seahawks put themselves in a hole with a slow start against Washington, but managed to overcome a 14-point deficit (just). A week later they trailed 20-0 at half time in a game they had no business trailing 20-0 in. The 49ers similarly made hard work of their meeting with the Falcons, going 17-0 down almost immediately. They also put themselves in a gigantic hole in the Super Bowl before launching a late but ultimately fruitless comeback.

The Ravens never encountered such problems. Sure, they trailed in games. They faced uncomfortable and even fortunate moments. Without the worst defensive play in recent post-season history against the Broncos, they don’t even make it to the conference finals. But by playing it close in every game and minimising huge momentum swings, they put themselves in position to get maximum benefit out of any fortune being offered.

Seattle still won eleven games in 2012 and if the offense continues to grow there’s no reason why 12-14 wins isn’t achievable next season. Yet even if they win just ten games — like the Ravens in 2012 — they just need to find a way to mimic Baltimore’s post season. Play things tight. Avoid great big deficits and the need for brave comebacks. Play solid football.

Baltimore appear to have been built to compete with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That seemed to be the starting point for that franchise. If they wanted to win it all, they first had to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Steelers in the AFC North. Neither team is flawless, but they are balanced. And it’s no surprise that over the last few years their rivalry has been the catalyst to Championship wins. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have both won Super Bowls. And they’ve both spent a lot of time kicking the crap out of each other.

Rather than contemplating how the Seahawks can improve this off-season to get back those agonising defeats to Detroit and Miami, perhaps the best thing to do is focus closer to home? What are the moves that will help the Seahawks beat the 49ers in order to have a shot at not just a division title, but multiple home games in the playoffs? Own the NFC West first. Without doubt Seattle’s best chance at making another Super Bowl is to play as many games at Century Link in the post-season as possible. The team is good enough now to win a certain number of games in a regular season. So are the 49ers. Divisional records within the NFC West are going to be crucial going forward, particularly the two games against San Francisco.

They could go out and make moves to try and improve the pass rush, but neither the Ravens (37 sacks) or the 49ers (38 sacks) dominated in that area during the 2012 season. The team at the top of the sack rankings — St. Louis with 51 sacks — blitzed all year and that comes with a consequence too. The Seahawks could use an extra pass rusher or two but the Ravens got by without any stars. They also got by without an elite run defense. And when the post-season came around they played the percentages. The Seahawks didn’t beat the 49ers 42-13 because of pass rush and they didn’t lose the earlier fixture 13-6 because of a lack of pressure. The way both teams are set up, it’s always likely to be a physical battle won equally in the trenches and with the speed of the offensive and defensive playmakers.

Rather than trying to create the ‘perfect’ roster that includes a franchise quarterback, a dominating pass rush, elite secondary and fantastic running back — perhaps they need to concentrate on creating the perfect roster to beat the 49ers and win the NFC West? A division which is starting to look increasingly like the old AFC North. While we agonise over pass rushers and three techniques, the thing most likely to help the Seahawks beat their greatest foe might be size up front to combat San Francisco’s power running game, speed at linebacker to limit Kaepernick and the read option, plus more offensive fire power.

You can’t expect to dominate every game. You can’t expect the pass rush to be fantastic every week. Perhaps a little more creativity in certain situations is needed, or at least some better production from specific role players. But more than anything, the Seahawks have to win their division. And when they get to the post-season, they have to play less erratic football. This team will win more close games than it loses. This team will pulverise certain opponents, just like we saw in the three game stretch against Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco. They can beat anybody. They just can’t necessarily do it if the other guys get a 20-point head start.

The key to emulating Baltimore might start with finding a way to top the Niners for the divisional crown. And that might lend some strength to going for size over pure pass rush at defensive tackle. It might mean focusing on increased speed and playmaking at the WILL. It might also mean continuing to top up the playmaking element of the offense too — because this is a rivalry that will compliment graft with plenty of big plays.

What Vick signing in Philly means for the draft

Michael Vick agreed a new contract with the Eagles today, giving him a chance to be a starter in Chip Kelly’s offense. I suspect Kelly has decided he can begin to install his offensive vision with Vick acting as a place-holder. And with both offensive tackles returning from injury and a few good weapons remaining at the skill positions, it could push the Eagles towards defense at #4 overall. They have a complete dearth of talent in the secondary so could look at Dee Milliner. But perhaps more likely is a stud pick up the middle, particularly if they plan to switch to a 3-4. Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd are unlikely to last long because of their upside and diversity. There’s a pretty good chance one of those two will be playing for the Eagles next year.

Welcome to silly season

Here’s a polite warning. We’re entering the time of year where everyone is a draft expert. Pundits and bloggers who barely watched any college football last season are suddenly putting together big boards because their editors are asking them to. Or because they know the draft sells and a good old rankings piece or mock draft generates hits.

We also start to see outrageous projections and opinions as people battle to be loudest among many voices. When the 2013 draft is long in the past, nobody will remember what is said at this time of the year. Nobody is ever held to account. So while someone gets placed in front of a camera to do this years version of ‘Russell Wilson is the worst pick in the entire draft’, rest assured that person will not need to justify such a lousy opinion in the future.

Today I noticed this Tweet..

… and nearly fell off my chair. This opinion on Barkley is typical for the time. We’ll see where he goes in the draft. I’d beat against it being the late second round.

A great example are the two Oregon games from 2011 and 2012. Last year it was Barkley’s performance against the Ducks that generated talk of a top-ten grade. This year he scores 51 points against the same unbeaten opponent, throws for five touchdowns and 484 yards and loses because the Trojans defense allowed 62 points. And it’s Barkley’s stock that takes the hit?

I’m willing to wager that most people knocking his stock this off-season haven’t even studied the tape. They’ve looked at the fact he returned to USC, not accomplished what he set out to and just offered a thumbs down. After all, why concentrate on the way Marqise Lee gave up on a route for a costly pick in the first half? Or that Barkley’s response on the subsequent drive was to throw a long downfield bomb to the same receiver for a touchdown? He lost, his team had a bad year, so he falls as a consequence.

