Thoughts on the Kansas City game

August 21st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Michael Bennett was the best player on the field and it wasn’t even close. He lived in the backfield from start to finish. He had success working inside and the edge. His sack ended a promising two minute drill for Kansas City to end the half.

When Bennett plays this way he’s virtually unstoppable and genuinely one of the elite defensive players in the league.

The front seven overall looked very impressive. Brandon Mebane had a big sack and looked very stout playing next to Ahtyba Rubin. Frank Clark wasn’t supposed to feature as he nurses an ankle injury but still made a tipped pass in the first quarter.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner were right behind Bennett in terms of impact. Wright had two big TFL’s and always seemed to be involved. Wagner’s pick six showed great awareness — although Alex Smith again showed his maddening limitations. He doesn’t improvise and is tied to the call. He occasionally scrambles but that’s about it. On the pick he tried to fool Wagner with a very basic look-off to the left.

Dion Bailey made some big hits and looked like he was enjoying himself — while DeShawn Shead showed off his versatility as a corner/safety hybrid.

The offense stuttered for a while before finding some rhythm late in the half. All eyes were on the pass protection which was generally good. Gary Gilliam looks raw but was mostly effective. Justin Houston brushed him off with a speed move forcing Russell Wilson to quickly dump the ball off towards Christine Michael. It was the only significant whiff by Gilliam in pass-pro. He showed a nice base and good footwork. He has natural leverage.

Justin Britt started with a big impact block driving his guy five yards off the LOS. He just looks a lot more comfortable at left guard. Overall this half signified a major improvement on seven days ago against another good pass-rushing defense. Strangely enough it was the run-blocking that suffered somewhat especially when Robert Turbin was on the field. Christine Michael made more of his snaps, including this block to knock Dee Ford out of the game:

Jimmy Graham is the missing link this offense has been crying out for. A box-out big target with plus athleticism. Look at this mismatch running the seam against safety Ron Parker. All he has to do is hold position and work the back-shoulder throw. It’s perfect and a cheap reception. The Seahawks needed this badly.

Missed tackles were a minor issue. Pete Carroll complimented the tackling last week against Denver. There were several whiffs in the first half tonight.

I’ll add second half thoughts on Saturday, it’s 2:31am here.


Some thoughts on the Kam Chancellor hold out

August 20th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Kam Chancellor appears ready to extend his hold out into the regular season

ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who courted some controversy a year ago after a report on Michael Sam’s showering habits, has recently taken to fighting Kam Chancellor’s corner as his holdout lingers without any sign of ending.

On August 7th Anderson wrote a report on Facebook that felt more like a press release from Chancellor’s agent. It went into great detail about his salary and what he was seemingly asking the Seahawks to do. She noted the QBR rating of opposing quarterbacks facing Seattle without Chancellor. She noted how many snaps he’d played since 2010.

Anderson even offered the following opinion:

My impression of Chancellor is that he’s a man of principal who gives his life path a lot of thought and meditation, and that he’s methodical about his options.

Today she appeared on the Brock and Salk show to discuss the situation. The two hosts very graciously credited her with “owning” the story while she again proceeded to do Chancellor’s bidding.

It was a slightly difficult and not altogether neutral view of the situation.

It’s nothing compared to the difficult position Seahawks fans find themselves in when considering this impasse.

You won’t find a single fan with a bad thing to say about Kam Chancellor. Not only is he a tremendous strong safety, he’s everything a working fan wants to see on their team. A physical, uncompromising style. A tone-setting force. That enviable chess-piece every other team wishes they had. He seems to always play his best football in the post-season — and the regular season stuff isn’t half bad either. He’ll play hurt, play for his team mates and lead by example.

And yet increasingly fans are starting to question the motives of this highly respected member of the LOB.

Football might be a business to the players. It’s true that teams will cast individuals aside with little care or second thought. Yet to the fans it’s just a game. A release from the mundanity of everyday life. And when they see multi-millionaire’s going on strike because they want even more money — it’s hard to understand.

The players argue they put their bodies on the line every Sunday for 16 weeks a year for entertainment. That might be the case — but what about the guy who works 12-hour shifts on a building site for an annual salary less than the amount Kam Chancellor is willing to give up in fines for missing one day of training camp?

Is that guy not equally putting his body on the line? Is he allowed to sign a contract and then not turn up when he decides he wants more money?

How can he be expected to see Chancellor’s side of the story on this situation?

If he holds-out into the regular season, he’ll be throwing millions of dollars ($1M in fines and $4.45M in 2015 guaranteed money) down the drain. And for what? He’s still contracted to the Seahawks until 2017. He’d have to show up in week 10 to record an accrued season, otherwise he’d be under contract until the end of 2018. If he plays the last six games does he hold out again next year? And the year after?

By the time he hits free agency he’d be 30 years old, having wasted millions in salary and potential fines. Is a 30-year-old Chancellor going to command a massive new contract on the open market? Or would he just be wasting a ton of cash, the best years of his career and an opportunity to lead this team to another Championship or two — cementing his legacy as one of Seattle’s all-time greats?

Granted he probably senses that at age 30 he’ll be close to the end of his career. The time to earn is now, during his peak. It’s just too bad he already signed the coveted second-contract. He and his agent made their bed — now they must sleep in it. The Seahawks showed a ton of faith to reward Chancellor early with a handsome contract. Should they now be punished because the market has flipped in their favour?

This seems to be at the heart of the hold-out. Chancellor has to play the ‘I’m irreplaceable’ card. He has no other play to make if he wants more money today. The only way he can prove he’s irreplaceable is to miss games with the hope the team struggles in his absence. As a fan, how can you begin to understand that stance? It’s the only leverage he has.

He has to force the Seahawks to act, otherwise they won’t. Why would they? If they buckle for Chancellor they have to deal with Michael Bennett next year. Or Richard Sherman. Or Earl Thomas.

