Instant reaction: The real Seahawks stand up

September 18th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks celebrated.

And boy, did they celebrate.

The memes. The graphics. The GIF’s. The post-game interviews.

The former team mates gloating.

The smiles, the jubilation.

Nobody thought we could win this game!’

It all felt a bit much for 1/17th of the regular season.

I appreciate it was a big game with meaning. The NFL schedule-makers played a blinder. Russell Wilson’s return was always going to be billed as more than just a game.

I didn’t quite expect the Seahawks to treat it as such, though.

Not to the extent they did.

The push-back for my video in the week wasn’t particularly well received. I wanted to beat the Niners. They’re a fun team to beat.

The risk of an emotional let down was always high after a Monday night opener. Yet it felt the Seahawks, as I said, turned a victory lap into a victory mile.

My fear wasn’t a let-down performance, rather than a melt-down.

Or a beat-down.

And that’s what happened.

The 27-7 scoreline made this one look better than it was.

This was a thoroughly miserable experience.

The tackling was generally awful on defense again. There were blown coverages. A lot of the same defensive issues we’ve seen in previous years were present once more. There’s no obvious pass-rushing plan and players you want to see step up (Darrell Taylor) aren’t getting it done.

On offense, they’ve now not scored a single point in six quarters. That first-half flourish against Denver looks like a mirage. It appears to be the benefit of weeks of scripting and preparing — or Denver being rubbish. Maybe both.

The Seahawks came into the season with Pete Carroll declaring they were ‘going to run the heck out of the ball’. Two games in and they can’t run. Teams don’t respect the pass, they load up the box and attack. All very predictable.

Geno Smith can complete the odd pass but, remarkably, he is still Geno Smith. They also seemingly have no idea — short of a miraculous trick-play that was brought back due to a rookie error — how to game-plan D.K. Metcalf into relevance.

When they get into the red zone, they opt to run back-to-back ‘wildcat’ snaps and ask Deejay Dallas to throw the ball (with a predictable result).

I’ve said countless times this year. My expectations couldn’t be lower for the 2022 season. But can we please avoid nonsense like that trick play?

It was embarrassingly bad.

I’m ready for a basic brand of football. I can live with Pete-ball.

But let’s actually do it.

And as part of the bargain — the bargain that means low expectations — I want to avoid dumb decisions, missed tackles, ill-disciplined and ill-timed penalties, I want to see something that resembles ‘different’ on defense and signs of development.

I don’t want to see Nick Bosa unblocked over and over again (whose idea was that?).

I suppose you could cling to a silver-lining that it could’ve been worse. Certainly, there’s absolutely no justification that a blocked field goal could get the Seahawks back in this game. Yet San Francisco’s inability to finish things earlier kept things somewhat alive.

But there’s no hope — none — that when this team puts itself in a hole they’ll be able on offense to claw things back.

It’s also a legit concern that an offense looking this bad will develop anyone.

They finished with 210 total yards — 38 of which came in garbage time at the end. A further 56 yards came in garbage time at the end of the first half. Theoretically, they produced the grand total of 116 meaningful yards today.

Losing this game isn’t the problem. Losing this way kind of is.

They wrote me off, I aint write back though

Nobody thought we could win this game

The Seahawks might’ve won the only game they really care about in week one. This afternoon in California was a glimpse into the future. What we will need to endure for most of 2022.

I’m ready for it. Are others?

And if we’re going to do this, can we have honest and open conversations about it along the way? Because it’s not just about getting through one year. It’s about whether the people building this team, organising this team, putting this together are truly right for the task.

A performance like this, for me, makes it a conversation we should have as we go along.

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click the tab below)

Become a Patron!

 

Curtis Allen’s week two watchpoints (vs San Francisco)

September 18th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen. After the game today tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

Fact:  Pete Carroll has never had a losing season against the NFC West in his Seahawks tenure.

How has he been able to maintain such an impressive stretch of success?  Answer:  He gets to play the San Francisco 49ers twice a year.

Every team has a nemesis and Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have been the Niners’ kryptonite for a whole decade.  In their last 20 matchups, the Seahawks have won an incredible 17 of those games.

And what is more –  the three losses?

One was by two points.

Another was by three points in overtime.

The third?  By 5 points.  But really, it was more like 5 inches.

It is as good a record of success in a head-to-head matchup over a ten-year period as any we are likely to see.  And 49er fans know it.

A brief anecdote, if you will allow it.  I was able to fly to San Francisco for the Week 10 Monday Night game in 2019.  The Niners were 8-0 and were delivering on their promise after a 4-12 season the year prior.  The Seahawks were 7-2 and needed to win to keep pace.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric.  Both teams came to play.  

As you recall, it was a game of punches and counterpunches.  The Seahawk offense sputtered early but were gifted 7 points by Jadeveon Clowney recovering a fumble for a touchdown.  

The Niners responded by stripping D.K. Metcalf of the ball at the 1-yard line as he reached for the goal line.  And so on and so forth.

They had a replacement kicker who heroically tied the game with a clutch field goal as time expired, then blew a chance to win the game in overtime with the worst kick I have ever seen in person.

After that, everyone in the stadium knew what was coming next.  But they were forced to watch it unfold and could not look away.  Russell Wilson led a game-winning drive that slowly drained the life out of the home fans in the stadium like Chinese water torture.  As Jason Meyers kicked the winning field goal, Wilson and the Seahawks danced on the field in delight.

A perfect season, a chance to put the division in a headlock and for one moment the golden opportunity to finally wipe the smug smile off that gum-chewing so-and-so’s face had been snatched from them in painful fashion.

It just became too much to bear for one Niner fan exiting the stadium.  He was quietly walking by himself a few steps in front of my friends and I, shoulders slumped in exhausted grief.  Then, out of nowhere, he decided he had had enough.  With an energy that came from deep down inside, he mustered everything he had and shouted with all his might “F*** PETE CARROLL !!” at the top of his lungs into the void.  He took a breath, slumped his shoulders once again and resumed walking quietly.

Causing that kind of existential dread in your opponent’s fanbase is not something that happens every day.  The Seahawks need to do their level best keep making Niner fans shaking their heads well into 2023.

While the Seahawks have been typically dominated by the Rams and split with the Cardinals, seeing the 49ers on the schedule – even with the talent on their roster and in the coaches’ room – is a welcome sight.  If the Seahawks want to keep that division record streak alive, they are going to have to win Sunday.  Which begs the question…

How Have They Been Doing It?

Oddly enough the Niners had a near-identical performance in a loss against Chicago in Week One that Denver had against the Seahawks.  Both the Broncos and the Niners:

-Ran the ball effectively

-Outgained their opponent by over 100 yards

-Possessed the ball almost exactly 7 minutes more than their opponent

-Converted nearly 50% of their third downs

Those are normally the prime ingredients of a solid win.  How did they both lose their games then?  