How about another perfect downfield pass to the corner of the end zone was dropped poorly by Nelson Agholor? Or at 4:17 in the first video below where he does a great job extending the play before throwing a perfect touchdown pass to the opposite corner?

Matt Barkley was not worse in 2012. The USC Trojans defense had an atrocious year, but Barkley did not. Don’t take my word for it either, check out this detailed piece which brings metrics to the discussion. Negative hype reigns just as supreme as positive hype at this time of the year. He threw more picks, but then he was being asked to chase more games. He would’ve beaten his touchdown total for 2011 had he not picked up a shoulder injury. And Max Wittek’s performance in relief shows what he was up against.

There are too many teams in the NFL who need a quarterback like Matt Barkley. Not all offensive schemes will suit him, but some will. And within those offenses, he will prosper. Don’t trust my view? The two Oregon games are below. You tell me what the difference is. It’s certainly not the difference between consensus top-ten and the third round.

98 Responses to “Monday draft thoughts”

  1. SunPathPaul says:

    Matt Barkley can play ball! Someone will get him and like him…

    As far as winning our division and being built for that purpose- heck yeah!
    If we could win the #1 seed, we would go to the Super Bowl IMO… Our home field 12th man advantage is that huge. So in that regards, as you say, we need a BIG D-line to battle their running game…

    What do you see as the best way to add to the offense to beat the 9ers, Rams, Cards…for the next decade? We have the most difficult piece, RW, so is it depth of attack? Multiple ‘y’ TE’s and a joker to mix it all up? A deep threat? A change of pace RB? A sproles/harvin type?

    How do we set up Seattle and RW to chop these guys down year after year offensively?

    • Recon_Hawk says:

      On both sides of the ball, I think mostly it comes down maintain a strong O line & D line. We don’t have to be as good as the 49ers in that department to win, necessarily, but we can’t ever allow them to dominate us. No amount of offensive or defensive playmakers can make up for losing that battle. With that said, I’m positive Cable would never allow that to happen with the offensive line, at least.

    • Phil says:

      I recently watched the 2nd Seahawks vs. Niners game for the third time — obviously I’ve got too much time on my hands. Anyway, here are my thoughts:
      (1) The Niners were whipped from playing the Patriots the week before. In that game, the Patriots ran 92 plays against the Niners defense. They went no huddle for the entire game. The Niners have very little depth on D and I think we can beat them by using the no huddle and by RW’s scrambling. In the 2nd Seahawk/Niners game, RW was running all over the field and Ahmad Brooks just got tired of chasing him. It was almost comical to watch.
      (2) We just flat out-played them physically. We got an early lead and when they were driving to what would have been their first TD, Kam got that monstrous hit on Vernon Davis and that sort of set the tone for the remainder of the game. So, we have to establish our physicality early in the game.
      (3) The crowd noise really got to Kap. He was totally frustrated by his inability to hear the call from the sidelines and his inability to call audibles. So, the 12th man has to do his job in future home games. And, on the road games in SF, I think we have to do some last-minute defensive line shifts to negate his audibles and their offensive line’s blocking calls.
      (4) IMHO, we don’t need bigger bodies inside. We need to continue to draft for speed. Unlike a lot of teams, our LBs were able to catch up with Kap when he tried to go outside. On the read option, SF gets it’s big plays when Kap keeps the ball and he tends to keep it more often than RW does. So, we can’t ignore the hand-offs to Gore on the option, but I think the real emphasis has to be on when Kap keeps the ball.
      Whatever we do in the draft, we have to start from a position of accepting the fact that we have a very good, young team and we don’t want to take a step back by doing something stupid like upsetting the chemistry in the locker room by jumping to sign someone like Percy Harvin. Even if we get no new talent in this draft (I’m exaggerating just to make a point), this team is going to dramatically improve with more time together in the off-season, particularly with RW and his corps of receivers.

  2. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I don’t think it can be understated how teams MUST gear up to stop their division/conference rivals.

    It just so happens, that our biggest conference rival is our biggest division rival. This is a draft that really should be tailored to beating San Fransisco.

    Given that, I do think that our plummeting run defense over the course of the last 6+ weeks should remain on the forefront of our minds. Yes, we struggled to produce pressure up front. But realistically, our defense lost serious punch when both Mebane and Bryant became limited by injuries as the season wore on.

    The fact is, we don’t have effective alternatives to either of those players. Whether it’s just to give them a breather or if one should go down with injury. They are both getting to the age where injuries should almost be somewhat expected. Both players have been slowed down as the season wore on even in their healthy years.

    The DL needs upgrading in both pass pressure and in run stopping depth. I would really like to see us solve one or the other this season. And in truth, I can’t see taking a James Jones type player in R1 to be sufficient value considering who our major rival is and how they win. If we get a pass rushing DT, he can’t be a one trick pony. SF is too committed to the run for us to go with a massive situational package rotation. And honestly, I would expect Harbaugh to install some kind of hurry up package to catch us in a bad matchup this year. He is good at being able to scheme things and our reliance on wholesale specialist substitutions is highly vulnerable to that kind of tactic.

    If we end up getting a big strong DT that can take on SFs trapping guards and keep our LBs free — I’d be ok with that kind of upgrade. This defense is not the same defense without both Mebane and Bryant.

    • SunPathPaul says:

      Would you like the ‘Aussie’ DT Jesse Williams?

      Which available FA and draft picks do you prefer?

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        I wouldn’t be crushed if he was our pick. Actually, I’ve been a huge proponent of that particular pick.

        But if we’re looking at guys to fill that kind of role, I would think our pool of candidates would be much wider than what we’ve looked at here. What I hope we don’t end up with, is a guy who is just a 3rd down DT. I really do believe that our dovetailing run defense foreshadows a rough 2013 and highlights issues that go beyond just our pass rush.