And isn’t that the beauty of this roster? It’s not reliant on one player on either side of the ball in the way Houston relies on J.J. Watt or Green Bay Aaron Rodgers. Losing Chancellor would be a blow — but you’ve still got Bennett, Mebane, Avril, Irvin, Clark, Wagner, Wright, Sherman, Thomas, Williams and others.

Would the Seahawks panic in week six if one of their key players suffered an injury? Did they panic when they lost Mebane last year? Of course not. It’s next man up. And it’ll almost certainly be that way if Chancellor prolongs his hold out into the regular season.

As things stand they have $5m in free cap space. Unfortunately that’s really -$1m as around $6m is required for the 52nd/53rd player on the roster, Injured Reserve and the practise squad. So they really don’t have the cap space to give Chancellor a pay increase.

Anderson’s point regarding signing-bonus conversion is all well and good — but why should the Seahawks make that move? They know full well they’ll be setting a bad precedent for any other player who wants to pull a similar stunt in the future. Chancellor and his agent signed the deal. Now they’re trying to force the Seahawks into a move they don’t have to make.

This stand-off doesn’t appear to be benefiting anyone other than Josina Anderson’s Facebook page.


Adam Schefter reaffirms Anderson’s note that Chancellor is willing to hold out during the regular season.

The report on Evan Mathis is intriguing. Is it an attempt by the Mathis camp to jump start his market? It reads like a ‘come and get me’ plea. After all, he’s supposedly asking for a handsome salary (he wanted more than $5.5m a year from the Eagles) — and as we noted in the piece, Seattle has almost no cap room to play with.

Alternatively — do the Seahawks have to find a way to slot Mathis into the roster? Even if it means sacrificing another player? The offensive line is clearly a concern. Mathis is a tried and tested guard and would instantly upgrade the unit (albeit as merely a stopgap).

At the moment it’s just a visit he might not even make.


Seahawks swap Justin Britt to guard, Garry Gilliam to RT

August 17th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Gary Gilliam is getting a chance at right tackle

“We have to get better”

“We can’t go out there, struggle early in games and take some hits that we don’t need to take”

“We couldn’t wait much longer to do this”

…The words of Pete Carroll today following a concerning opening pre-season performance from his offensive line.

It isn’t usual for a team to have question marks at three O-line positions heading into the second week of a pre-season game. Lines rely on chemistry and understanding to succeed. Carroll’s choice of words above is certainly justified.

This is a concern.

That’s not to say Seattle’s line play has always been flawless. Nevertheless, Breno Giacomini did a better job making the right tackle spot his own compared to James Carpenter and now Justin Britt. After a year of Chris Spencer, Max Unger became the bonafide starter at center. Carpenter, for all his inconsistencies, never appeared truly troubled after switching to left guard.

This year Alvin Bailey hasn’t done enough to nail down a guard spot — despite seemingly being given every opportunity to do so. Lemuel Jeanpierre’s familiarity is being seriously challenged by Drew Nowak’s upside — yet it doesn’t seem either player has really separated from the other.

Now there’s another possible switch in the offing. After a sometimes torrid rookie season at right tackle, Justin Britt is being tried at left guard. Carroll, in his typical fashion, talked the move up as a review of Garry Gilliam’s good play in camp. They want to see him at right tackle. That’s fair enough — they clearly rate and trust Gilliam.

It’s also a move they haven’t tried one single time before Britt’s poor display against Denver on Friday. A lousy attempt to block Von Miller was a steady reminder of his struggles with pass protection. As much as this might be a chance for Gilliam, it’s also a sign that Britt might not make it as a right tackle in the NFL.

The Seahawks found themselves in a tricky spot in 2014. After deciding to go receiver (Paul Richardson) with their first pick instead of an offensive lineman — they left open the possibility they might miss out on the O-line class altogether. It was a somewhat risky move given the superb depth at receiver that year and the minimal riches at tackle or guard.

Having owned the #32 pick after winning the Super Bowl, they traded down twice to #45. Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went at #33, tackle Joel Bitonio at #35, center Weston Richberg was drafted at #43 and Cyrus Kouandjio at #44. This quartet have had mixed fortunes with the exception of Bitonio — a blog favourite before the 2014 draft. Even so, this constitutes a small rush and diminished the O-line options.

Seattle took Richardson who they clearly really liked and waited until pick #64 to take an offensive lineman. After Jack Mewhort was taken by the Colts at #59 — options were running out. The Seahawks didn’t have a third round pick because of the Percy Harvin trade and pulled off a minor shock when they took little-known Justin Britt (a player many graded in the later rounds).

It seemed slightly desperate. Tom Cable usually hands a list of candidates he likes to John Schneider. It’s apparent that list was running dry by #64 and a reach was worthwhile to land at least one of the names. Britt fit the profile.

Unfortunately it’s at least somewhat possible he’ll be Seattle’s second failed early round pick at right tackle after James Carpenter in 2011.

It’d be easy to use hindsight to second guess the 2014 draft. Bitonio has shone in Cleveland while the likes of Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry and Martavis Bryant have performed well after being taken around or beyond the #64 pick. Richardson’s injury and Britt’s play makes it easier to wonder what could’ve been. The Seahawks don’t have any time for that — and it’s why they’re making these moves.

Britt at guard seems like a much more comfortable fit. His short arms and struggles in space 1v1 will be less extreme playing in-between a tackle and center. Gilliam is a superior athlete with superior footwork and length. He has a better chance to deal with some of the athletes playing edge rush in the NFL.

It’s yet another walk into the unknown though. Can Britt and Gilliam adjust? How alarming is it that the Seahawks are still some way off knowing their best five guys and their best five positions on the offensive line?