They both:

-Got flagged an ugly 12 times

-Gave up a busted-coverage touchdown from a quarterback scrambling

-Lost the turnover battle 2-1

That is precisely how the Seahawks beat Denver on Monday and how Chicago beat San Francisco on Sunday.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is in one snapshot exactly why the Seahawks are 5-1 against the Niners in their last six games.

San Francisco has consistently outgained the Seahawks in yards.  They have also accrued more penalties and turned the ball over more times than the Seahawks have.

This, oddly enough, is where the Seahawks’ defensive formula of conceding a ton of yards, keeping the game in front of them and stiffening in the red zone works for them.  The opposing offense is on the field so often, they are bound to make a mistake sooner or later, be it by running out of downs, taking a drive-killing penalty or committing a turnover.

That is why Jimmy Garoppolo is on the bench in favor of Trey Lance.  Until Trey Lance matures, forcing him into a place where he cannot make many explosive plays, so rather he needs to make very good decisions play after play after play will continue to be an important part of their success.

Of course, it only works to their advantage if the Seahawks continue to play a cleaner game than the Niners…

Play Smart

They beat Denver Monday by being far better in this area.  But let’s be right:  Denver set a low, low bar.  Between twelve flags, two back-breaking turnovers, some bad Russell Wilson throws and a bone-headed decision to try an NFL-record field goal instead of giving your new quarterback a chance to be the hero, it would be easy to overlook the areas where the Seahawks need to improve.

D.K. Metcalf had a fumble that Denver recovered.  Rashaad Penny got stripped at the end of a brilliant run (thankfully Austin Blythe was hustling downfield and fell on the ball).  Geno Smith got strip-sacked and the Seahawks recovered the ball.  He also did not execute a quarterback sneak very well on 4th and inches.  Tariq Woolen gave up 52 yards on two pass interference flags.  Both safeties had chances to intercept the ball and failed to make the game-changing play.

There are many opportunities for improvement.

And not to hammer the obvious once again but when you do not have a field-tilting franchise quarterback who can pull the game out late in the fourth quarter to cover over all those early-game mistakes, the impact of those bad plays is magnified.

They will need to be sharper on both sides of the ball if they are to beat San Francisco Sunday.

As well they will need a real commitment to being the superior ground team…

Beat Them On the Ground

The Seahawks have consistently been the better team in their matchup when it comes to running the football.  While San Francisco has gotten more yards in the passing game (and therefore more overall yards), the Seahawks have been consistently been able to stick it to them by running the ball far more effectively.

How much better?  In those last 6 games they have on average run for 30 more yards than the Niners.  They have topped 100 yards rushing as a team in all 6 of those games, whereas San Francisco has only been able to do it twice.

Both teams are seriously committed to the run game.  There really is no difference in how often they choose to run when playing each other.  The Seahawks have just been more efficient, and therefore better, running an average of 4.25 yards per carry, where the Niners can only muster 3.75 yards.

This is where their model really works.  30 more yards rushing than your opponent in every game means more possession time.  Which puts more pressure on the Niner offense to move down the field quickly when they finally do get the ball.  Which is all the more frustrating when the Seahawks have built a defense to not get built deep and forces you to eat clock while you dink and dunk down the field.  Which the Niners have struggled to do without a top quarterback at the helm.  It is like being slowly suffocated by a snake coiled around its prey.

It is a trap that the Niners fall into time and time again.

Of course, there is no assurance the Seahawks will be able to do this again on Sunday.  They have to earn it.

Rashaad Penny at times looked like he was just a break here or there from resuming his torrid play on Monday.  However, the Seahawks only gave him 12 carries against the Broncos.  While he did get 60 yards, they were hard earned.  Penny only recorded 11 total yards before contact.  That means on overage he had less than a yard per carry before he was contacted by a defender.  Denver did an excellent job on the interior of the line keeping Penny from getting into gear.

It may be tough sledding again this week.  David Montgomery is a good inside runner and could not get much going against the Niner defense.  On the bright side, perhaps the Seahawks will get Damien Lewis and Ken Walker back from injury this week.

Whatever the case, the Seahawk offense is going to really need the running game to be effective.

On the flip side, that also means containing the Niners’ run game.

Elijah Mitchell will not play Sunday after sustaining an injury.  That likely means that Deebo Samuel and Trey Lance will be the focus of their ground game.

Let’s look at Deebo’s carries Sunday against the Bears.  What do you see from his run chart?  He was primarily attacking the edges of the defense:

If they want to continue that trend, that is going to be a real challenge for the Seahawks . 

Pete Carroll identified that on Wednesday when asked about defending the run against Denver:

“We were not consistent.  We gave up too many plays on the edge and it wasn’t as good as it needed to be.”  

His body language, short answer and wanting to move along to the next question said more than his words did.  He expected better play there on Monday.

Samuel is so hard to defend in the run game because of his unique blend of speed and toughness.  Watch him get to the edge Sunday before Al-Quadin Muhammad – who practically has a free release – can even get set (and give Eddie Jackson a serious pop at the goal line just for good measure).

This is where the change to a 3-4 defense really needs to work.  In a 4-3 the edge players are bigger and more physical.  In the 3-4 they are quicker to get to the outside and keep the runners from exploiting those wide edges like Samuel did on that touchdown run.  Nwosu, Taylor, and Mafe will need to have an active game and help reroute runners inside where players like Jordyn Brooks are waiting for them.

Thankfully, they will get some edge support from the corners in the running game.  Watch Tariq Woolen knock KJ Hamler on his butt and show no hesitance about going head on with Javonte Williams on Monday.

I am delighted that the hard-nosed physicality I saw in Woolen in practice is showing up when the games count.  The defense definitely showed more intensity Monday night than we saw in 2021.  Here is hoping it continues.

What about Trey Lance’s rushes?  He had 13 of the Niners’ 37 rushes on Sunday.  Six of those rushes gained first downs for the offense.  I watched them all.  I would say half those runs were scrambles to escape pressure, a quarter were designed runs, and the rest were ‘if your first read is not there and there is an opening, go’ type options.

This was his first game as the unquestioned starter and with the inclement weather, Kyle Shanahan gave him a simpler plan to work with.  He took 51 of the 67 snaps from shotgun formation and Shanahan called for several quick throws and the option to take off and run.

The inside defensive lineman must be effective in order to defend Lance.  If they keep him hemmed in, his inexperience may really shine through if his first read is not available and there is no hole to escape to.  More than once on Sunday the Bears were able to frustrate him into dumping the ball off for minimal gains or poor off-schedule throws that missed their target (9 of his 28 throws were classed Bad Throws by PFR).

Again, this is where the 3 of the 3-4 should be advantageous.  Al Woods, Poona Ford, Bryan Mone and Quentin Jefferson should be able to control the gaps.  They did not accomplish this very well against the Broncos.  Their PFF scores for Monday were far below the standard they need to be.  Nobody broke a 60 in run defense or pass rushing except Mone who graded a 70, albeit in only 4 pass rush snaps.

