Khaseem Greene a mid-round target?
The Seahawks appeared to be sending scouts to Rutgers on a fairly frequent basis this season. Chris Steuber — a draft analyst formerly of Fox Sports — noted Seattle’s attendance on several occasions.
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) October 20, 2012
Initially I presumed they were keeping tabs on massive receiver Brandon Coleman. That presumption was probably incorrect. There’s every chance they were keeping a closer eye on linebacker Khaseem Greene.
The Seahawks don’t blitz a lot and rely on a front four to create pressure (with mixed results in 2012). Pete Carroll wants turnovers — and the best way to do this is to create pressure in a base formation allowing your linebackers and defensive backs the chance to make plays. Don’t give up big yardage on early downs. Force teams to throw and therefore make mistakes.
A lot of the time Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill were asked to react to the play, use their instincts and swarm to the ball. There wasn’t much pass rush responsibility on the linebackers last year and it showed — they had only 4.5 combined sacks between them. Mobility, quick reactions, finishing ability and coverage skills appear to be much more important than how well they get to the quarterback.
For those reasons, Khaseem Greene is a likely target in the 2013 draft.
He’s a converted safety without ideal size (6-0, 236lbs). He didn’t switch to linebacker until 2011 and he still flashes some of that safety speed whether it’s running sideline-to-sideline or sifting through traffic to make a play in the backfield. Greene has a real nose for the ball and just seems to make sound judgements most of the time — knowing when to attack and when to sit in coverage. He’s extremely reactive.
Some teams will be put off by the way he approaches the line of scrimmage. I’m tempted to say he’s ‘delicate’ taking on blockers — he just doesn’t show a great deal of vigour or desire to get involved. He gets engulfed by physically superior lineman, he never really engages and doesn’t have a counter. If you were asking him to play a lot up at the line, you’d be concerned. He’ll be a non-factor most of the time in those situations. And it does limit his stock quite a bit.
He also lacks the explosive range we’ve seen from some other prospective WILL candidates in this draft class. Alec Ogletree is another converted safety and a likely top-15 pick — I’ve not seen a linebacker drop 20-25 yards and pick off a deep ball before like he did against Ole Miss this season. Greene isn’t going to be doing anything like that and he also compares poorly against a player like Arthur Brown, who’s quicker and covers ground better, but is also undersized.
However, there’s no doubting he can cover and Greene’s ability to make consistently good decisions on the field gives him an edge.
Seattle’s use of the WILL is perfectly suited to avoid having to do too much at the LOS. It’s a nice fit for Greene. It’ll allow him read the plays, stay in coverage and let his instincts to do the work. He’s better at letting a play develop, getting through the bodies to sniff out a screen or grab the ball carrier. He has the closing burst to execute and make plays. But he has to stay clean.
Greene’s not such a great athlete that you’d feel obliged to keep him on the field in nickel situations. He could be a solid two-down linebacker though, taking away the kind of inside routes that killed this team in some key 2012 losses. He’s incredibly aware of underneath coverage and excels here. While improving the pass rush is key for the Seahawks this off-season, they also have to find a way to stop getting beat by slot receivers and underneath routes. Matt Stafford, Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill had a field day in that regard. Death by checkdown.
His tackling form is generally good — although as is the norm for the modern day linebacker or defensive back, he sometimes leaves the ground to go for the big hit and it’ll lead to the odd missed tackle. He has solid body control and doesn’t get twisted around or caught off-guard. He rarely loses balance.
Greene’s a fifth year senior with a metal plate in his leg following a nasty broken ankle in 2011. Despite a terrific résumé during his time in college, I just have a feeling teams are going to look beyond Greene. And the Seahawks or another like-minded franchise will take advantage. He’s the kind of player you can just imagine John Schneider and Pete Carroll getting in round three and turning into an instant impact starter.
Although there haven’t been many candidates for this honour, he’s been touted by the Rutgers media as the greatest defensive player in school history. His response to that suggestion? “I just want them to remember me as a great guy, great leader and a great team mate.” It all sounds very familiar. He was a big time leader for the Scarlet Knights during the last two years.
He added some weight prior to the 2012 season and at times during the season it appeared he was struggling to adjust. It’s tough to go from around 220-225lbs then suddenly work at 10-15lbs heavier even though you’re still required to flash mobility and range. By the end of the year he’d got to grips with this and his bowl game performance against Virginia Tech (see above) was impressive.
Look at the way he recognises the screen at 2:57, doesn’t react too quickly and swarms to the ball. It’s a nice hit too, jolting the ball-carrier as he hits the turf. At 6:28 he makes a nice drop on a blitz look, taking away Logan Thomas’ apparent second read and forcing a bad throw. At 6:59 he dips in-side from a starting position on the left edge, avoids the blockers and makes a nice play to get the quarterback out of the pocket (Thomas still manages to break contain, but it was a good play by Greene). He times his blitzes very well, looking silky smooth attacking the line and judging the snap count perfectly. If he avoids contact, the quarterback’s in trouble. And then of course there’s the first play on the tape — a forced fumble in the end zone which he recovers for a touchdown.
