Further thoughts on the defense
Suddenly both of Seattle’s coordinators are hot property. Gus Bradley is meeting with Philadelphia and Jacksonville. Darrell Bevell will also speak with Jacksonville along with division rival Arizona and Chicago. The NFL wants a piece of Seattle’s 2012 magic and Pete Carroll could have two big holes to fill this off-season.
If Bradley leaves — and premature reports suggested he’d already accepted the Eagles gig — who replaces him? And how will that impact Carroll’s ambition to improve a struggling pass rush?
New Mexico State Head Coach DeWayne Walker was linked to the Seahawks upon Carroll’s appointment in 2010. He runs an aggressive and creative defense, having previously worked for Greg Williams in Washington. Walker and Carroll became close during their time at USC. His spell at New Mexico State has been something of a disaster so far – they recorded a 1-11 record in 2012 and he’s 10-40 overall with the Aggies. Whether that would have any impact on a potential return to the NFL remains to be seen, but he has pro-level experience and a move to Seattle could prove to be a convenient way out of a bad situation.
Would Carroll consider appointing from within? Rocky Seto (pass-defense coordinator), Kris Richard (secondary coach), Todd Wash (defensive line) or even Ken Norton Junior (linebackers) could be promoted in order to maintain stability.
What about trying to entice Dan Quinn back to the Pacific North West? He took over as the Florida Gators’ defensive coordinator last year after a spell as Seattle’s defensive line coach. Could they go for a big name looking for a route back into the league? Lovie Smith is unemployed and wants to coach in 2013. He hasn’t received much interest in terms of becoming a Head Coach again, but a productive year as a coordinator could make him a popular choice in twelve months time.
Why not make a left field decision? Who expected Monte Kiffin to go to Dallas? Could there be a similar surprise in Seattle, with a name nobody expects? Perhaps from a background nobody expects? Pete Carroll is the main architect of this defense, but would he welcome an outside voice and some fresh ideas to get the pass-rush going?
Bradley would leave a void on the coaching staff, but it’s something Carroll is used to. His success at USC meant he was forced to replace coordinators all the time. While the Seahawks keep winning and setting trends, other teams are going to want to try and mimic that success.
While it’s unlikely they’ll go for a complete 360 by switching schemes like Jerry Jones in Dallas, it’ll be interesting to see who — if anyone — replaces Bradley. And it could bring some insight into the kind of players they’ll look for in free agency and the draft.
Some people have asked how likely it is the Seahawks move up in round one to target a specific player. Sheldon Richardson appears to be the best true three-technique in the 2013 draft class. He could be a top-1o pick, but there’s also every chance he slides a little. New Orleans at #15 overall might be his floor, but even they have to consider other needs such as an effective edge rusher.
Moving up would appear to be detrimental for this team given how well they’ve used later round picks in the Carroll/Schneider era. Losing a third or fourth rounder could mean losing out on another Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright or Kam Chancellor. Even so, the team is in a stronger position today to consider moving up. There’s really only one striking need — improving the pass rush. Targeting a particular player to fill that remaining need would be considered a pro-active move.
Schneider was part of the front office in Green Bay that completed a big trade to get Clay Matthews in 2009. The Packers moved from #41 to #26 — a jump of 15 spots — to acquire their pass rusher. That year Green Bay was transitioning to the 3-4 defense and picked B.J. Raji to play nose tackle with the ninth overall pick. Matthews was going to be the edge rusher in the scheme, and they had to get their guy. He won defensive rookie of the year in 2009 and followed it up with a Super Bowl ring the season after. It proved to be an unmitigated success.
The trade cost the Packers two third round picks. It was a steep price, but ultimately worthwhile. There’s a tendency to overvalue draft picks sometimes, even when you have a front office with Seattle’s recent success in the middle rounds. Eventually, you’re going to have more drafts than not where you aren’t finding impact starters in the 4th or 5th rounds. You’re not going to find a franchise quarterback in round three every year. Being pro-active can be part of tipping a team over the edge. Matthews had that kind of impact for the Packers. We’re seeing some of that with Julio Jones in Atlanta too.