Have they done a good enough job drafting for the O-line? They didn’t whiff on Okung or former project J.R. Sweezy — but they missed on Carpenter and John Moffitt. Britt could go either way at this stage.

The uncertainty could linger into the season. They might still be working this out a few weeks in. That’s why I think it could be partially responsible for a possible 0-2 start before a likely ‘worst case’ 4-1 to follow.

The fear is the Seahawks have gone from a functioning if far from elite O-line to an inexperienced, unfamiliar unit lacking in quality.

Hopefully this latest change will provide some stability up front. It’s absolutely necessary and critical if the Seahawks are to start as they mean to go on in 2015.

Another dynamic to consider — the only two somewhat reliable starters (Okung and Sweezy) are both free agents in 2016. If they want to improve the line and avoid further issues in the future, these two might end up being priority re-signs in the off-season.


O-line issues dogging NFL, not just Seahawks

August 15th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Eric Fisher has struggled since entering the league

NFL teams are facing a crisis. A situation that could potentially challenge the game for a generation.

Offensive linemen are struggling in the modern era.

It’s no real surprise. We’ve talked for years on this blog about the top High School athletes choosing to play defense. The big schools are rich in defensive line talent. The O-line positions are being shunned as a consequence — and there’s a significant mismatch developing in college football.

This is starting to filter into the leagues and have an impact. College teams are adapting their offenses to counter the problem and it’s playing at least some part in the increase in high-octane spread schemes. The quicker you get the ball out the less reliance on your O-line to block that 5-star recruit. Offenses are being simplified to the Nth degree.

O-liners aren’t being coached to prepare for the NFL. They appear to be being coached to survive merely in college.

Mark Schlereth went on Brock and Salk last week and talked about the time he’s spent helping the Denver Broncos O-line during training camp. He spoke openly about the lack of technique Denver’s young O-line had shown and criticised the way young linemen are being prepared for the NFL.

I watched several NFL pre-season games over the last two days and it’ll be at least some comfort to Seahawks fans that their team isn’t the only one with issues. As the older generation of linemen move on — teams are trying to install younger players into their scheme with seriously mixed results.

The Dallas Cowboys have crafted the best line in football with sound judgement and big investment. Their left tackle, center and one of their guards were drafted in the first round. It also helps that Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were all really good players in college. Smith was an incredible athlete playing right tackle at USC with limitless potential. Frederick was a technically gifted mauler at Wisconsin and Martin is good enough to play any position on a NFL line. Smart picks, big investment. They’re benefitting as a consequence.

Not every team can go in this direction of course (Smith and Martin were both top-16 picks) but it seems the league is very aware of the problem and clubs are trying to find ways around the issue of more athletic defensive lines. This is partly why we saw Eric Fisher’s dramatic rise to become the #1 overall pick in 2013. He was the best ‘athlete’ at offensive tackle that year. Fisher has generally struggled but you can see the thought process in Kansas City’s pick. Greg Robinson was another quick riser the following year for similar reasons.

In Seattle’s case they’ve collected a number of athletic linemen that fit a specific profile. They’re also quietly setting a new trend — the conversion of defensive linemen into O-liners. More teams are trying this now — even in college. Cam Erving, a recent first round pick by the Browns, originally played defense.

Expect to see more of this over the next few years in college and the NFL. With so many college recruits opting to play D it makes sense that several will be asked to convert like Erving.

Is it going to act as an equaliser though?

That’s the issue really. Can a rag tag bunch of former D-liners be brought together to challenge the best pass rushers (and athletes) in the NFL as they learn on the hop? Or are we destined to see a new era in the NFL where teams have to go the college route and find alternative schemes and systems to compensate for overmatched offenses?

The Seahawks are already kind of doing this by using a mobile quarterback and accepting that their scheme will involve a lot of scrambling, read-option and controlled chaos. Teams like New England and Indianapolis/Denver have been using variations of the spread for years to protect Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Now Chip Kelly’s offense is in the league.

The concept of time in the pocket could very soon be a thing of the past. Mobility, improvisation and composure might develop into the most important characteristics a quarterback can have. It’d be a generational change from the more orthodox pocket passer that has dominated the NFL for years.

Unless the league can find a way to sufficiently match-up against increasingly athletic defensive lines — they’re going to have to consider new schemes, styles and variations. Just like many college teams. That in turn could help the transition from college-to-NFL for offensive lineman. But otherwise it could be a real struggle for teams to protect up front.


In terms of Seattle’s O-line performance last night — it was scarily bad at times. I made a podcast appearance with Kenneth Arthur during the summer and suggested a raw, untested O-line could cost Seattle the first two games of the season (@ St. Louis, @ Green Bay). It wouldn’t be any reason to panic with a less formidable part of the schedule to follow — but 0-2 isn’t out of the question and the line could be the reason why.

It’s clear whoever eventually does start needs time — and that’s before we even question whether the talent is good enough. The Seahawks are hoping that later round picks and UDFA’s can fill the holes left by players drafted early (James Carpenter, Max Unger).

Facing a frightening Rams D-line on the opening weekend and needing to go to Green Bay to follow will be a serious test of what appears to be a weak or at least inexperienced group. The #1’s were manhandled in the Denver game.

The right side of Sweezy and Britt will always be better against the run than the pass. The revolving door at left guard and center during camp is yet to provide any clarity. At least Russell Okung is healthy and looks in good shape. At this stage, 16 games from Okung feels absolutely vital.

If they had any cap room we could take about Evan Mathis. He appears to be holding out for the kind of money Seattle simply cannot afford. An extra experienced, cool head on that O-line seems critical at the moment.

An underrated aspect of an O-line is familiarity. The best lines work as a group with genuine chemistry. It’s very hard for the Seahawks to develop that in pre-season when two spots are up for grabs — including the starting center.