The Seahawks have a fair chunk of cap invested there.  They need a better return on Sunday.

The front seven will need to be very, very sharp as a group.  Last Sunday, Samuel averaged 4.3 yards before contact on his runs.  Elijah Mitchell averaged 4.7.  Those are insane numbers.  The best full-time runners in the NFL usually average about 2.4-2.6 yards before contact over the season.

They demonstrate the blocking and scheming prowess that Kyle Shanahan and the offensive line bring to the table.

A reasonable expectation would be the front seven cut those numbers in half.  While that seems to be a high bar to set, history tells us that Pete Carroll and the defense have not only been able to reach it against San Francisco but to clear it with room to spare.  Here is hoping they will be able to do that on Sunday and leave Niner fans in despair once again.

 

College football open thread & notes (week 3)

September 17th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Here are the games I am planning to watch over the weekend:

Youngstown vs Kentucky
UL Monroe vs Alabama
South Florida vs Florida
Miami vs Texas A&M
Washington vs Michigan State

Quarterback watch

Sadly I don’t have access to BYU vs Oregon but this is the game I wanted to watch (along with Miami vs Texas A&M). Jaren Hall doesn’t have the stature or the traits to warrant first round consideration. Yet there’s something about his game which is intriguing. I mentioned this week that some of his throws — in terms of loft, placement and touch — are reminiscent of Russell Wilson at Wisconsin.

He led his team to a big win against Baylor last week and Oregon will be a reasonable test on the road. I think if you’re looking for mid-round alternatives to the big name 2023 eligible QB’s, Hall is possibly the one to keep an eye on.

Will Levis shouldn’t have too much bother handling Youngstown and by the time I get home from work, he might already be sat on the bench relaxing. I’ll have the replay of Kentucky’s latest game to watch back at some point over the weekend to see if he can pad the stats and get into a good groove against an overmatched opponent.

It’ll be a similar story for Bryce Young as Alabama take on UL Monroe. I’ll watch that game until Young inevitably takes a seat.

South Florida vs Florida intrigues me because it’s a chance for Anthony Richardson to bounce back from the adversity of last week. I watched South Florida’s game against BYU this week to watch Jaren Hall and they were 28-0 down in the first quarter. Thus, this is the ideal chance for Richardson to hit back.

Tyler Van Dyke’s game against Texas A&M is box office viewing. The Aggies lost to Appalachian State last week and will be eager to bounce back. This is a team that has pumped resources into its facilities, Head Coach and recruiting class (they just had the best ever ranked recruiting class). Losing back-to-back games will be unfathomable. Yet Miami are sufficiently solid and have a top quarterback — so they have every chance to win (and TVD has ever chance to bolster his stock).

C.J. Stroud’s Ohio State face Toledo in another showcase for their talented QB. Can he throw some more of those gorgeous passes we saw last week?

The struggling Spencer Rattler, who should be off the NFL radar by this point, gets the pleasure of facing Georgia today. Is Stetson Bennett worthy of mid-to-late round consideration? He’s had a good start and while he lacks physical prowess, he’s more agile and shifty in the pocket than you realise.

UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson shouldn’t be troubled by South Alabama. There’s no game for Stanford and Tanner McKee — they next face Washington in a week. Arkansas and K.J. Jefferson should make short work of Missouri State.

I’ll have notes up on the blog ASAP. Also stay tuned for Curtis’ latest watch-notes on the Niners game.

And if you missed it yesterday, here’s my 49ers preview with the always brilliant Rob ‘Stats’ Guerrera…

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click the tab below)

Become a Patron!

 

Seahawks vs 49ers preview with Rob ‘Stats’ Guerrera

September 16th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

 

Some voiced concerns about Seahawks fandom

September 16th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s certainly not advisable to critique a fanbase. I’m going against my better judgement here and anticipate what the response will be.

But I kind of just want to say it anyway.

I think Seahawks fandom has become a little bit toxic.

I’ve said this a few times, especially when I’ve been joined by fellow Brit Adam Nathan on live streams. It feels very similar to Arsene Wenger’s final days as the manager of Premier League side Arsenal.

The fans were split between two camps — ‘Wenger IN’ and ‘Wenger OUT’.

It tore them apart, really. Everyone picked a side and went to war online.

It’s been four years since Wenger’s departure and Arsenal are only really starting to move on from the trauma.

I’m a little bit worried that something similar is brewing with Seahawks fans. Not that I expect to achieve anything to stop it by writing this opinion. I just wanted to share some thoughts on the matter.

I doubt things will ever get quite as bad as the Wenger situation. There does seem to be a split developing though between those viewing the Seahawks with a critical (not negative) eye and those who do not want to consider non-glowing viewpoints.

I’ve noticed it this week. There are a group of fans out there who seem to think anything short of constant praise and belief is a criminal offence.

Maybe it’s an overreaction based on my own experience? Perhaps. This is a short review of what has happened over the last year or so.

From 2020 onwards I was very critical of the direction of the Seahawks and anticipated a big problem with Russell Wilson was developing that would eventually lead to a split. This received a huge backlash, led to a ton of abuse including someone sending me the following message:

Hey rob. Your stupid is amazing. Don’t let your daughter to turn out same way otherwise she will become a prostitute. Even if you are stupid its not too late for your daughter.

People questioned my mental health. I had people threatening to hack my Twitter account. One guy spent several months emailing me abuse. I spent an age moderating the comments, which often led to further blowback when people accused me of being overly protective of my own views.

Then — the Wilson trade happened. I spoke positively about the fact a call had to be made one way or another for the franchise to move forwards — and it had been made. I jumped into the draft content and received a completely different, more positive, response. Then, after the 2022 draft, I gave the Seahawks a glowing review — including this video:

That A+ review of the draft class — even though I was personally not the biggest Charles Cross fan — gave me the most views my channel has had. I got a lot of positive feedback on the coverage of the draft and the look ahead to 2023 I’d already started.

During the pre-season, I thought areas of Seattle’s roster and their depth were exposed. I also thought they’d made poor use of their available cap space. So I talked about these issues. The abuse started to trickle back in.

It seemed to be forgotten that I’d said numerous times that I was just going to get what I could out of the 2022 season and enjoy it whenever possible. I had no expectations. I knew it was year-one of a rebuild. If watching the 2023 quarterback class was the most exciting part of the year, so be it.

I wasn’t writing-off the Seahawks. I just had incredibly low expectations. I think that was fair. I never once suggested I wanted them to tank. I simply didn’t want them to splurge resources on a mediocre QB (Mayfield, Garoppolo etc) to try and be a marginally better team.

They avoided that and I praised them for it.

I didn’t rate Geno Smith as a player and I still don’t think he will amount to much this season. I don’t wish him any ill-will or want him to fail. I simply have what I’d call a fair and hardly unique opinion based on what we’ve seen from him over the years.

