College Football Saturday: Open thread

October 31st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Some early notes…

— UCLA running back Paul Perkins was banged up but still excelled early in a win over Colorado. He had 12 rushes for 118 yards and five catches for 49 yards. He added two touchdowns. He’s one to monitor — very fluid and athletic as a runner with great vision. Finds a crease and explodes. Doesn’t go down after contact. Very impressive one-cut runner.

— Alex Collins of Arkansas is having a big day against UT Martin. With a full quarter still to play he has 173 yards on just 16 carries with FIVE touchdowns.

— USC won at California with Jared Goff having another mixed day. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions. Goff also had 272 yards completing 23/31.

— Jacoby Brissett is a player we focused on in the summer. He’s having a good performance against Clemson. He’s had a slightly erratic season with up and down games. He’ll make a nice quarterback project for someone at the next level.

— Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell continues to put up big numbers. In a victory against Auburn he had seven catches, 114 yards and a touchdown snagged in tight coverage.

If you’re watching a game or a prospect — tell us about it in the comments section.


Thursday notes: Paxton Lynch going very early?

October 29th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Paxton Lynch will go higher than people think

According to a report in Sports Illustrated, NFL scouts expect Memphis’ Paxton Lynch to be the first quarterback taken in the 2016 draft. It’s something we discussed a few weeks ago on the ‘3000 NFL Mock Draft’ podcast and noted here. For me it’s not a question of whether Lynch will be the first quarterback taken. It’s how high will he go?

There are two things to consider. Firstly, Lynch will not be the best overall player in the class. That honour will go to somebody else. It could be Joey Bosa. It could be Laremy Tunsil. Don’t be shocked if Baylor’s Corey Coleman really emerges as a big favourite too (more on him in a moment).

That said — any team needing a quarterback will look at Paxton Lynch and feel like they can win with him. He’s a very accurate passer with tremendous size and poise. He throws with touch and doesn’t turn the ball over. Despite being a big, strong quarterback he’s also surprisingly elusive and will make plays with his feet. He isn’t Cam Newton. That doesn’t mean he can’t be used in a similar way.

Importantly he’s also making an unfancied Memphis team competitive. They’re ranked. They’ve beaten Ole Miss (who beat Alabama on the road). In that game he made several outstanding plays. One example was a four-read progression before an accurate dart to the outside for a third down conversion. His third score was a beautiful (yet safe) deep-ball to the back-shoulder.

Lynch is making Memphis relevant. He’s elevating that squad. A bad team needing a lift will like that aspect.

If the franchise picking first overall needs a quarterback — Lynch could be in play. Believe it. At the moment Detroit, Baltimore and Tennessee are set to pick first, second and third. If it stays that way — it’s unlikely those three teams go QB in round one. Cleveland are at four and Houston at five. The Texans in particular are trending downwards largely because of their lack of an effective and consistent passing game.

Even if Lynch isn’t the top pick, he could easily find a home in the top five with the task of changing the fortunes of a slumping team. GM’s and coaches will look at his flaws and feel they’re fixable. They’ll love his upside.

Watch out for Corey Coleman

West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen recently called Baylor receiver Corey Coleman the best player in college football. Presumably he forgot about Leonard Fournette, but he still raised an interesting point.

There just aren’t many players like Coleman in the NFL, let alone in college.

He’s gaining headlines for a ridiculous stat line in 2015. He’s scored 18 touchdowns in seven games, adding 962 receiving yards. He’s virtually sewn up the Biletnikoff Award for this year and we’re not even into November.

When you watch the tape — you see his success isn’t purely down to a well-drilled, prolific passing offense.

Coleman is a perfect blend of competitiveness, attitude, skill and speed. He’s incredibly quick into his breaks creating separation almost immediately and often appearing wide open. Teams are petrified of his speed over the top and offer such a soft cushion that he’s nearly always open in the short-range passing game. He’ll go up and snatch a pass out of the air, he’ll make the tough grabs. He’s had a couple of ugly drops but it doesn’t appear to be a reoccurring issue.

He’s a thoroughly dynamic playmaker. He speaks well and doesn’t appear to be a diva. He looks the part of a new age wide receiver making it in the NFL. He’s only 5-11 and 190lbs. He’s just so explosive — not unlike Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU and Antonio Brown currently at Pittsburgh. That’s not to say he’ll have their success — he’d need to land on a good passing offense for a start. The potential is clearly there, however.

