New podcast & priority order for the Seahawks

February 10th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Check out this latest podcast as Brandan and I discuss the draft and the Seahawks in great detail…

Today I wanted to run through what I think the priorities are for the Seahawks leading into the combine and beyond.

1. Establish a connection with Jadeveon Clowney

It makes no sense to launch a defensive line rebuild by letting the best player leave in free agency. Clowney will be expensive but that’ll be the case for any free agent addition. The Seahawks know what they’re getting with Clowney and he deserves the opportunity to play on a Seattle D-line with some actual pass-rushing support.

Although technically not allowed, it’s well known teams and agents talk at the combine and this is where demand and value tends to be established. By the end of the combine and heading into free agency, the Seahawks should have a strong indication of what it’ll cost to keep him. Unless the price is ridiculously high (+$25m a year) that will be the moment to come to an agreement to make sure the Seahawks are adding and not subtracting at their biggest position of need.

2. Find the value in free agency

The combine will also present an opportunity to find out what some of the other free agents are going to be looking for. The Seahawks will have their targets set and ready by now so this is a chance to find out what is realistic when the market opens.

Is a player like Dante Fowler or Arik Armstead going to be reasonably priced? Who are the players open to a prove-it contract? Which players are going to be paid way beyond Seattle’s valuation?

The Seahawks should be able to streamline their priority target list at the combine.

3. Uncover the trade market

This is also an opportunity to speak to teams about who might be available. Trades usually don’t often happen overnight. They are drawn out. The Seahawks can touch base with teams and gather information.

This works hand in hand with the combine workouts, too. For example, if there aren’t many players possessing the traits Seattle needs, it might be more tempting to use pick #27 to add a veteran instead. Equally, if the Seahawks feel they won’t find solutions in free agency, they can compare the value of #27 versus adding a veteran via trade.

This is the type of off-season where the Seahawks are going to look at every option — free agency, trade and draft. They know this is the time to be aggressive and add to what they have. They need to add difference makers, much like they did in 2013 with Harvin, Bennett and Avril.

4. Find the players with traits

The Seahawks like to look for players with special qualities — such as unique size, length, speed, quickness, explosive power or agility. Not every pick works out (Christine Michael, Malik McDowell) but Seattle’s had a lot of success overall picking players with standout athletic qualities (Okung, Thomas, Tate, Irvin, Wagner, Clark, Lockett, Metcalf etc).

This is a year to aim high. To try and replicate the success of D.K. Metcalf’s rookie season. A player with obvious physical talent who, for whatever reason, drops into range.

The combine will provide a clear picture on who those players are. Some early front runners include:

Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
An enormous offensive tackle with fantastic length and physical tools. The NFL will probably be higher on him than the media and he might be off the board by #27 — but if his decision to declare prematurely as a redshirt sophomore makes him available, he’s one to watch.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Like Wilson, he’ll probably be graded higher by the league than the media. Aiyuk is truly dynamic with stunning acceleration and quickness. He’s a playmaker and the type that would really compliment what Seattle already has at receiver. Plus he has major special teams value.

Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
He’s incredibly fast but also has explosive power. He’s capable of running deep on a go-route to make chunk plays but he’s also a genuine threat in the red zone due to his leaping ability. Reagor has special qualities and like all of the receivers in this list will have a terrific combine.

Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
People have been predicting he’ll run a 4.2 since last summer and it shows on tape. Teams are always going to have to account for Ruggs with extra safety attention simply due to his game-breaking speed. There’s every chance he’ll go in the top-15 but if he lasts, he has the game-changing athleticism they need.

K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Hamler is diminutive but seems to have long arms despite his lack of height. He’s a dynamic playmaker with the ball and shows tremendous ability to dart beyond defender’s and turn a good play into a great play. He can also get downfield and provides special teams value.

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
There simply aren’t many 6-7, 315lbs defensive linemen who look like Davis. He’s a chiselled athlete who has the frame of Calais Campbell. His stats at Alabama have been poor the last two years but there’s just so much potential. If he lasts to #27 you’d be taking a gamble on improved production but his ceiling is elite.

There are others I could mention. J.K. Dobbins will probably have all the traits Seattle loves in a running back but I think it’s unlikely they target that position early.

5. Add good players

Having established what the free agent market will look like, the trade options and received information on the draft prospects at the combine — it’s time to do business. The top priority will be to improve the pass rush and the defensive line. The second priority will be to add a tight end.

Austin Hooper is reliable, consistent and has the size, length and agility testing they like at the position. He could be their big offensive splash in free agency. What they do defensively is less clear. We know who is likely to be available, who will almost certainly be tagged (Chris Jones, Yannick Ngakoue) and who might be available via trade (Calais Campbell? Everson Griffen?).

The key will be to leave the free agency period having addressed the defense and tight end position. The draft is strong at receiver and offensive line but weak for pass rushers and tight ends.

They also can’t rely on re-treads and comeback players. Ziggy Ansah, Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy types are not going to cut it. They need to be bold, aggressive and add 2-3 quality players.

6. Make a decision on the O-line

Pete Carroll wants consistency up front and rightly so. The Seahawks need to add, develop and upgrade when possible — not keep blowing up the line and making major changes. There’s unlikely to be big money available for this unit and a line full of rookie’s isn’t ideal either.

If Germain Ifedi is priced out of a return and moves on, the Seahawks could re-sign George Fant to provide some consistency. We’ll see if Mike Iupati has any interest in carrying on. They could sign a similar veteran on a cheap contract to provide a hedge for the draft (where there are strong guard options).

The big question mark remains the future of Justin Britt. His cap hit is very high for a player returning from ACL surgery. They could cut and re-sign him, they could just move on altogether or they could retain his contract (knowing they can still move on down the line). There are good options in the draft (Cesar Ruiz) and it’s very likely that Atlanta will cut Alex Mack to save some cap space.

7. Come out of the draft with upside talent

The Seahawks don’t need a major influx of rookie starter’s but it’d be a big help if they can find dynamic athlete’s who can at least contribute. They especially need to be faster and more physical on defense. On offense, it’d be nice to add even more potency and quickness.

The players identified above include a hulking offensive lineman and several dynamic, sudden receivers. Defensively they need speed and alpha’s. Keep an eye on small-school safety Kyle Dugger as a player they could target quite strongly with his physical style of play, raw speed, dog-mentality and special teams value. LSU defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence plays with great intensity and let’s see how far Damon Arnette falls — because he’s a very talented cornerback with good size and he’s extremely physical.

What they do in free agency and/or the trade market will likely determine their 2020 fate but a good, high-upside draft class can still make a big difference.

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Lance Zierlein publishes his scouting reports

February 7th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

One of the best days of the NFL Draft season is Lance Zierlein publishing his draft reports. For the full list, click here. Whether you agree or disagree with Lance’s grades and analysis, it’s a tireless effort to put so many reports together.

Better yet, there’s no paywall.

I’d recommend reading the reports in full. There are some I strongly agree with (and others I would disagree equally strongly with). However, I wanted to post Lance’s top grades per position below.

Here’s how Lance distinguishes his grades:

7.3-7.5 — perennial pro-bowler
7.0-7.1 — pro-bowl talent
6.7-6.8 — year-one quality starter
6.5 — boom or bust prospect
6.3-6.4 — will be a starter within two seasons
6.1-6.2 — good backup who could become a starter
6.0 — developmental prospects

If a player isn’t listed below, it’s because he didn’t receive a high enough grade.

One thing to look for is any player praised for their toughness and/or leadership. The Seahawks appeared to focus on that quite a lot last year. For example, blog favourite Rashard Lawrence is described as such:

“Plays with dog mentality and is ready to turn any rep into a street fight if he needs to. Lawrence’s leadership and toughness stand out on the defensive side of the ball. He plays with pain and never shortchanges teammates in the effort department.”

Unique traits and athleticism with the high pick, generally high-leadership and toughness throughout the class. These are things to look for in the write-ups.

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow — 7.07
Tua Tagovailoa — 6.82
Justin Herbert — 6.45
Jordan Love — 6.33
Jake Fromm — 6.29
Jacob Eason — 6.29

Running backs

D’Andre Swift — 6.81
Jonathan Taylor — 6.46
Zack Moss — 6.45
Clyde Edwards-Helaire — 6.42
J.K. Dobbins — 6.38
Cam Akers — 6.35
Javon Leake —- 6.30
A.J. Dillon — 6.25
Eno Benjamin — 6.23

Wide receivers

Jerry Jeudy — 6.86
Ceedee Lamb — 6.86
Laviska Shenault Jr — 6.50
Henry Ruggs — 6.49
Tee Higgins — 6.48
Justin Jefferson — 6.41
Chase Claypool — 6.40
Jalen Reagor — 6.39
Michael Pittman — 6.38
K.J. Hamler — 6.37
Brandon Aiyuk — 6.36
Bryan Edwards —- 6.29
Van Jefferson — 6.27
Antonio Gandy-Golden — 6.27
Denzel Mims — 6.25

Tight end

Harrison Bryant — 6.44
Devin Asiasi —- 6.35
Cole Kmet — 6.34
Jared Pinkney — 6.32
Albert Okwuegbunam — 6.30
Hunter Bryant — 6.20
Adam Trautman — 6.20