Yet for some reason — this stance just earned the tag of ‘hater’ or ‘non-believer’.

I predicted a Seahawks win against the Broncos. They did win — but I haven’t really been able to enjoy any aspect of it because I’ve received a ton of messages suggesting I’m either disappointed they won or been proven wrong.

When I then voiced some modest concerns that so much had gone into that game that it had all the hallmarks of a classic emotional let-down against the Niners (and I love to beat the Niners and really want to do it again on Sunday) — the abuse started up once more.

Look at this thread on a Seahawks forum.

I know — the internet is full of stuff like this and I shouldn’t read too much into it. I’d also say — until you’ve experienced a four-page thread that is very personal about you (especially in relation to your fandom for a team and abilities) — it’s hard to realise how tricky it is to ignore.

Included in the thread, the following is suggested:

— I secretly want the team to fail
— That I have sour grapes because the team I follow religiously, won
— I don’t understand anything about the team
— I’m a ‘smarmy know-it-all douchnozzle’
— I have a vested interest in failure to justify calling my podcast ‘The Rebuild’
— All of my videos are ‘doom and gloom’ (see, A+ draft grade above)
— I think I’m smarter than everyone else
— I’m a mostly average football analyst
— When the Seahawks don’t draft the players I like, I hammer the team
— That I ban anyone who disagrees
— I was confident Geno Smith & Seattle had no chance vs Denver (see: prediction)
— I don’t mention the mistakes I make in the draft
— Apparently I get upset when people call me Rob ‘StaNton’
— I am a wanker

I had a lot of similar comments on the YouTube channel, although many of those preferred to question my fandom.

I don’t think any of this is particularly warranted. It’s also not my first rodeo. The job I do in broadcasting means a degree of abuse, assumptions, implied motives or agendas come with the territory. You’ll never please everybody.

I struggle with this a bit more, however, given ultimately this is a hobby. I am just a Seahawks fan with an interest in the draft who happens to also be an experienced journalist.

A lot of what is written above doesn’t resonate. I can live with name-calling as much as I can live with people not rating the blog or much enjoying it. I don’t think my videos are doom and gloom — I think I just give my opinion and it’s neither positive or negative. It can be either. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

I don’t think I’ve ever hammered the team for not drafting players I like. I’ve questioned and critiqued some decisions, which is fair given the run of drafts they had not so long ago. I’ve been more critical of the way they’ve approached free agency and the specific positions they’ve targeted in the draft. When I get things wrong, I always highlight it. I flat out apologised after the 2020 draft for not doing enough study on linebackers after they drafted Jordyn Brooks early — something I never anticipated.

I’ve defended the Dee Eskridge pick, despite a lot of people hating that selection. I think it’s obvious their drafting has been better recently.

I never want the team to fail. You don’t stay up until 5am on a Monday night/Tuesday morning to want your team to lose, just so you can ‘ya boo sucks’ everyone about Geno Smith.

The most successful period for this blog — financially and in terms of numbers — was 2013/14. It was also a period without much bickering or abuse. So I have no interest in the Seahawks being bad, either for the blog or for proving anyone wrong.

I don’t think I’m smarter than everyone else. I think I invest more time than most watching college football players and draft prospects and that enables me to have more informed opinions sometimes. But ultimately, I’ve never considered myself an ‘expert’ and that’s why, come draft time, I try to interview ‘experts’ who are in a better position to discuss certain topics.

I think getting big names like Scot McCloughan, Jim Nagy, Will Levis, Shelby Harris, Jim Leavitt, Tony Pauline and Mike Florio to talk is indicative of that desire to speak to more knowledgable people. Interviews with all are available on my YouTube channel and via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast.

I don’t think this is an ‘average’ place for draft coverage though. I think, while I’ll never get everything right (far from it) — I’ve had my fair share of success stories over the years and I do think this is a good resource for draft coverage and Seahawks opinions.

This has become a bit navel-gaze-y and about me but I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think something unsavoury is going on where a ‘with us or against us’ line is being drawn.

For example, I noticed over the last week how it seemed that some people completely turned on Russell Wilson.

Personally — I wouldn’t have booed him. Neither did I have any real issue with fans doing what they thought was best to help the team win on Monday.

Yet I’ve seen people start to imply things that simply don’t chime, then attack people for holding different (more positive) opinions.

Here’s a comment made on the blog earlier today:

I would disagree that ego has not prevented winning. I think it’s RW’s ego that urges him to dominate the defense, rather than take what the defense gives him. A great quarterback picks the defense apart. RW too often stepped to the line determined to throw deep, regardless of the coverage, rather than take the short throw, hit the open man. Those aren’t the glory throws, and RW wanted the glory, the legacy, the brand. Over the years it became almost all ego with RW, masked by “positive thinking” and striving for excellence. He’s good enough, or was (did you see how underthrown the Jeudy pass was?) that he made a lot of beautiful completions. He just didn’t make enough of the other throws that would have taken the defense out of their game. If the will to dominate others isn’t ego, what is? I’m grateful for years of exciting Seahawk football with RW at quarterback, but he and the team have been sorely limited by his increasing preoccupation with himself and his place in the quarterback pantheon.

This, quite frankly, is just utter nonsense.

Wilson had a preferred style of play that was very different to Pete Carroll’s. Their ideologies clashed. They both had strong opinions on the best way to proceed offensively.

Wilson also felt he deserved to have the kind of input and sway other highly paid franchise quarterbacks were receiving and pushed for the same kind of presence. Pete Carroll is also very confident in his way of doing things and stands by his philosophy.

I imagine there was also a sense of time passing for Wilson. He has lofty ambitions, he’s 34 in November and he knows time is of the essence. I suspect he lost confidence in the Seahawks’ top brass to help deliver a Championship.

Both parties were comfortable, in the end, in moving on and having a fresh start. The Seahawks, as is widely known, had been looking around at other quarterbacks. I sense John Schneider tired of Mark Rodgers a long time ago and was probably ready to not have to deal with him. I would also guess Pete Carroll, nearing the end of his career, was less keen on making a change for obvious reasons.

Schneider talked to the Bears a year ago but no deal was struck, reportedly because Carroll said no. This year, all three parties agreed a parting was best.

We don’t need to cook up conspiracy theories, apportion blame or create stories here. The two parties had been drifting for a long time and now they move on.

Nobody was going to be proven ‘right’ by the result of 1/17th of a NFL regular season on Monday. That will be decided years down the line.

But even daring to pushback against the idea that Wilson is a ‘villain’ and Carroll the ‘hero’ had you pigeonholed as anti-Seahawks.

‘With Wilson, against us’.

In reality — I want Carroll to succeed because it means the Seahawks will. I also don’t hold any grudges against Wilson. I’d quite like a high first round pick off the Broncos next year — but that aside, they are an irrelevance to me until they play Seattle again (whenever that may be).

