Pass protection the debate of the day
How do you fix a problem created by injuries?
Essentially, that’s the dilemma facing the Seahawks. There really is only one area of the roster that can be listed as a concern right now, and that’s pass protection.
And it’s a very difficult problem to solve during the season.
Losing Russell Okung for several weeks was bad enough — but having to replace 4/5th’s of your line aggravates matters even further.
Granted things will get easier. Seattle has come up against some of the best pass rushing teams in the league — Carolina, San Francisco (with Aldon Smith), Houston and Indianapolis. There’s one more tough match-up next week against St. Louis and then a breather — Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Minnesota shouldn’t threaten even a make-shift line all that much.
The imminent return of Breno Giacomini will be a big boost. Michael Bowie, for all the potential he’s shown as a rookie, had a nightmare against the Cardinals. You have to expect the odd game like that considering his lack of experience.
Overall, however, I think there’s a perception that this is suddenly a big need — one that desperately needs to be addressed via the draft.
That might not strictly be the case. But I can see it.
For starters, there’s very little you can do about injuries. Look at all the big name stars that picked up season-enders on Sunday.
It’s probably a good thing Seattle didn’t play yesterday.
(Said only half joking)
Last season the Seahawks managed to avoid any serious injuries until the playoffs — when they lost Chris Clemons. This year they haven’t been anywhere near as fortunate. It happens. And it’s to their credit that they’ve still managed to achieve a 6-1 record without Okung, Giacomini, Percy Harvin and most recently Bobby Wagner (among others).
Seattle has stock invested in the future of the offensive line. Alvin Bailey showed a lot of promise in pre-season but has been MIA since. This might be a year too soon for Bailey, who took snaps mostly at left tackle during the summer despite playing guard at Arkansas. He looked fantastic at times. Considering who they’ve cut since (including multiple offensive linemen) this suggests they’re determined to keep working on Bailey perhaps with the idea of slotting him into a starting role for 2014.
It’s likely a similar situation for Bowie, despite being propelled into the team this year. All right, the Arizona game was ugly. But there’s also been some high points too. Just not enough yet to displace Giacomini permanently.
So the current issues with pass protection are possibly a little over-played. Not many teams can survive without their Pro-Bowl left tackle and center — let alone get to 6-1.
At the same time, I suspect the Bailey and Bowie projects are at least partly down to the likelihood of Giacomini and McQuistan not being re-signed next year. It’ll be tough to keep either with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and probably Michael Bennett expecting to be paid. I doubt it’s a coincidence that both rookies have taken snaps at tackle and guard as they potentially look to replace the versatility of McQuistan.
Bailey and Bowie might be considered quality, cheap depth rather than long term starters. So then it comes down to whether you let Tom Cable go after his guys late in the draft again, or whether you target this area much earlier (such as round one).
I’m open to the idea of drafting another right tackle in the first round, despite the fact it’s something I’ve been vehemently opposed to in the past. I just think it’s a position that can be filled without top end investment. The right tackle generally protects the quarterbacks strong side and in a lot of formations they also get tight end or running back help. Seattle has managed to plug in Giacomini relatively simply and contrary to a lot of complaints last year, he more than held his own against many of the NFL’s top pass rushers.
Yet the team is so stacked across the board and continues to find gems in the later rounds of the draft, UDFA or free agency. Even if they’re forced into a handful of high profile cuts in the off-season to save money, I think they’ve sufficiently planned and prepared for the future.
For example, if they choose to cut Brandon Mebane and save around $5m on his contract next season, they already drafted Jordan Hill in round three the previous year. It’s no stretch to think Hill, despite a quiet and injury-hit rookie year so far, will be thrust into action in 2014 as a possible new starting one-technique.
Likewise at receiver we’ve seen the continued development of Jermaine Kearse. Luke Willson might still play himself into a greater role, while Doug Baldwin has shown more than enough to justify greater attention in the passing game this year — let alone in 2014. If they cut Sidney Rice or lose Golden Tate, the addition of Percy Harvin gave Seattle a ready-made explosive target to pick up the slack.
Just as we’ve seen with Bowie and Bailey on the offensive line, the Seahawks are one step ahead of the game. Across the board.
So while I could easily see this team going WR, CB, DL or TE early in the draft, I could also see them going for that tackle who can come in and start right away. And as we’ve discussed many times already, the 2014 class will again feature a large number of offensive linemen going in the first round (see below for a list of names).
If the Seahawks want to add an offensive lineman in round one next year, they should be able to. Even if there’s another early rush on the position (it probably won’t be three of the top four picks like 2013, considering the depth at quarterback and presence of Jadeveon Clowney).
To go back to my initial question — how to fix this injury situation today — I’m not sure there’s much else that can be done right now. Wilson will have to keep avoiding pressure. The running game will be a little boom or bust at times. When Okung and Giacomini are both back in the line-up, however, this particular problem should ease.
Possible early round offensive tackles in 2014
Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama), Antonio Richardson (Tennessee), Taylor Lewan (Michigan), Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M), Cameron Erving (Florida State, James Hurst (North Carolina), Zack Martin (Notre Dame), Corey Robinson (South Carolina), Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Obvious statement: the Seahawks need to keep winning
The NFC has quickly turned into a three-horse race for the #1 seed. Seattle and New Orleans have flirted with separation from the pack — and it’d be silly to count out San Francisco.
Green Bay could still get involved, but…. meh. They rely too much on Aaron Rodgers, as great as he is.