There are some issues too.

Coleman has a knack of giving up when he knows the ball isn’t coming his way. If it’s a run call, for example, he frequently lines up and just doesn’t do anything off the snap. No attempted block. No route to throw off a defense. He’ll just stand still or walk around. On a couple of occasions a running play has broken off to this side of the field and with a greater effort he could’ve made a downfield block.

At Baylor it doesn’t really matter. They’re so explosive most teams get blown out of the water by half time. At the next level he’s going to need to up the ante and the work rate. He can’t be taking snaps off when it’s a run. He can’t saunter through plays when he’s not the primary target. I suspect he’ll know and appreciate this — it’s just strange to see a player so lethargic on the field when he’s not getting the ball. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before.

That aside he has the potential to blow up the combine (he’s a junior and eligible for next years draft). Don’t be shocked if he ends up going as early as Tavon Austin in 2013. Players like Coleman with mass production and insane athleticism always rise and rise. He could be a top ten or fifteen pick.

An elite group emerges

Opinions are still pretty varied but for me a clear handful of players are separating themselves as the best crop eligible for 2016:

Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)

There’s also a good looking second tier that arguably includes:

Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
Laquan Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Jalen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State)
Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)

Obviously I haven’t seen every player yet — this is just based on my own personal thoughts so far.

It’s hard to figure out how Ezekiel Elliott fits into the class. He’s a very talented running back but doesn’t possess a unique skill set. He’s reasonably sized, pretty fast and doesn’t go down on first contact. A good back to build a running game around and a possible feature runner. Is he going to transform a team, carry the load and have an instant impact? Debatable. Todd Gurley he aint. It wouldn’t really be a surprise if he went in the top-20 or lasted into round two. His stock is wide open.

Jared Goff is equally confusing. He throws a prettier deep ball than most quarterbacks in college football. He can be very accurate, he can win games on his own for California and he’s helped make an average looking roster somewhat respectable. He’s also very skinny, prone to head-scratching errors and a five-interception game at Utah wasn’t pretty (not all the picks were his fault, but there were two ugly ones).

He could easily be a first round pick. He could also face a similar fate to the likes of Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater. Teams will like Goff. But do they like him enough to make him a high first round pick? Is a GM or Head Coach going to tie himself to Goff with the big investment? The difference between pick #15 and #35-40 isn’t that much — but it offers much more wiggle room for a team to save face and ultimately move on if it doesn’t work out.


Seahawks O-line: How does it get better in 2016?

October 28th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks need to find the next Breno Giacomini to bolster an inexperienced O-line

In 2011 the Seahawks made a big commitment to the running game in the draft.

It was quite a statement at the time. They needed a quarterback. The likes of Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were expected to go in the range of their first round pick (#25 overall).

Pete Carroll had to make a call — and he chose not to build around a young QB.

Carroll wanted a running game and in 2010 — even with the arrival of Marshawn Lynch — they had the worst running attack in the NFL. So they settled on Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback and built their O-line via the draft instead, while adding Robert Gallery in free agency.

Although they did achieve their goal of creating a potent ground game — the 2011 draft investment plus Gallery arguably had a minimal impact. It’s possibly the failure of Carpenter, Moffitt and Gallery that has shaped some of the current issues facing Seattle’s O-line.

They tried proven. They tried productive. Let’s go for upside instead.

It’s created a different type of problem up front.

James Carpenter was considered a surprise pick in the media — but anyone who spent considerable time watching Alabama knew why he went in the first round. Carpenter had a fantastic senior season playing left tackle. Mark Ingram won a Heisman running to the left. Carpenter dominated SEC defensive linemen with his power and size. He was easily the best run blocking tackle in the 2010 college season and the Seahawks clearly hoped he could have similar success in the NFL.

Seattle spent their second pick in the 2011 draft on another O-liner.

For years Wisconsin fielded big, powerful offensive linemen and they’d been able to run the ball with great success. John Moffitt didn’t possess any astonishing athletic traits. In many ways he looked like a classic ‘JAG’. He worked the inside with power and tenacity and the Seahawks probably felt his gritty style would benefit their interior line.

Carpenter’s size and length aside — neither player was particularly SPARQ-y. They had good tape. They were part of hugely productive running attacks. The Seahawks appeared to be looking not so much for difference making traits but instead for proven entities. Plug-in-and-play types. The Gallery pick-up, given his familiarity with Tom Cable in Oakland, wasn’t a big surprise either.