A lot of us are simply passionate Seahawks fans, with big views. Some positive, some negative. But nothing brings me greater joy than a trip to Seattle to watch the team — aside from perhaps watching England at a major tournament (or in Milan against Italy, as I’ll be doing next Friday).

Fanbase battle-lines are being drawn and I don’t think it does anyone any good.

What is wrong with a balanced take that considers positives and negatives? Even if sometimes there are more negatives and sometimes there are more positives?

Or, for that matter, what is wrong with differing opinions and polite (if sometimes robust) discourse?

I’m pretty sure writing these words will have zero impact and might even make the situation worse (at least for this blog). I felt like I wanted to write them anyway and I feel better for doing so.

Check out my stream with Rob ‘Stats’ Guerrera previewing the Niners game:

 

2023 draft QB power rankings — week two

September 15th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

I will update these power rankings as we go along. It’s a bit of fun — but also a review of how the players with first round potential are progressing through the season. It’s also not a ranking. This isn’t necessarily the order I expect them to be drafted (and it’d be too early to make any predictions anyway).

I will add names to the list if needed as we go along. It will only ever be the players I expect to garner first round interest, though.

#1 C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
This week I had Stroud and Richardson swap places. That’s how contrasting their fortunes were. Admittedly Stroud had the luxury of playing an overmatched Arkansas State team but what he showed was exciting, complex throws that get you out of your seat. His throwing base was textbook in this game (a stark difference to former Buckeye Justin Fields) and from that base he was able to deliver some of the prettiest passes you’ll see all season. An inch-perfect 34-yard throw — so on target it was virtually handed to the receiver. A 50-yard bomb — flashing plus arm strength and sensational downfield ball-placement. A near 40-yard toss to the front left corner of the end-zone, placed perfectly despite tight coverage and safety help for a touchdown. This was Stroud flexing and showing what he’s capable of. Now we need to see it consistently along with improved intermediate accuracy and processing in close games.

#2 Will Levis (Kentucky)
We don’t need to see quarterback perfection in every game. Sometimes it’s about avoiding mistakes, doing what you need to do and leading your team to a big road win in a hostile environment against an opponent with momentum. Levis didn’t do enough against Florida to go from #1 to #2 but he certainly didn’t do anything to harm his stock either. He flashed the traits we all know he has — showing easy arm strength on a +60-yard downfield throw for a touchdown. He’s mastered the play-action offense Kentucky has been using since he transferred to the team. When he was getting absolutely hammered in the first half and had zero support from the running game, he still put points on the board. He kept Kentucky in it until they finally established the run — and then all he had to do was avoid errors. The “interception” he had was really a sack-fumble. Put him on an offense with a good O-line and give him some weapons and he can have a lot of success in the NFL. Quick stat for you — he is now 12-3 as a starter at Kentucky. In their previous 10 seasons, Kentucky averaged 5.6 wins a season.

#3 Bryce Young (Alabama)
After three quarters against Texas, Young was having the kind of day Anthony Richardson was having. He should’ve been picked off after a horrendous decision to throw across the middle after sensing moderate interior pressure. He should’ve conceded a safety after sitting in his own end-zone for five seconds, getting hammered and being bailed out by some weirdness from the refs. He toiled and struggled and appeared set to lose the game and Alabama’s #1 ranking. Yet in the hour of the need, he got his act together and dragged his team to victory. In the fourth quarter all of the customary poise returned. He was creative as a runner and accurate as a thrower. He scored one of the touchdowns of the season on a scramble in the red zone. Sometimes you have to give credit to a QB for getting the job done on an off-day. That is what Young did on Saturday.

#4 Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)
Watching Miami’s game against Southern Miss was like a trip to the dentist. Within 10 minutes of the ordeal starting, you just wanted it to be over. The Hurricanes decided to try and bore Southern Miss into submission and congratulations to them, they pulled it off. TVD captured the imagination a year ago when he took over the starting job. He galvanised Miami and turned them into a formidable force — defeating Kenny Pickett and eventual ACC Champions Pittsburgh in their own backyard along the way. They showed off their quarterback as he sprayed the ball around the field. Now he has to resort to dump-offs, extended hand-offs, running the ball +40 times and a few slants. He’s double-clutching in the pocket and throwing late (see: horrible interception). I want to see them unleash TVD against a very beatable Texas A&M this weekend. Will they? Probably not. I fear the Mario Cristobal offense is going to do to Van Dyke what it did to Justin Herbert at Oregon.

#5 Anthony Richardson (Florida)
There’s not much more to say that wasn’t said already in Saturday’s piece. Richardson had a total clunker. All of the poise, processing and excitement of the Utah game disappeared. He wasn’t a running threat at all. His passes were mainly a series of 100mph fast-balls thrown with reckless abandon. He had one unlucky interception and a pick-six he’ll have nightmares about all week. Richardson looked like a player with three college starts and he deserves an opportunity to develop and learn without the pressure of the NFL draft lurking in the background. This might be the last time I include him in the power rankings because he looks like a young player who needs time. Truth be told, more time than is probably permitted in the remainder of the 2022 college season.

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click the tab below)

Become a Patron!

 

Why the Seahawks just need to be careful

September 14th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams

 

Tuesday notes: Seahawks win, draft perspective, Jaren Hall

September 13th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Is that repeatable?

Social media is awash with emotive comments today from Pete Carroll, discussing the meaning of a win against Russell Wilson and bringing back certain ex-players who may or may not have had beef with Wilson in the past.

It certainly appears the Seahawks put a lot into winning this game.

After all — it’s not like they can trot out Marshawn Lynch and co. again for the Falcons game. Having the older players hang around during practise was undoubtedly inspiring — but it’s also something that won’t have endless value.

Then there was the crowd — whipped into a frenzy for Wilson’s return, not so subtly nudged along by Carroll and the non-stop media talk of whether booing the returning quarterback was the right thing to do.

People at the game have talked about it being louder than it has been in Lumen Field in years.

All of this contributed to the victory. I do wonder, though, whether that same energy and vibe can stretch into the upcoming home contests against Atlanta, Arizona and the New York Giants.

Can the team play at the same intensity level when there’s less hoopla around the opponent? Can the fans be as vociferous?

At times, yesterday, the Seahawks looked to have found the physical edge they’ve been seeking for years.

It can’t be a flash in the pan saved for Russell Wilson and Denver, though. It has to show up again next week. That might be harder when you’re 1-0. San Francisco, losers in week one to Chicago, can’t afford to overlook Seattle. They’ll be on it. The Seahawks will be taken more seriously in the media, in the bleachers and on the field in week two.

The next two games will be a fascinating study point.

It also has to be said — they’ll need to be better in certain aspects.

As brilliantly as Geno Smith played in the first half, he was 6/10 for 31 yards and a turnover in the second half. Is he capable of reaching the highs of the first half without the lag of the second? Is there, at worst, a happy medium between the two halves to be found against San Francisco?