Offensive line

Jedrick Wills — 7.07
Tristan Wirfs — 6.49
Mekhi Becton — 6.49
Andrew Thomas — 6.48
Josh Jones — 6.42
Cesar Ruiz — 6.41
John Simpson — 6.39
Tyre Phillips —- 6.36
Austin Jackson — 6.34
Prince Tega Wanogho — 6.30
Lloyd Cushenberry — 6.30
Isaiah Wilson — 6.28
Lucas Niang — 6.28

Defensive line

Chase Young — 7.40
Derrick Brown — 7.16
Raekwon Davis — 6.70
Javon Kinlaw — 6.70
Yetur Gross-Matos — 6.50
A.J. Epenesa — 6.47
Ross Blacklock — 6.40
Jordan Elliott — 6.38
Marlon Davidson — 6.35
Alton Robinson —- 6.33
Jonathan Greenard — 6.31
Justin Madubuike — 6.30
Julian Okwara — 6.26
Jason Strowbridge — 6.26

Linebacker

Isaiah Simmons — 7.08
K’Lavon Chaisson — 6.88
Patrick Queen — 6.76
Zack Braun — 6.73
Kenneth Murray — 6.48
Jordan Brooks —- 6.37
Malik Harrison — 6.36
Anfernee Jennings — 6.35
Terrell Lewis — 6.35
Joshua Uche — 6.26

Cornerback

Jeff Okudah — 7.15
C.J. Henderson — 6.77
Cameron Dantzler — 6.43
Jaylon Johnson — 6.43
Trevon Diggs — 6.39
Jeff Gladney — 6.39
A.J. Terrell —- 6.36
Stanford Samuels —- 6.33
Bryce Hall — 6.32
Amik Robertson — 6.32
Kristian Fulton — 6.29
Noah Igbinoghene — 6.29

Safety

Xavier McKinney — 6.70
Grant Delpit — 6.45
Antoine Winfield Jr — 6.36
Ashtyn Davis — 6.33
Kyle Dugger — 6.32
Terrell Burgess — 6.20

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An off-season prediction for every NFL team

February 5th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Teddy Bridgewater swaps New Orleans for Carolina

At least one prediction for all 32 teams. These are just my guesses. Nothing is sourced. Nothing should be taken too seriously.

Cincinnati
The Bengals will be offered major compensation for the #1 pick and there’ll possibly even some pressure from Joe Burrow’s camp to accept a trade. Yet with the most stubborn owner in the league running the franchise like a family business, he won’t budge and they’ll take him. Even if Burrow threatened never to pull on a Bengals jersey.

Cleveland
There will be an acknowledgement that they need to invest more in the offensive line and two key linemen will be added — one veteran and one high draft pick.

Pittsburgh
They will put the franchise tag on Bud Dupree and might consider drafting a QB early (their first pick is in round two). They need to turn over every stone with Big Ben nearing the end.

Baltimore
They will tag Matt Judon but will be open to any reasonable trade offers to move him.

New England
Tom Brady will re-sign. Because of course he will. There’s no way he’s going to play somewhere else now and as if the Patriots are going to start chatting up Teddy Bridgewater or Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton. No.

Miami
The Dolphins will start making it known to the media that they like Joe Burrow. It’ll be a nudge to the player to see if they can ‘pull an Eli’.

Buffalo
The Bills will make an aggressive move this off-season. They’re developing nicely but they need a jolt. They’re in the ‘good not great’ category. It could be a trade up or a free agency splash.

New York Jets
The Jets will focus on building an offensive line for Sam Darnold and landing a weapon for him too.

Indianapolis
The Colts could end up with Tua Tagovailoa. They might trade into the top-five. They could simply land him at #13. Or the Colts could even move into the back-end of round one if the hip injury puts teams off.

Houston
The Texans have played their hand and their off-season priority will be locking down the quarterback and left tackle to long term contracts.

Jacksonville
The Jaguars will cut Marcell Dareus and a handful of other fringe players, enabling them to franchise tag Yannick Ngakoue.

Tennessee
The Titans will find a way to keep both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. They need both players to return.

Kansas City
The Chiefs will cut or trade Sammy Watkins, creating the cap space to franchise tag Chris Jones.

Denver
The Broncos will have an aggressive off-season having seen division rival Kansas City win the Super Bowl. It’s probably best they build gradually but there will be some impatience in the building.

Las Vegas
Despite all the talk about adding a new quarterback, the Raiders will flirt with a few and end up settling back down with old faithful — Derek Carr.

LA Chargers
The Chargers will acquire Cam Newton via trade and will draft a longer-term heir apparent too (Justin Herbert?).

Green Bay
They will focus on offense after years of building the defense. That could include drafting a receiver early and maybe even trying to tempt Washington with a trade for Trent Williams.

Chicago
The Bears say they’re sticking by Mitchell Trubisky but behind the scenes they’ll be planning to acquire a QB as their answer to Ryan Tannehill (Andy Dalton?).

Minnesota
They are stuck in a cap mess so will cut or trade Everson Griffen, will look to trade Stefon Diggs and this will be a last chance for Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman to win with this group before some changes occur.

Detroit
The Lions won’t trade Darius Slay because they’ll ask for too much in return. They’ll be open to it, though.

Dallas
The Cowboys will re-sign Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to long term contracts — eventually.

Philadelphia
The Eagles will trade up in the draft for a receiver.

New York Giants
The Giants will seek to trade down even though Dave Gettleman doesn’t have a history of doing so. I just get the feeling that Jerry Jeudy will be their guy. They’ll want Daniel Jones to have a go-to target. #4 is a bit early for Jeudy but then #6 was for Jones and they took him anyway, so maybe they just repeat the act.

Washington
The Redskins sign Greg Olsen and then go back in free agency to get another former Panther in the form of cornerback James Bradbury. Then they select Chase Young and hope Alex Smith might just be able to return.

New Orleans
The Saints bring back Drew Brees for one more tilt at avoiding the bad luck that has dogged this team in the playoffs over the years.

Tampa Bay
The Buccs bring back Jameis Winston when he discovers his market is cold. They have a serious talk with Philip Rivers too as a viable alternative but he ends up retiring.

Atlanta
The Falcons have no cap space so they cut Alex Mack and try to create some room to bring in a pass rusher. They know it’ll be tough to find one with the #16 pick.

Carolina
The Panthers sign Teddy Bridgewater as the replacement for Cam Newton, who is traded to the LA Chargers.

San Francisco
Rather than retreat into their shell after the Super Bowl, the Niners make a splash somehow. I’m not sure what it is. It could be an Odell Beckham Jr trade or a Stefon Diggs trade. I think they’ll do something, though.

LA Rams
What can they do? They’ve no picks or cap space. So the only solid prediction to make is they’ll extend Jalen Ramsey’s contract.

Arizona
The Cardinals focus on the offensive line this off-season as a priority.

Seattle
The Seahawks have an aggressive off-season similar to 2013 — with a few surprise moves along the way. They’ll kick things off by retaining Jadeveon Clowney.

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What I think we learnt from the Super Bowl

February 3rd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

1. Everything is easier when you can rush with four

If you’d never seen the Kansas City Chiefs play before, you might’ve expected some new-age football last night.

People make it seem like they’re playing a different sport sometimes.

Yet all it took to make them look pretty normal for three and a bit quarters was a good four-man pass rush.

You could clearly see Patrick Mahomes was flustered. The Niners were able to drop bodies in coverage and still create pressure. This wasn’t rocket science from the Niners. It was simply talent up front allowing them to play what is, essentially, a very conservative scheme. The same used in Seattle.

This wasn’t Gregg Williams’ 10,000 different blitzes or Todd Bowles sending the house every down. It was simply a quality pass rushing quartet enabling everyone else to take away the deep threat and explosive plays. Mahomes either didn’t have time to throw downfield or players simply weren’t open.

The Niners don’t have a Legion of Boom secondary. They have some good players but there’s no Earl or Kam. Richard Sherman looked like he’s nearly 32 towards the end of the game.

They have good, young, quick linebackers. Again though, not of the Patrick Willis standard or Bobby Wagner at his peak.

The 49ers’ defense works so well because they can rush with four. It’s actually as entertaining to watch as anything else in the sport. A truly excellent and dynamic pass rush is exhilarating. The Niners possess that.

The Seahawks need to acquire the pieces this off-season so they too can reliably rush with four (as they could in the Bennett and Avril days). That’s the only way their scheme can function properly and it’s mission #1 this off-season.

They can’t go out and draft two top-five picks and two top-20 picks like the Niners while also trading for Dee Ford. They can add pieces to their D-line though — starting by keeping Jadeveon Clowney — to provide a much more consistent and threatening group in 2020.

They need talent. No hoping a rookie pans out or that a guy with a busted shoulder and history of injuries can ready himself to play. Talent and production and quality. That’s the order of the day. They have the cap room to make it happen and the draft picks to use if needed in the trade market.

Get Clowney back in the building and get him a proper partner to get after the quarterback. Clowney is a supercharged Michael Bennett. Now go get a Cliff.

2. The Seahawks need a quality tight end

It’s pretty remarkable watching the 49ers offense. Everything is very well crafted and executed. It seems relatively straight forward though. They’ll motion Kittle across the line to get a nice match-up then have him run right across the formation. They’ll have Kittle run across the middle to draw the safety then have two receivers run routes in behind. They’ll use misdirection to set up tricky little perimeter runs.

We’re not watching new-age football here. A lot of it’s just good execution.

