— Danny Shelton (NT, Washington) is 6-2, 339lbs. He also has six sacks in two games, 7.5 TFL’s and 24 total tackles. He’s a classic nose tackle in every sense — short, stout, strong and wide. Watching him on tape, however, I think his stock will be limited. Teams are switching to nickel as their base. I’m not sure whether a player like this warrants a high grade in the modern NFL. Sure, you’d like to plug him in there for rushing downs. Yet to be effective overall he has to be a physical freak too. Louis Nix suffered badly last year because despite his size and production, he just wasn’t unique like Dontari Poe. Shelton is more Nix than Poe. He might be a nice pickup for someone, but probably not as an early pick unless he’s more athletic than he looks.
— One nose tackle who may be a little closer to Poe is Oklahoma’s brilliant Jordan Phillips. Against Tulsa on Saturday he rag-dolled an offensive lineman before scooping up a fumble and running it back 69-yards for a touchdown. The score was called back on a lousy ‘hit out of bounds’ call. He’s 6-6 and 339lbs — length, size and speed. He had some injury issues last year but he’s back to his best and is eligible for the 2015 draft. Keep an eye on this guy.
— We’ve been all over Markus Golden since last season. He’s an explosive, terrific pass rusher and could easily be a first rounder next year. A former JUCO transfer, he was buried behind Michael Sam and Kony Ealy last season. This year he’s already up to three sacks in just two outings and he looks the part. His sack against Toledo at the weekend showed off his long speed — disengaging from a block and accelerating to the QB. Combine that with ideal short-area quickness, great hand use and the grit to translate to the NFL and he has a shot. Don’t underestimate the ‘grit’ part either. So many college pass rushers win by exploiting average linemen with their speed. When they face top tier linemen in the NFL they need more — and they struggle. This is why hand use and attitude is key. You can’t expect to win on the edge every week in the NFL, you need to be able to engage a block and still win 1v1 battles.
— I mentioned on Saturday the impressive effort by Leonard Williams of USC. Despite spraining an ankle in the week and appearing to re-injure himself during warm-ups, Williams played a full game. I’m not sure he’s quite as good as all the top-five talk suggests, mainly due to his position. What is he? I doubt you draft him as a pure edge rusher because he has marginal edge speed. He’s more of a five technique who can play the three on third down. He has good size and length at 6-5 and around 290-300lbs. He had a big sack on the penultimate significant play of the game against Stanford and led the celebrations after. Given all the pre-season hype over his draft stock, he deserves credit for not playing it safe with an injury. The issue could hamper his ability to play at 100% for a few weeks.
— I’m not sure the Seahawks will be in the market for a player like Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) but he’s just a really fun player to watch. He’s a tackle machine, an enforcer and he’s going to be a steal for someone in next years draft.
It crashed shortly after the 2014 draft and sadly this week my computer finally gave in. Hopefully I’ll have a new one by Monday and can put down some thoughts on week 2 in college football. In the meantime, feel free to use this as an open thread.
Two quick thoughts for now after watching USC defeat Stanford…
— Leonard Williams (DL, USC) might be a five tech, he might be a three. He played in this game despite a bad ankle. For such a vaunted prospect to play with an injury, he deserves credit. Williams was clearly slowed but had a key sack with 50 seconds to go. He’s not a speed rusher off the edge but he has great size and power. He holds his own working inside and has good length. Whether he’s explosive enough to go in the top ten remains to be seen, but this was a great effort.
— David Shaw seems like an overrated coach. He’s often touted for the NFL but I just don’t see it. He followed Jim Harbaugh and inherited a deep pool of talent. He’s done fairly well. And yet his team always seems to make critical errors (penalties, usually), he’s an incredibly conservative play caller and they lose big games they should win. If I’m a NFL owner looking for the next great coach in the NCAA, I’m calling Kevin Sumlin.
This was a rout. One of those games with a deceptive scoreline — even at 36-16.