We’ve often played down the O-line struggles in the past on this blog. Part of Seattle’s mantra is to invite pressure and get Wilson on the move. Yet things seem a little more serious this year and we need to see progress next week against the Chiefs. Tom Cable has a real test on his hands.


Pre-season week 1: Broncos open thread

August 14th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Write-up to come on Saturday. In the meantime use this thread to discuss the game.


Discussing the future of Russell Okung in Seattle

August 5th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Okung is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2015

The Seahawks have several prospective free agents in 2016 including punter Jon Ryan, running back Robert Turbin and the current longest serving player on the roster Brandon Mebane. Three other starters are set to make the open market — Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung.

Today I want to focus on Okung.

Firstly, can he play a full 16 games in the regular season? His injury issues are slightly exaggerated — he hasn’t had a serious knee injury for example or missed considerable time like Ryan Clady. The most games he’s missed in a single season is eight in 2013. He’s consistently missed 1-5 games each year since arriving in Seattle. Not ideal, but far from a reason alone not to give him a new contract.

If he can feature in all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2015, he’ll really strengthen his hand going into free agency. The Seahawks will perhaps feel inclined to try and maintain some consistency on their offensive line (more on that in a moment) while other teams will be reassured to give him a good contract to tempt him away.

If he misses more time it strengthens Seattle’s position at the negotiating table and might weaken interest on the open market. For that reason the Seahawks are probably prepared to let this year play out rather than get into serious negotiations right now.

Aside from the health situation, how does Okung rate compared to his peers in the NFL? Joe Thomas (25), Tyron Smith (36), Jason Peters (40) and Trent Williams (47) were the only offensive tackles listed in the NFL’s recent top-100 list. We’re going through an era that lacks truly elite left tackles in the Walter Jones, Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden mould. The game has changed and for years the best athletes in college football have chosen to play defense not offense. It’s one of the reasons why the Seahawks are taking SPARQ-ed up D-liners and trying them at guard. Pure college guards are generally no longer athletic enough to transition to the pro’s where they face increasingly formidable athletes. Any left tackle that performs admirably at the combine is getting vaulted up the boards — it’s why Eric Fisher was the #1 overall pick in 2013.

The number of first round busts at the position also appears to be increasing. Fisher has been a big disappointment. Luke Joeckel — the #2 pick in 2013 — has struggled with injury and performance. 2014 top-ten picks Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews didn’t have great rookie seasons. What was once considered a ‘safe pick’ has become more of an unknown.

The league is craving for good offensive tackles. Teams are taking chances. It’s becoming a bit of a crapshoot considering the third tackle taken in 2013 — Lane Johnson — has enjoyed a good start to his career.

If Thomas, Smith, Peters and Williams really are the NFL’s current ‘elite’ at the position, Okung isn’t far away. Although he might be some way off the Hall-of-Fame tackle he replaced in Seattle, Okung is a relative safe pair of hands that might be difficult to replace with a cheaper, unknown commodity in the draft. In an era without many fantastic left tackles, having a good one might be more valuable than you’d imagine.

Okung is the only consistent member of Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Tom Cable’s offensive line. Left guard, center, right guard and right tackle — different players have taken turns to start for Seattle over the years. 2016 will provide the first opportunity to see how they approach the left tackle position and whether they see that as a movable cog too. Okung was the first draft pick this front office made when they arrived in 2010. He’s played out his rookie contract in full. Do they let him walk? Or do they see him as part of the growing core to receive a contract extension?

While teams like Dallas and Cleveland load their offensive lines with first round talent the Seahawks seem to be taking the opposite approach. They appear to be saving money on the O-line to use elsewhere. It’s a display of trust in Tom Cable’s methods that he can put a group of guys together on the cheap and create a functioning line. We’ve seen mixed results so far, but the constant change on a year-to-year basis is partly responsible there.

It makes you wonder if they believe they can succeed without top players on the O-line in a way others can’t. After all, they were winning games with Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie playing tackle in 2013 — the season they won the Super Bowl. It made for ugly viewing at times with pass protection particularly suffering. The Seahawks might feel like they have enough weapons to compensate for any similar problems in 2015:

— Russell Wilson is the most elusive quarterback in the NFL

— The ground game continues to prosper

— Jimmy Graham’s presence will give Wilson an easy out and keep defenses honest when it comes to the blitz/pass rush

— The threat of the read option adds a dynamic to Seattle’s offense that also troubles opponents

Other teams don’t necessarily have this luxury. The Cowboys have Dez Bryant but also a 35-year-old quarterback with back issues who isn’t very mobile and needs protection. They are hoping their offensive line can be the key to a productive running game with either Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden benefitting from good blocking. They don’t have Marshawn Lynch and a good running quarterback so a really good offensive line is more important.

The Wilson-Lynch-Graham trifecta will create problems and will make plays irrespective of the performance of the offensive line. The downside is we’ll probably see more games next year where Wilson is having to move around a lot to avoid pressure.

Sometimes you have to pick your poison.

With the Seahawks paying nearly $100m to just ten players on their roster, they need to save money somewhere. It could be they’ve decided in Cable they have a coach that, like Alex Gibbs previously, can get the most out of a group of blockers. That in part helps you keep the LOB, Wilson, Lynch, Wagner etc.

That doesn’t mean they can’t pay any offensive linemen. We’ll see how far they want to take this possible plan when Okung and J.R. Sweezy head closer to free agency next year. Mark Glowinski in terms of athleticism and style looks like a Sweezy clone and he’s being worked at right guard in training camp. Danny O’Neil mentioned yesterday that the Seahawks have a lot of time for Gary Gilliam as a left tackle prospect and could see him as a possible replacement for Okung one day.