        It is going to be very difficult to get a significant and reliable upgrade to the pass rush at 25. It won’t be horribly difficult to safeguard our run defense production. I don’t want us to “AJ Jenkins” our draft by taking a pass rushing DT that has no applicable value.

        I do like Williams over others like Sylvester WIlliams and Jonathan Hankins, as I think he’s a much better fit to play either Mebane’s 1 or Bryant’s 5. And I think he’s has much more pocket collapsing quality than Hankins does. Williams to me seems like a guy who can provide base defense 3 tech quality that is an upgrade to Branch right now — as well as add future starter quality for our 1 or 5 should we luck into the next Melton or Atkins this year or in subsequent years.

        Honestly, just the fact that Jesse can be our Bryant end to me makes him worthy of the #25 overall. That is such a weirdly specific role that requires unique traits that they aren’t immediately available every year. I concede that it definitely doesn’t solve our stated need. And I don’t doubt that Pete and John could find a different prospect to fill that role in the next few years. So I’m doubtful that Jesse will be the guy.

        I just don’t want us getting some guy that won’t impact/improve our results when playing the niners. That’s a team that just wants to maul us. Getting a better interior guy fits that mandate. And also permits our ends the freedom to not crash down inside to open Kaepernick to the outside — by letting our bigs handle the interior run on their own.

        We need to avoid being susceptible to decline because Bryant is down. Whether it’s like 2010 when he was lost to knee injury, or 2012 when he just played hurt and compromised. Not having Mebane and Bryant at 100% really affected our performance last year. Losing either of them early could easily be one of those strokes of bad luck that costs us HFA or division titles.

    • Bird says:

      Good point that there is a convenient overlap of division/conference rival in SF. In addition, we need to keep our eyes on STL as well. They are early in their rebuild and already they gave the division fits this year. On top of that, they have a ton of draft picks to work with.

  3. Connor says:

    Never was a big Barkley fan dating back to last year when he had number 2/3 overall pick hype. Not very mobile, struggles with pressure, doesn’t have the best touch on the football especially with deeper throws and makes some decisions that make you scratch your head. But even with all that said he still is worthy of a 1st round pick.

    All the talk about 3rd round even 2nd round grades is pretty ridiculous he could be a solid starter in the NFL just maybe not a top 10 guy in the league. In my mind he can at least do what Matt Schaub does as a NFL quarterback.

  4. Dan says:

    With Vick off the FA market, what does that mean for the likes of Flynn and Smith??

  5. Zach says:

    Thank you Rob,

    I mentioned a few days ago when the Ravens GM was asked what are his tactics in drafting/FA acquisitions he said one of his two tactics was to build his team to beat the Steelers. Then I mentioned we should do the same with 49ers. Rob is on the same track here and though I think the Rams will be a thorn in our side the 9ers should be our #1 priority. In a weird way I’m glad Jeff Fisher is in our division now because he has always been great at beating his division rivals and has already shown a good way to hold the 9ers in check.

  6. Joe says:

    Man, you just love posting that Bleacher Report video. I laugh every time I see it.

    • Rob Staton says:

      It’s a truly fantastic video. “Taking Russell Wilson in round three is the worst decision in the history of decisions.” Ironically, the decision to film that video was probably the worst decision in the history of decisions.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        I’m not going to lie, I click that link every time it’s posted here. I still get a chuckle from it. That and it really shows the separation of quality between this site and that one.

        • Seameat says:

          I find it just as funny that people go to that site for ‘reliable’ football information. Like Rob’s article mentions this time a year everybody tweets and posts draft analysis and baseless opinions without watching college ball. I have to think they just borrow from others. Like the video on Russell pick sounds like he listened to Kiper way too much, a mini-kiper of sorts.

          This time of year is always fun.

  7. Wes says:

    I’m surprised you resisted the chance to point out that your man Courtney Upshaw was drafted by the team that ultimately won the super bowl. I guess you were on to something after all

  8. Stuart says:

    “The Seahawks continue to fumble in the 2012 draft with perhaps the worst pick in the entire draft.” Our worst pick tied the all time NFL rookie record for touchdowns in a season led his team to the playoffs and made the pro-bowl. Can you believe that clown is the head football writer for Bleachers? Pathetic…

    Just heard on the radio about a mock re-draft for 2012 and those idiotic Seahawks with their nuckle head GM had three players going in the top 15 or round 1. How in the world did they not give executive of the year to John Schneider??? Of course Richard Sherman wasnt good enough to make the pro bowl either, just 1st team ALL PRO:).

    Go Hawks!

  9. Stuart says:

    “of” round 1

  10. Colin says:

    Experience is priceless. This team is no longer in the stages of learning to win, but rather to expect to. Stay healthy in 2013, and I’d be pretty shocked if were not 13-3 or better.

  11. woofu says:

    I can’t speak to Silvas draft and NCAA credentials but his fantasy analysis is outstanding.

    Barks will get a good look at the combine as he intends to throw and do all the drills in order to combat what is perceived to be a draft stock slipage due to a down senior year. The NFL teams will know what to do with him but going in the second round is not out of the question and obviously not the kiss of death (see Kaepernick).

    • Rob Staton says:

      Completely agree with you on Silva’s fantasy chops. However, I have an issue with any comment that is so matter of fact particularly when it is incredibly one sided. Barkley has pro’s and cons but a third round talent? I mean, what qualifies you as an early pick anyway? Great tools? Like Blaine Gabbert?

      It Christian Ponder can go 12th overall, there’s a place for Barkley in round one. And I still believe he’ll be the first QB off the board.