Can they continue to force turnovers? Or were the two goal-line fumbles — akin to a football lottery win — a freakish occurrence that played as big a part as anything on a night that ended with a one-point win?

Will opposing Head Coaches continue to make totally nonsensical decisions over when to attempt game-winning field goals?

Can you afford to concede a 433-253 yardage split and win many games in the NFL?

Can the running game thrive unless Geno Smith continues to play like he did in the first half to keep the offense honest?

I wish it was Sunday already to start answering some of these questions. I’m eager to learn about this team. I want to know if Monday was a performance for the occasion (and I predicted a Seahawks win against Denver because of the occasion) or was it a sign of a rekindling of the ‘we all we got, we all we need’ attitude that served the team so well in the first go-around?

Was this more about ‘beat Russell Wilson at all costs’ or was it indicative of a team that has found its mojo again?

Don’t overreact to individual college games

I’ve seen some sniffy reviews of Will Levis’ performance against Florida and Bryce Young’s display against Texas on Saturday.

Here’s something to remember…

— In Patrick Mahomes’ final year at Texas Tech he had a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost seven games in total. He had 25 interceptions in his last two seasons in college.

— In Andrew Luck’s final year at Stanford he ended with a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost two games in his final year despite playing on a loaded Stanford team. He had eight games with 256 passing yards or fewer.

— Josh Allen had 21 interceptions in his final two years in college. He had a completion percentage of just 56.3%. He had three games in 2017 with sub-100 passing yards and he started his final season with six picks in his first seven games.

Speaking of Allen — the front-runner to be MVP this year — here’s PFF’s scouting report on him before the 2018 draft:

The first thing usually mentioned about Allen is his size, arm and athleticism, but he needs work on the important things like accuracy and decision-making. His high-end plays are spectacular as he can create downfield opportunities with his arm, but he must improve in the short game and cut down on his turnover-worthy plays. There’s an offense to be built around Allen’s skillset, but his great velocity is overrated unless he improves his accuracy, touch and willingness to work efficiently in the quick game. Allen showed plenty of promise with an 84.7 overall grade in 2016, but he regressed to only 73.1 last season.

— Finally, Russell Wilson. He had 25 interceptions in his final two years at NC State. He never had a completion percentage above 60% at NC State. He had 11 games at Wisconsin where he threw 255 yards or fewer — including six sub-200 yard games. He also lost three games in his final season at Wisconsin.

None of the top quarterbacks eligible for 2023 have to be flawless. They just need to show well in the right areas — physical traits, processing, mechanics, footwork, leadership, an ability to elevate and lift their teams, accuracy and the ability to extend plays when necessary.

And to bring it back to Levis and Young:

— Levis just helped Kentucky record back-to-back wins against Florida for the first time since 1976/77. He’s 12-3 as a starter for the Wildcats. In the 10 seasons before he arrived in Kentucky, they averaged 5.6 wins a season.

— When the game was on the line, Young (the reigning Heisman Trophy winner) had enough about him to pull one out of the bag. Alabama were poor against Texas and for three quarters, so was Young. Until it mattered — and he won them the game.

BYU’s Jaren Hall shows well

I don’t think Hall is destined to be an early pick. People complain about Will Levis’ age but Hall is a year older than Levis. There are some moments where he throws into tighter windows where I just think he lacks that top-level arm strength to really fire it into good coverage. I do think his ceiling is lower than some other quarterbacks in college football.

That said, his performance against Baylor was also very impressive. I watched it on Monday and saw a handful of real quality throws, some good athleticism to extend plays and move around and he clearly lifts and elevates his team.

I like his throwing base, he’s generally accurate and while he lacks great size and traits — he does actually play like a point guard. There were some throws to the sideline where, dare I say it, his throwing velocity, release and touch did look a lot like Russell Wilson at Wisconsin. He can drop the football into difficult areas of the field with great touch at times.

Pete Carroll name-dropping Justin Hebert, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes earlier today on 710 makes me think this team is going to have its heart set on one of the big, physically impressive QB’s eligible for 2023. I’m not only going to focus on those players, however. Hall — if nothing else — carries some mid-round intrigue and I look forward to watching him play again soon.

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click the tab below)

Become a Patron!

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks defeat Denver, Russell Wilson

September 12th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Earlier today, I read an article discussing the size of Mike McDaniels, well, ‘man bits’.

Then, as it happens, I read a second article. This one had a very similar theme discussing the very same part of Brian Daboll’s anatomy.

In both cases the coaches were praised for an aggressive fourth down call — inspiring big wins and creating buy-in with their new teams.

I think what we’ve just witnessed is the reverse of that.

Nathaniel Hackett had plenty of time, three timeouts and needed five yards. Instead of trusting the quarterback his team had just paid a kings ransom for (picks and salary) — he decided it was better to trust his kicker to tie the NFL record for a field goal with an improbable 64-yard attempt.

It’s frankly one of the strangest and most baffling decisions I think I’ve ever written about. What on earth was he thinking?

The Seahawks start 1-0 as a consequence and have a lot to feel good about. The team played with its hair on fire. They made up for a lack of talent in key areas with a fearsome tenacity.

Whether it was Al Woods holding the interior, Uchenna Nwosu stepping up to the plate, Quandre Diggs making a crucial tackle on the one-yard line or Michael Jackson hitting and recovering fumbles with joyous abandon — the defense came ready for action.

They were brilliant in the red zone, denying the Broncos four times.

It’ll barely be remembered that the Seahawks didn’t score a point in the second half. Or that their win was heavily inspired by those two Denver fumbles on the goal line or the gobsmacking decision of Hackett. Or that Denver gifted Seattle 106 penalty yards.

Geno Smith did just enough. The defense set a tone. Pete Carroll got the win he almost certainly craved as much as any over the last few years.

I’m not sure this will be a repeatable formula. Especially with the offense grinding to a halt in the second half, the running game failing to spark and the generous Broncos feeling especially charitable.

But the new era starts with a win. And frankly, as much as the 2023 draft is integral to the future of this team, I’ll be hoping for another next week.

And I did predict the Seahawks would win this one…

 

Curtis Allen’s week one watchpoints (vs Denver)

September 12th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen. After the game tonight, tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

Welcome to a whole new cycle of Seahawks football.  The team has shed themselves of two of the greatest players in franchise history, brought in a whole new defensive staff and recommitted to key areas like the offensive line, pass rush and the cornerbacks.

We are about to see the first official results of this experiment.  What better way to get started on the new than to face the old, lined up right across from you?

This game will be filled with all kinds of palace intrigue.  The relationship troubles between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll over the years have been aired in a very passive-aggressive manner.  A thinly veiled threat here, a leak there, a clearly staged photo op with hugs and smiles and press conference statements that doth protest a bit too much all made for high drama in Seattle.  They even handled themselves after the trade in the same way, with couched language wrapped in a wry smile and a wink.