What’s indisputable though is how much George Kittle just makes it all tick. Without him, it runs the risk of all being a bit basic. If you guard the perimeter and you don’t have to double Kittle, you’re really just dealing with a fairly standard set of concepts. As soon as Kittle’s on the field they can move him around to get him matched up against certain players, he draws coverage to open up team mates. Even when he’s covered you can throw it up to him. And he’s such an outstanding blocker.

Kittle is an absolute game changer for the Niners. He’s their best player on offense and you could even make a case for saying he tops Nick Bosa for most talented player on the roster overall.

The Seahawks aren’t going to be able to go out and get a George Kittle. 30 other teams would love to do the same. They need something though. Someone who can provide those same mismatch opportunities. A really dynamic tight end is a vital piece to any offense.

It’s not just Kittle either. Look at the impact Travis Kelce has in Kansas City. Tyler Higbee has developed into a massive part of the Rams’ offense. Where would the Eagles be without Zach Ertz? Look at the impact of Darren Waller for the Raiders.

Whether it’s through free agency, the draft or via a trade — tight end is a vital off-season need, second only to the pass rush.

3. They have to come up with a plan to defend the perimeter run

The Chiefs played somewhat like the Seahawks in this game. They didn’t really turn it on until the end, when a roaring comeback sealed the win. They remained balanced, finishing with 29 runs for 129 yards to go with Mahomes’ late flourish. This felt a little bit like the week 17 Seahawks/Niners game, with the Chiefs simply finishing the job.

They were also fairly terrible at defending the perimeter run.

The 49ers might’ve had a variety of ways to try and deceive the Chiefs but essentially, they tried to get the ball-carrier to the left edge with blockers in front time and time again. And it worked. They essentially looked the Chiefs in the eye and said, ‘we’re going to do this until you find a way to stop it’.

I’m not sure they were ever going to find that answer. In fact, had they stuck to it at the end rather than putting the ball in Jimmy Garoppollo’s hands, we might be talking about a Niners win. Tyrann Mathieu was screaming on the sidelines at one point in frustration. Frank Clark was burying his face in an oxygen mask. For all the talk afterwards of not losing hope — Mahomes looked dejected for most of the second half. The Niners were comfortable — much like they were in week 17.

It brought back a lot of bad memories.

The Seahawks were so bad at defending the perimeter run, Pete Carroll listed it as a specific area for improvement this off-season. If they’re going to face the Rams, Niners and Cardinals for six games a season, they need to come up with a solution.

I suspect the base-defense plan for 2019 was partly to try and handle this. We saw Bill Belichick use safety’s in the last Super Bowl to stymy some of LA’s misdirection and stretch plays. Mychal Kendricks isn’t a safety but he runs a 4.4. Again, people can criticise the end product but I think the plan made sense.

Seattle has speed at the second level but I think it needs aggressive quickness too. When teams get to the perimeter like this, you’re going to face blockers. You’re going to need to work through traffic. You’re going to need to battle a bit and then make a tackle. You’ve got to be more physical than the guy across from you.

Too often the Seahawks got pushed around in these situations. Nobody could get off a block. Receivers and tight ends were handling their guys. Heck, even Aaron Rodgers managed to block Cody Barton at Lambeau.

Next time, stick him on his backside. Or be quicker to the ball.

This is also an area where improved tackling can help. As we’ve discussed a lot, Seattle’s tackling form was statistically very poor in 2019.

If a team tries to attack the perimeter and doesn’t get anywhere early in a game, they’ll probably move off it pretty quickly. Otherwise they’ll keep going to the well, just as the Niners did. Seattle can’t allow opponents to keep going to the well in 2020.

4. The Niners have a great coach and a highly talented team but…

If you don’t trust your quarterback to run a two-minute offense with three time-outs on the board before half-time that’s a problem.

Garoppollo is neat and tidy. He executes a lot of what Shanahan needs him to do. For the most part he delivers a pass that is on-time, to the right receiver. They didn’t fluke 13 wins and a Super Bowl appearance. The quarterback played his part.

He’s not special though, is he? It’s possible the Niners will be right back in contention again next year. They are rich in talent on the D-line and with Kittle. Shanahan, despite blowing two healthy Super Bowl leads, is a tremendous coach and figure-head.

They’re in the Jared Goff zone though. Both Garoppollo and Goff have been to Super Bowl’s and they’ve been paid hefty salaries. Yet you just know they’ll never quite be great.

There’s a new era of young QB’s coming through — DeShaun, Lamar, Mahomes, Dak — paired with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think any of those players depend on scheme. In Los Angeles and San Francisco — the coaches and the scheme are the most important factor. Not the quarterbacks.

Given Shanahan’s clear qualities, visision and veto on decision making, it’s surprising that he didn’t think Mahomes or Watson were worthy of being his QB in 2017. Instead they took Solomon Thomas at #3 and eventually traded for Garoppollo on October 31st that year. Hindsight is a great thing, of course. Thomas was excellent at Stanford and hasn’t delivered in the NFL. Imagining this Niners team with either at quarterback, however, is a scary prospect.

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Sunday notes: What’s going on?

February 2nd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

For the last couple of days I’ve been bed-ridden. Initially I thought it was food poisoning. Now I think it’s a virus. Either way, apologies for the lack of posts. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl either.

(The last Super Bowl I watched live was five years ago anyway)

However, I did want to write down some notes today (if nothing else to give me something to do).

Why do no mock drafts have Tua falling?

If you read any mock draft these days, you’re almost certain to see Tua Tagovailoa placed in the top-five.

It’s entirely possible, of course. Tagovailoa is a talented player and the NFL is a quarterback league.

Yet nobody appears willing to consider another very real scenario — that the serious hip injury that ended his 2019 season (not to mention the other injuries he had in college) could lead to a fall.

David Geier at Forbes wrote this piece on the hip injury, the recovery process and the possible long-term impact.

Maybe the high-profile media types are simply giving him the benefit of the doubt? Talking about the likelihood of him falling in the draft due to a serious injury would be difficult for the player. Yet it probably warrants a deeper conversation than simply inserting him into the top-five with a cursory reference that teams ‘will do their checks’.

Taking a player in the top-five comes with $30m in guaranteed cash. Simply put, teams will not have enough information about his health by the end of April. They probably won’t know if he’s capable of returning to the field at the level he showed at Alabama for another 6-12 months.

To me that seems like a big gamble. And for a team like Miami — so desperately trying to find ‘the guy’ — can they really afford to invest a top-five pick in him? Do they want to redshirt him for a year, all the while keeping their fingers crossed he’ll stay healthy and be the answer? We’ll see what they decide. Some gambles are worth taking. Sometimes you’ve got to walk away.

If I was to publish a mock draft today, I’d put him in the late 20’s or 30’s. Possibly with a team trading back into round one. The difference? You’re only paying $10m guaranteed, there’s not as much pressure on the pick to work out and trading into the back-end of round one is relatively inexpensive.

Don’t be surprised if Justin Herbert is the only other quarterback to go in the top-10 after Joe Burrow is selected by Cincinnati. Herbert has the arm, the ideal size and the improvisational skills teams look for. He has plenty to work on but there’s also plenty to work with.

There are too many forgotten players this year

The draft media has been quite willing to promote players like K’Laivon Chaisson into the top half of round one (with his 6.5 sacks and regular use on stunts). We’ve also seen the rapid rise of Mekhi Becton and a few others.

Yet it feels like a lot of legitimate prospects within this class are suddenly being ignored with no real explanation why.

The most egregious example is Grant Delpit. He didn’t have an amazing 2019 season but he played through an injury. He has everything — speed, talent, length, versatility. He can play either safety spot and could even be switched to cornerback.

The only serious complaint I’ve seen about him is tackling form. Fair enough. Yet the same people making those remarks are putting Xavier McKinney in the top-20. McKinney is a likeable, competitive individual. But tackling has never been a positive for him and most of his ‘success’ at Alabama came playing up at the LOS blitzing into the backfield. Which, of course, you can do a lot if you’re Alabama and not so much in the NFL unless you’re running Todd Bowles’ scheme.

Last week Lance Zierlein didn’t even include Delpit in the first round of his initial mock draft. Daniel Jeremiah had him at #23. Both had McKinney at #17 to Dallas.

What’s the explanation for this?

Delpit is the most extreme example. What about Price Tega Wanogho? He had a very solid final year at Auburn. He didn’t perform at the Senior Bowl but he measured at 6-5 and 307lbs with +33 inch arms and 10 1/8 inch hands.

‘The Prince’ was the #24 player on Bruce Feldman’s freaks list this year. In that article it was suggested he can run a 4.95 forty and jump a 32-inch vertical. He can bench 415lbs and squat 560lbs.

“He’s a great testament to taking his development seriously,” says Auburn strength coach Ryan Russell. “He came in at 260 and is consistently 310-315 now without losing speed, agility or capability. He has progressed every year.”

For most of the college season he was talked about as a relatively high pick. There’s very little on tape that would suggest he wouldn’t be. There are things to work on for sure. That’s the case with all rookie linemen. Yet Tega Wanogho is virtually the forgotten man of the draft while Becton, Jedrick Wills and Josh Jones are the ones everyone is talking about.

Isaiah Wilson is another. He had a tremendous season for Georgia. Jake Fromm had a ridiculous amount of time in the pocket during the 2019 season thanks to the amazing Georgia O-line. He’s an absolute beast in the running game and has the athleticism to develop as a pass-protector. Nobody ever talks about him.