Moffitt quit the league shortly after a disappointing spell in Seattle and Carpenter struggled at tackle before shifting inside to guard. Neither draft pick paid dividends — although Carpenter’s annual handling of Justin Smith was always fun to witness. Gallery struggled to make an impact and didn’t last long either.

It’s not unfair to question whether these failures provoked a switch in Seattle’s thinking. Did they start to consider a new plan based on athleticism and upside? Without the dependency to spend high draft picks or go through free agency?

How much of this was forced through cost? Did they see a potential saving on the O-line to help pay for the new contracts dished out to Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and co.? Or was it more than that? A genuine philosophical shift? “We want these types of players on our O-line.”

Since the 2011 draft the Seahawks have only spent one high pick on their O-line despite the loss of starters like Carpenter, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini. The second round pick — Justin Britt — was somewhat forced given the diminishing number of tackles available in the 2014 draft. Seattle didn’t have a third round pick that year and risked missing out on a full class of tackles. It was a major reach that at the time probably felt necessary.

Apart from that they’ve spent time converting athletic defensive linemen like J.R. Sweezy, Drew Nowak and Kristjan Sokoli. None of that trio cost a high pick. All carry an extremely high upside. They’ve also looked in the later rounds at guys like Mark Glowinski and Terry Poole.

It’s fair to say Seattle’s current plan for the O-line is having some teething problems. You could even say it’s having less success than the early draft picks in 2011.

Perhaps Carpenter and Moffitt arrived with bad habits? Combined with the fact both entered the league during a lock out — they were virtually thrown into the deep end when the new CBA was agreed. When Tom Cable eventually began working with the pair — was it hard to refine their technique? Cable’s made it clear he has to start coaching from scratch with college linemen — and it’s one of the reasons they’ve turned to former D-liners. If you’re starting with a blank canvas, why not go for the better athletes?

Yet there’s also a case to be made though for those battle tested blockers. They might have suspect technique and need a great deal of coaching — but they also have at least some grasp of the position. James Carpenter wasn’t a perfectionist with a well-honed blocking style. And yet he had a great deal of experience competing against the best the SEC had to offer before entering the NFL.

Doesn’t that count for something?

So what now as the Seahawks face what seems like an inevitable rebuild of their O-line? Aside from Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy being free agents (their two most experienced linemen) you could argue they need replacements at left guard, center and right tackle too.

There’s nothing really to be lost taking on a project like Kristjan Sokoli. Wouldn’t it be better, though, to have him battling for a starting job against more experienced team mates? J.R. Sweezy won his job on a much more experienced line. Nowak, Britt and Garry Gilliam are almost starting by default.

Returning focus to the early rounds of the draft is probably necessary — especially if they have to replace Okung at left tackle. Auburn’s Shon Coleman is one of the most underrated players in college football and could easily jump into the top tier of draft picks for 2016. If he stays under the radar — he’d be a nice option for the Seahawks at either tackle spot or even at guard.

Yet it’d also be beneficial to add more of a veteran presence to the line while the Sokoli’s and Mark Glowinski’s learn their craft. If they don’t re-sign Okung and/or Sweezy it might free up enough room to have another tilt at Evan Mathis or look at Alex Boone. There might be another Breno Giacomini out there or even a Paul McQuistan. Nobody would ever tout McQuistan as a leading impact player — but it’s that veteran savvy and reliability at guard that at times Seattle has lacked.

A combination of youth, upside, experience and grit might be the way to get this back on track.

Giacomini — vilified by some at a time when the Seahawks roster had virtually no holes — is exactly the type of player Seattle currently lacks. Was he perfect? Far from it. Did he set the tone, offer genuine leadership and a punishing, physical blocking style? Absolutely. It’s no surprise that since he (and Carpenter) moved to New York, the Jets have been able to run with a purpose and offer adequate pass protection to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

They don’t necessarily need an elite group — they showed that in 2013. Following the Jets’ approach and plugging in a couple of veterans might be the ideal approach for Seattle.

They need a serviceable bunch who can develop some chemistry, run the ball consistently and give Russell Wilson more time than he’s currently receiving. Considering the Seahawks are right in the middle of what might only be a two or three year Championship window — stop gaps aren’t a bad thing. Finding a group that can get the job done right now should be the priority.