  12. Ely says:

    I am concerened with the Hawks run D as much or more so than the lack of pass rush. It was painful watching them get gashed the last half of the season. That being said big run stuffers can usually be found in the later rounds. We already have a lot of speed at LB and picking Kaseem Green would definitely bolster that LB core but it would be hard to pass on a Fluker or Cooper at O-line if they fell. Rob I know you are not a fan of taking O line especially in the first with the draft capitol we have already invested at that position but with Carp still needing to prove he can stay healthy and Sweezy needing at least another half a year to progress it sure wouldn’t hurt to have a guy that can step in and be a day one starter. Fluker and Cooper could both back up tackle as well and imagine the fear of the opposing D-line having that mauling pair of guards if Carp can get right. Really i”m a proponent of taking the best line player that falls. I feel Green is a bit of a reach at #25 and would much rather see us move up into round two to get him if he is a player that the front office really wants.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Drafting Fluker would be a pointless exercise in my view. You’d be taking another big tackle convert who probably ends up playing guard. He is not good in pass protection against speed as you’d expect from any lineman that big and Giacomini does not need to be upgraded vs the run. Cooper is a special player and would be slightly different, but even then it’s a luxury. What benefit would the team truly get? I know NFL fans and particular Seahawks fans have a minor obsession with the offensive line, but the team simply has to concentrate on bigger needs. For what it’s worth I doubt either player is there at 25 anyway.

      • JW says:

        I’m not sure Seahawks fans have more of an obsession with the O line than other fans, I just think fans who follow blogs recognize the importance of the trenches. That said, I agree with your general sentiment but I’d be thrilled with Cooper at 25, he’s an excellent prospect. Fluker, I could pass on as I don’t think he’s really first round talent. But Cooper is in that special group. But I can’t see STL passing on him twice or CHI passing on him. Really too many teams have dire O line situations before SEA picks, and if those teams do pass on him they deserve the consequences.

        I think they look for a swing tackle later on in the draft.

        • Colin says:

          I’m going to freak the **** out if I hear anymore about this offensive line. My god people IT IS FINE.

          • JW says:

            I guess prepare to freak the *** out, then, because a lot of people don’t think it’s fine, included some pretty smart analysts.

            I think it’s ok, but I’m sure they’ll be looking at talent in this draft

            • Ely says:

              In no way am I beating the drum for o-line I think the hawks have much more pressing needs. I just think if a player like Cooper falls you take him. I’m happy with the o-line when Carp comes back healthy, but if cooper falls then its a hard player to pass on based on value alone. Moot point I suppose because Cooper will probably not make it past the Rams.

            • Rob Staton says:

              Those analysts need to watch some tape then.

              • JW says:

                Some of those analysts watch every snap and grade every position at every single snap. I don’t find the argument that because they disagree with your conclusions they must not watch or know what they’re doing very convincing.

                • Rob Staton says:

                  So we’re now debating over some unnamed analysts that may or may not be offering a certain opinion? For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen any ‘analyst’ argue the Seahawks need to take an offensive lineman.

                  • JW says:

                    No, not unnamed. I’ve seen pro football focus referenced here a number of times as a source that rates the right side of the line very poorly. Their methodology involves watching every single play, and coding it. I’ve also seen many mock drafts from a variety of sources showing the Seahawks picking a O line. You disagree, that’s fine. I may disagree as well, but I don’t accuse them of not watching tape.

                  • Rob Staton says:

                    PFF apparently published a ranking mid-season that said Breno was one of the worst tackles in the league. They also ranked Earl Thomas as the 29th best safety in the NFL. And Breno’s numbers were heavily impacted by the number of penalties he received early in the season. Once he’d cleared that issue up, he was rock solid. I also must’ve missed all these mocks you reference picking offensive line, I’ve barely seen any. And still no names mentioned… so yes… it’s ‘unnamed’. Anyone who really watched the Seahawks this year will know right tackle isn’t a big need. Watch the tape vs Jared Allen, Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, Julius Peppers and others and then watch the run game from, let’s say weeks 1-17. All those teams put their best pass rushers against Breno and Okung and they were shut out.

                  • JW says:

                    I’m not going to google search all the mock drafts I’ve seen it and post them here as if it’s some kind of a thesis. But since you were part of one at Field Gulls in which it happened, for one. There are several.

                    My only point is people who watch and code every single play find Breno to be sub par. I don’t think that’s a ‘not watching tape’ issue. The interesting thing about PFF is they look at matchups, and not things like sacks, which can be altered by an elusive QB.

                    I’ll leave it to rest, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognizing differing quality opinions.

                  • Rob Staton says:

                    The guys at Field Gulls with respect are not ‘analysts’. They are fans like me and you. And two of them chose Jonathan Cooper mostly because of the extremely unlikely scenario he’d be on the board at #25.

                    And I’m sorry, but all this ‘code every play’ stuff… let’s leave it. The PFF ranking everyone refers to – can anyone post a link to these numbers? Or are we basing this off a mid-season ranking someone who has a pro account referred to? Have the rankings changed? And do the people who trust PFF implicitly also rank Earl Thomas among the worst safety’s in the league? Because that’s what they’re arguing. Barely any analysts are talking about Seattle’s needs and a few mock drafts written by any old blogger like myself from people who don’t watch Seattle… that’s not good enough as an example.

                  • JW says:

                    -I’ve seen multiple mock drafts over the past month showing the hawks drafting a RT. I guess I’ll just leave it at that. reject them. Fine forget the mocks. You asked who had Breno ranked poorly and I told you PFF does. That’s a name. I’m naming them: PFF. Reject them too, if you like. I have a pay account at PFF for the advanced stats, as well as at Football outsiders. But I’m not sure you have to be a member to see them.
                    yes, PFF analyzes every game, every play, every player. The numbers are updated every week. yes, they had Earl Thomas ranked low this year, but top ten last year. They also ranked Sherman as tied for first at CB, Wagner #2 at MLB, Russell top 10. Okung Top 15, Unger #2. Sound about right? Sounds pretty good to me.