Considering he declared a redshirt sophomore, it seems at least somewhat likely he received positive feedback on his draft prospects. Yet you barely ever see him in any mock drafts or hear his name mentioned. Why?

I’d say the same for Cesar Ruiz too. He appears in the occasional first round mock draft but we’re talking about a top-talent here at an increasingly important position. It’s nice that Lloyd Cushenberry had a good Senior Bowl but there’s no question — none at all — about who the top center is in this draft. It’s Ruiz.

I could go on. You’ll see Zack Braun and Chaisson mocked in round one but little mention of the quicker, more orthodox DE in Julian Okwara projected in the first. Raekwon Davis has rare size and while he didn’t deliver as hoped the last two seasons — there aren’t many human’s with his frame capable of doing what he does. Lucas Niang seems to have dropped off the radar due to his injury. Jalen Reagor had to deal with one of the worst QB’s situations in the NCAA and seems to be suffering now as a consequence despite his very obvious and clear physical, athletic and technical talent.

Everything just feels a bit ‘off’ at the moment. We’ll see how it plays out.

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Would the Seahawks trade a high pick for Calais Campbell?

January 29th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks have been talking about Calais Campbell for a few years.

For example, when they drafted Malik McDowell in 2017, John Schneider was asked about the pick: “We’ve been looking for a pass rushing three-technique since we’ve been here.”

When asked what McDowell looked like at his best, Schneider answered: “Similar to what Calais Campbell looked like.”

Pete Carroll later returned to the comparison during that press conference, going as far as to call it a ‘great comparison’.

That was the off-season that Campbell left Arizona for Jacksonville in free agency. There was a feeling that maybe the Seahawks — with somewhat limited cap space — might be able to convince him to come to Seattle. The Jaguars gave him a four-year, $60m contract worth $15m a season. At the time, that was an incredible deal the Seahawks couldn’t compete with.

It’s possible that they set their heart on Campbell that off-season and the decision to go for McDowell was something of a ‘Plan B’.

A year ago Campbell’s name cropped up again. When asked after drafting L.J. Collier why they were seemingly so determined to add a player who can rush inside and out (with McDowell, Collier and Rasheem Green mentioned), Schneider responded: “It’s a hard spot to find. The Calais Campbell’s of this world are hard to find.”

These quotes alone are not enough to assert a love-in between Seattle’s front office and Calais Campbell. Clearly, however, they’ve not only been looking for a player like him — they also have a massive amount of admiration for him.

So with the Seahawks facing an enormous off-season where the quarterback is already calling publicly for ‘superstars’ to be signed — could Campbell be a trade target?

And what would it take to get him?

He’s had an incredible three years with the Jaguars with 31.5 sacks, 44 TFL’s and 76 QB hits. He anchors the run defense and he creates consistent pressure. He sets a tone physically but has always been a great leader too.

According to PFF, he was the #4 graded defensive lineman in the league in 2019 behind only T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward.

For these reasons, there’s every chance the Jaguars wouldn’t have any interest in dealing him. He’s producing results even if the team has struggled the last two years. His $15m salary isn’t obscene even if it’s pricey.

The Jaguars are also, however, facing a bit of a crossroads. They reached the AFC Championship game in 2017 and entered the 2018 season as one of the favourites to reach the Super Bowl. They had a fantastic defense rich in talent.

Then it all went wrong.

Now they’ve traded Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey — two former top-10 picks. Yannick Ngakoue is constantly tweeting his desire to leave and he’s set to be a free agent. Telvin Smith surprisingly retired. Tom Coughlin has been fired yet the GM and Head Coach remain.

They’ve experienced a shocking and sudden collapse. A roster overhaul of sorts is required. Who are they building around for the long term? They added big-signing free agents to supplement their young talent that’s since moved on. Now they’re carrying bloated contracts and they’re projected at $-40,246 in cap space for 2020.

They have a really meaty and overpaid middle-class that will be decimated by cuts. They’ll instantly create $20m in cap space by cutting Marcell Dareus. Cutting A.J. Bouye saves another $11m. Marqise Lee could save them $5m, Brandon Linder $8m, D.J. Hayden $6m, Abry Jones $4m and Geoff Swaim $3.75m.

So while they’re currently forty-grand in the red for 2020, they’ll soon have a fair bit of money to play with depending on who they want to sacrifice.

It also means they’re not under any immediate pressure to trade or cut Calais Campbell. Yet parting with him would save $15m too.

Here’s why they might consider it.

Clearly the Jaguars are going through another transition period. They’ll be looking to build around, presumably, the likes of Josh Allen and Gardner Minshew. They’re not a team that has a look of being one solid off-season away from being right back in contention.

Campbell is only contracted for one more year and he’s 34-years-old in September. If they could get a reasonably high pick for him, that might be better value than carrying him for another year given their current status.

Of course, they could just extend his contract. That would potentially lower his 2020 cap hit and keep him in Florida for the rest of his career.

Yet if a team dangled a high draft pick — that would surely be tempting. The Jaguars need to get younger, sort their cap out and ‘go again’.

Why would it make sense for the Seahawks?

Firstly, there is some precedent here. One of the best trades in the Carroll/Schneider era was to go and get Duane Brown. It wasn’t a cheap trade — costing the Seahawks a second and third round pick. Yet the deal instantly put a stop to the glaring issue at left tackle. Brown has played at a high level since and has offered vital leadership and toughness to the offense.

Brown was 32 when he arrived in Seattle. That didn’t put them off trading two high picks for him and then giving him a new long-term extension.

Campbell is currently 33 — although as mentioned he will be 34 on September 1st. The Seahawks desperately need to address their defensive line this time. Campbell would instantly provide a boost to the pass rush and the run defense. He would also deliver the same toughness and leadership that Brown provided.

Seattle’s D-line struggled far too often in 2019 to win the line of scrimmage battle. Imagine the difference Campbell would make? Not only that — the benefit would be felt elsewhere. Imagine trying to stop a Clowney & Campbell combo? Imagine the impact on Bobby Wagner, being able to play behind such a dominant force up front.

Like Brown, there’s no indication Campbell intends to retire in the near future. In fact when asked at the Pro Bowl about his contract, he discussed his willingness to restructure his deal in the form of an extension.

If he was willing to play for three more seasons, perhaps, would a significant trade be worth considering?

Perhaps the best question is this — is there anyone else out there who could do more for Seattle’s defense than Campbell? The answer is probably no — short of pulling off a somewhat unrealistic trade for one of the top pass rusher’s in the game Khalil Mack-style.

With the Seahawks owning two second round picks this year, they’re in a strong position. Could they repeat the Brown trade by offering Jacksonville #64 this year and a 2021 third rounder?

They’d still have #27. They’d still have #59.

The Jaguars would get two high picks and some cap relief as they prepare to move forward. They’d be taking a hit losing Campbell for sure — but they might be willing to consider long term planning.

The Seahawks need stars right now. They’d take on a non-restrictive $15m cap hit for Campbell with the option to extend his deal and lower that number.

There’s nothing to say Jacksonville would want to do this. It’s difficult to project trades. After all — who would’ve thought the Seahawks could’ve landed Jadeveon Clowney for a third rounder plus Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin? Or Quandre Diggs for a fifth rounder?

We’ve said a few times now — it feels like the trade market will be crucial for Seattle. Free agency is very expensive. Acquiring players on existing contracts is a way to get better value for money. Whether it’s Campbell, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Ryan Kerrigan or someone completely different — it would be surprising if there isn’t some kind of trade at some stage.

I think this proposal at least makes some sense for both teams. And while you never ideally want to give up high picks for 34-year-old players — Campbell is a bit different. He’s like Duane Brown.

They’ve admired him for years. Maybe it’s time to finally bring him to Seattle?

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Why the Seahawks will be aggressive this off-season

January 27th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Wilson and Stefon Diggs are close

We’re nearing the end of January and we’ve had the Senior Bowl. If, like me, you’re ignoring the Super Bowl in order to spend time contemplating Seattle’s off-season plan, here’s where I’m currently at:

1. The Seahawks are going to be aggressive this off-season
2. Fixing the defense will be the priority
3. They will add at least one new weapon for Russell Wilson
4. Trades are likely

Let’s go through them one-by-one…

1. The Seahawks are going to be aggressive this off-season

Pete Carroll has often talked about closing the circle.

But what does it even mean?

A tough, physical running game. Explosive plays in the passing game. A strong defense that forces turnovers.

Ingredients mixed together to create a winning football team.

However at various times over the last decade the circle hasn’t been closed.

A league-worst running game was holding them back in 2017. The solution was a complete coaching overhaul on offense, a new-style offensive line and a first round pick spent on a running back.

It solved the problem. They appeared to be heading towards becoming a complete team.

12 months on, the circle is incomplete again. This time it’s the defense.

Here’s a reminder of just how bad it was this season:

The Seahawks finished the 2019 season with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23). Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall.

They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96). Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%).

Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest. They had 52 TFL’s — again, fourth fewest.

They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL. Yet their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%).

They also gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall.

The other startling statistic is the sheer number of missed tackles. They had 131 during the regular season — the fourth most.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be extremely aware of how big this issue is. It threatens to derail their otherwise textbook reset. They simply need to be better on defense. They need more talent. Ready made talent. Impact players.

There will be a sense of urgency here. 100% guaranteed. There’s no ‘waiting for a draft pick or two to work out’. They will know, fully, the scale of this problem. They are in a Championship window.