The three main contenders all face each other in the next few weeks, with New Orleans hosting the 49ers, San Francisco entertaining Seattle and the Seahawks getting a home game against the Saints.
Apart from that, there’s not a lot to worry about. The Saints face divisional road games against the disappointing Falcons and the tough-but-not-great Panthers. Seattle also goes to Atlanta but has a favourable schedule apart from that. The 49ers go to Washington but that’s about it.
Essentially this is going to be a battle to hold serve. All three teams will want it to come down to those games against each other, not lost opportunities beforehand.
The news of Sam Bradford’s season-ending knee injury will surely thrust back-up Kellen Clemens into a starting role. It’s a shame Matt Flynn was already signed by the Bills — it would’ve been interesting to see Seattle vs Flynn on MNF next week. In either scenario, the Seahawks have to win. A potential banana-skin of a contest has suddenly become extremely favourable.
The meeting with Tampa Bay at Century Link should take care of itself (well, it should…). The other two games before the double header against New Orleans and San Francisco?
Atlanta (A) and Minnesota (H).
Taking care of business is the name of the game right now.
Rams still some way off competing
Even with a healthy Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams have been a major disappointment this year. They’ve had the fortune of spending three first round picks in the last two drafts and will get two more in 2014.
They’ve also been fairly pro-active in free agency, while appointing one of the finest Head Coaches in the league.
And yet they still look so mediocre.
Seattle’s week one victory in Carolina was written off by some as a lucky escape at the time. Sunday’s comfortable victory for the Panthers over the Rams showed what a tough place it can be to get a victory.
So far St. Louis’ three wins have come against Arizona, Jacksonville and an imploding Houston team. They’ve been easily handled in games against Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and Carolina.
It doesn’t get any easier. After next weeks meeting with Seattle, they get the following — Tennessee (H), Indianapolis (A), Chicago (H), San Francisco (A), Arizona (A), New Orleans (H).
With Kellen Clemens at quarterback, or one of the newbies they intend to try-out, will they win any of those games?
If not, they could be staring at yet another top-ten pick and another season of misery.
People will ask questions about whether they’ve gone in the right direction under Jeff Fisher. Really, they had no choice.
Bradford’s contract, signed as a #1 overall pick in the old CBA, made him virtually immovable. When Fisher arrived in St. Louis, Bradford was just two-years into his career. That’s two years since he was almost universally considered the consensus #1 choice in a draft containing a decent amount of top-end talent.
It’s easy to sit here now and say the Rams should’ve drafted Robert Griffin III in 2012 instead of trading his rights to Washington. And sure, in my opinion, St. Louis would be a much more competitive team with RGIII. Despite Bradford’s decent numbers this year, a lot of his best work was done in a garbage time defeat to Atlanta, a blow-out loss to Dallas, an easy win over the worst team in the NFL and a gift-wrapped victory over Houston.
But the Rams simply couldn’t take Griffin III. Not really. They were stuck with Bradford and his contract even if they wanted to trade him. The dead money on his deal this year was worth over $23m. Who inherits his major contract when you know the new CBA contains a rookie salary cap?
If they’d drafted RGIII and just kept Bradford, you’re talking about at least two seasons with the most expensive backup quarterback you’ll ever see.
They did what they pretty much had to do. They accumulated enough picks to build around the incumbent starter. To give him the best chance to succeed. And that meant passing on RGIII.
Sadly for Rams fans it hasn’t had the desired impact. Bradford still looks average at best. They drafted an explosive chess piece in Tavon Austin and inserted him into one of the most conservative offenses in the league. They lost Steven Jackson, and with him any semblance of a much needed power running game.
The plan they took, the plan that passed on RGIII, made sense. They’ve just fumbled the ball since.
Instead of making life easy for Bradford — they stymied him. They’ve hammered their own running game and brought in players that go against everything their offensive coordinator stands for (eg anything interesting or creative).
As a consequence Bradford’s made very little progress. But he’s got an excuse. And that puts the Rams in a messy situation now.
They could re-sign Bradford to an extension (despite his performance and ACL injury) with reports suggesting prior to his hopeless display against San Francisco that the team was keen to press on with talks and get a contract finalised.
Funny that it’s gone a bit quiet since then…
They could let him sit on the last two years of his deal, but they’d once again be snubbing what looks like a good group of quarterbacks in the 2014 draft.
Or they could cut him and take the hit on $7m’s worth of dead money, draft a new quarterback (with two first round picks, they could theoretically target whoever they want as they have the ammunition to move up) and try to change the direction of the team.
There are yet more big decisions coming for Seattle’s NFC West rival.
Right now, like Arizona, they’re on the outside looking in.
Fred Davis anyone?
Redskins are trying to trade TE Fred Davis, per league source.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 21, 2013
So the Redskins are trying to deal tight end Fred Davis. I hope they don’t expect to get much in return.
Davis’ work habits have often been criticised, while he’s also been hit with the injury bug too.
At his best (not seen it for a couple of years) he has been an effective tight end. In 2011 he had 796 yards (his best season) while he also recorded twelve touchdowns between 2009-11.
Seattle might have little interest in spending anything more than a throwaway conditional pick on a player who is a free agent in 2014. He might even get cut by the Redskins. But there is some USC history there with Pete Carroll. He’s earning $2.5m on his one year contract this year.
It’ll probably come down to how they feel about Kellen Davis (who got his first Seahawks touchdown last Thursday) and whether Washington appreciates this isn’t a sellers market. Now that this story has leaked, they’ll struggle to get anything.