At the moment there seems to be a lack of the nous we saw in 2013. A good line doesn’t need endless first rounders or a bunch of big names. It does need attitude, experience, familiarity and execution. Ingredients that have been missing at times in 2015.

The current Seahawks line feels green and unless it shows a big improvement could be set for major surgery. Getting even younger isn’t ideal. Getting better — that has to be the target. And that could mean a combination of 2016 draft investment (two picks?) and some key veteran additions.


3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #9

October 27th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This week, Kenneth and I grade some of the young players who entered the NFL in the 2014 and 2015 drafts. We pick out a ‘best O-line under-25′. We also talk about Washington State, Derrick Henry and cigars.


College Football Saturday: Open thread

October 24th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

If you missed a career night for Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis) last night, you’ll find some highlights above. Memphis defeated Tulsa 66-42 to remain undefeated. Lynch’s stock just continues to rise and rise. He threw four touchdowns and no picks — collecting 447 yards. Look at some of the throws above. Pro teams are going to love Paxton Lynch.

Here’s this week’s open thread. Whether you want to discuss a game or a prospect, here’s the place to do it.


Instant reaction: Niners struggle vs Seattle

October 22nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This wasn’t a football game. It was an early Christmas present. A gift-wrapped, morale boosting victory at a crucial time in the season.

The 49ers were a shambles. Anyone wondering if this rivalry was dead — well there’s your answer. San Fran’s fight, passion, energy — it all disappeared to Michigan.

The retirements haven’t helped either — but this was a 49er team without a plan. What was their aim for the night? To keep Colin Kaepernick in the pocket and have him dissect Seattle’s defense behind a woeful O-line?

He didn’t have a single rushing attempt in the game — a contemptible statistic given it’s his greatest strength and Cam Newton had relative success on the move last Sunday.

On defense the 49ers lacked any kind of potency. They got five sacks — but right now I’d fancy my own chances of collecting a QB hurry against Seattle’s pass protection. Russell Wilson telegraphed a couple of easy, undeserved interceptions.

In the fourth quarter — Seattle’s nemesis — San Francisco got out the white flag and waved with pride.

The Seahawks barely had to work for this much needed win. It should’ve been a 30-40 point pasting. Instead they chose a steady stroll over a five-mile jog.

Hopefully they got just enough out of it to get back on track. The talk in the week detailed how they could be 1-5. It ignored the fact they could easily be 5-1 too. They blew the games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Carolina. Not even San Francisco playing against their own shoddy selves would’ve blown this one.

Wilson played free and it led to a couple of picks. It also led to a big score for Tyler Lockett. It’s perhaps not a bad thing to let the reigns lose for one week to get a spark. Especially when they were never likely to be punished. Having lost so many games with a positive turnover differential — it was bizarre to see a -2 game and a big win.

Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were sensational — albeit against an O-line as bad as Seattle’s. Bennett’s up to 6.5 sacks for the season already. Frank Clark had an impact too and is quietly having a good rookie campaign — he just isn’t getting the sacks.

Marshawn Lynch ran with authority and the offense re-established some identity again. Unfortunately they still seem unable to work both a heavy dose of Lynch and a lot of Jimmy Graham into the same game plan.

The O-line gave up five more sacks. It’s a shame they can’t do anything about it until the post-season. Major surgery is required with a grizzled veteran presence. If anything is going to cost Seattle this year — it’s the pass protection.

The Seahawks get a chance to rest up before a game against injury-ravaged Dallas to try and get to 4-4. Then it’s three home games against Arizona, the 49ers again and Pittsburgh.

Tonight’s win breathes new life into the season. However, they probably won’t play a worse opponent the rest of the way — aside from the re-match at Century Link.


2016 NFL draft big board (updated) & notes

October 21st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Shon Coleman has top-10 potential

#1 Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#2 Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
#3 Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#4 Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#5 Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
#6 Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#7 Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#8 Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#9 Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
#10 Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#11 Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#12 Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#13 Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#14 Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#15 Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
#16 Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#17 Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
#18 Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
#19 Jalen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State)
#20 DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#21 Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#22 Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
#23 Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#24 Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#25 Will Redmond (CB, Mississippi State)
#26 Jared Goff (QB, California)
#27 Su’a Cravens (S, USC)
#28 Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
#29 A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#30 Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#31 Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#32 De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)

1. It was tempting to put Shon Coleman in the top five as the best offensive lineman in college football. For the last weeks he has been the best. Laremy Tunsil will return from suspension for Ole Miss against Texas A&M. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now that he can finish the season strongly. Coleman is legit though and could overtake him. It’s astonishing that nobody talks about him. For weeks he’s been excellent — and he saved his best showing for Kentucky last week. Whether he plays guard or tackle, Coleman is a fantastic prospect and he’s massively underrated. Ronnie Stanley also had a good performance against USC and warranted some attention this week.