They have never been complacent. Even through all those years of porous offensive line play. They spent first and second round picks trying to rectify it.

Not every move has worked, clearly. Yet you can never accuse the Seahawks of sitting on their hands.

Now they’re in a position where they have more cap space than ever during the Carroll era. They also have a means to create more cap room. I suspect they will do whatever it takes to max out their spending potential and that could mean some difficult decisions are forthcoming for highly paid existing players on the roster.

They also have a strong collection of draft picks, including three in the first two rounds.

They are perfectly placed to be aggressive. And they will be.

2. Fixing the defense is the priority

There are other things to be resolved but first and foremost the defense needs to be fixed. This will be the major priority and it will start with Jadeveon Clowney being retained.

There’s very little reason for this not to get done. Clowney has talked about signing for a contender:

“I just want to win… I want to get that Super Bowl, by any means. That’s what I’m looking for. Who’s going to get me there? I’m not looking to get on no sorry team for no money. That ain’t gonna fly.”

Of course it’s very possible Clowney’s definition of a ‘contender’ could be quite flexible if a team offers him significantly more money than anyone else is offering. Yet the reality is Seattle’s perfectly placed to keep him.

For starters, they have an existing relationship. They have Duane Brown. They’re not the Texans. They were one of the teams he was willing to be traded to at the start of the season.

They also have significantly more cap space than any serious contender.

The five teams with more projected cap space are the Dolphins, Colts, Buccs, Bills and Cowboys. Clowney reportedly rejected a trade to Miami during the summer. The Colts have a major question mark at quarterback. The Buccaneers are not on the brink of contending. The Bills are not a particularly attractive proposition even though they made the playoffs. Dallas will be using their cap space on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.

Teams like the Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers, Saints, Vikings and Steelers simply don’t have the money to challenge Seattle.

So while it will be expensive — surely their first move will be an extension for Clowney either after the combine, just before the league year opens or shortly after free agency officially begins.

They won’t stop there, though. This isn’t a Clowney plus a draft pick fix. They will need more. That means the addition of at least one more pass rusher and further subsequent moves.

This isn’t a good draft class for pass rusher’s. So if the market doesn’t provide a solution, they might turn to the trade market. More on that in a bit.

3. They will add at least one new weapon for Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson made himself heard at the Pro Bowl, noting his desire for the team to add ‘superstars’. He also made it very clear during his exit-interview in the locker room that he wants to be part of a team that is really pushing for titles over the next five years. He wants to be remembered as one of the best and the current roster will not help him reach that goal.

Wilson would acknowledge that the defense needs help, especially the pass rush. Yet it’s incredibly likely he’ll also be petitioning for another weapon.

It’s an excellent looking receiver draft class and certainly that could be an area Seattle attacks. They’ve often targeted the positional strength of a class in the early rounds.

Wilson was reportedly, however, pushing for Antonio Brown during the 2019 season. They eventually signed Josh Gordon. He’s been asked to do more with less for a lot of his career. And while Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are extremely talented, I get the sense Wilson feels like he deserves one more proven weapon.

That could be in the form of an established tight end such as Austin Hooper (discussed in more detail here). It could just as easily be another veteran receiver.

We’ll talk more about trade options in a moment but it certainly feels like teams will be listening this off-season. Stefon Diggs for example looks thoroughly disengaged in Minnesota and is close to Wilson.

Part of the aggressive nature of this off-season will include offense. Let’s not forget — in 2013 they didn’t just sign Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They also traded for Percy Harvin — when they already had Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate.

4. Trades are likely

Two days after the Green Bay game, I posted a piece discussing the likelihood of a key trade. It feels almost inevitable.

For starters, the cost works in Seattle’s favour. Take Von Miller for example. Due to the dead-cap on his contract, the Broncos would be paying some of his salary in 2020. They’d still make a saving but the Seahawks wouldn’t be inheriting an obscene cap hit. In free agency, you’d almost certainly have to pay more money for a lesser player.

Yes, this would likely mean sacrificing a high pick. Yet the options at #27 this year will be similar to previous seasons.

Ideally there’s a way to find value for money on the open market, address the pass rush, add an offensive weapon and retain a full quota of picks. It’s not always that simple though.

What is clear is they have to be pro-active. With the information they will gather at the combine speaking with teams and agents in Indianapolis, they’ll be able to come up with a plan. That plan could take on many forms depending on what intel they receive.

Whether it’s for a pass rusher, a defensive playmaker or a weapon for Russell Wilson — some kind of trade seems likely.

It also seems like teams are setting the table to do business.

For example, the Ravens are already touting Matt Judon around. They like him and he was productive in 2019 (9.5 sacks). Yet there’s a problem with pass rusher’s in the league currently.

Nobody is really getting value.

If you have to use the franchise tag (Baltimore probably will on Judon) you immediately set the floor for negotiations at about $17-18m. For a Joey Bosa, that’s fine. It’s expected. For the next tier of defensive end’s, however, that can be difficult to accept.

This is the main reason why Frank Clark departed. Seattle was clearly willing to pay Clark. Yet a combination of the franchise tag and DeMarcus Lawrence getting Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack money changed the game. Now he was set to receive elite-level money. The Seahawks didn’t think it was a wise investment and the Chiefs thought the price of the contract and two high draft picks was worth it.

We’ve now seen Mack, Clark and Dee Ford traded in similar circumstances. The chances are there will be another pass rusher this off-season who is in the last year of his contract or on the franchise tag and a team will be willing to listen to offers.

The trade dynamic could also extend to trading up in the draft. That’s unlikely to mean a big move in round one (something they’ve never done). For the right player though (Tyler Lockett in 2015, Jarran Reed in 2016 and Metcalf in 2019) they’ve been willing to trade up in rounds 2-3.

Expect activity. We could see a repeat of 2013 (pass rusher’s signed in free agency and a big splash for a veteran receiver). Or we could see a big-name defensive player brought in for a high pick.

After all — their best three additions in 2019 were Metcalf (traded up), Clowney (traded) and Quandre Diggs (traded). This is a team that has constantly been looking to make trades and acquire talent. Never have they needed an injection of talent at a more urgent rate.

With the draft being relatively strong on the offensive line they can fill holes if needed. There’s still also a reasonable possibility they simply re-sign the existing O-line at a decent price (and Carroll has talked about consistency within this group). George Fant could be the key here. His flexibility provides a hedge at numerous positions. He could even be a higher priority than Jarran Reed — although both are likely to test the market before potentially re-signing.

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Senior Bowl game notes & a podcast

January 25th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Before I get into the game notes, Brandon and I recorded a podcast reflecting on the week of practise in Mobile. Check it out below…

Senior Bowl game notes

UCLA running back stars

Despite a strong week of practise from the likes of K.J. Hill, Van Jefferson and Denzel Mims, the most impressive skill position player on the field during the game was UCLA running back Joshua Kelly.

He flashed immediately on the North squad’s opening drive. Nick Harris, Ben Bredeson and Hakeem Adeniji all did an excellent job creating a huge running lane, dominating the interior. Kelly showed off his superb acceleration and quick feet with an 18-yard run to take advantage.

With nine minutes left in the first half, he got to the perimeter and exploited good blocking to break off a big run. He scored a touchdown late in the third quarter with a decisive cut, fighting through traffic and finishing in the red zone. It was called back for a hold by Nick Harris but it was no less impressive from Kelly.

He finished with 102 yards on 15 carries. At 5-10 and 214lbs he’s pretty much in Seattle’s preferred ballpark for size. He did a terrific job during the week catching the football and running routes. He could be on the Seahawks’ radar as a potential replacement for C.J. Prosise.

Small-school safety impresses

Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger looked terrific on three impact plays. On one red zone session he matched up against tight end Adam Trautman (reportedly a second-round target for many teams). Dugger prevented Trautman making a difficult catch with tight coverage. Shortly after he delivered a brilliantly timed open-field tackle to prevent Trautman running in for a touchdown. Late in the game Dugger came up to the LOS and hammered Joshua Kelly on a third and 1 short of the line to gain to force fourth down.

Dugger is said to be a fantastic athlete and he thinks he can run in the 4.3’s at the combine. He’s driven, plays with attitude, is a fantastic special teams returner and just has that look in his eye. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being ranked quite highly on Seattle’s board.

The offensive tackles were a mess

Part of the reason why the other skill players were unable to get involved was the truly abysmal play of the offensive tackles — especially on the South roster.

It was painful watching Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton. He was a late call-up from the Shrine Game but he was beaten like a well-worn drum in this game, putting up barely any resistance. The North-squad pass-rusher’s were likely cueing up to have a go at him. It’s tough to switch straight from one all-star game to another.

He wasn’t alone though. Terence Steele struggled badly too as did Alex Taylor. There was one series where Steele and Taylor might as well have had a muleta on the field facing off against Joshua Uche and Bradlee Anae. I’m sure much of the reaction will be about how well both Uche and Anae played in this game. To be fair, they can only beat what they were up against. Yet had they propped up a pair of tackle dummies bookending the O-line it would’ve been a similar challenge.

The tackles on the south squad virtually destroyed the game for the entire roster. The quarterbacks couldn’t settle, they were hit frequently and nobody had a chance to shine.

At least the guards played well

Strangely though — as badly as the tackles played, I thought the interior line play was very impressive at times. In particular, it was a lot of fun watching Logan Stenberg and Lloyd Cushenberry working together at left guard and center respectively.