Some fans will cringe at the possibility of a 2016 starting offensive line that goes Gilliam-Bailey-Nowak-Glowinski-Britt. Yet the willingness to trade Max Unger this year shows they aren’t afraid to make an eyebrow-raising move or two on the O-line or go with a youth movement. They’re willing to take chances on young, cheap talent. They brought in a collection of young players in the draft to compete this year. And again, they need to save money somewhere.

Tom Cable might be viewed as the MVP of the offensive line, rather than any particular player.

They’ve also shown they’re still willing to draft O-liners early (see: Justin Britt, round two in 2014). In my final 2015 mock draft I had them taking Mitch Morse in round two. He was taken a few picks before Seattle’s choice by the Kansas City Chiefs. Who knows if he would’ve been the pick otherwise — but he certainly ticked a lot of boxes.

Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss), Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State), Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame) and Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State) are early favourites to go in the first round next year. Decker in particular has that nasty road-grading style that appears to suit Seattle’s offense. Tackles tend to go early, whether the Seahawks will have the chance to get anywhere near a top blocker in 2016 remains to be seen. They could have options though.

One dynamic that should also be considered is the competitive nature of Okung, the respect he commands in the locker room and his recent decision to go into free agency minus an agent. He completes a six-year, $48.5m contract in 2015 so he’s already earned the money a lot of his teammates are now collecting.

That’s not to say he’s going to accept a really cheap deal to stay in Seattle. Far from it. But he will be negotiating from a position of relative security. If he wants to stay a Seahawk and if the team wishes to retain his services — there’s probably a deal to be done there. We just don’t know how invested each party is in retaining this current working relationship.

Another thing O’Neil mentioned in the link above is the possibility Okung might be better suited to a more pass-friendly offense focused on protection. Seattle’s physical style and penchant for the run-game could be one of the reasons their left tackle (and other members of the O-line) frequently gets banged up. Will a different style of offense suit Okung? It might be something he’s considering.

Of Seattle’s three ‘big name’ 2016 free agents, it’ll possibly be easier to retain Okung and Sweezy over Bruce Irvin. There’s a statistical advantage that comes with playing defense (I got 6-7 sacks last year playing linebacker, look what I could do in your scheme). He’s versatile enough to work in the 4-3 or the 3-4 at end or linebacker. Aside from one four-game suspension he’s stayed clear of any off-field distractions that concerned some teams pre-draft. He’s still a terrific athlete. And there are two former Seahawks defensive coordinators now working as Head Coaches.

If Irvin departs it leaves even more room to consider signing up Okung and/or Sweezy. The cap likely increasing by another 7-8% also helps. Overall that looks like an attractive proposition — retain some consistency up front, keep your depth and free up the opportunity to consider other need areas in the draft (DT, CB, RB).


Bobby Wagner agrees new deal, Tony McDaniel cut

August 2nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Despite a somewhat sulky tweet on Friday this seemed just as inevitable as Russell Wilson’s new contract. Luke Kuechly is a genuine NFL star. A generational talent who happens to play a position of moderate importance. The fact Bobby Wagner frequently gets compared to Kuechly (many consider them equals) is exactly why the Seahawks had to do this deal.

When Jamaal Charles ran all over the Seahawks in week 11 last season it was assumed the absence of Brandon Mebane was the key issue. Seattle’s defense had it’s poorest performance of the season immediately after he was put on injured reserve.

Wagner also didn’t play in the Chiefs game due to injury. He returned the following week against Arizona. Seattle won out to finish the regular season conceding just 39 points in 6 games (6.5 per game average). Mebane’s absence was unhelpful. Wagner’s absence and subsequent return was pivotal.

He’s not the most charismatic member of the team (as evidenced by a defensive press conference on Friday). I’m not sure he’s one of the big defensive voices in the locker room like a Sherman, Thomas, Bennett or Chancellor — but he is ideal for this team.

Pete Carroll said before the 2012 draft he wanted to add speed in the front seven as a priority. The first two picks that year were Bruce Irvin and Wagner. As Seattle moved away from the Leroy Hill/David Hawthorne profile, they needed a quicker inside presence who could still do all the basic duties of a MIKE. It’s testament to Wagner’s athletic profile that he could probably play the SAM or WILL equally well. He’s just an all-round terrific athlete and football player.

We talked about him as a late first-round talent that year and it came out after the draft that Dallas were going to draft him had they not moved up for Morris Claiborne. The Seahawks got a steal in round two. In fairness the draft not only offered Kuechly in the top-ten but also Wagner, Mychal Kendricks and Lavonte David in the second frame — ideal for any team looking to add speed at linebacker.

You don’t get many drafts like that — or many ultra-athletic middle linebackers. The Seahawks feel it when Wagner’s not there and he’d be difficult to replace. They couldn’t let him walk — especially given the relative value in terms of salary. Around $10m per year is high for a linebacker — but it’s not high compared to many other positions. Wagner is certainly one of Seattle’s better players and to keep him at that cost for the foreseeable future is, if anything, pretty good value.

Seattle now has most of its core signed up for at least the next three seasons: Wilson, Lynch, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Chancellor, Thomas, Sherman and Wagner. The structure they’ve used (plus the ever growing salary cap) will enable them to keep even more of their stars moving forward.

Davis Hsu told me today he expects the cap to increase by 7-8% next year at about $154m. It’s currently at $143.28m. That should leave enough room for a shot at keeping at least two of Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy and Bruce Irvin.

The salary cap makes it hard to create a dynasty. The Seahawks are proving it isn’t impossible. The average age of the group listed above is 27. You’re looking at a Championship window of at least 3-4 more years with this crew, with two Super Bowl appearances already in the bag. However badly that last game stung, the Seahawks still have a chance to be known as the team of this decade.

I watched back a few 2014 games this week and one thing I noticed in some of the tougher wins late in the season was the performance of Tony McDaniel. Big, stout and difficult to move. He wasn’t a flashy player who made numerous splash players — but he was still a force.