                    I don’t trust PFF implicitly, but it’s a data point. Just like your blog and many others.

          • Seameat says:

            The line being fine can go both ways. Can be improved but not the biggest need. The first two rounds will not be used on the O’line as there are bigger needs. The line needs time to gel and as always expect FO to bring in players to compete but not with early round picks. Defense and playmakers are needed and I suspect will be the entire drafts focus.

        • Rob Staton says:

          I think the ‘build in the trenches’ saying is one of the most frustrating in the game. So many teams have won the Super Bowl in recent years (Baltimore included) with average or bad (or very bad) offensive lines. And I do maintain that Seahawks fans more than most — whether this is the XL factor I’m not sure — obsess about the line.

          • JW says:

            It’s like any strategy, it can work or not given different approaches and different talent and different talent. Lots of ways to win.

      • Sawker_Dawg says:

        I think that some of our obsession of OL might be that we feel like other teams have great OL since we don’t generate the consistent pass rush (at least it seems like that) that other teams do. It does not help that SF has assembled a great OL and we play them at least twice a year. When everyone is healthy we have a fairly deep OL but lacking some top end talent not at LT or C. Our DL however seems to be good for the starters but there is little depth for injuries and we were fairly healthy last season until Clem went down.

        I’m very curious how PC/JS approach drafting because it seems like their draft picks are all guys that they were targeting whether obvious picks like Okung and ET or surprises like Carp and Irvin. I just named the 1st rounders but it seems like they work the draft to get their guys more than rating the players and taking the highest left on the board. I’m know they rate the players but I think they would realistically know Richardson and Floyd will be long gone by their pick and why not focus on Short or S. Williams or J. Williams. It’ll be nice come draft day to at least know who our pick is while the draft pundits fumble to realize who we just took.

  13. James says:

    The Seahawks lost 4 games in nearly identical fashion: @ Cardinals; @ Rams; @ Detroit and @ Miami… where Russell Wilson gave the team the lead in the 4th quarter and the defence proceeded to allow the opponent to dink and dunk right down the field, while facing minimal pass rush and hitting the underneath receivers while staying away from Seattle’s elite CBs. Two other games could have been the same: @ Panthers where Can Newton tossed the winning TD pass into the dirt at the feet of a wide open receiver; and @ Bears, where Russell Wilson had to perform heroics twice to overcome the collapse of his D. This, my friends, is the very definition of a trend. Oh, and by the way, add the Falcons in the playoffs to the exact same formula. The problem is primarily the scheme and the play calling. The Seahawks unusual 4-3 D/ with a wide Leo is not generating a pass rush, with 3 wide bodies getting no penetration at all, so the QB sits there in West Coast paradise waiting for underneath crossing routes to develop, or for the TE to slip into an open zone. Flaws with the underneath pass coverage in nickle and dime, missed assignments, etc, were embodied in the two pass plays (to two receivers way-too-open) that the Falcons used to beat the Seahawks in only 25 seconds. The Falcons coaches saw the same flaws and exploited them. The Seahawks need some sophisticated blitz packages and an entirely different interior D line on passing downs, combined with better nickle, dime and SS play. Let’s hope Dan Quinn has some better ideas.

    • Brian says:

      “The problem is primarily the scheme and the play calling.” Could not agree more.

      “The Seahawks unusual 4-3 D/ with a wide Leo is not generating a pass rush, with 3 wide bodies getting no penetration at all” This is not quite accurate. In end of game, third down and obvious passing down situations, we do not use Red Bryant nearly as often and we were rushing Clem and Irvin.

      “so the QB sits there in West Coast paradise waiting for underneath crossing routes to develop, or for the TE to slip into an open zone. ” This is only half accurate. The opposing QB’s usually DID NOT have all day to throw. What they did have was an understanding of where the open holes in the zone could be found. There is a meme floating around that pass rush is the major problem. It’s not. It’s the third down scheme and coverage itself that allows players to run freely all over the field to easily found holes in the coverage.

      “Flaws with the underneath pass coverage in nickle and dime, missed assignments, etc, were embodied in the two pass plays (to two receivers way-too-open) that the Falcons used to beat the Seahawks in only 25 seconds.” Exactly. Only 25 seconds. And in each case, Ryan hit his back foot in less than two seconds and the ball was out, WITHOUT HIM HAVING TO TO MAKE AN AFTER-SNAP READ OR GO TO A SECOND OPTION.

      ANY form of challenging their receivers at the LOS or forcing them to alter their routes would have changed EVERYTHING about each of those plays. Their receivers would not have been able to take our corners and ET as deep and to the sidelines on either play.

      If Wagner had altered Gonzales route even a little bit, he would not have been as far down field and our blitz would have gotten home by the time he turned around to catch the ball. Or Ryan would have had to make a decision about finding a second option.

      ” The Falcons coaches saw the same flaws and exploited them. The Seahawks need some sophisticated blitz packages and an entirely different interior D line on passing downs, combined with better nickle, dime and SS play. ” They need to not let the other teams personnel run freely all over the damn field if they are going to also blitz. No blitz can be expected to get home in less than two seconds.

      Our passsing down, soft zone, off man coverage scheme allows the opposing receivers to go exactly where their OC wants them to. Wgich how the Falcons called those last two pass plays.

      Let’s hope Dan Quinn has some better ideas.”

      • Brian says:

        I should modify what I said about pass rush.

        There is a meme floating around that pass rush is the major problem on obvious passing downs. I would agree that it can and needs to be improved. But it really only HALF of the problem. And it is a distant second to SCHEME.

        To prove my point: First and second down were arguably where we had our best result and weakest pass rush. And our best results defensively.

        It was on third down and end of game passing situations that we would see one completion and conversion after another, usually on underneath routes.

        But pass rush was NOT EVEN CLOSE to being the major problem on third down most of the time. We’d get to the QB quite often in around two seconds. The problem was the ball would be out of the QB’s hands in less time than that.