There’s also a lot of snaps on that video where he’s ineffective — getting blocked or just inconsequential to the play. We’re not talking about a can’t miss athlete here that’s going to garner a lot of hype in the first two rounds. He’s pretty scheme specific and fortunately for the Seahawks, he’d look good on their defense. It’ll be interesting to see how he runs at the combine because Carroll is looking for speed at the WILL — it’s why he’s been keen to force Malcolm Smith onto the field in place of Leroy Hill. Smith could get the opportunity to win the job full time in 2013.
Drafting a linebacker still remains a distinct possibility. Greene is one to keep monitoring. At this stage I think it’s most likely they’ll target the defensive line and a pass catcher with the first two picks (unless an Ogletree or Brown is on the board at #25) but Greene would be a nice fit for this team at any stage beyond the first two rounds if he’s still available.
Note – thanks to JMPasq for supplying the game tape as per usual
Senior Bowl links
Daniel Jeremiah also discusses which players have emerged so far during the first two days of practise — although his suggestion that Landry Jones is helping his stock flies against most other reports so far.
There are so many contrasting opinions from the Senior Bowl — making it almost impossible to know who’s performing well or not. A lot of tweets I’ve noticed over the last 24-48 hours seem to be heavily influenced by preconceptions and favourites.
On Hunt: “(He is) just what you’re looking for in a 5-technique (3-4 defensive end) in terms of size, potential and length. He’s disruptive with his strength and long arms. Even when he’s not making plays he can cause havoc, but you worry about the lack of suddenness in terms of his first step and change-of-direction ability. He lacked suddenness on Tuesday. He hasn’t shown up a lot in the limited sample size we have so far, and we’ll keep an eye on this raw prospect going forward to see what he can do.”
On Williams: “(He) was underwhelming in Tuesday’s practice. Williams did well bending the edge and with his body control, and he has explosive qualities to be a good 3-technique in the NFL, but he was neutralized every time we watched him. There were times he flashed his quickness, but he was most effective with his swim moves and you can’t consistently rely on those in the NFL, because offensive linemen will tenderize your ribs. He didn’t make a lot of big plays on Tuesday.”
McShay was also critical of Purdue’s Kawann Short, claiming he took plays off during team drills. “On one play, it almost seemed as if he had a gentleman’s agreement with (Ricky) Wagner, who steered Short inside easily.” This has been a criticism labelled at Short several times during his college career.
They reserved a more positive review for the subject of today’s main piece — Khaseem Greene — stating he had the best day among linebackers. “He jumped an underneath route he shouldn’t have during seven-on-sevens, but otherwise showed great instincts. Greene was always around the ball on run plays, and it was clear he was reacting more quickly than the other linebackers on the field. He also had a nice fumble recovery and matched up one-on-one with Barner in coverage.”
On Margus Hunt: “Looks the part and flashed ability yet at times was easily handled by opponents. Needs to really fine tune and polish his game.”
On Alex Okafor: “Like his game and motor. Uses all his assets to their maximum yet not a great athlete.”
On Sylvester Williams: “Had a lot of good moments today. Fires off the snap, showed good power in his lower body and got a lot of push up the field. Must do a better job using his hands and protecting himself.”
On Markus Wheaton: “Really like what Wheaton showed today. Quick, fast and consistent. Fast off the line, ran exceptional routes and caught the ball very well. Did struggle handling jams at the line.”
Pauline also recorded a piece for ‘Inside the Jaguars’ looking at some of the defensive ends in the 2013 class (fast forward to 3:46).
Mike Jones from the Washington Post was keeping an eye on Michigan quarterback-turned-receiver Denard Robinson. “He had more struggles than bright spots today. He did make Utah State corner Will Davis look silly as he shook him with a double-move and was wide open to catch a bomb. But Robinson struggled with some of his route-running on intermediate routes, had some drops, and he also muffed three punts.”
Finally, I found this Tweet from Jason Cole fairly interesting tonight:
While Seattle has told QB Matt Flynn they are willing to trade him, finding trade partner is problematic because several expect he’ll be cut
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeYahoo) January 23, 2013
I’ve long suspected that if Seattle cannot trade Flynn, they’d release him. Aside from the teams likely desire to find a back-up more akin to Russell Wilson’s physical skill-set, they don’t need to be paying a back-up quarterback around $5-7m in 2013. I believe they can make a saving of around £3m by cutting him this year — and that’s crucial money whether you want to invest in free agency this off-season or push unused cap space into next year when key players begin to hit free agency.
A lot of people would frown at such a move, but then I think Flynn is pretty overrated. Apart from there being better ways to spend his salary, it also makes little sense having a dynamic, Pro-Bowl quarterback on your roster earning over seven-times less than the back-up earns.