Is LEO now a bigger priority?
Chris Clemons’ injury last night has started a discussion about the teams future at the LEO. In the short term, it’s pretty easy to wonder whether Ray Edwards gets another look. He recently worked out for the Seahawks and would debut against the team that cut him a few weeks ago. It’s a storyline waiting to be written. You could also argue there’s a reason why such a big-name pass rusher remains a free agent. And his time in Atlanta was a major disappointment. Danny Kelly at Field Gulls has also touted Aaron Maybin as a possible target. Whoever comes in, it’s only fair that Bruce Irvin gets his chance to start against Atlanta.
What about the long term?
Players are recovering from ACL injuries quicker these days due to advancements in science (stem cell therapy etc). Adrian Peterson is a great example of this, having recovered from such an injury to have arguably the best ever season by a NFL running back. It’s not unrealistic to think this setback will take 6-7 months of recovery, but there’s no reason why Clemons can’t feature in 2013 even if he starts the year on the PUP list.
Some people have questioned whether this injury makes the LEO more of a priority. After all, the teams pass rush hasn’t been too productive in recent weeks. Didn’t they just draft Irvin to be the heir apparent though? He was described as the ‘ideal LEO’ by Pete Carroll upon his arrival in Seattle. If he’s not ready to start in the year he turns 26, when is he going to be ready? I suspect Irvin will get his chance if Clemons can’t go. Even so, they’d still need another pass rusher.
I don’t think this will end up being a high draft priority in April. There aren’t many LEO options in the first two rounds that make a lot of sense. Barkevious Mingo could fit the bill if he runs a good ten-yard split at the combine. Outside of that, I’m not sure who warrants a late first round pick? Alex Okafor is listed at 260lbs at the moment but looks bigger on tape and isn’t quite as lean as Irvin or Clemons. He seems more suited to the Jason Jones role, but he’s one to keep an eye on.
There are some later round options. It’ll be interesting to see if Sam Montgomery falls due to character concerns. He would certainly fit the bill. Joe Kruger at Utah has declared for the draft. It’s a shame Travis Long and Quanterus Smith both got hurt at the end of the year. Michael Buchanan and Devin Taylor are also worthy of late round consideration.
Free agency could also come into play. Osi Umenyiora is a free agent and has been linked to the Seahawks in the past. He’s 32 this year and has lost some of his explosive athleticism, but he’s still an ideal fit physically and could be used as a nice veteran stop gap while Clemons is out. He probably won’t command a big contract due to his age and the Seahawks could get some value here, just as they did with an ageing Raheem Brock.
Although this is a team being built through the draft, some crafty veteran additions have certainly helped. Getting guys like Umenyiora (LEO) and Randy Starks (three-technique) on shorter term, incentive-laden deals would put the Seahawks in a strong position going into the draft and give the pass rush a much needed boost for 2013.
But yeah, we’re still a long way away from seriously talking about free agent additions.
Sanders Commings tape vs Alabama
The Georgia defense has a lot of big-name talent, but also some really underrated players. There could be as many as 7-8 players from the 2012 group that go on to become NFL starters. Sanders Commings is one of those players capable of making it in the pro’s.
I’d seen Commings a few times and been impressed, but it was his performance against Alabama in the SEC championship game that really caught the eye. He’s not a terribly fast corner with 4.55 speed. He’s a bigger guy at 6-0 and 218lbs and that helped against Nick Saban’s physical receivers. He had almost a flawless game, capping it with a vital interception. The speed issue is going to put off some teams, but his size and aggressive nature makes him a possible candidate for the Seahawks. I’ve included the tape against Alabama below and I particularly liked the way he shadowed receivers running underneath or across the middle. Finding more competition for the slot coverage role is an option this year. Commings could be another one of Pete Carroll’s value picks at corner.
Speaking of Alabama…
Tonight it’s the BCS National Championship game between the Crimson Tide and Notre Dame. There’s a number of players to keep an eye on in this one.