We will see the truth of the matter in their actions on the field.

Both are very proud figures.  Both have never budged on their football philosophy.  Both have the ambition to prove their viewpoint was more effective.  Therefore, both will have more than the usual incentive to win this game.

There will be some hard feelings being played out on the field Monday night.  Who will come out on top?  There is a possibility that this game will be the only time Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson ever face each other in their storied careers.  They might not get another chance to make their statement.

So buckle up.  This is appointment watching.

Before we address the elephant in the room, let’s start with a factor that could be crucial for the Seahawks.

The Seahawks Must Use the Unknown to Their Favor

A Week One matchup might be the best-case scenario for the Seahawks in facing Russell Wilson and the Broncos.  It might be too much to ask a new quarterback with a brand-new head coach to come out firing on all cylinders right out of the gate.  That is obvious.

What is less obvious is there will also be a feature that the Denver offense may struggle with that is beyond the typical ‘new quarterback new coach growing pains’ dynamic:  Russell Wilson is not the easiest quarterback to play with.  His superpower of relying on his ability to extend plays takes some getting used to.

Offensive linemen are required to be effective longer than they normally would.  They cannot intuitively know where Wilson will be or which way he is going to go when the play breaks down.  This can cause some traffic jams at the edges of the pocket and some holding calls that backs up the offense.

Then there’s the receivers.  They will need to grasp that if they get to the end of their route and the ball is not coming to them, the play is not necessarily over.  They will have to keep running and find pockets to scramble into to provide a target for Wilson.  That does not naturally come to every player.  For some it needs to be learned over time. 

The Seahawks will need to take advantage, particularly early in the game, if the Denver offense has challenges getting going.

Another factor is the Seahawks’ track record in the last two season openers.  In 2020 and 2021, they scored convincing wins by successfully implementing new elements that caught their opponent off guard:

  • In 2020 against the Falcons, they only ran the ball with their running backs 13 times, preferring to use them nearly as much in the passing game.  Russell Wilson had a career-highlight passing day and after the game Atlanta Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris publicly fell on his sword, saying they had not prepared for the Seahawks to throw that much.  
  • New weapon Jamal Adams had probably his best day as a Seahawk, with 12 tackles, a sack, 2 pressures, a QB knockdown, and 2 tackles for loss, causing all kinds of trouble for the Atlanta offense.
  • In 2021 against the Colts, the Seahawks came out with some brilliant misdirection in the running game, utilizing Chris Carson well and keeping a very good Colt defensive line off balance.

That game was also Darrell Taylor’s coming out party.  He announced his presence with authority, as if he were trying to make up for a whole missed season in one game.

What surprises do the Seahawks have in store this year?

Who will be the player that catches the Broncos off guard and has an impact?  Uchenna Nwosu?  Dee Eskridge?  Tariq Woolen?  Ken Walker as a receiver?  Or will it be Clint Hurtt’s scheme?  

It will be very intriguing to watch.

Defend Russell Wilson

Pete Carroll said Monday that he knows Russell better than any other player he’s worked with.  Can he use that to his advantage?  You have to believe the minute he traded Wilson to Denver, Carroll started collecting his ten years of experiences with him to devise ways to beat him on defense.

Nathaniel Hackett and Wilson will have some new wrinkles schemed up to be sure.  Yet even the best players in the NFL have habits and plays they revert to when under pressure.  Hackett of all people probably knows this better than anyone after working with Aaron Rodgers.

Some of Wilson’s habits, in a nutshell:

  • He loves to throw to the edges of the field, between the numbers and the sideline
  • Inside pressure obscures his vision and forces him to make decisions faster than he would like
  • A good deal of his magic happens when he gets out of the pocket and buys time for his receivers
  • If his offensive line is not adept at adjusting to blitzes, he will struggle

The move to more of a 3-4 defense will really benefit the Seahawks against Wilson when you consider these factors.  Why?

In their standard package, they will have three big-bodied defenders occupying the inside.  This is designed to keep the lanes clogged and limit inside escape routes for the quarterback.  On the outside, the linebackers are lighter and faster, which means they have the angle to create a ‘horseshoe’ around the quarterback.  

Pretty standard stuff but Russell Wilson needs to be contained.  Yes, he can do plenty of damage from the pocket.  When he gets outside of the hash marks and buys time for his receivers, that can be real trouble for the defense.

The best thing the Seahawks can do is get pressure from their standard alignment.  Making Wilson uncomfortable in the pocket and still having their full coverage package available would do wonders towards keeping this game in a manageable state.

They can help themselves tremendously with some clever blitz packages though.  Jamal Adams can have an enormous impact this game if he is properly utilized.  Jordyn Brooks has shown an ability to shoot gaps and get to the passer.  The Seahawks even blitzed lightning-fast Tariq Woolen from the corner spot in preseason.

Clint Hurtt will have to dial up some formations that show Wilson several different looks.  The best thing he can do is keep him guessing on where the rush is coming from.  It takes processing power and keeps him from focusing on what the defensive backs are doing downfield.

A sneaky advantage that I alluded to earlier is that it confuses the offensive line and creates openings and mismatches.

Have a look at this beauty from Vance Joseph in the notorious Week 7 game against the Cardinals:

On a 3rd and 11 in overtime, Joseph stacks the defensive line with 7 players.  He had utilized this formation earlier in the game.  

On this play, he drops 4 of the 7 into coverage and blitzes the nickel Byron Murphy who is completely free to make the sack.

Watch the Seahawks offensive line there.  Dissly, Shell and Lewis are blocking one man.  Ethan Pocic has nothing to do.  Simmons and Brown have a man to share.  Deejay Dallas nicely picks up Buddha Baker but the damage is done.

By the end of the game, Wilson was rattled and (off the same stacked-line formation) throws a lame ball for an interception to seal the game:

I’m not suggesting that the Seahawks specifically emulate these formations.  Rather it is a matter of throwing looks at Russ and building a pattern for him to process.  Then spidering that pattern out in variations that keep the processing on the pass rush and away from the pass coverage.

Denver’s offensive line is fine.  Adequate.  They surrendered 40 sacks last year with Teddy Bridgewater behind it and return most of their starters this year.  Clint Hurtt and the defense need to challenge this squad.  And the earlier in the game, the better.

************

A big key to limiting Wilson’s effectiveness?  Pressure him to carry the team.  The run defense must limit the impact that Javonte Williams will have.

That is not going to be an easy task.  Seattle’s run defense was terrible last year – 29th in the NFL.  And unless Clint Hurtt can scheme up some ways for carryovers Al Woods, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone to be more effective, Williams could have a field day and take a ton of the pressure off of Wilson.

Scheming is really a secondary issue through.  What is going to make or break the run defense?  Tackling.  The defense was very poor in this area in the preseason, to the point where Pete Carroll acknowledged it and scheduled some extra drills in practice.