        So why the massive difference in results between first and second down versus third and end of game passing downs?

        We play them ENTIRELY DIFFERENTLY. First and second down we press their receivers at the LOS. We don’t play off receivers. We often play man. Kam is down in the box. The middle of the field is a nightmare for the opposing offense. The QB’s primary options are usually covered. And he usually must make a decision after the snap. We are playing to our strengths and dictating what they can accomplish.

        On third down, we play off the LOS. And we play soft zone. And ET sits deeper. And all receivers can run freely to wherever they damn well please. The QB SELDOM HAS TO MAKE A DECISION AFTER THE SNAP ABOUT WHERE HE’S GOING TO THROW THE BALL BECAUSE HIS PRIMARY AND HOT RECEIVER IS USUALLY OPEN. We are playing to our weaknesses.

        And the other team is dicating to us. We ask our players to be in a zone and make a play on the ball after it comes out. And as in the final two plays in the Falcons game, they usually aren’t in the right spot. Because the OC already knows where they aren’t going to be.

        Yes. better personnel in coverage will help. And so will pass rush. But until the scheme itself is more like downs one and two, we are going to see the same outcome over and over again.

        • Phil says:

          I agree with most of your points, except for the one where you say that, “But pass rush was NOT EVEN CLOSE to being the major problem on third down most of the time.”

          I think back to the end of the Bears game where it seemed like Cutler had an eternity to roll out and wait for his receivers to settle in front of our zone coverage. We won the game, but our lack of a pass rush was evident when the game was on the line. I’ll agree that it was the scheme that was at fault — I think we went with a 3-man rush.

          In the Atlanta game, I recall that we blitzed — but the blitz came from a defender who was not lined up on the LOS at the snap. So, by the time the blitzer got to the QB, the ball was out of his hand. In hindsight, I would have liked us to line up with potential blitzers on the LOS, forcing Ryan to have to unload faster. A 10-yd. completion wasn’t going to beat us in that situation.

    • Phil says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    • Cade says:

      Its a bit hard for me not to be rude here.

      Why are we blaming the scheme? Comeon people. We just were the no. 1 scoring D in the league. Not all of that is attributed to great defensive execution but still fellas…

      We have 2 major personnel pieces missing from this scheme.

      1.) an every down 3 tech who can create interior pressure. The lack of interior pressure isnt the schemes fault. The scheme actually sets up the 3 tech with a favorable 1 on 1 situation a good deal of the time.

      2.) a good slot corner. Slot corner was probably our worst position this year. The lack of pressure really exposed that deficiency and left underneath guys open for easy passes against Trufant or LB’ers covering.

      For those calling for more blitzing… We are building a team designed to beat the best teams in the league. Period.

      The best teams have great QB’s for the most part. Great QB”s are typically better on downs when blitzed than no blitz. Often times vastly better. Why in the hell are we calling for a team that is more blitzed based!!!

      I agree mix a little more blitzing in just to create some different looks. Maybe mix in some stuff for passing downs like you said..

      Fellas lets appreciate the awesomeness that is the seahawks Scheme instead of hating on it for a few tough moments.

      The problem was more in the personnel than scheme but I do agree we could mix it up just a bit more.

  14. Colin says:

    I think it’s sad that people don’t give Matt Barkley the recogonition he deserves. The guy has been a stud for USC but most are too obsessed with with the failures of his predecessors to warrant a good observation.

    • Bob says:

      It’s weird to think that seemingly Jimmy Clausen was held in higher regard than Matt Barkley currently is prior to their respective drafts although I have a good feeling Matt’s stock is going to rise over the next few months. Really think the Raiders sitting at the top have to look really hard at Barkley, he would be awesome for that team IMO, really fits that scheme well. I think he could do well for the Chiefs but I don’t know what Andy Reid is going to do there. Got a feeling they will go Smith over Barkley.

  15. Stuart says:

    Good post James, could not agree more!

  16. Zach says:

    Bruce Irvin would be an incredible 3/4 LB. Hey, let’s switch!!!

    • Colin says:

      Tell me you’re kidding.

      • JW says:

        ” (to two receivers way-too-open)”

        really? I think Wagner had some pretty tight coverage there.

        • Brian says:

          Wagner had no chance whatsoever, and it wasn’t his fault. He was in the part of the field he was supposed to be according the defense that was called.

          The ball was out of Ryan’s hands in around two seconds on each play. So the problem wasn’t pass rush either.

          The OC knew where the open holes in the zone would be.

          Had we altered their receiver’s routes at the LOS on other play, even just a little bit, then EVERYTHING about those plays would have been different.

          Gonzalez ran in a straight line and turned around to have the ball right there to be caught. Forty other tight ends in the league can run that route. And so could twenty QB’s. There was nothing special about it whatsoever.

          Gonzalez breaking tackles after the catch may be another story. But the route and throw were college material.

          Had Wagner delayed Gonzalez even for half a second at the LOS and then released into coverage, there is no chance that that last play happens. Gonzalez is five yards less downfield by the time the ball is out. And by the time he gets to where he’s supposed to be, our blitz would have gotten home. And Ryan would have either been sacked or at least had to find a different option.

          The entirety of those plays falls on the defense that was called in the first place. Allowing their wideouts to run deep pattern, rather than be held up at the LOS, cleared out Browner on the play before that.

          The scheme itself made it easy. Not the players being asked to be in the right spot in less than two seconds after the snap.

          • Colin says:

            I don’t believe that the Falcons offensive coordinator knew Marcus Trufant was going to drop into his zone a little too shallow, and thus had Harry Douglas run a deep corner route. That is the only reason that ball got completed.

            • Brian says:

              You want to depend on a defensive scheme and play call where Yrufant had to make a split second judgment on what part of the field he’s supposed to located BASED ENTIRELY ON WHAT THE OTHER TEAM DECIDES TO RUN?