The quick-tempo offense Green Bay installed played right into Seattle’s hands. Pete Carroll wants to avoid conceding explosive plays and force turnovers. Chipping away on short passes he’ll take every time. Bend but don’t break. The scheme helped convert a few 3rd and 5’s but they never truly tested the secondary.
Rodgers, one of the best deep throwers in the NFL, barely took a shot.
The most explosive play the Packers had all night was a 44-yard pass interference call against Bobby Wagner. The second most explosive was an avoidable Earl Thomas muffed punt.
They tried to establish the run but the Seahawks tackled well and plugged gaps. Eddie Lacy left the game with concussion symptoms after a 12-carry 34-yard evening. Rodgers didn’t fair much better with 189 yards a score and a pick.
Green Bay’s gameplan was predictable. To beat this team, particularly in Seattle, you need more. You need a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick who can do the unexpected and run around to make plays. You also need to avoid the seven interceptions Kaepernick has thrown against the Seahawks. It’s tough. But in a game that was essentially Rodgers vs Seattle, the Packers never took the training wheels off.
It wasn’t a flawless display by the home team and that has to be concerning for the rest of the NFC. This, if anything, was a classic loosener. There’s room for improvement and they still won by 20 points.
First let’s get into the stand-out positives after one viewing…
James Carpenter had a sensational performance. He always had talent. Big time talent. In fact given Mark Ingram’s issues in the NFL so far, you almost want to go back and give him an even higher grade. He jumped off the screen for Alabama and tonight he jumped off the screen against Green Bay.
On virtually every productive Seahawks run Carpenter had either a key block or just dominated his opponent. Seattle could run to the left side with ease picking up huge chunks of yardage. At one stage Lynch was averaging around 10 YPA. Carpenter destroyed every opponent he faced on an over-matched Packers D-line.
Tom Cable tipped him to become one of the best guards in the NFL along with J.R. Sweezy. On this evidence tonight, they’re already there. They’ll face tougher match-ups but Carpenter is almost certainly Seattle’s best offensive lineman right now. What a turn around and fingers crossed he stays healthy.
They fed Percy Harvin a lot — seven catches for 59 yards, four runs for 41. He could’ve had more but for a brilliantly executed flop by Clay Matthews drawing a flag and bringing back another big run. He also had a 31-yard return.
If you gave him 300 total yards tonight it wouldn’t tell the whole story. Stats will not define Harvin this year. His greatest characteristic is his mere presence on the field. Green Bay had to account for him every time. As a consequence every skill player on the field became more dangerous. Time and time again they ran Harvin on a fly sweep to one side of the field and he carried the defense with him. He’s so explosive over the first 5-10 yards he was eating up downs without breaking sweat.
When he did have the ball he was explosive. The only thing missing was a score. They’ll come in good time.
When has Seattle ever had a player as exciting as this?
If there is one criticism — on more than one occasion he stumbled and lost his footing. Given he was the only player with this issue, he probably needs to look at his footwear for the next home game.
Byron Maxwell got all the attention as Rodgers avoided Richard Sherman like the plague. The volume of targets he’ll receive plus the scheme means he’ll give up some plays in 1v1 coverage. Nobody should be surprised that Jordy Nelson made a few catches against Maxwell. Yet he maintains the ability to create turnovers. He had one interception tonight and a superb downfield pass break-up on Nelson. Don’t underestimate that play — he showed superb technique to avoid a flag and a huge penalty. On the next play Rodgers was sacked by Cliff Avril on 4th down, forcing a turnover.
The pass rush had a quiet first half but found it’s rhythm in the second. Avril, Michael Bennett and O’Brien Schofield all had sacks — no mean feat given the up-tempo nature of the Green Bay offense. There’s still work to do here but against such a prolific passing game this was a reassuring performance.
Zach Miller deserves a mention. He had an acrobatic red-line catch, several key edge-blocks, drew a holding call over the middle and defended a certain interception all in the first half. He ended the night with three catches for 42 yards.