With 11:14 left in the first quarter, Stenberg handled Neville Gallimore. He placed his right hand to the outside shoulder and controlled the chest with his left hand, then flipped Gallimore and turned him to create a huge running lane on 3rd and 2 for Lamical Perine to get a first down. Cushenberry on the same snap let Jason Strowbridge take himself out of the play by being too aggressive, knocking him down and using his own momentum to send him to the turf. He then he progressed to the second level and took the linebacker out right at the line to gain. It was superb from both players.

On the next snap, Cushenberry blocked down on a screen then progressed to the second level with LSU team mate Damien Lewis, who sprung the key block. Stenberg handled Davon Hamilton at the LOS. Perine scored on the screen.

Stenberg had a key second-level block with 6:38 left in the first half. Harrison Bryant pulled inside to seal off one defender. Cushenberry had the block at the LOS. Between the three of them they created a huge running lane for a big gain.

With 14:27 left in the fourth quarter, Stenberg and Cushenberry combined again to create a massive lane up the middle. The full back ran through it to reach up to the second level, springing another big run.

Cushenberry in particular appeared in complete control. I’m not sure I saw a bad rep. Stenberg was impressive but seemed to play within himself. There was no hammering finish on any of his blocks like we saw at Kentucky. He did a good job getting to the second level frequently but needs to actually execute when he reaches up. Too often he was in position to make a big second-level connection and missed. Was he told to play with more control this week by coaches? He still played well — it just would’ve been nice to see the nasty edge he clearly has.

Stenberg’s still a player of major interest I think, along with other less-discussed prospects like Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland), Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan), Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia), Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State), Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU), Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina), Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU) and K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State). I would’ve added Brandon Aiyuk but he’s received a lot more publicity over the last seven days.

Aside from the holding call that took off the Joshua Kelly run I thought Nick Harris did a lot better in the game than he did in 1v1’s. In fairness to Harris, he also excelled in the scrimmages. He’s not going to block 1v1 at the next level and he looks the part when lined up in a full formation. Hakeem Adeniji had several really impressive blocks at guard. Ben Bredeson, like Harris, looked more comfortable in the game compared to a hit-and-miss time in 1v1’s.

Damien Lewis was impressive playing at right guard. Colt McKivitz looked good when he kicked inside. He absolutely destroyed a linebacker after reaching to the second level with 7:17 left in the game (the running back ended up fumbling on this snap). On the previous play he did a terrific job stoning a defensive lineman on a flea flicker. On this evidence a switch to guard could be a big option for McKivitz.

This week in Mobile has really flashed that there are some good interior offensive line options in this draft class.

Defensive linemen fail to spark

Anae and Uche had the flashy snaps mainly due to the horrendous tackle play — yet the rest of the D-line class struggled to make an impact. There was nobody who really stood out along the interior.

Even if we want to spend time considering Anae and Uche, let’s look at both players. Anae has 31 7/8 inch arms. We know by now the Seahawks don’t target defensive linemen without +33 inch arms. Length at defensive end is vital. Whether he has the quickness or twitch they also value is a major question mark. We’ll find out at the combine.

Uche is very athletic and he also has the arm length too (33 1/4 inch arms). However, we’re talking about a SAM linebacker who is 6-1 and 241lbs. He isn’t going to rush the edge frequently and be the solution to Seattle’s problems. Uche at best would be a situational rusher.

Reportedly he looked very comfortable dropping into coverage when taking part in the linebacker drills. He’s a terrific character and a leader. He’s a really good player. He isn’t going to solve Seattle’s pass rush issues though and taking a SAM linebacker early in the draft seems like a stretch. And before anyone points to Bruce Irvin — he might’ve ended up in that role but let’s remember two things. They drafted Irvin calling him the ideal LEO (speed, frame, length). He moved to SAM to get him on the field because it didn’t quite work out that way. Plus they needed to start Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

The Seahawks are almost certainly going to have to solve their pass rush crisis in free agency (where there are some good options) or via the trade market.

Anthony Gordon looks like a project

In terms of natural feel and arm-talent, the Washington State quarterback might’ve only been second to Justin Herbert in this game. He was composed, delivered an excellent scoring drive and has a lot of the tools you can work with. Somebody will take him to develop.

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Russell Wilson wants Seahawks to add ‘superstars’

January 24th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Everyone knows this is a big off-season for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll said only half-jokingly that he was going to be ‘recruiting’ during the Pro-Bowl (where he’s coaching the NFC players).

Even so, it’s interesting to see Russell Wilson talking publicly about the need to attack free agency.

Wilson told ESPN the following from the Pro-Bowl:

“I think we need a couple more (players)… I think we need a couple more. Jadeveon (Clowney) is a big-time guy that we would love to get back on our football team. He was so good in the locker room. He brought so many, just havoc plays to the field. Hopefully, we can get a few other players there on the defense. Then also on offense, we have a great offense, but I think we can always add more pieces. I think that’s going to be the part that’s going to be great with John Schneider and Pete, as well, in terms of this offseason’s free agency. Free agency is very, very key to getting those superstars on your team and try to get great players that can fill the space.”

The situation is summed up succinctly by Wilson. They need key additions. They’re not a million miles away from being a top contender. Yet they’re missing a blast of quality in key areas. They don’t have a good enough defensive line or pass rush. They might lose their one star on the D-line in Clowney. They could use a playmaker in the secondary. The offense could also do with a bit more help too.

How they go about adding that quality will be the interesting part.

They’ve endured a re-set but it’s time to jump through the Championship window. They have the ability to be bold with a strong cap situation and plenty of draft picks.

It’s a strong looking group of free agents on the defensive line. Among the top-ranked players for pass-rush win percentage in 2019, five are pending free agents (although that includes Jadeveon Clowney) and three (Shaquil Barrett plus Za’Darius and Preston Smith) were reasonable open market signings 12 months ago:

Robert Quinn 33%
TJ Watt 28%
DeMarcus Lawrence 27%
Myles Garrett 26%
Aaron Donald 25%
Joey Bosa 25%
Jadeveon Clowney 25%
Shaquil Barrett 25%
Dante Fowler 25%
Za’Darius Smith 23%
Preston Smith 23%
Grady Jarrett 22%
Chris Jones 19%

Of course, not all of the free agents will be available. Chris Jones is almost certain to be tagged by Kansas City. Reports this week suggested Jerry Jones is determined to keep Robert Quinn and apparently the feeling is mutual.

Fit is also important. Shaquil Barrett doesn’t have the length or profile Seattle usually goes for and while his production was excellent in 2019, he was playing in a much more aggressive, blitzing defense under Todd Bowles. In fact Barrett blitzed more times than any other player in the NFL this season — 176 times. That was 26 times more than second placed Matt Judon and 61 times more than Kyle Van Noy.

There’s a significant difference between Bowles’ scheme and Seattle’s preference to be effective rushing with four.

This is why Seattle needs genuine top talents on their defensive line. For years they had Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. If they retain Jadeveon Clowney, that will solve one position. He’ll need a partner though. They hoped Ziggy Ansah could be the man in 2019. Now, they need to land someone who will deliver.

Having further studied this draft class during the Senior Bowl, I’m more convinced than ever that pick #27 could be used in a trade. The options at the end of round one do not look particularly strong at this point. As always, the combine can and will change things.

It would be nice to have the option to tap into the strong receiver and O-line classes if possible with the first pick. However, first and foremost they have to solve the pass rush dilemma. If they want to rush with four, they need Clowney and one other. They need their 2020 answer to Bennett and Avril.

The positive with a trade is you might be able to get value for money. We discussed Von Miller as a possibility two weeks ago. Trading #27 for him is expensive yet his salary — $14m in 2020 — would be considerably less than you might have to spend for a lesser player in free agency. Clowney + Miller would be adding the superstars Wilson speaks about and the Seahawks could legitimately rush with four next season.

Such a move could leave enough cap space to re-sign George Fant and add Austin Hooper. You’d have two second round picks, a third rounder and two fourth rounders to address other remaining needs on the defense and at receiver/O-line.

Of course, this would depend on Denver (or anyone else) being willing to trade a star pass rusher. That simply might not be possible.

In that instance you have to look at free agency.

Over the cap has projected salary costs for some of the top free agents. Here’s a collection of names we’ve discussed. The number is the projected APY or, in the case of Jarran Reed, how much he can expect to earn on a one-year prove-it deal.

Jadeveon Clowney — $21m
Yannick Ngakoue — $19.5m
Arik Armstead — $17.5m
Austin Hooper — $10.13m
Karl Joseph — $4m
Robert Quinn — $10m
Jarran Reed — $10m

Interestingly they didn’t provide a figure for Dante Fowler, who we’ve presumed would earn big money. He could be a strong option as a quick pass rusher with the arm length they like. He had a productive 2019 season. We’ve also discussed Arik Armstead as an interior alternative.

Anthony Treash at PFF listed both players in a group of ‘free agents who carry the most risk’:

EDGE DANTE FOWLER JR.
As said previously, never trust the sack numbers. Fowler had the best season of his four-year career in 2019, producing a 73.4 pass-rush grade that ranks 31st among qualifying edge defenders. Fowler has gathered up the sixth most sacks (15) while ranking 38th in win rate and 20th in pressure rate. Not to mention, he had the second most pressures that were cleanups or pursuits. His pressure rate this year was over three percentage points higher than we have seen from him in a single season. Fowler is likely going to get overpaid based on the 2019 sack numbers, but that’s not to say he isn’t a good player — he’ll be a good addition to a pass-rush unit if a team can get him for the right price.