Hopefully the team’s work pays off.  It better, because in Javonte Williams, the Seahawks get last year’s tackle breaking champion in their first week.  Williams broke a tackle every 6.5 runs in 2021.  Nobody else was even close.

Again I say Jamal Adams needs to have a big game.  If he is an active tackler and can limit the yards the Broncos get on the ground and then have an impact in the pass rush, the defense might be able to do enough to give the offense some chances.

Run the Ball.  A Lot.

There is no argument – none – that says the Seahawks should regularly ask Geno Smith to throw the ball 30 or more times in a game.  It just is not a sustainable plan for success.  The Seahawks must run the ball well in this game.

Of course, it is not simply having a good split of plays that will enable the offense to function well.  The Seahawks will need to employ good strategy and scheming in their runs in order to make them effective.  Particularly considering Denver will likely sell out to stop the run and dare Geno Smith to beat them by throwing the ball.

The staff will need to recapture some of that run effectiveness they displayed in Week One last year against the Colts. 

With a young offensive line and a vulnerable quarterback, they will need all the clever scheming they can get.  It is encouraging to see that they have already achieved it in the recent past. 

The deceptive aspect of the run game also greatly assists the passing game and helps Geno Smith make plays that are in his wheelhouse.

Granted, the Seahawks have yet to really establish a dominant running game.  I would argue they are well advised to use their assets wisely and seek to establish one to carry their offense this week.  And this season for that matter.

Let’s have a look at a play that gives us some hope they can do that:

There is Abraham Lucas absolutely pancaking a defender in the run game – a common sight this preseason.  What’s more, he is getting in Devin Bush’s way and keeping him from sealing off that backside zone.

Yet the play is so much more than that.  It is Gabe Jackson manhandling Chris Wormley.  It is Austin Blythe getting to the second level immediately.  It is Noah Fant chipping and then turning his back and throwing a block to make sure that backside lane is clear.

There is another element to this play that is very special though.  I guarantee you it had coaches and teammates alike hooting and hollering just as loudly as they did when watching Lucas drive his man into the ground.

Do you see it?

It’s Penny Hart.  Watch him come crashing into the frame from the left at the end of the play.  

Let’s look at it from a different angle and celebrate it:

Watch the 180lb Hart move the 217lb Terrell Edmonds out of position to clear the entire right side for Travis Homer, then give the 234lb Devin Bush a chip to keep him out of the play.

A job well done. Is Hart satisfied?  Nope.  He turns and accelerates downfield and looks for a third man to hit and engages Tre Norwood.

If Homer demonstrates better awareness and judgement on the run and pivots outside to the sideline instead of running into Bo Melton, Hart is right there to accompany him down the sideline.  What a play.

Pete Carroll has this team understanding that run blocking is everyone’s assignment.  Not just the big uglies up front.  Can they carry that commitment into the regular season, when the games count and the players are working against defensive starters for 60 full minutes?  Time will tell.

The good news is Denver had the 31st ranked run defense in the NFL last season.  Granted they have a new coach and have added some players but they are going to have to prove they are better against a team that has heavily invested in the run game and will likely be desperate to keep Russell Wilson off the field as much as possible.

Keep the Game Out of Geno Smith’s Hands

The more I think about Geno Smith’s capabilities as a quarterback, the more sense installing a quick passing offense makes.  Slants and other two-step throws like crossing and seam routes are right up his alley.  He is more accurate than Russell Wilson was at these types of passes.  We have seen it time and time again in the preseason.  Geno handles these plays with a degree of competence that can make this work.

The numbers in his 3+ games in relief of Wilson last year show that very clearly.  Here they are when he gets the ball out in under 2.5 seconds:

  • 47-60 for an excellent 78.33% completion rate
  • A QB rating of 110.3
  • 3 touchdowns / zero interceptions
  • 2 sacks

Yes, that is a small sample size.

Yet you could slash a full 10% off those numbers when you spread that over a full season and still come out ahead.  These numbers are what have the Geno Smith apologists sticking to a position that he can run this offense effectively.

It is possible.  If – if – the Seahawks are wise enough to schedule the majority of Geno’s pass plays as ones he can get out quickly.

Pete Carroll, when asked in recent years about sacks and enduring pass rush pressure, has consistently replied with one factor, and one factor alone:  The quarterback must get the ball out quickly to avoid sacks.  That rationale is going to get put to the acid test this season.  Will he commit to that philosophy in view of the current evidence that Geno Smith does it so well?

The fact of the matter is they have no choice but to run the ball heavily and when circumstances call for a pass play, to get the ball out of Smith’s hands as quickly as possible.  When he lingers, the results are disastrous.

How bad are they?  I feel like I need to issue a Viewer Discretion Advisory before showing you Smith’s numbers when he held the ball for more than 2.5 seconds last year.

Take a breath and have a look:

  • 18-35 for a 51.43% completion rate
  • QB rating of 89.3
  • 2 touchdowns / 1 interception
  • 11 sacks for 98 yards lost

Again, that is a small sample size of 3+ games but those are subterranean numbers.

The QB rating is not too bad.  It is propped up by 11 of those 18 completions going for first downs and you could argue the interception was more about Tyler Lockett falling down against the Rams.  

Yet the completion percentage drop from 78% to 51% when he holds the ball?  My goodness.

And the sacks.  Do you understand how horrid that is?  In only 46 dropbacks that lasted more than 2.5 seconds, Smith was sacked 11 times – an eye-watering 24% of those dropbacks.

If Smith were to play a full season and still have that 24% number, he will get sacked between 55-70 times.  Actually, he would not because he would either be seriously injured or benched first.  

Can he do better this year?  Surely, he can.

Enough to be pedestrian?  Let alone effective?  That might be too much to ask.  The data we have says that Geno is not good when the play goes off script and he needs to quickly process the play and make an effective decision.

Have the Seahawks been able to coach better decision making into him this offseason?  

Well…

Not really…

This is where the Geno Smith critics make their case.  

He has very little feel for pressure in the pocket, no escape plan and rarely is he able to buy time while keeping his eyes downfield.  There is no doubt that Denver knows this and will be scheming to stop the run and force Geno to hold onto the ball.

Are we saying that vast of a gap in effectiveness will continue Monday?  Not necessarily in those two extremes.

Yet the die is cast.  Offensive success depends on the Seahawks running the ball often and well and getting the ball out quickly in the passing game.

Does that mean the Seahawks should not try deep passes?  Of course not.  But with a limited quarterback, it is a process to work those opportunities open.  Much more so than with a quarterback in full possession of his faculties like Russell Wilson.  Patience and timing will be key.

Each step’s success depends on the foundation that the other steps have built.  Running the ball preps the defenders to look for it.  It is easier then to take the snap and throw immediately when defenders need that extra half second to diagnose the play.  Then throwing deep is easier when defenders have been lulled to sleep by slant after slant and crosser after crosser.