              I think it was Browner on Roddy White who got taken deep on that play. Which gave Douglas the ‘underneath’ sideline route like 18 yards downfield.

              What if Browner had delayed Roddy by even a half second at the LOS on that play? And also jammed Douglas? That would have destroyed the entire design of the Falcons play call.

              There would have been a total cluster of players not more than twelve yards downfield from when Ryan had time to release the ball with their receivers not in the spots they want to be in and no time to turn around to even look for it.

              The Falcons dictated TO US where our coverage players would be located. And when they are allowed to run f-ing freely anywhere for 20+ yards downfield within 2.5 seconds from the snap, well there are GOING TO BE HOLES in the stretched zone by the time the ball comes out.

              The outcome of that play was pretty well set before the ball was snapped. Ryan knew that if he had zone and coverage playing of the LOS, then either White would either be open downfield if Browner doesn’t respect that route (the second option) or more likely Douglas in the cleared out zone underneath. It was all too easy.

              The scheme put Trufant in a bad position where he’d be more then likely to make the wrong choice. And if not him, then someone else.

              The most infuriating thing about it is how schizophrenic it is from downs one and two. We are scheming our players into being into horrible spots on the field and their players into the exact positions they want to be. And doing the opposite of what produces regular success on first and second down.

              The reason is fear of the big play. The outcome is failure through death by two to eleven cuts on easy plays five to eighteen yards downfield.

              • Colin says:

                “You want to depend on a defensive scheme and play call where Yrufant had to make a split second judgment on what part of the field he’s supposed to located BASED ENTIRELY ON WHAT THE OTHER TEAM DECIDES TO RUN?”

                That’s not true. The premise of that defense is to allow NOTHING over your head. This is high school ball 101. Trufant screwed up his assignment by biting on the underneath route by Tony Gonzalez instead of staying deep. When he came up, he allowed Douglas to be open. Had Trufant stayed in his zone, Ryan would have been forced to checkdown to Tony Gonazalez for a gain of maybe 15, which would have put the ball at the ATL 43. What a major difference that 7 yards would have made. Eric Mangini did a fine job of explaining this on ESPN.

                I’m not sure what Browner had to do with this. He covered his man to a T, and Earl had coverage over the top. “Jamming” in hopes of disrupting that play is irrelevent.

                If you are going to be irritated about something, be irritated about the stupid blitz they called on that first play. I don’t know who the young DB is that blitzed on the play, but it was awful to watch. He had zero impact on the play and it was just a waste.

                The Seahawks did not execute and the Falcons did. There is nothing more to say.

                I don’t understand your

                • JW says:

                  I get the critique, but…every scheme has a weakness. Ryan is a great QB, and Gonzalez is a first ballot hall of famer. They beat defenses. It’s a league where this kind of stuff happens, and I’m not sure any kind of scheme change would have resulted in a different outcome on the whole.

                • Colin says:

                  oops last line was supposed to be deleted

      • Zach says:

        What’s wrong with the 34?

  17. Zach says:

    The real question is what players in the Draft/FA will help us beat the 9ers every year. My first thoughts are getting players that can control Davis and Kaepernick to a reasonable degree. I like Khaseem Greene but would Arthur Brown be better against those two? Which OLB/CB would cover Davis the best? Who could read Kaep’s fakes the best or contain him to the least amount of yards?

    • I look at Greene and Brown as this year’s Kendricks/Wagner. A 1a) and 1b) type of situation. I’m sure the team would be happy with either guy as their WILL going forward. Who do you like better? I prefer Arthur Brown because he throws his body around like it means nothing to him. I tend to like LB’s who don’t try and tiptoe through traffic. Greene is a great player also and has excellent intangibles, leadership, and is pretty awesome in coverage but he’s gonna have to do a better job of avoiding blockers at the next level. I’d be happy with either one.

      Don’t forget that at one point when Pete Carroll was at USC trying to recruit Arthur Brown, he called him the best LB prospect he’s ever seen. We’ve seen Pete go after guys that he recruited at some point, especially guys that got away. That’s the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Carroll went with Brown over Greene in the unlikely scenario that both were available when the Seahawks pick.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Khaseem Greene is much much better than ABJ in my opinion. Brown has pretty s***ty vision and is poor in coverage. Greene offers a lot more in terms of pass rush ability. We could do some really interesting things with Greene that we couldn’t with Brown. Also, one must account for his leadership and dedication abilities. He’s also an Aquarius, which is dope.

        I had a thought earlier this week that we could line Greene up as the Sam in some situations and slide the other LBs over. Greene would probably be the best LB in terms of blitzing on our roster and the other LB’s are proficient in the other positions. That could help with our pass rush woes. I think Greene would also quickly beat out Wright for time in the nickle package. Seattle likes to transition their LBs into that role, so it wouldn’t be immediately, but I like his projection there.

        • I don’t know about much better but I’ll agree that he’s better and more versatile. What I like about Brown is that he’s a torpedo and throws his body around like he’s Lofa Tatupu. No regard for the body. Just a personal preference. I love those warrior type players especially at positions like FB and Linebacker. I think you’re also right that Greene’s the better fit for this defense and I do love his ability as a blitzer. I’m pretty sure he’ll test better than ABJ too, and we know how much PC loves speed at the LB spots. I love the fact that he’s a playmaker. Strips, INT’s, he’s got game.

  18. Kenny Sloth says:

    I think, simply because of the manner in which we lost to the Cards Phins Rams Lions and Falcons. We had the lead, but because of poor underneath coverage they were able to get into field goal range and win. Which is why I think Will should be our primary concern. Khaseem Greene should probably be the pick.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Who cares where he’s drafted? PCJS know that if they can get a player they like that will contribute, they’ve shown that they won’t care what position or grade he was given. They give their own grades and draft as such.