The Seahawks had to create some room after signing Wilson and Wagner and McDaniel is the unfortunate sacrifice. He was taking up $3m in cap space with no dead money attached. Seattle has Mebane back and healthy, Jordan Hill who really stepped up in 2014 and now Ahtyba Rubin comes into the mix. There are several other rotational pieces working out in camp, including the returning Demarcus Dobbs.

This is the way it’s going to be for the Seahawks moving forward. Look back at 2012 and you’ll see how much this team has changed in just three years. Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Leon Washington, Golden Tate, Max Unger, Zach Miller, Michael Robinson, Brandon Browner, Sidney Rice. All crucial back in the day — now gone. The Seahawks have kept the core and been forced to move on elsewhere. They will continue to lose players they’d rather keep down the road. The key is to know when to move on. New England and Bill Belichick have mastered this over the years and it’s kept them competitive.

Who can you live without? That is the question.

Can they afford to lose a pretty good if not elite left tackle in Russell Okung? Can they replace him with a late first round pick? That’s not usually where you find starting left tackles. That reason, plus his obvious locker room respect and leadership qualities, might make him a priority. Playing all 16-games and a full post-season would aid his cause.

He seems to like it in Seattle. He joined the league before the new CBA so agreed a $48.5m contract as a rookie in 2010. He’s already earned the money several of his team mates are now chasing. Firing his agent to go alone this off-season is an interesting dynamic and suggests he might be prepared to do what feels right.

It also looks like a very promising offensive tackle class for 2016 — something to consider.

J.R. Sweezy continues to improve every year. He too would preferably be a sure-fire keep — and yet he’s a former defensive tackle and seventh round pick converted to guard. The Seahawks might feel they can replace him with a Mark Glowinski on the cheap to save cap space.

Then there’s Bruce Irvin — who developed into one of the more underrated defensive playmakers in the NFL last season. Pick-six’s, sacks, sideline-to-sideline coverage and better than expected work against the run — Irvin was generally fantastic in 2014. It’ll be hard to find a player with his unique athleticism in the draft or free agency. They chose not to take up his fifth year option though, leading to at least some angst and more than one reported quote about a desire to play in Atlanta. He’d have a market in free agency and might be too expensive to keep.

We should also talk about the future of Mebane. He’s the longest serving Seahawk on the roster for a reason. If he stays healthy and continues to perform — is he worth another deal? He turns 31 in January.

There are many things to consider and while this remains a loaded roster, the question marks over several players will give us plenty of scope to monitor different positions in preparation for the 2016 draft.

The Seahawks made a similar move for Marcus Burley last year. The depth at corner isn’t strong at the moment — with a lot of pressure on guys like Tye Smith to make the jump from Towson University to the NFL. With Jeremy Lane potentially missing the whole season at the very least Seattle needs more camp competition and Seisay provides that.

He managed a 39 inch vertical at his pro-day and an 11′ broad jump. He runs in the 4.50’s at 6-1 and +200lbs. He’s very Seahawky.


Russell Wilson agrees 4-year, $87.6m extension

July 31st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

It took a while to get there, but all’s well that ends well.

While Kam Chancellor stays away (at great expense) and Bobby Wagner ponders his future in Seattle, this is the deal the Seahawks had to get done. And nothing can put a dampener on the significance of this move.

Only a month ago, Mike Florio Tweeted the following:

A future without Wilson simply wasn’t fathomable. There are so few good quarterbacks in the NFL. In May Tom Cable suggested college spread offenses were making it very difficult for quarterbacks to transition to the pro’s.

Training a new college quarterback (presumably without an early pick) is not an attractive proposition. Neither is a situation where you deal Wilson, he flourishes elsewhere and the replacement struggles.

Seattle was never going to be the team that messed this up. Not in this way. Not with this front office.

Look at the situations in Miami or Cincinnati. Two franchises challenged to pay average quarterbacks handsomely on long term deals — without really knowing if either Ryan Tannehill or Andy Dalton will take the next step. Both teams decided the alternative — trying to find a replacement — was a bigger gamble than sticking with what they had.

Wilson is far more talented than both players. The Seahawks weren’t going to let go.

He’s also the best quarterback in Seahawks history. A uniquely gifted franchise passer. The type people will compare other players to for a generation. It was supposed to be Michael Vick or Robert Griffin III. Instead it’ll be Wilson’s name mentioned every time we find a young, mobile, productive passer. “Can he be the next Russell Wilson?” is a phrase you will hear in the future time and time again.

The stalled negotiations and soap-opera feel to the media coverage painted a negative picture. Perhaps that should’ve been anticipated? We all assumed (or at least I did) a deal would come quite quickly. Wilson had gone well beyond expectations as a third round pick. He wanted to be compensated like the best — and it’s what he deserved.

Seattle equally showed incredible judgement in drafting Wilson — and earned the luck that came with it. A third round franchise quarterback at a dirt-cheap price. They had every right to benefit from the final year of his rookie deal — and had to find a way to keep the rest of their group together.

The impasse lasted right until the final hours before training camp began. Now? A collective sigh of relief — from the fans, front office and probably the Wilson camp too.

The cumulative Seahawks roster benefits from their quarterback just as much as he does from a league-leading defense or Marshawn Lynch. He compliments Lynch perfectly. He takes advantage of a stingy defense.

Look at the Bills. Destined again in 2015 to present a ferocious defense and, more than likely, a frustrating offense. They have offensive talent. Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin to name just three examples. Yet with Matt Cassel throwing the passes, they’ll do well to make 8-8.