First of all, check on Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt the two big-time defensive line prospects for the Irish. Nix is a nose tackle with some pass rushing ability, while Tuitt has been a terror off the edge all year recording 12 sacks. In many ways they are the real stars of the Notre Dame defense, although Manti Te’o gets almost all the publicity. Nix and Tuitt could both be top-15 picks in 2014.
In terms of this years draft, there’s a ton of big-name talent. Te’o will undoubtedly have a strong game, but watch tight end Tyler Eifert for Notre Dame. I think he’s a little overrated. He’s not quite a spectacular pass catcher while his blocking has been suspect at times. He’ll need to have a big game if the Irish are going to trouble Alabama’s brilliant defense. Receiver-turned-runner Theo Riddick is also worth monitoring – he’s been a big playmaker this season.
Alabama has a host of NFL talent. Dee Milliner is a complete cornerback prospect. The offensive line is full of stars, including Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker. Running back Ed Lacy is still pondering whether to declare for the 2013 draft, but he’s shown enough this year to warrant day two consideration. I like Quinton Dial the defensive lineman, while it’s also another chance to watch Jesse Williams. Michael Williams the tight end has also made big strides this year.
Personally I think Alabama will win this game fairly comfortably. Their defense will likely dominate and they should be able to run the ball and get Amari Cooper involved in the passing game. For what it’s worth, Cooper has the look of a future NFL star. He’s a true freshman so won’t be eligible until 2015, but he’s ridiculously polished for a player basically just starting out.
Gavin Escobar and Zach Ertz going pro
San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar has declared for the NFL draft. He had 543 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Escobar’s 6-6, 255lbs and a pure pass-catcher. He had limited blocking duties in college, but showed a knack of getting downfield and making plays. He’s the kind of player the league salivates over in the era of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
I expect he’ll be a second or third round pick, but his upside is certainly intriguing. I’m a bigger fan of Anthony McCoy than most and I’m not sure Escobar would offer much more as the #2 TE. Despite last night’s dropped pass, McCoy has been a much improved player overall this season. However, Escobar is one to check on at the combine. He could be a big riser this off-season.
Zach Ertz is a terrific prospect. Stanford’s #1 receiving target this year, he lines up all over the field and makes plays. He’s 6-6 and 252lbs. I think he could be a top-20 pick. He had 898 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Aside from an honest, hard working personality – he’s also close to a complete tight end. Although he’s maybe not quite the explosive athlete that Graham is or the physical freak of Gronkowski, Ertz is similar to Zach Miller. We saw last night what an effective force Miller can be when featured prominently – and it’s not really Miller’s fault that his role has been switched since moving to Seattle. In Oakland, he was the #1 receiving option. When they took the training wheels off Russell Wilson, it seemed to take some of the heavy blocking responsibility away from Miller. And for the last few weeks, he’s been one of the more productive players in the offense.
Without the truly dynamic receivers at the top of the first round that we’ve seen in previous years, Ertz could get early looks. He’d be a nice, safe target for a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford. I suspect he received a decent review from the draft committee given he was undecided on whether to turn pro prior to the bowl game.
Is he an option for the Seahawks? It might fly in the face of what I said earlier about Escobar/McCoy, but I think Ertz could prove to be the exception. I have a feeling Seattle would love to run more 2TE sets with two similar, consistent tight ends on either side of the offensive line. Stanford run a lot of these power sets, relying on Ertz and Levine Toilolo as receivers (surprisingly, Toilolo also announced his intention to declare today). It enables them to give run looks on any down, utilise play action to maximum effect and suck in the linebackers. It was an effective enough tactic to win a Rose Bowl this season.
Ertz is a better blocker than most people give him credit for. The Seahawks were said to be very interested in Coby Fleener’s pro-day at Stanford last year, and Ertz is arguably the better player. Technically he could also be used in the slot and out wide – we’ve seen it in college and he’s been good enough to make plays. The New England Patriots have boasted an effective offense featuring two tight ends. Why not Seattle? I’d be almost surprised if he wasn’t on the teams radar in the first round.