Marshawn Lynch showed tonight why he’s still the key to the offense.
Now onto the not-so-great stuff…
What was Earl Thomas doing on his three first-half punt returns? The first should’ve been a fair catch, wasn’t and nearly led to a nasty hit/turnover. The second should’ve been a fair catch and did lead to a nasty hit/turnover. The third he allowed to bounce inside the 10-yard-line and again — should’ve been a fair catch. If he’s going to keep this role he has to make smarter decisions. The costly muffed punt turnover put seven points on the board for Green Bay. At half-time a one-sided affair was closer than it should’ve been at 17-10.
Stats can be deceiving. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was credited with a sack on a play where Russell Wilson ran for the sideline instead of throwing the ball away. He lost an inch or two on the ‘run’. How that is recorded as a sack I’ll never know. But no doubt there’s an analytic’s website somewhere willing to blame Breno Giacomini for that play.
Seattle was very creative on offense and it worked. But there were a few times where they went away from the run for no apparent reason. On the first drive after half time they drove up to midfield behind Lynch and Turbin and three passes later they were punting. I’m nitpicking here.
The Seahawks are going to take some stopping. Green Bay are far from a bad team and they were made to look very ordinary tonight.
San Francisco has a 4-0 record against Green Bay in the last two seasons. Two home victories, two road victories. In those four games they’ve averaged 33 points.
The Divisional round in 2012/13 was a major eye-opener. Green Bay’s archaic scheming was no match for Colin Kaepernick and the read option. They had no idea how to stop it, none at all. Aaron Rodgers kept them in a game that should’ve been a total blow out. Kaepernick ran for a quarterback record 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Packers looked old-fashioned, outdated and conceded 45 points on a miserable night.
They spent an entire off-season trying to fix the problem. When they faced Seattle in week three of the 2013 pre-season, they were as intense as any team I’ve seen in a meaningless sporting event. They had the 49ers in week one of the regular season and were determined to make amends. This was a chance to face a similar opponent, to test out all of the summer’s work.
They lost to the Seahawks that night. They lost to the 49ers 34-28 in week one.
Anticipating a heavy focus on the read-option, Jim Harbaugh brilliantly put the game on Kaepernick’s arm. Never known as an accomplished passer, he carved open the Packers for 412 yards in the air and three scores. A career best.
He ran seven times. The Packers probably planned for 17.
It highlighted Green Bay’s inability to adjust to an element of surprise. For what it’s worth the following week Kaepernick had a miserable turnover-laden night in Seattle.
Dom Capers is a highly respectable NFL coach and the current defensive coordinator of the Packers. He’s come in for criticism over the last two years because his defense has looked flat out bad.
According to Football Outsiders, Green Bay had the #31 ranked defense in the NFL last year. Even with Aaron Rodgers missing a large portion of the season through injury, the offense still ranked in the top ten (#9).
If the Packers had even an average defense, imagine how frightening they’d be?
With Capers still clinging to his job, they’ve only made two significant off-season additions. They drafted safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the draft and signed free agent Julius Peppers, who turns 35 in January.
Peppers is a generational great with 118.5 career sacks. Yet he only had seven last year on a rotten Bears defense despite playing in all 16 games. Dix meanwhile has been battling for a starting spot with Micah Hyde and according to the teams depth chart — won’t start in Seattle.
Peppers and Clay Matthews will still cause plenty of problems this year, possibly starting in week one. Russell Okung needed extra reps in the final pre-season game to get up to scratch and rookie Justin Britt starts at right tackle. The last two times Seattle started an OL rookie this early, it didn’t go so well on debut. J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie were both given a baptism of fire.
You do get the sense, however, you can be creative against this Packers unit and keep them off guard. San Francisco has shown that. The Seahawks will want to establish the run of course and they could have some early success there. But this is still a Caper’s defense that has had major issues adjusting in-game. It won’t be a surprise if Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin are the X-factors in week one, perhaps more so than Marshawn Lynch. They are the two players most capable of providing the unexpected.