2. It’s still early days but there’s potential for a flurry of offensive lineman to leave the board early. The real strength of the draft could be O-line, cornerback and receiver. All three are likely need positions for the Seahawks. Do they have to replace Russell Okung? Even if he’s re-signed they could use an upgrade at left guard, center and right tackle (Coleman, Conklin & Decker arguably suit a switch to the right). Jermaine Kearse is a free agent, Doug Baldwin is a free agent in 2016 and none of the rest of the group have really stepped up. Is there enough talent at corner to persuade the Seahawks to consider an early investment instead of the usual fifth round flier? Tre’Davious White, Cameron Sutton and Eli Apple lead a terrific crop of corners.

3. We’ve talked a lot about Paxton Lynch but he continues to make giant strides towards being the top QB in this class. Technically he’s showing week-to-week improvement. Against a first-rate Ole Miss team he made several outstanding plays. One example was a four-read progression before an accurate dart to the outside for a third down conversion. His third score was a beautiful (yet safe) deep-ball to the back-shoulder. His interception (first of the season) came on a tipped pass that should’ve been caught. He didn’t come close to another turnover. Teams will look at his flaws and feel they’re much more fixable than the other players eligible for this class. He also has a signature win in the bank too. If Memphis keeps winning — Lynch’s stock will sky rocket.

4. Whatever the Seahawks do early, keep an eye on Eric Striker throughout this process. He has a natural feel for the game with excellent athleticism. He set an Oklahoma record for career sacks by a linebacker and he’s won games for the Sooners. He roams around the field and just seems to be constantly around the ball making plays. Bruce Irvin is going to be a tough keep for the Seahawks and Kevin Pierre-Louis didn’t exactly excel against Carolina. Striker is a passionate, outspoken and highly motivated individual. After watching him for the last three seasons he really gives off a ‘Hawks vibe. Can he go in day one? Maybe, depending on his combine. If he’s there in rounds 2-3 he could be a genuine option for Seattle.

5. It’s another group of outstanding receivers. Laquon Treadwell has soft hands, excellent body control, the ability to make difficult catches look easy and he’s enough of a size/speed athlete to warrant early first round attention. Michael Thomas is big and fast and made a huge statement with his stop-and-go domination of Kendall Fuller. Tyler Boyd is Percy Harvin-lite (without the headaches) while Braxton Miller is possibly the best player ‘in space’ in this class. Baylor’s Corey Coleman has made endless plays all year and he’s a stunning athlete — but he needs to stop mailing in snaps when he knows he isn’t getting the ball. De’Runnya Wilson is a basketball player with great size. He has a few mental drops but he’s in the Kelvin Benjamin class in terms of potential.

Quick thought on the Seahawks

They just have to execute. It sounds simple. Yet if they execute in the previous two weeks like we know they’re capable, this is a 4-2 team. They should’ve won in St. Louis too — and could’ve won in Green Bay. This is a loaded roster rich in talent.

Last year they went to San Francisco and snatched away any chance the 49ers had of the post-season. Time for history to repeat itself.

Forget the negativity. Move forward. One win ignites the season.


3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #8

October 19th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This week we’re joined by Danny Kelly to pick through the Seahawks 2-4 start. We also discuss the dramatic end to the Michigan/Michigan State game, Paxton Lynch’s statement win against Ole Miss and the continued rise of Auburn’s Shon Coleman.


Instant reaction: Seahawks blow another fourth quarter lead

October 18th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton


There are a lot of words people will search for to describe Seattle’s latest defeat. Some won’t be printable on a family blog.

I plumped for ‘confusing‘. Despite what people might tell you (probably in an angry social media rant) it’s almost impossible to explain what just happened.


The Seahawks have blown fourth quarter leads in six of their last eight games — a statistic that is utterly preposterous in the Pete Carroll era. Really bad teams don’t collapse in this manner — let alone Super Bowl caliber teams that actually preach ‘finishing’ as a key philosophy.