EDGE ARIK ARMSTEAD
For the third time now, never trust the sack numbers. Armstead has had a career year in 2019, producing an elite 90.0 PFF grade that ranks third among edge defenders. His run defense has been admittingly great, as his grade in that facet is the fourth best. His pass-rushing has been good, but not quite as good as some may think. His 76.1 pass-rushing grade is a career-high and ranks 25th in the NFL. Similar to Dupree, his 13 sacks has him on his way to earning a projected five-year, $85 million contract with $45 million guaranteed per OverTheCap. Despite producing the ninth most sacks, Armstead ties for 33rd in pressure rate. He has won on 17.2% of his total pass-rush reps, which ranks 17th, but this shouldn’t justify making him the fifth highest-paid edge defender in the NFL. All this being said, Armstead is not on the same level of risk as (Bud) Dupree — he has been one of the top 20 most valuable edge defenders in each of the past two seasons, but again, is not worth what he will be paid. If the cost is high for Armstead — like it’ll almost certainly be — stay away.

In both instances it seems the write-up is weighted negatively to fit a piece that is seeking to identify ‘risky’ free agents. In fact Treash admits it’s not that Fowler and Armstead are bad players — it’s simply a case that they might be overpaid. It’s also perfectly plausible that both players are rounding into a peak. After all, they’re only 25 and 26-years-old respectively.

Are either ‘superstars’ though? When Calais Campbell reached free agency in 2017, to me he was a legit ‘superstar’. The Jaguars signed him, he’s been immensely productive for three years and they came within a whisker of reaching a Super Bowl two seasons ago. How things could’ve been different had Seattle possessed the resources to acquire a player they clearly have a massive amount of admiration for.

If you look at PFF’s free agent rankings, the top defensive line ‘superstar’ is probably Clowney. Chris Jones won’t reach the market. Yannick Ngakoue probably will be tagged, although he might be available via trade afterwards. There’s a lot of depth on the D-line set to reach the market but not many true stars. In fact the ‘star’ talent is probably reserved for Clowney, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green (who will probably be tagged) and maybe Anthony Harris plus the quarterbacks.

For that reason, again, the trade market possibly comes into play.

It also could be that Seattle’s big splash comes out of left field. Who thought they would trade for Percy Harvin and have enough room to add Bennett and Avril in 2013? Who thought they’d be able to land Clowney and Quandre Diggs this time last year for a third and a fifth round pick? It’s worth looking at the teams with cap issues to see potential cuts or possible trade targets.

Minnesota is nearly $10m over the cap for 2020. They will have to make savings, particularly if they want to keep Anthony Harris. It’s almost certain Everson Griffen will be cut. He’s a strong option for Seattle, albeit as a short term measure. It’s not improbable that they’d retain Clowney, sign Griffen and then draft someone like Julian Okwara to try and solve the pass rush issue (whether this would be adequate is another question). Minnesota is a definite team to monitor though. They need to make multiple savings and don’t have much wiggle room even if they cut Griffen. Keep an eye on Stefon Diggs and maybe even Harrison Smith.

Jacksonville is only $34,754 under the cap for 2020. It’d be nice to say that could make Calais Campbell available (they’d save $15m by moving him) but Marcell Dareus ($20m saving), A.J. Bouye ($11m saving), Marquise Lee ($5m saving), Brandon Linder ($8m saving), D.J. Hayden ($6m saving), Jake Ryan ($5.5m saving), Abry Jones ($4m saving), Geoff Swaim ($3.75m saving) and Chris Conley ($2m saving) are all more likely to be cut or traded.

The Saints need cap space and have traded with Seattle before (Jimmy Graham) but there are no obvious targets on their roster that make financial sense for either team. The same goes for the Bears, Steelers and Falcons.

If the Redskins draft Chase Young as expected, they might be willing to consider trading Ryan Kerrigan ($11.6m cap hit in 2020). We’ll also see if the Jets consider dealing Jamal Adams, what the future is for Odell Beckham Jr in Cleveland and whether O.J. Howard and David Njoku become available. Joey Bosa appears to be setting the table to leave the Chargers but it’s extremely unlikely they’d entertain trading their best player just as they move into the new stadium. It’s possible some of the tagged players are targeted but that would be expensive (picks + a huge salary).

Off-season’s have never been boring during the Carroll era. Even over the last two years when they’ve had minimal cap space and hardly any draft picks — they still parted with key players, extended contracts for Wilson and Wagner and traded Frank Clark. They’ve traded for Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. At other times they’ve been aggressive to add Duane Brown and Sheldon Richardson and struck gold by trading for Marshawn Lynch. Most recently they traded for Clowney and Diggs.

They will get things done. They will likely heed Wilson’s words this week and add their superstars. We just need to see how the puzzle fits together.

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Senior Bowl day three & thoughts on Austin Hooper

January 23rd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Today’s practise at the Senior Bowl has been moved indoors due to bad weather. The extremely limited coverage on the NFL Network could be non-existent today as a consequence.

For that reason I wanted to spend a bit more time discussing yesterday’s report from Tony Pauline regarding Austin Hooper:

“Austin Hooper is another soon-to-be free agent tight end who is expected to sign a big contract once the frenzy begins. Where could Hooper land?

“Speculation here in Mobile says the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are teams expected to court Hooper. Don’t leave out the Washington Redskins, who may be ready to move on from Jordan Reed who has struggled with injuries.”

It’s not a surprise that the Seahawks are among the teams listed with apparent interest. They will add a tight end at some point during the off-season.

Will Dissly has suffered two serious injuries in just over a year. As talented as Dissly is, they’re in a position now of needing to find out whether he can stay healthy.

Ed Dickson will be cut, freeing up $3m in cap space. Jacob Hollister and Tyrone Swoopes are the only other tight ends on the roster. Hollister is a restricted free agent and Swoopes an exclusive rights free agent. They’d presumably have interest in bringing back Hollister — but not as TE1 or TE2.

Seattle’s offense felt the loss of Dissly. It’s in part why they went out and signed Josh Gordon. They need a safety net and a dynamic target, especially for key third downs.

There are options in the draft but it isn’t a strong class of tight end’s. We’ll need to see how the group measures and works out at the combine to get a full reading of the realistic options. However, this is a strong draft class for wide receiver’s and offensive linemen. It might be wise to try and address other needs (D-line, tight end) in free agency to max out the potential of the 2020 draft class.

The Seahawks have a history of making a splash at the tight end position. They made a bold move to sign Zach Miller to a big contract in 2011. They then traded a first round pick for Jimmy Graham in 2015. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they made another big move in free agency for someone like Austin Hooper.

So why is he a realistic target?

Firstly, let’s talk about the player. At the mid-way point of the 2019 season he was one of the few bright spots for the Falcons. As Oliver Hodgkinson notes, he was performing as one of the top tight end’s in the league by week six.

An injury and missing three games stalled some of his progress but he still finished the season with a strong stat line of 75 receptions, 787 yards, six touchdowns, 96 targets, 313 yards after the catch and 41 first downs in 2019. He only dropped one pass all season and averaged 60.5 yards per game.

He’s been a consistent reliable target throughout his time in Atlanta. You can often learn a lot from how fans feel about a player. Cory Woodroof wrote this piece for the Falcoholic, suggesting it would be a “colossal mistake” to lose Hooper in free agency.

The problem for Atlanta is cap space. They’re currently projected to have $7.5m available in 2020. Yet unlike the Jaguars (who can cut Marcell Dareus and create $20m immediately), there’s no obvious way to create room.

They’ve paid a lot of players but the structure of the contracts is hampering their flexibility. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Desmond Trufant are all on big money. Yet their middle class is also handsomely paid.

For example, Devonta Freeman’s cap hit in 2020 is $9.5m. Yet the structure of the deal means they’d have to eat $6m in dead salary to cut or trade him. There’s virtually no saving. James Carpenter’s cap hit in 2020 is $5.1m. The dead salary hit is $4.1m. If they cut Freeman and Carpenter they only save $4m and both players would need to be replaced.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to pump up the middle class of your roster — but you have to create contracts that enable you to move on when needs be.

The two big ways they can save money is to trade or cut top center Alex Mack ($8m saving) or cut/trade Keanu Neal ($6.4m saving). Again though — both players would need to be replaced and you’re talking about two players you’d rather keep.

They are stuck in a situation of having to make a judgement call on Hooper. They can’t really transition or franchise tag him because it would cost +$8m or +$10m respectively. So they have to decide is he so good that they can afford to lose a player like Mack or Neal in order to keep him?

I suspect they will move on. Throughout Matt Ryan’s career he’s done an excellent job with any tight end he’s been given to work with — whether it’s a Hall of Fame talent like Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo, Jacob Tamme or Hooper. Considering they have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley at receiver, they might feel like they can plug in a cheap replacement and succeed without needing to gut their roster.

ESPN’s Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure expects Hooper to leave Atlanta:

“The Falcons, with so much money tied up in top players such as Ryan, Julio Jones, Jarrett, and Deion Jones, will pass on signing Hooper to a lucrative extension and let him sign elsewhere. And Hooper will exceed $10 million per year with his new team. Meanwhile, the Falcons will see what they have in Jaeden Graham, who filled in nicely when Hooper was hurt this past season and is due to make $585,000 in 2020. The Falcons also will look hard at the draft class to find a potential pass-catching threat.”