Even if Seattle scores points, they’ll still need to keep a lid on the Packers offense. In the four recent defeats to San Francisco they still scored an average of 25 points. In week one last year they managed 28 points at Candlestick — the most San Francisco conceded at home in 2013 and the second most overall (one point short of Seattle’s tally vs the 49ers in week two).
The Niners conceded 48 points to the Packers in two games last season. Seattle might need to exploit possible weaknesses in Green Bay’s defense to win the game. It could be a high scoring contest, maybe even a shoot-out.
Eddie Lacy is a fantastic running back but the key is Rodgers. In Green Bay’s last visit to Seattle (2012) you could see the difference between a pressured Rodgers and a quarterback allowed to get into a rhythm. In the first half he was sacked eight times and scored zero points. In the second half Seattle couldn’t get near him as the Packers upped the tempo and found a way to slow down the pass rush.
Is it optimistic to think he can play four quarters at that level on Thursday? Perhaps, especially against a defense that has taken giant strides since 2012. But if there’s one QB who can do it, it’s probably this guy.
Seattle’s new defensive line couldn’t wish for a better test.
It is a new defensive line — even if many familiar names remain. It’ll be a little strange looking at an early down without Red Bryant’s massive presence or Chris Clemons working the edge. There’s no Clinton McDonald supplying a vital interior rush. The combinations are going to be different, the looks will change. Pete Carroll made reference to a kind of evolution in the immediate aftermath of Bryant’s departure. For us observers, there’s an element of mystery to this.
For starters they have to get to the QB. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are as good as any pass-rush tandem in the league, but against a likely up-tempo passing attack they’ll need to work the substitutions. Can O’Brien Schofield continue his pre-season form? Can Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill have an impact?
There were times over the last month where the defense looked a little sluggish against both the run and pass. However, key players sat out (Bennett, Bobby Wagner) and they’ll always benefit from a home crowd in Seattle.
What could be key is the return of Bruce Irvin. He had a monster performance against the Packers in 2012 and could see more reps at the LOS especially in rush situations. He could be a surprise impact player on defense.
Something else that maybe works in Seattle’s favour is the Green Bay offensive line. Center Corey Linsley makes his first start following an injury to J.C. Tretter. They’ve also lost tackle Don Barclay to an ACL injury.
Their starting line is: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Josh Sitton, C Corey Linsley, RG T.J. Lang, RT Bryan Bulaga.
If there are questions about Seattle’s defensive line after an off-season of tweaks, there are certainly a few questions that need to be asked about Green Bay’s offensive line.
Nevertheless — as with a lot of up-tempo passing games, the need for an elite offensive line is somewhat diminished. Rodgers’ quick release, superb handling of the offense and ability to find a mismatch makes for a terrific attack. He’ll make plays, but can the defense make more?
One final point on Seattle — the performance of Russell Wilson and the offense during pre-season was a major plus-point. There’s no reason why that can’t continue into the regular season — especially if Harvin remains healthy.
It’s easy to forget that in 2012 he was the most outstanding skill-position player in the NFL for several weeks. The defense has to account for him wherever he lines up. The threat of a bubble screen can free up space over the middle. A faked end-around can drag defenders out of a congested LOS freeing up running room for Lynch. His ability to run deep will create 1-on-1 opportunities for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
Seattle can improve on 2013. That’s the scary thing for the rest of the NFL. The offense has major growth potential with Harvin in the line-up.
Let’s see if they can take the next step — starting tomorrow.
This was a good start for Oakman, who’s listed at 6-9 and 280lbs by ESPN. In fact it was a good start for the entire Baylor defense. SMU couldn’t block anything, the Bears regularly had 2-3 players (if not more) rampaging into the backfield. The game looked every bit a 45-0 beat-down.