That would be the Seahawks without Wilson. Good and very close to great — but missing the final piece.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Wilson’s success so far is the way he’s done it without a top-tier receiver or tight end. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Golden Tate (and others) — all good at what they do but not the elite, rare talent that quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Peyton Manning currently benefit from. He has had Marshawn Lynch of course. But the amount we’ve talked about college receivers over the last two years shows the vacancy for a true #1. It’s why the Seahawks seemingly showed interest in Dorial Green-Beckham before he was drafted by the Titans. It’s why they’ve looked at a number of different receivers over the years — including Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson and eventually Percy Harvin.

Jimmy Graham will help here. Wilson has room for improvement going into year four. Having that dynamic target at tight end — a special talent — can aid that progress.

Even without Graham, Wilson has excelled whoever he’s been throwing to. From the days of Sidney Rice to the crucial 4th down score to Braylon Edwards against the Patriots in 2012. The link he formed with Chris Matthews in the latest Super Bowl or the connection he had to Zach Miller and then Luke Willson last season. He hasn’t needed a Dez Bryant, A.J. Green or Julio Jones to excite and produce.

You won’t see a better pass than this. Pressure right in his grill, unable to step into the throw. Wilson launches a perfect 47-yard bomb to Jermaine Kearse, hitting him in stride. And yes — he made the throw while remaining in the pocket.

Need further evidence of his quality? How about the overtime wins against Chicago, Denver and Green Bay? No fuss. In the most intense pressure, in the biggest games — Wilson calmly managed each occasion like a 2-minute drill in practise.

The Seahawks are right in the middle of a Championship window. It’s why they’ve been aggressive to land Graham (and previously to get Harvin). They know the time is now. Wilson is signed until 2019. Their core group of stars are mostly committed for the next three years at least. Barring unfortunate luck with injuries, they’ll compete for each of the next 3-5 years and possibly beyond.

Wilson will be right at the heart of that challenge.


Post draft Google Hang Out

May 7th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

I’m going to be taking a break after this post. It’s been a long draft process and I need to spend some quality time with my wife and son. If anything major breaks involving the Seahawks (eg a Russell Wilson contract extension) I’ll put up a blog. However, things are going to start winding down for the 2015 draft.

I want to thank everyone who continues to make this place more a community than a blog. I also want to remind everyone that we cover the draft (and the Seahawks in general) right through training camp and then into the college season. If you’ve enjoyed the last few weeks, come try the blog from August onwards when we really start to discuss players for the first time.

For now enjoy the podcast above and Go Hawks.


2016 NFL draft: The early watch list

May 6th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Harold Brantley (DT, Missouri)
The next great pass rusher off the Mizzou production line. Brantley is an ideal three-technique who really started to shine at the end of the 2014 season. He’s 6-3 and 290lbs and has the ability to take over a game with a top-tier get-off, superb technique and the ability to finish. He’s no slouch in the run game either. Comparisons to Sheldon Richardson are not totally unfair. They impact games in the same way.

Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Clearly the most exciting talent in college football. Bosa posted 13.5 sacks last season as Ohio State won the National Championship. He’s the perfect compliment of size (6-5, 275lbs), speed and technique. His father John Bosa played in the NFL and his brother Nick is a top 2016 recruit. Teams are going to fall over themselves to get at Bosa. He’s well know for the Bosa ‘shrug’ — he celebrates every sack like he’s been there before. It’s hard to find any flaws.

Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
Gliding receiver who finds another gear and explodes. Great catching technique. Not the biggest but only needs a crease to take it the distance. Plus kick/punt returner with the ability to be used conventionally and on trick plays. Snags the ball at its highest point and loves to compete in traffic. Sprinter speed downfield and makes the spectacular catches too. So difficult to cover. Exciting.

Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
So far he hasn’t lived up to the extreme hype. Back in the day Nkemdiche was being compared to Jadeveon Clowney as an unreal defensive lineman who can play across the line. He’s 6-4 and 280lbs but played mainly a supporting role in Ole Miss’ flirt with SEC glory in 2014. His ability to play inside and out, 5-star athleticism and a strong Rebels team can help him max-out his talent in what amounts to a contract year.

Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He’ll need to bounce back from a serious injury like his team mate Laquon Treadwell. Tunsil broke his ankle and fractured a fibula but there’s optimism he’ll be good to go in 2015. Ideal size (6-5, 305lbs), a solid kick-slide and ability in pass protection and the run game could push Tunsil into the top-ten — provided he can stay healthy.

Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Just a fantastic, competitive, athletic, gritty talent that suffered one of the more unfortunate injuries you’ll ever see. In the process of trying to make a superb game-winning touchdown against Auburn he broke his leg when an opponent fell on top of him. Will he ever be the same again? Fingers crossed he can make a full recovery because he’s every bit a #1 receiver in the league at around 6-3 and 230lbs with speed to burn and great hands.

Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
A class act from the minute he arrived at Florida, it’s been a waiting game for Hargreaves to become eligible. Florida’s best product at any position since Joe Haden. He plays above his size, has a nose for the ball and is really competitive. He’s been a NFL corner playing in the SEC for two years.

Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Of all the Fuller clan, Kendall has flashed the most promise. In his first start in college football he looked like the best player on the field. He clearly has the NFL bloodlines and good enough size at 6-1 and 190lbs to register with teams wanting a presence at corner. He had two interceptions last season including a 47-yard touchdown return.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
Two players stood out for Ohio State in the college football playoffs — quarterback Cardale Jones and this guy. He ran for 696 yards and scored eight touchdowns in the Big-10 Championship and two playoff games. He has everything you look for in a workhorse back — bulk, breakaway speed, the ability to break tackles and vision. He isn’t Todd Gurley but he could easily be a first round pick.

De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
He was one of four people arrested in March for marijuana possession. On the field he was a basketball player at receiver last season — claiming nine touchdowns and providing a legit outside threat for Miss State. He was particularly effective against in-state rival Ole Miss. Providing he avoids any further issues off the field, he’s a first round level talent with plus size at 6-5 and 215lbs.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
Coaches will love him. He’s the heart and soul of the Baylor football team. He also has freakish size (6-8, 280lbs). If Arik Armstead goes in the top-20, Oakman will do to. He doesn’t dominate enough for the size he possesses — but he makes enough plays to hint at extreme ability. Can he keep the motor running none-stop to truly max out his potential?

Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
Could’ve been a first round pick this year but chose to stay at Ohio State for another year. He’s around 6-6 and 315lbs, a tenacious blocker and a great team mate. Comes from a Military family. Former basketball player. Has a tattoo of a gorilla on his arm and plays with that level of intensity. Another prospect teams will love. He’ll be viewed as a safe pick at either tackle spot.

Duke Williams (WR, Auburn)
Another player who could’ve declared early. Former JUCO transfer and lined up to be the top receiver in the SEC in 2015. Had an immediate impact for the Tigers in 2014, usurping Sammie Coates as the top target. He’s Mr. Reliable with plus size. Providing they find a capable quarterback next season he has every chance to make major headlines and thrust his stock into the top-20. Williams was video’d delivering a stirring speech to his team mates in the JUCO’s. Similar body type to Dez Bryant.

Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
He’s 6-5 and 222lbs but he’s not a total statue. He ran for 642 yards and scored six touchdowns. He stands tall in the pocket and throws well. Doesn’t force things. Arm could be stronger but he can work on that. He has a frame that can take a bit of extra bulk. He’s not a big name like some of the others but he’s one to keep an eye on.

Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
Continuing the theme of players who could’ve turned pro this year, Ronnie Stanley deliberated for ages over his decision. He was a bit hit and miss and a little overrated in my view. However, there’s a premium for this type of player and provided he avoids any Cedric Ogbuehi-style setbacks he could enhance his stock at a school that has churned out some decent O-liners recently.

DeForest Buckner (DT, Oregon)
Seen by many to be superior to Arik Armstead, he could be on the fast-track to the top-20. This class could be dominated by offensive linemen and big, hulking D-liners. Buckner is 6-7 and 290lbs. Unlike Armstead he’s playing his best football in college and lacks the next level upside to take his game a further notch. Yet he’ll also be considered a safer projection. He’s scheme diverse and a terrific prospect.

Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio State)
If he plays anything like the playoff games over the course of a full season, watch out. Of course he has to win the starting job first. Questions remain why he was #3 on the depth chart to begin with. Yet when given a chance he led his team to a National Championship. There are some character and work ethic questions but the talent was obvious at the end of last season.

Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
He resembles a mountain that has somehow grown legs and discovered how to run. He’s 6-3 and 242lbs and moves like a 220lbs back. What a fun player to watch. Henry was the best running back on Bama’s roster last year, not T.J. Yeldon. It’ll be interesting to see if he takes his game to another level as the feature runner in 2015.

Rashard Higgins (WR, Colorado State)
He led college football in receiving yards last season. Losing his Head Coach Jim McElwain to Florida and his quarterback Garret Grayson to the NFL could have a damaging impact in 2015. If he continues to perform despite the changes, it’ll really boost his stock. He’s not a big receiver but he’s shifty and dangerous in the open field. Competes for the ball.

Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Tennessee has been stuck in a rut for some time and constant question marks over the quarterback position has severely hampered Marquez North’s development. Talent wise there’s no doubting his pro-credentials. He’s 6-4 and 221lbs with the deep speed and penchant for the spectacular to be a top NFL receiver. And yet he’s coming off a 320-yard season. He needs to improve — but he also needs help.

Alex Collins (RB, Arkansas)
He caught my eye against Texas A&M last season with breakaway speed, the tough running style to get the hard yards and good hands. It helps that he’s playing behind Arkansas’ monster O-line but he’s a talent in his own right. He might not be an early pick next year — but he has pro-starter potential.

A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
Big body, big talent. Robinson is 320lbs and 6-4 and anchors the Alabama run defense. Not only that he does enough in the passing game (pushes the pocket, gets his hands up to tip passes) to interest teams using both schemes. He’s not a fantastic athlete and that will limit his ability to go very early — but teams looking for a cornerstone DT will be interested in Robinson.

Corey Robinson (WR, Notre Dame)
Part of an intriguing double-threat with William Fuller, Robinson’s size (6-5, 215lbs) really stands out. His father is NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson. He’s still growing into his role with the Fighting Irish but took a step forward last year. If he can become more consistent and use his size/speed to dominate on a weekly basis he could be set for a Kelvin Benjamin style rise.

Scooby Wright III (LB, Arizona)
I’m not sure what he is at the next level or the kind of range he can realistically go. I’m not even sure he declares. But every time you watched Arizona last season this guy made big plays time and time again. He had 14 sacks, 163 tackles, 29 (!!!) TFL’s and six forced fumbles. They aren’t career stats. That’s in a single season. His motor never stops, although he is undersized.

Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
Showed enough against Florida State to suggest he has potential and appears to be toolsy. Can he take the next step in 2015? If you’re looking for a come-from-nowhere quarterback prospect who goes higher than expected this could be your guy. Will the supporting cast at NC State be good enough to support him? Or is a wide open ACC there for the taking?

Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
Like Marquez North, he kind of got lost in the wash as Tennessee struggled for relevance. He too impressed in 2013 as one of a crop of young corners entering college football. He has similar size to Kendall Fuller and similar upside. He’ll be tested plenty again next season. He recorded two picks in 2014.

Other notables: Devontae Booker (RB, Utah), Jalen Ramsey (S, Florida State), Miles Jack (LB/RB, UCLA).

A few players who need to show more to live up to the hype: O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama), Christian Hackenberg (QB, Penn State), Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State), Leonard Floyd (DE, Georgia), Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State).

Tomorrow I’m doing a post-draft Google Hang Out with Kenneth Arthur and Zach Whitman.