It’s also worth noting what the New England Patriots got in return for that trade. They used the #41 pick to draft to get cornerback Darius Butler (since released), traded one of the third round picks to Jacksonville — who selected cornerback Derek Cox (a regular starter for the Jaguars in 2012) — and selected receiver Brandon Tate with the other pick (since released). For all of Bill Belichick’s reputation as an arch-trader on draft day, he didn’t win this battle with Ted Thompson.
Moving up isn’t a total write-off for this team. There’s no doubting they’d rather avoid doing it, but sometimes needs must. The Seahawks’ window is officially open and they need to make the most of it.
The impact of free agency
March 12th can’t get here soon enough. That’s the day when the new league year starts and free agency begins. Ever since Pete Carroll’s admittance yesterday that he wants to improve the pass rush, I’m guessing a lot of people have been trying to work out how he’s going to do it. And the truth is, we won’t really know until we see what they do in free agency.
Do they re-sign Jason Jones and Alan Branch? Do they go after a veteran three-technique? Will they consider signing a proven pass rusher like Osi Umenyiora? These are all questions that’ll shape the Seahawks ambitions in the draft. I’ll be publishing an updated mock draft tomorrow, and it’s difficult to consider anything but defense. Yet the Seahawks have used free-agency to fill needs in the past. They paid big money to land Robert Gallery, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Matt Flynn. Although we’re looking at a defensive draft today, things could be very different by March.
I still believe they’d like to add at least one new target to the offense for Russell Wilson. Guys like Zach Ertz and DeAndre Hopkins make a lot of sense for this offense and for this quarterback. Unless they use free agency to solve the problems up front on defense though, can they really afford to go in that direction?
Last year, Pete Carroll didn’t simply identify the pass rush as the teams greatest need. He actually said he wanted to add speed to the front seven. It wasn’t just about bringing in a guy like Bruce Irvin, it was just as much about getting a linebacker who could move around too. Bobby Wagner was the pick in the end, but he could easily have gone for a Zach Brown or Mychal Kendricks instead.
This year, Carroll isn’t using the word ‘speed’ anymore. And he isn’t talking about the front seven. This is all about the pass rush and the defensive line.
Maybe this is just pure semantics, but I’m going to read into it anyway. The Seahawks might not be looking for a certain physical trait here. They might just be looking for guys who gets it done. Whatever position, whatever way. It could be a great edge rusher, or a dominating interior presence. I suspect this will be a broad search.
What I’m trying to work out is whether this means a raw, untapped talent is less likely than a guy who has shown he can get the job done. Will Carroll be less inclined to go for a Ezekiel Ansah at BYU or a Margus Hunt at SMU because they’re more upside than proven commodity? Do we need to look at prospects with a track record of success in college (or the NFL if we’re talking about free agents)? Or does that work against one of their key philosophies of looking at what a player ‘can’ do as opposed to what he ‘can’t’ do?
Carroll and John Schneider have been emphatic in filling needs so far and there’s no reason to believe they won’t succeed in this latest challenge either. It’s going to be fascinating to see how they try to work this out.
Late round defensive tackle
Kaleb Ramsey weighs 285-290lbs at 6-2 and he rushes the passer. He also has a very unfortunate injury record. He applied for an extra year of eligibility after missing almost all of Boston College’s 2011 season. Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better in 2012. He played two games before again succumbing to injury. A plantar fasciitis issue kept him out, much to the disappointment of his teammates and any fan of a team looking for a three-technique option beyond round one.