The hype factor on Oakman has gone into overdrive. If he was 6-5 it wouldn’t be so interesting. If he really is 6-9 and 280lbs then he moves incredibly well for the size — and it makes him a very interesting pro-prospect. He carries the height/weight perfectly. He’s not skinny like Dion Jordan (6-7) — he’s sculpted. He has a few moves too — his swim in particular was on show here.
He was credited with two sacks and if he can add production to freakish physical potential he’ll be a high pick. Much sterner tests await, however.
Baylor go to Texas on October 4th, Oklahoma on November 8th and finish with three home games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State. Those five games will be a much better test-case for his potential. That’s not knocking what he achieved in the video above, it’s just perspective.
I don’t expect the Seahawks to draft a running back in round one. I think they’d only consider it if an Adrian Peterson level player was sat there at the end of round one.
A gift. A set of events that is pretty unlikely.
It’s a funny situation because on the one hand, Seattle is determined to use an explosive and physical running game as its offensive focal point. When the Seahawks eventually do part ways with Marshawn Lynch they’ll probably feel his departure, whoever’s waiting in the wings.
Yet even with a real sense of priority towards the run, here’s what we need to remember…
— The league has moved on from the 30-40 carry work horse. Lynch averaged 18 runs a game last season, with a regular season-high of 28 carries (vs San Francisco in week 2). In 2006 Shaun Alexander averaged 25 carries a game during an injury-hit regular season. He had a regular season high of 40 carries (vs Green Bay).
— Teams are passing on good running backs in round one these days, but Trent Richardson was seen as the exception to the rule. He was considered (by the media and many teams) to be a safe pick and was duly drafted #3 overall by Cleveland. His titanic failure coupled with the success of later round or UDFA backs will not be forgotten in a hurry.
— Pete Carroll is kind of making an exception by making Lynch such a tone-setter and focal point. At USC he loved to let multiple 5-star recruits battle for snaps. A multi-back system seems likely going forward. Even if Lynch retires after the 2014 season, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael are both contracted for at least another year. With potentially greater needs on the OL and DL — are you spending a vital first rounder on a running back?
It just seems unlikely.
I’m not convinced Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley will go in round one, or at least in the top-20. They’re both exceptional players with different skill-sets. Gordon has fantastic acceleration, the ability to cut with ease and the vision to exploit the smallest gap. He’s elusive and athletic if not a straight line runner. Gurley has the size to pound the rock but he’s surprisingly more effective when used as an explosive home run hitter carrying in the 15-20 range. That’s not to say he can’t develop into a feature runner like Lynch, but he tired too easily at times last season.
We’re seeing the position as a whole take a back seat. Teams rush to snap up the top offensive lineman and with several attractive DL options eligible for next years draft, they’ll almost certainly take priority. Not to mention the top 2-3 quarterbacks.
I suspect the Seahawks would be willing to keep looking for value at the position. Christine Michael was a relatively high pick but still a late second rounder. He wasn’t just any old running back either, he was one of the best athletes to enter the league in his generation — a true SPARQ champion. If given the opportunity to go after a first round running back or chance their arm on another Spencer Ware-type later on, I think they’ll wait.
If Lynch doesn’t retire and Turbin/Michael remain too, it’s pretty much a moot point.
And yet when you watch their week one tape, there’s still a lot to like about Gordon and Gurley. Fans of many teams will pine for this pair in 2015, we’ll see in good time where their true value lies.
Markus Golden, a former JUCO star, is ready for a big season
— Markus Golden (DE, Missouri) is one of the more underrated pro-prospects in college football. We talked about him back in May as a potential breakout candidate. His state line against South Dakota State in week one? 10 tackles, three for a loss and two sacks. Only one player troubled Ja’Wuan James (first round tackle from Tennessee) last season — Markus Golden. Keep an eye on him.
— Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan) has switched from tight end to receiver this year. He’s 6-5 and 230lbs, he’s incredibly fluid running downfield and it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the change. On Saturday he had seven catches for 95 yards and three touchdowns. Considering he only had six total touchdowns last season, this is an impressive start. He has the potential to be a first round pick next year.
— The West Virginia/Alabama game featured two intriguing receivers. Amari Cooper is well known and he finished with 12 catches for 130 yards. He’s going to get a ton of targets this year — new starting quarterback Blake Sims pretty much looked his way on every read. He’s adept at getting open and he runs crisp routes. You still have to question what his ceiling is at the next level given his lack of size. Is he another Marqise Lee/Robert Woods? WVU’s Kevin White has the size (6-3, 210lbs) and could be set to deliver on his massive potential. He’s a senior and recorded nine catches for 143 yards and a score.
He has a fantastic size/speed combo and he can high point the football. The way he comes back to the quarterback is reminiscent of Sidney Rice. He’s suffered with confidence issues in the past. Last year he managed just 507 yards from 35 receptions. This is a better West Virginia team and he’s another prospect who could really emerge this season.
— Nebraska’s highly rated pass rusher Randy Gregory hurt a knee against Florida Atlantic. It’s not said to be serious, but it’s something to monitor.
— Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia) had a sensational performance against Clemson. He had a 23-yard touchdown, a 100-yard kick return TD, an 18-yard score and then a 51-yarder. Georgia didn’t ask him to do too much and that’s the way it has to be. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a 25-30 carry runner who wears down a defense over time. He’s an impact playmaker. He finished with 198 rushing yards from 15 carries. It’s also worth noting Clemson’s run defense isn’t the greatest.
After a difficult night in Oakland, it isn’t a total surprise that Seattle looked elsewhere for an extra corner. Phillip Adams and Akeem Auguste had rough outings. The Seahawks are likely to gain a cluster of conditional picks next year and they’ve chosen to give up a 6th for Burley.
He’s 23 and another native of Richmond, Virginia. He went undrafted in 2013 and had spells in Jacksonville, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Indianapolis. He’s listed at 5-10 and 189lbs and hasn’t made a NFL start.
New #Seahwks CB Marcus Burley had nice preseason. No. 3-ranked corner on 103 snaps according to @PFF.
This was also expected. Toomer hasn’t had a fair crack due to injury, while Mayowa was outplayed by O’Brien Schofield.
Veteran tackle Eric Winston is something of surprise cut. Gary Gilliam has tweeted he made the team — clearly the Seahawks feel good about his development. Jimmy Staten and Phillip Adams were also cut.
It means receiver Phil Bates made the cut. He had a strong camp, even if he was quiet in some of the pre-season games. The Seahawks are carrying seven receivers including Kevin Norwood. They only have four running backs — including full back Derrick Coleman. Steve Schilling beat out Caylin Hauptmann.
This was on the cards. Pryor, for all his outstanding athleticism, simply isn’t a good quarterback. Too often he succumbed to the temptation to run after the first read, too often he made the wrong decision. The interception in San Diego was a glimpse of what he’s capable of under pressure. While Russell Wilson remains ice-cold, Pryor in that instance tried to throw it away and lofted one up for grabs.
Stashing him on the roster would’ve meant carrying a non-active red-shirt player who’s out of contract in 2015. Even if they spent time developing him (and how can you develop a 3rd string QB with limited snaps in practise?) they could’ve lost him for nothing in a few months.
Look at Indianapolis when they had Peyton Manning. They never developed a suitable backup or prospective replacement. Why? Because Manning took all the practise snaps. When you have an established quarterback that’s what happens. Pryor just wouldn’t get the snaps week-to-week to show real growth.
It seems likely they’ll run with two quarterbacks again, freeing up the option to carry an extra wide receiver (Bryan Walters?) or another defensive lineman (Benson Mayowa?). It’d be a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t look on the waiver wire for a defensive line or defensive back addition to the roster.
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