    • I do gotta say though, Khaseem Greene is an exciting prospect just for that strip alone! I’d love seeing him make Colin Kaepernick look silly, forcing fumbles all over the place.

    • Colin says:

      Pass rush brother. Ya can’t ask those guys to cover forever.

  19. Hey Rob, excellent piece. Agree with you on mostly all accounts.

    I especially agree that Seattle might be focusing on building the perfect team to beat San Francisco, first and foremost, and have the feeling that if they can beat San Fran they can beat pretty much any team in the league. It’s a pretty great strategy in my opinion. And as you mention, the best way to do that might be to get big at DT rather than focus so much on generating the pass rush from that spot. The “perfect roster” is no doubt always intriguing but it’s almost impossible and might not even be necessary.

    That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that it’s believed that Seattle is interested in guys like Jesse Williams, Montori Hughes, Brandon Williams. Massive guys with rare strength over anything else. I suppose that Seattle will prefer the toughest DT out of the bunch. We have to remember that these guys are going to have to go up with the likes of Mike Iupati. A massive, tough player who wears down the opposition more often than not. And the Niners barely rotate on either of their lines so you might want to find some DT’s that can not only anchor, but stay out for long stretches of time without totally disappearing. Might be a coincidence but Ngata wasn’t even able to finish the Super Bowl against them. They’ll grind away at even the best.

    Definitely something interesting to think about. Thanks for bringing that side of the coin to the table. Great work as always.

  20. Nolan says:

    The fact is our division is going to be very difficult, each team in the division beat us last year and all have rather easy paths to becoming significantly better. The 49ers will have kapernick for a whole year which should make them tougher. The rams have two first round picks and played us better then any other team in the division. The cardinals will find someone who can play QB decently either in the draft or with a veteran. Our division will likely be very good and there won’t be an easy game in it. Also positioning our selves to beat the niners might not be the smart move there defense is getting older at key positions and frank gore is also not getting younger. The rams might be the team that will be our likeliest rival considering were they are now and how many extra draft choices they have, and the age of there team.

    • SunPathPaul says:

      I agree Nolan that the Rams are going to be tougher and tougher. I have a feeling SF won’t be quite as strong next year- call it a SB let down year, they will play tough, but lose more. (only a game or 3)

      I just watched nfl.com interview the Rams GM Les Snead, and with Fisher they have something! I really liked their draft last year, and look- they ended 7-8-1, after being like 3-13? Sam Bradford has his FIRST ever year where he isn’t starting from scratch with a new offense and OC. So he will be better, plus he will have more targets. They have 2 picks in R1, and 1 might be a TE. They took Titus Young, who kicked our butts last year with Detroit, and I would plan on him being difficult again.

      So yes! If we add that Bruce Arians is going to the Cards, we might have the best EVER total division!
      Say they take a decent QB, add to their O-line and draft a RB, then they are going to be 1 tough customer also! Yikes! I love it though…we will win the division, in the BEST division in football! We will draft legends.

      Go Hawks!!!

      • Colin says:

        The Cards have some offensive work to do, and the Rams need all sorts of offensive help. I’m still not sold that Sam Bradford is a real deal Franchise QB.

        They’ll be better, but how much improvement remains to be seen.

  21. Troy says:

    What are your guys feelings & thoughts on possibly signing Osi Umenyiora in Free Agency? Something like a 1 yr/$4 Million or 2yr/$7 Million deal with the Hawks (similar to the contract that they inked Jason Jones to). We know that Umenyiora has wanted to Escape From New York for some time now and apparently likes the Seahawks, so this one could have some legs. He’s 31, if you take a look at his production the last few seasons (11.5 Sacks in 2010 … 9.0 Sacks in 2011 … and 6.0 Sacks in 2012). Will that production return again given a new scenario?.. Reggie White had 8 Sacks in 1994 (age 33). He came back the next season at age 34 and had 12 Sacks (he played until he was 39 and ended up registering 16 Sacks at age 37). So, it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that we could see that from Osi as well. I think Its worth kicking the tires @ least;)

    • SunPathPaul says:

      I think Osi would be a great addition. Besides just the play aspect, he has been there and done that with 2 SB rings. His leadership and experience might be his best asset. Plus, as we add more overall D-line talent this year, he could possibly have a great year! New place, new faces, new urgency! Make his contract incentive based.

      Starks and Osi sound feasible and affordable… Then we get depth in the draft, and free up our picks…

      • Troy says:

        I would love Starks & Osi. Titans DT/DE Sen’Derrick Marks is a guy I like a lot, hes versitle as he can play multiple positions along the D-line. He can rush the passer & play the run, oh & hes young

    • Colin says:

      I’m all for signing Starks and Osi, but please don’t compare Osi to Reggie White… I know Osi is good, and he should be productive for another year or so, but he’s nowhere near the talent Reggie was….

      • Troy says:

        Dude the comparison wasnt between Osi & White as players, what theyve accomplished & talent/ability. Reggie takes the cake every day of the week & twice on Sunday Im not delusional. White is on an entirely different level, different planet in fact. Perhaps I should have articulated it in more favorable fashion, that being said the analogy I was actually making was based on productivity that could be made despite being on the “wrong side” of 30 . Was simply trying to illustrate that Osi’s age shouldnt be a deterrent, not on a short term deal.

  22. [...] I wrote a piece asking whether the Seahawks could learn something from the Baltimore Ravens. Today, I’m going to take it a step [...]

  23. Michael (CLT) says:

    I wonder if Pete and John would pull the trigger at 25 to draft Barkley. If he is there, he is a great piece for the future, either as a trade or a cheaper version of Flynn. It would take big balls, but it sure would be fun.

    • Colin says:

      An absolute waste of that pick.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think they’d be all over it in round two, although I’m positive he doesn’t drop that far. But if you take a guy like that in round one, you’re then left with a situation where you hope your #1 pick never ever plays and the upside value you can get in a deal is another #1 pick. So I don’t really see the benefit.