Not many defensive tackles can chase down Colin Kaepernick. Kaleb Ramsey can. I’ve included his game tape below against Nevada from 2010 and you can see the kind of talent that’s been wasted the last two years. It’s going to cost him on draft day — teams will not be able to trust an injury record consisting of so many problems. He’s had concussions, hip problems, a nasty foot injury in 2011 to go along with the plantar fasciitis. The concern isn’t going to be so much what he does on the field, rather that he may never actually leave the medical room.
Even so, it’s a name I wanted to throw out there as a possible late round option for the Seahawks. He’ll probably get a chance in the NFL to prove he can stay healthy and pro-conditioning could boost his chances of making it at the next level.
Today is the deadline for underclassmen to declare, and we’re not expecting any late drama (see: 2009, Mark Sanchez). A lot of Seahawks fans will want to know about Rutgers wide-out Brandon Coleman, but it appears he’s be staying in school. He admitted he was considering the NFL to his local media, but with no official announcement either way it looks like he’ll play another year of college football in 2013.
Here’s the list in full of the underclassmen declaring for the draft:
Tyler Bray (QB, Tennessee)
Kyle Padron (QB, Eastern Washington)
Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
Giovani Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
Joseph Randle (RB, Oklahoma State)
Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
Le’Veon Bell (RB, Michigan State)
Jawan Jamison (RB, Rutgers)
Cierre Wood (RB, Notre Dame)
Knile Davis (RB, Arkansas)
Spencer Ware (RB, LSU)
Stefphon Jefferson (RB, Nevada)
Michael Ford (RB, LSU)
Travis Ward (RB, Tennessee State)
Keenan Allen (WR, California)
Robert Woods (WR, USC)
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
Da’Rick Rogers (WR, Tennessee Tech)
Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma)
Josh Boyce (WR, TCU)
Brandon Kaufman (WR, Eastern Washington)
Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State)
Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
Dion Sims (TE, Michigan State)
Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford)
Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse)
Chris Faulk (T, LSU)
Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
David Bakhtiari (T, Colorado)
Alvin Bailey, (G, Arkansas)
Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
William Gholston (DE, Michigan State)
Stansly Maponga (DE, TCU)
Joe Kruger (DE, Utah)
Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois)
Bennie Logan (DT, LSU)
Kwame Geathers (DT, Georgia)
Brandon Moore (DT, Texas)
Darrington Sentimore (DT, Tennessee)
Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Jelani Jenkins (LB, Florida)
Tom Wort (LB, Oklahoma)
Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
Logan Ryan (CB, Logan Ryan)
David Amerson (CB, NC State)
Tharold Simon (CB, LSU)
Nickell Robey (CB, USC)
Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU)
Terrence Brown (CB, Stanford)
Steve Williams (CB, California)
Mike Edwards (CB, Hawaii)
Matt Elam (S, Florida)
Eric Reid (S, LSU)
Tony Jefferson (S, Oklahoma)
Brad Wing (P, LSU)
The following players have announced they won’t be turning pro this year:
Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson)
Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama)
Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia)
Bryn Renner (QB, North Carolina)
Dri Archer (RB, Kent State)
Jake Sims (RB, Kansas State)
Trey Millard (FB, Oklahoma)
Cody Hoffman (WR, BYU)
Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
Ace Sanders (WR, South Carolina)
Ju’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Zach Fulton (G, Tennessee)
Garrison Smith (DE, Georgia)
Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
DeAndre Coleman (DT, California)
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Daniel McCullers (DT, Tennessee)
Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State)
Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA)
Jonathan Brown (LB, Illinois)
C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
Aaron Colvin (CB, Oklahoma)
Antone Exum (CB, Virginia Tech)
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Today’s game tape
Yesterday I published tape of Sheldon Richardson, Margus Hunt, Alex Okafor, Ezekiel Ansah and Sylvester Williams. In order to continue to look at the pass rushers available in 2013, I’ve posted further tape below of Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn), Kawann Short (DT, Purdue), John Simon (DE, Ohio State), Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU) and Malliciah Goodman (DE, Clemson).