One of Seattle’s other mantra’s? Win the turnover battle. Once again mission accomplished. Once again it doesn’t translate to a victory.

It doesn’t make sense.

The offense and defense share equal responsibility.

Tasked with another chance to close a game out in the fourth quarter, the offense stuttered and stalled again. The play calling was once more questionable, if understandable. Seattle came out throwing and struggled to kill any clock. Maybe it was the aggressive move to make? The Seahawks had struggled to run up the middle against Carolina. The run-run-throw-punt formula hadn’t worked on a couple of earlier drives.

They were aggressive and tried to win with a Super Bowl winning quarterback. It almost felt like they knew they couldn’t trust the defense. They had to win it here. Unfortunately the fragility of the passing offense was once again exposed.

The Seahawks have the weapons to be a deadly passing attack even without an elite offensive line. They showed it today with Jimmy Graham running riot. Yet there’s also something missing this year — and that’s where the word ‘confusing’ comes back into play. What exactly is the problem?

Wilson is still making plays. His stat line isn’t that bad again today. They didn’t turn it over. They finally got Graham rolling. The protection wasn’t too bad. So why does the passing game appear to be regressing at a time when it technically should be as potent as ever?

The drive stalled. Seattle punted. And there was that familiar sinking feeling.

Having once again failed to mount a closing drive in the fourth quarter — it was up to the defense to make the game winning stop.

And once again — they failed.

Anyone who wants to label this loss squarely at the offense will be letting the defense right off the hook. The Panthers coasted along during their 80-yard game winning march. The only resistance came via a Bruce Irvin sack — but even on 2nd and 19 the Panthers had all the answers.

The winning score saw two all-pro elite defensive backs allow obvious target Greg Olsen to run free into the end zone. Of all the players in all the situations. Cam Newton probably couldn’t believe his luck. Another blown coverage against a dynamic tight end. What is more confusing here? That it keeps happening, or that this particular gaffe involved two of Seattle’s best?

After the game it was revealed Thomas and Sherman received two different defensive calls. How does this happen?

Like the passing offense, Seattle’s elite defensive unit lurches between adept and anonymous. They were fearsome, explosive and opportunistic at times today. Earl Thomas played like a man possessed, Cliff Avril caused problems for the Panthers O-line and Kam Chancellor had an excellent leaping interception.

And yet all of Carolina’s touchdown drives appeared comfortable. Play after play after play. A few times this season there’s been almost a feeling of inevitability about the way a drive is going to end.

Bend but not break? This defense is officially broken.

For some reason the fourth quarter has become a monstrous, impossible, all-conquering demon to this team. And everyone shares the blame.

The confusing part comes in trying to work out how to fix it. What is it exactly they are doing wrong? Especially when they dominate certain drives and fall apart in others?

The end product is a 2-4 team staring at a wasted season. The Seahawks go on the road to San Francisco and Dallas in two games that will determine whether they have any chance of salvaging the 2015 campaign.

How do they turn it around? There’s no Percy Harvin to trade. There doesn’t seem to be any weird atmosphere around the team that requires fixing. You might question their emotional state after two disastrous losses.

They had a week to try and avoid a repeat of last weeks agonising defeat. Having failed, how do they sort it out during a short week?

Calling for people to lose their jobs might make you feel better but it won’t achieve anything today. It also lets the players off the hook — and they, ultimately, are the ones not executing. They must take a large portion of the responsibility.

It’s up to them now. The players. Russell Wilson is no longer the plucky third rounder. He’s a +$20m a year quarterback and has to deliver when it matters (the fourth quarter). The Legion of Boom and the rest of a loaded defense — paid handsomely — have to stand up to be counted and make this work at key moments (the fourth quarter).

There are too many good players, too many big salaries and too much expected of this team to let a year go to waste.

And yet if they don’t return to form soon — if they don’t stop blowing fourth quarter leads — we’re going to be talking about the NFL Draft and not the playoffs in January.


College Football Saturday: Open thread

October 17th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Watching a game? Watching a prospect? Anyone stand out? Or do you just want to talk about the PAC-12?

Whatever you want to discuss, here’s your thread.

Click here for notes on Shon Coleman yesterday, plus a preview of today’s game for Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis) against Ole Miss).