So while the Los Angeles Chargers have the flexibility to tag Hunter Henry if they wish and keep him from reaching the market, the Falcons will likely allow Hooper to become a free agent.

As mentioned, the Seahawks have placed a high value on the tight end position. Hooper also fits what they look for. He’s a good blocker and a useful receiver. He’s well sized at 6-4 and 254lbs and can line-up in any formation. He has the length they crave (34 inch arms) and he has the agility they like.

The three cone and short shuttle appear to be important tests for the Seahawks and tight end’s. Here’s the evidence based on the player’s they’ve acquired in the Pete Carroll era:

Short shuttle times

Luke Willson — 4.29 at pro-day
Will Dissly — 4.40 (8th best in 2018)
Nick Vannett — 4.20 (2nd best in 2016)
Anthony McCoy — 4.57
Zach Miller — 4.42
Jimmy Graham — 4.45

Hooper ran a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. Physically he ticks every box and he has the production, versatility and age to appeal as a big free agent target.

It won’t be a surprise if they’re willing to pay a salary towards the top-end of the market — around $10m a year. They will have a limit, of course, and Carroll may well be attempting a recruitment job on Hooper at the Pro-Bowl this week to aid any future negotiations.

It would be a competitive market though. The weak draft class at tight end and the likelihood of Hunter Henry not reaching free agency would make Hooper one of the star attractions. He’s only just turned 25, he blocks well and he’s a dynamic target as a receiver. He might not be Travis Kelce or George Kittle but he’d be in the next tier.

The Cardinals have $51m to spend in 2020 currently but have very little scope to create more. They should focus on rebuilding their offensive line but might feel the addition of a top tight end will do just as much for Kyler Murray’s development. The Packers have $29m to spend but can create $8m more by cutting Jimmy Graham. They could simply transfer Graham’s salary to Hooper.

Pauline noted the Redskins too. Ron Rivera knows the value of a good tight end. Greg Olsen was a huge part of his success in Carolina. Washington has $46m to spend and can easily create more. Cutting Josh Norman would save $12m, trading Trent Williams would save $12.5m, trading Ryan Kerrigan would save $11.6m and cutting Jordan Reed would save $8.5m.

If there’s a team who could really make a big pitch for Hooper — it’s Washington. Whether Rivera is capable of diluting some of the Redskins’ reputation for being a lousy organisation remains to be seen. They are in a strong position to be very aggressive in free agency though, especially as they start a new era.

The Seahawks are in a strong position too of course — with a healthy $69m in cap space projected overall and the ability to create more. They also have the offer of Russell Wilson and a much more positive organisational structure.

Yes — the big need is defensive line. It’s not the only need though. They have the cap flexibility to make multiple moves this year. This isn’t going to be a one or two player fix. Carroll is at the Pro-Bowl for a reason. He knows they need an injection of talent onto the roster and this is likely to be the busiest Seattle has been in a long time in terms of talent acquisition.

If they can add to their D-line and the tight end position before the draft, it’ll free them up to really tap into the strength of the 2020 class. They can get a receiver, some offensive line help and maybe add even more to the defense.

This doesn’t mean Hooper is the only option. Let’s see if a trade market emerges for players like O.J. Howard, David Njoku and maybe even Evan Engram. Howard and Engram would likely cost high picks however plus the inevitable large extension. The benefit with Hooper is you’re not paying out twice (draft + salary) and he has better production and consistency in the NFL.

Amid a likely influx of D-line additions, there is room for a tight end signing. Hooper is a strong option for the Seahawks and one to monitor.

Gregg Rosenthal posted a top-25 list of pending free agents recently. Hooper just missed the cut, along with Dante Fowler and Arik Armstead. All three could be strong options for Seattle.

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s big review of days one and two at the Senior Bowl. Here are some notes from day two’s drills (video below).

North team

The first rep is a reasonable job by Colt McKivitz. He plays inside/out against Joshu Uche and forces him wide. As a tackle sometimes you’ve just got to make the pass rusher take the longest route to the quarterback and it’s up to the QB to get the ball out.

Neville Gallimore is held at bay on the second rep by Hakeem Adeniji. The two shared another rep later in the video and Adeniji won again. Then it’s the return of the Jason Stowbridge show. He just beats Nick Harris with a swipe to the left shoulder to create separation and then he uses his speed to burst into the backfield. Stowbridge has boosted his stock this week.

Then McKivitz handles Carter Coughlin of Minnesota with a nice punch and control. Darrion Daniels does well to leverage Jonah Jackson back into the pocket before Larrell Murchison beats Matt Hennessy with a nice spin move and whipped him again later in the video. Ben Bredeson’s first rep at 1:15 is reasonable. He could do with planting the anchor though because he cedes too much ground, even if the stays in front and in some control.

At 1:23 Josh Jones is blasted backwards by Alton Robinson. He does well to recover but when you’re driven deep into your own backfield on initial contact you’re clinging on by that point.

Hennessy’s second rep, this time against Davon Hamilton, is better. He keeps his feet moving and balanced and controls the block. Nick Harris struggles on the next rep and is driven backwards into the QB’s lap. Harris struggled in 1v1’s yesterday but looked a lot more comfortable during scrimmage.

Matt Peart’s hand placement is still wrong. He’s too wide and grabbing on the outside shoulder. He will be penalised for holding too often and can’t engage properly with this poor technique.

Charlie Heck has struggled this week and his battle against Joshua Uche was a cake-walk for the Michigan man. Uche set him up with the threat of a speed rush to the outside and Heck gave up the inside with no resistance. His footwork is poor and he doesn’t engage. It’s too easy.

On the final rep, Kenny Willekes beats McKivitz with a nice dip and bend.

South team

Logan Stenberg dominates Robert Windsor (as he has done all week) on the first rep. Stenberg just looks the part and would be a great fit at left or right guard.

Javon Kinlaw slips on the second rep but gathers himself and beats Lloyd Cushenberry on the next go-around. He limped back to the line though. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.

John Simpson plants Josiah Coatney into the grand on the next rep. They run it again and it’s another win for Simpson, this time controlling Coatney comfortably.

Calvin Throckmorton has just arrived in Mobile after attending the Shrine Game and he gives up an easy inside-counter to Jonathan Greenard on his first rep. Then Jabari Zuniga takes a long path to the QB but still does a good job rounding Terence Steele. They replay the rep and this time Steele wins easily. Zuniga offers no counter and can’t disengage.

Logan Stenberg then demolishes Trevis Gipson. This is such a smart rep from Stenberg. He knows Gipson is light and will try to use his speed. So he anticipates contact. He locks on and uses Gipson’s own momentum to send him to the turf. This is so positive — knowing the situation, what kind of rush to expect, how to handle it and executing.

They then replay the rep and Gipson tries to run to the outside. Stenberg just stones him with power and control. If someone said Stenberg ended up sneaking into round one, I wouldn’t have an issue with it.

Cushenberry has a good rep against Benito Jones to follow before John Simpson loses the rematch with Josiah Coatney. Throckmorton’s second rep against DJ Wonnum is a lot better. He reads the outside rush and runs him out of the play. They give him a second rep and the same thing happens.

Alex Taylor does a good job handling Jonathan Greenard before Damien Lewis equally beats Jabari Zuniga. They replay the Lewis vs Zuniga match-up and Lewis dumps him on his backside. This was not a good look for Zuniga at all. TKO to Lewis. They give Zuniga a third rep and again Lewis handles him. What a beating.

Day three notes

Due to the poor weather in Mobile the practise took place indoors. That meant even more limited TV coverage today. Here are some brief notes.

Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones is a bit overrated. All week people have been hyping him up but his performance on the field hasn’t lived up to the chatter. Today, for the first time, he looked comfortable and talented.

That’s fine, of course. You want to see players reach a crescendo at the end of the week and take on coaching. The two reps below are much better examples of tackle play.

Nobody has done this to Jason Strowbridge this week until now:

For once, at last, someone locks on and connects with Strowbridge and handles him. Strowbridge lacks length and on tape his hand-usage was poor. He’s won with quickness all week but here Jones just gets his hands in the right the place, contains Strowbridge and when he tries to disengage desperately, he’s dumped on his arse.

The next rep was just as good:

Here he mirrors superbly. Strowbridge doesn’t even try to engage. He’s swiping at Jones before contact is even made. All Jones does is sit in position and wait for his moment to strike. Once he lands his hands on the frame it’s over. Textbook. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely rubbish from Strowbridge and highlights a major flaw in his technique and tempers some of the hype he’s received this week. This is the reality with him. Poor hand use and short arms. Yet Jones took him on and showed well.

You need to see every rep though, because here’s Jones kicked into guard versus Neville Gallimore:

Jones isn’t a guard but still. The angles are different but he’s driven backwards fairly easily.

Gallimore has had good and bad moments this week. This is a good rep against Matt Hennessy (who also had good and bad moments):

He’s too quick and attacks the outside shoulder. Hennessy has to play defense and Gallimore has the position to do whatever he wants. Drive the blocker into the QB or try and disengage.

K.J. Hill had the nicest one-handed catch of the week:

Hill has excellent agility and quick feet and will run a superb short shuttle at the combine. The big questions with him are consistency and long speed.

I’ve not seen much of Denzel Mims working out because nobody’s seen much of practise outside of Mobile. However, he’s received rave reviews for his play. He’s a high-point, contested catch specialist:

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